Friday, May 14, 2010

Ray Alma - Cartoonist Survey #124

Click for giant size.

Freelance cartoonist and illustrator Ray Alma was born in Brooklyn, NY in 1965. While growing up in Queens he drew cartoons and caricatures using his mom’s MAD magazines as models. Like a lot of boys growing up in the 60’s he also loved to draw astronauts. After getting the results back from taking one of those career aptitude tests in high school he knew he was destined to be a cartoonist. He enrolled at the School of Visual Arts and was taught by such legends as Harvey Kurtzman, Joe Orlando, Sam Viviano and Will Eisner. Before even graduating from SVA with his BFA, he created work that was published in Field and Stream and Golf Illustrated. Ray went on to become a contributing artist for MAD and was lucky enough to work with one of his idols, Mort Drucker. In addition to MAD magazine he has also provided work for Walt Disney Co., the Village Voice, DC Comics, Guitar World, America Online and many others. He enjoys teaching cartooning in the New York area and dedicates his time to The Ink Well Foundation, a non-profit organization that was formed by a group of cartoonist and animators who visit children in hospitals in and around New York City. Ray is a member the National Cartoonist Society and has been nominated for this year’s NCS Magazine Feature/Magazine Illustration Award along with Tom Richmond (Cartoonist Survey #89) and Anton Edmin (upcoming Cartoonist Survey #128). He lives in Queens with his wife, pets and his giant collection of GI Joes. Swing by his website and spend some time looking around.

What is your favorite pen to use?
I use a Hunt #22 dip pen with Sepia colored FW ink. For sketching I sometimes like to use various size Micron pens.

Do you draw in pencil first and if so do you use a standard pencil or a Mechanical one?
Yes, I'll always do a pencil sketch before doing a final illustration. I like standard pencils (HB-2B) because I can hold the pencil on it's side between my thumb and forefinger a get a looser, flowing sketch, trying to use my whole arm to move the pencil.

Do you do your coloring by hand or on the computer?
These days I do both, switching back and forth depending on how much time I have and what's involved.

If you do your coloring by hand, what do you use?
I use watercolor paints out of a tube over my Sepia inked line work.

What type of paper do you use?
Over the last couple of years I've switched from vellum bristol paper to 140lb. Cold press watercolor paper. It handles the pen and ink great and you can see the texture of the paper when you use the watercolors on it.

What thing(s) do you hate to draw?
Background stuff, mechanical things. Buildings, cars, etc.

Do you buy your supplies from big chain art store catalogues/websites or a local one that you physically go to?
I used to work in the main store of Jerry's Artarama here in Queens, NY. Sometimes I feel like I learned more working there and being to experiment with art supplies than I learned in my 4 years at the School of Visual Arts. I love to go into an art store and check out the materials by hand. High end watercolor brushes need to be closely examined in order to pick out the best ones.

Are there any rituals that you do before starting to draw?

Do you listen to music while you draw and if so what genre?
When I initially start a piece, and have to work out the concept/composition, etc, I need silence to concentrate. After that, when I'm inking and rendering in color, I listen to music. All kinds are good. My iPod has large eclectic mix that varies from classical to hip-hop.

Did you read comics as a kid and if so what was your favorite?
I devoured Marvel comics growing up in the '70s. Loved 'em. Captain America, Hulk, Fantastic Four, and the Avengers were some of my favorites.

What is or was your favorite comic strip?
Calvin and Hobbes in it's day. These days I like Zits, Non-sequitor and Dilbert.

What was your favorite book as a child and do you still own a copy of it?
'Where the Wild Things Are' and a dinosaur pop up book. Yes, I still have them.

Did you have any formal art training and if so where did you receive it?
I have a BFA from the School of Visual Arts where I majored in Cartooning.

Do you feel that the Internet is a blessing or a curse?
A little of both. It makes finding reference a breeze.

Did either of your parents draw?
No. No one in my family really drew at all. I'm an enigma. :) But my brother is a good technical draftsman and I have a first cousin that is a really good artist as well. He also works in the animation industry.

Who in your life is/was the most supportive of your art?
I've had some great teachers through my career that have encouraged me: my high school art teacher - Lenny Antinori, and two of my teachers at SVA - Joe Orlando and Sam Viviano.

Do you keep a sketchbook?
Yes. A 4x6 spiral bound book that fits perfectly in my jacket pocket or the thigh pocket on cargo pants. I keep a Micron pen and mech. pencil tucked in the spiral ring of the sketchbook.

Have you ever taught cartooning/drawing and if so did you enjoy the experience?
Yes and yes it's been a rewarding experience.

Do you feel that talent or passion is more important in drawing?
You need talent to make it as an illustrator or comic book artist, but sometimes cartooning (Gag cartooning and Comic Strips) will allow for a not-so-good draftsman to get by if he's really funny.

Do you collect anything and if so what?
Toys/action figures. I grew up with the 12", fuzzy headed, Kung Fu grip G.I.Joe and loved it so much that I've gone crazy collecting them and other action figures as an adult. I have over 300 1/6 scale G.I.Joe and G.I.Joe type figures in my art studio. Some of them talk by pulling a string - and it turns out some of the pull string figures can be set off by a build up of static electricity. Try working all alone at 3 AM to finish a job and suddenly hear "Take the jeep and get some ammo fast!"

If you were an animated cartoon character who do you think you would be?
I'd want to be Brock Samson but probably I'm more like the Monarch. :(

Are you a righty or lefty?
Righty - but I developed tendinitis in my right elbow (from spending years drawing while holding the pencil incorrectly). So to take some of the work load off my right hand, I started using my computer mouse with my left hand and now I can't go back.

If you weren't an artist what would you want to do for work?
Hollywood stuntman.

In one or two sentences describe your drawing area.
Messy - covered in cat hair (and a cat).

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 able to take criticism. Sometimes you will suck.

Who is your favorite artist?
The question reminds me of a scene from "The Right Stuff" when they ask Dennis Quad "Who's the best pilot you ever saw?" and he has too many to choose from so he just says: "You're looking at 'em" ;)

Thanks again for your time Ray.

National Cartoonist Society’s “Cartoonist of the Year” nominee, Richard Thompson is up next!

No comments: