Monday, April 12, 2010

Ken Fallin - Cartoonist Survey #109

Obama working his "magic."

One of my sport's heroes, Teddy Baseball (Ted Williams).

Ken Fallin
is an illustrator and caricaturist who was born November 11, 1948 in Jacksonville, Florida. After graduating from Robert E. Lee High School he went to Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts and graduated in 1974. Ken wanted to become an actor, so he moved to New York City. While in New York, he studied drawing under the legendary cartoonist Mort Gerberg at the Parsons School of Design.

Ken approached Gerard Alessandrini, who was the writer of the Off-Broadway satirical review, "Forbidden Broadway", about some ideas he had for the show. In 1983 Gerard gave him his first big break by having him create the posters and advertising for "Forbidden Broadway." Because the show was such a hit Ken’s artwork was seen all over the world and by 1985 he was an internationally known illustrator and caricaturist. The Boston Herald hired him to do a weekly celebrity caricature for the Sunday theatre section in 1987. In 1990 he accepted a job from American Express to draw all of the company's vice presidents. As a result of this, American Express commissioned him for several nationwide print ad campaigns including one that was a salute to famous restaurants and chefs. Ken began doing illustrations of sports figures for the Wall Street Journal in 1994, which included drawings of that year’s Winter Olympics. Soon he was doing caricatures for their lifestyle, business and obituary section for famous people.

His work still appears regularly in the Wall Street Journal and to this date he has drawn over 500 illustrations of notable people for them. In addition to the Wall Street Journal, his work is consistently published in The Boston Globe, The Chicago Tribune, The Hollywood Reporter and In Style magazine. Just a few of his other clients include, Tommy Bahamas Clothing, Belvedere Vodka, Walt Disney Productions, HBO and Showtime cable television, BMG records and CNBC. Last year he completed work on the third London revival of "Forbidden Broadway", as well as doing the illustrations for a new book on the lyrics from the show. He also is doing weekly caricatures for Ken’s style is immediately recognizable with his major influence being Al Hirschfeld. He lives in New York City with his three hound dogs. Stop by his website to see more of his work.

This is Ken sitting at Al Hirschfeld's desk.

What is your favorite pen to use?
I use an old-fashioned quill pen, Hunt point # 104, which I dip into a bottle of Higgin's India Ink # 4415.

Do you draw in pencil first and if so do you use a standard pencil or a mechanical one?
I use a Venus B pencil.

Do you do your coloring by hand or on the computer?
Everything by hand. I'm an old dinosaur.

If you do your coloring by hand, what do you use?
I paint with gouache paint and Prismacolor pencils.

What type of paper do you use?
9"x12" Strathmore Bristol Vellum paper and cold press, 15"x20", double thick illustration board.

What thing(s) do you hate to draw?
Nature. I'm a city boy.

Do you buy your supplies from big chain art store catalogues/websites or a local one that you physically go to?
I love art supply stores, and we have some great ones in NYC, Pearl Paint, Lees, and Friedmans. However, I do most of my buying from websites to save time.

Are there any rituals that you do before starting to draw?
I print out reference photos from the Internet.

Do you listen to music while you draw and if so what genre?
When I'm creating a drawing I need silence. When I'm inking or painting, I like to listen to various vocalists singing the songs from the 40's & 50's. I also like jazz and Broadway Show tunes.

Did you read comics as a kid and if so what was your favorite?
MAD magazine was my bible. I copied every style of illustration in that amazing publication. Don Martin was a particular favorite, as well as Mort Drucker.

What is or was your favorite comic strip?
Jiggs, Dick Tracy, and Popeye.

What was your favorite book as a child and do you still own a copy of it?
I do not remember.

Did you have any formal art training and if so where did you receive it?
I studied at The Boston Institute of Art and Parsons, NYC.

Do you feel that the Internet is a blessing or a curse?
The Internet has made my life so much easier with scanning and amazing photo references. I am able to meet tighter deadlines and take assignments from all over the World. I've even done illustration jobs on a cruise ship in the middle of the Atlantic ocean. However, the Internet is also responsible for the gradual death of newspapers and magazines, which are the main users of my illustrations. I've done jobs for the Internet, but the money is not nearly as good as publications.

Did either of your parents draw?

Who in your life is/was the most supportive of your art?
My partner, Stanley Steinberg.

Do you keep a sketchbook?

Have you ever taught cartooning/drawing and if so did you enjoy the experience?
I once gave private caricature lessons to one student. Since 1999, I have been lecturing on caricature for Crystal Cruises. One of my lectures is a drawing class, where I teach people how to draw a caricature in forty five minutes. It's all in fun, and I do enjoy it.

Do you feel that talent or passion is more important in drawing?
Talent. I find that I can do assignments and feel little or no passion for the subject. Commercial illustration requires talent and skill. Passion is for non-paying jobs. However, I really do love my work, so, I guess that would be a form of passion.

Do you collect anything and if so what?
I collect books on caricature.

If you were an animated cartoon character who do you think you would be?
Prince Charming combined with Fred Flintstone.

Are you a righty or lefty?
Right handed with a far LEFT political bent.

If you weren't an artist what would you want to do for work?
I wanted to be an actor/playwright.

In one or two sentences describe your drawing area.
My "studio" was once the dining room in my apartment. It is cluttered, messy, unorganized, and wonderful. I have an antique drawing table, surrounded by many bookshelves, plastic containers, and two old tables. There is not one clear surface to be found.

Do you play any musical instruments?

If you could give one piece of advice to someone who wants to pursue drawing as a career what would it be?
Be prepared for the adventure of never knowing what each new day will bring, as far as work assignments. Freelance is not for the faint of heart, but it sure is exciting!

Who is your favorite artist?
AL HIRSCHFELD. When I saw my first Hirschfeld caricature drawing, I was transfixed. I began my career mimicking his unique style, and have since tried to grow and make it on my own. To be as good as Hirschfeld is the constant challenge.

Thank you for your time Ken.

Up next is Australian cartoonist, Tim Whyatt.

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