Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Ted Dawson - Cartoonist Survey #98

Ted Dawson is an illustrator and cartoonist. He is the creator of Spooner, a comic strip about Spooner and Roxanne, two newlyweds who are adjusting to married life. Other recurring characters in the strip were Cisco, Spooner’s dog, Lenny, Spooner’s brother and Cal the next door neighbor. Spooner ran in newspapers from January, 2000 to July 2002. It is collected into two books, “Spooner, The Sunday Comics” and “Spooner: The Complete Collection Of Daily Comic Strips”. Ted’s other comic strip "Wild Blue" was a spin-off of Spooner, which featured Spooner’s brother, Lenny who joined the Air Force after 9/11. It appeared weekly in The Air Force Times from 2003 to 2005. Ted’s brother Steve who was an officer in the USAF assisted in the writing. Wild Blue was also collected in a book, “Wild Blue: The Weekly Comic Strip From The Air Force Times”. In addition to Ted’s cartooning work he has illustrated numerous children’s books including a recent series on dinosaurs, written by Rena Korb and published by Magic Wagon. His educational comic book put out by Sprint entitled, Relay Rabbit, educated thousands of deaf and hard-of-hearing children on the uses of a telephone relay service. He is also a very talented watercolor artist and portraitist. He collaborates on the sketch blog, Three Men in a Tub, with Stacy Curtis and Wes Hargis. Ted lives in South Carolina with his wife and two children. Visit his website here and check out Three Men in a Tub here.

What is your favorite pen to use?
Zebra G and Hunt 512. They're ball-tipped and can produce a wide range of line widths, even producing brush effects. I've used a Pentel Pocket Brush Pen often during the past three years, and it has held up amazingly well.

Do you draw in pencil first and if so do you use a standard pencil or a mechanical one?
I work with tight pencils, and prefer Tombow pencils. I'm amazed by cartoonists who can scribble something in pencil and then do the actual drawing while they ink.

Do you do your coloring by hand or on the computer?
Comics are colored in PhotoShop. For work that doesn't require flat color, I'll use watercolor, ArtRage or PhotoShop. PhotoShop can be a hazard to artists, because you don't want your work to look like it was colored in PhotoShop.

If you do your coloring by hand, what do you use?
I use tubes of da Vinci watercolors.

What type of paper do you use?
Strathmore Bristol 400 series, Arches hot press 140 lb. Crescent board is smooth and you can scrape off the ink if necessary to make corrections. I use a lot of HP Inkjet 24 lb. paper.

What thing(s) do you hate to draw?
Anything that I'm told to draw.

Do you buy your supplies from big chain art store catalogues/websites or a local one that you physically go to?
I buy as much as I can from the independently owned local shop. If they don't have it, I go to Hobby Lobby or Dick Blick.

Are there any rituals that you do before starting to draw?
I practice the time-honored illustrator ritual of Procrastination. Oftentimes I doodle...while procrastinating.

Do you listen to music while you draw and if so what genre?
Listening to music is tricky. The right song can put me in "the Zone." I can be totally derailed when a song ends and a new one begins. Trial and error has resulted in a workable playlist of songs in various genres.

Generally, I have to work without music. Different aspects of art use different parts of the brain; some require the same kind of concentration as writing; some that of precise carpentry work; and some aspects are "mindless" like vacuuming.

Did you read comics as a kid and if so what was your favorite?
I learned to read from the comics. Newspaper favorites were Peanuts and Dennis the Menace. With comic books, I started with Dell, Gold Key and Harvey, worked up to Archie and then Marvel and DC. My favorites were Richie Rich, Archie and Spider-Man.

What is or was your favorite comic strip?
My favorite comic strip was Peanuts from the sixties. Nothing beats the old paperback collections. After that, Calvin and Hobbes became my favorite.

What was your favorite book as a child and do you still own a copy of it?
I can't pick a favorite, but my bible is "Charlie Brown and Charlie Schulz." I love "McBroom's Zoo," and still have both books.

Did you have any formal art training and if so where did you receive it?
I attended the Art Institute of Seattle.

Do you feel that the Internet is a blessing or a curse?
Yes. The Internet has provided new opportunities for aspiring cartoonists, but the field of print comics has been doing everything it can to destroy itself by rushing to the Web, lemming-like. Print and Web are two separate animals, but people act like the Web is the successor of Print. They're different animals.

Sending work via the Internet has replaced FedEx and is great in that respect. Unfortunately, it's also tripled the work that cartoonists and illustrators do, because we're now expected to do our own coloring, typography and scanning, for no additional pay.

Did either of your parents draw?
My mother likes to draw. I was heavily influenced by my aunt, one of the best cartoonists I know. She's deaf and unfortunately was treated as Deaf and Dumb, given no opportunities to pursue a career at all.

Who in your life is/was the most supportive of your art?
In one sense, everyone I knew was supportive. In another sense, none of them were because no one knew how I should go about pursuing a career in cartooning. I was clueless for a long while and had no idea what to do.

I never even met a cartoonist until I was about thirty. Someone did arrange for me to talk to a professional cartoonist over the phone in Seattle when I was about eighteen. He discouraged me enough to put off cartooning for several years.

When the Internet first came around, back when it was Cool, I began meeting all kinds of cartoonists online, and it has resulted in some terrific friendships.

Do you keep a sketchbook?
No, but I keep drawings I like. It creates quite a fire hazard.

Have you ever taught cartooning/drawing and if so did you enjoy the experience?
I was a graphic design instructor. I taught cartooning to "troublesome" middle graders. I don't enjoy teaching. I enjoy being able to inspire or direct creativity. I don't think that can be done in most teaching environments.

Do you feel that talent or passion is more important in drawing?
I don't think there is any such thing as talent. A person learns to draw through his desire to communicate through art. And while anyone can learn to draw, what makes cartoonists and illustrators different is their ability to tell a story through their drawings.

Do you collect anything and if so what?
I collect rejection letters.

If you were an animated cartoon character who do you think you would be?
I like to think it would be Bugs Bunny, but it would more likely be Droopy.

Are you a righty or lefty?
Right handed, but when I broke my right wrist, I realized I could draw as well with my left hand. I haven't tried it with my feet yet.

If you weren't an artist what would you want to do for work?
If I knew that, I probably wouldn't be an artist. Since I could always draw well, the thought of doing something different never crossed my mind, which is probably unfortunate.

When I met my wife, I didn't have much of an art career. I promised us both that if I didn't get a comic strip syndicated within a year, I would go to school and work towards a degree in Physics.

In one or two sentences describe your drawing area.
Whatever's in front of me, as long as it's reasonably flat and horizontal. I built a watercolor table, and have a cheap drafting table. I often draw on a tablet PC as well, sitting in an old recliner.

I once saw on ebay an amazing wood drafting table that was billed as the table that Paris's subway system was designed on. It was huge and beautiful, like the Holy Grail of drafting tables. I was a few thousand dollars shy of being able to afford it, though.

Do you play any musical instruments?
With no attestation to any particular skill level, I play classical, acoustic and electric guitar, harmonica, piano and currently working on the drums. I'm available for private events and slumber parties.
If you could give one piece of advice to someone who wants to pursue drawing as a career what would it be?
Nowadays, I would probably recommend attended a school like the Savannah School of Art and Design or the Rhode Island School of Design.

Who is your favorite artist?
Anyone who makes me want to keep drawing.

Thanks very much Ted.

The creator of Bleeker the Rechargeable Dog, Jonathan Mahood will be next.


John Johnston said...

Just had to say how much I'm enjoying your Cartoonist Surveys! It took me a while but I managed to read through them all. It's interesting the differences yet underlying similarity amongst these cartoonists. Thanks for providing a glimpse into their lives and art.

David said...

Thanks John, I really appreciate you saying that. I have enjoyed posting them and will continue posting them as long as people keep answering my questions.

I hope you are sticking with your daily sketching!

JohnF said...

I love Ted's work and wish he would update his blog more. I hope the fact that he doesn't, means he is busy.