Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Scott Neely - Cartoonist Survey #129

Cartoonist, illustrator, writer, and designer Scott Neely has been working professionally for close to 20 years. He is mostly self-taught except for the two years of mechanical drawing and two years of graphic arts he had in high school. As a freelance illustrator he has created both traditional and digital artwork for many clients including Warner Bros, Cartoon Network and Disney. He is the official artist for “Scooby-Doo” and has also worked on other licensed properties such as “Johnny Bravo”, Powerpuff Girls”, Ed, Edd n’ Eddy”, Dexter’s Laboratory”, “Cow and Chicken”, “Winnie the Pooh”, “Pokemon”, “Strawberry Shortcake”, Shrek and the “Mickey Mouse Club.” Last November marked the 10th anniversary of Scott drawing Scooby-Doo!
From 1996 to 2003 he was the weekly editorial cartoonist for "The Suburban and Wayne Times." Scott spent two years (1997-1999) as a conceptual design artist for The Franklin Mint, doing initial drawings of statues, knives, swords and other collectibles. He has also been the editor, head designer and writer for NMA Magazines, Inc., which includes the “Delaware County Magazine.” For over six years he taught and spoke about cartooning and drawing at many community colleges and local community art centers. Since 2006 he has been the visual creator and production designer of “Hollywood Hal & Rhinestone Al”, a project he co-created with Scott Innes (the voice of Shaggy, Scooby-Doo and Scrappy-Doo) and musician Jim Hogg. You can read more about the “Hollywood Hal and Rhinestone Al” live-action TV and stage show here. In addition to all of the above, he also does work in advertising, spot illustration and draws caricatures. Scott lives in the Philadelphia area with his Yorkshire terrier Alfie. Check out Scott’s Design-O-Strator website to see more of his work and to also listen to his podcasts. He also maintains his blog , which has some great videos of him drawing.

What is your favorite pen to use?
For inking my drawings I like to use the Pitt Brush Marker and the Micron Pens from Sakura (.005, 01, 02, 03, 05, and 08). Sakura also makes a great brush pen as well that I use but I use the Pitt one more now. The thing I like most about these tools is that the ink is permanent archival ink that will not fade over time.

Do you draw in pencil first and if so do you use a standard pencil or a mechanical one?
I always draw in pencil first, usually it's a 5H and then I may tighten it up with an H lead or an HB pencil lead. Depending on my mood, or to change it up, I'll use different colors of Col Erase pencils, crayons, or draw with a non-repro blue pencil. I tend to stick with the normal pencil leads I mentioned first though.

Do you do your coloring by hand or on the computer?
I threw out mostly all my markers. The others sit in an art case and collect dust. Any professional job I do requires digital coloring. I used to use markers for coloring art commissions but gave that up after I ran around one day and hit three art stores looking for a brown magic marker that was as close to a Scooby brown as I could find and wasn't successful. In the end, I had to mix two markers together to get it close. So it's now all Photoshop, Sketchbook Pro 2010, or Art Rage where I can use exact colors.

If you do your coloring by hand, what do you use?
The normal Prismacolor Markers you can find in any art store. I do use a lot of black markers for speaking engagements when I draw on a big art pad. For simulating a pencil line sketch I use a Warm Grey 30% or 40% to rough out the basics and then go full black to ink over it. That works great for presentations.

What type of paper do you use?
I do all my sketches on regular copy paper you can buy at any Staples. A ream of 500 sheets will last a long time. I use letterhead size paper mostly and for any bigger work or comic book work I use 11" x 17". Once I'm happy with the work, or it's approved in general, I then turn on my light table and ink the final work onto Borden & Riley #234 Paris Bleedproof Paper For Pens. It's my favorite paper to ink on and it works incredibly well with the Pitt Markers and Micron Pens. The ink dries fast on it and has little smudging if any. One instance that sticks in my mind is when I was putting some Pro White on a few mistakes on a comic page after I inked it. I normally use a little paint dish with water in it to loosen up the Pro White as well. I was hurrying to finish and I accidentally spilled a good bit of water all over one panel of the page! I freaked out and quickly blotted it up and to my surprise the ink didn't run or smear! Not sure how it didn't but I keep using the same tools all the time now!

What thing(s) do you hate to draw?
The Mystery Machine with all 5 members of the gang in it. Zoinks! It's time consuming sometimes... and inking it is hard since you have to make sure all the lines are perfect and sharp, especially on the tires. Sometimes it's just a complicated image that has a lot going on in it and you have to design it well. I usually leave those to draw last.

Do you buy your supplies from big chain art store catalogues/websites or a local one that you physically go to?
I go to a small art store by me to grab paper and stock up since they carry the kind I like. Everything else I get from Dick Blick Art Supplies and I order online and get free shipping a lot of time on top of a discount for buying in bulk. I usually buy three boxes of Pitt Brush Markers at one time as an example.

Are there any rituals that you do before starting to draw?
I usually take a sheet of paper and draw ovals, circles, triangles and cones and try to do a line of them across the page while making sure that they all stay the exact same size. It's a good warm up to do. I can tell if the rhythm is there for the day and if it will be a productive day or a day of a lot of erasing. There are some days I can't hold a pencil right so I just pack it in and take the day off unless there is a deadline looming.

Do you listen to music while you draw and if so what genre?
My iPod is filled with close to 120GB of music and audio dramas. I have a speaker system I can plug it into if I don't feel like wearing headphones. I've been collecting Old Time Radio shows since 1986 and have around 34,000 shows in my collection now. I usually listen to the Opie and Anthony or Kidd Chris radio shows everyday and then listen to whatever interests me. I usually download them and I'm always a day behind with the day’s events. Also of late, I've been going through the Doctor Who adventures from Big Finish Productions.

Did you read comics as a kid and if so what was your favorite?
I read a lot of comics growing up, back when they were pretty much all safe to read. My favorite comic series is Spidey Super Stories since that was how I learned to read and basically moved onto Marvel Tales, which reprinted Amazing Spider-Man stories. I also read a lot of other comics as well but it depended on my mood. When the first Superman movie came out, I read a lot of Superman for a bit. So I go through my moods. Spider-Man and Batman were huge. The Batman TV show was a huge influence as well in terms of my love of comics and superheroes.

What is or was your favorite comic strip?
Calvin and Hobbes, Zits!, Sherman's Lagoon, and Get Fuzzy. I liked Peanuts but wasn't big on it since it was never funny. I preferred the Peanuts cartoons to the actual strips in the paper.

What was your favorite book as a child and do you still own a copy of it?
Probably the four Star Wars Activity Books from Random House in 1979. I also loved the Spider-Man: A Book of Colors and Days of the Week from 1977. The art and story had a very Spidey Super Stories feel to it so that's why I still love it. I still have them all. I did have to buy a new set of unused activity books since I had done them all when I was a kid. I also have a bunch of coloring books as well that I found unused and bought them off eBay. I can see certain book covers online and instantly remember them and then I try to see if I can buy them in hopes to rekindle part of my childhood. A personal highlight was that I did the last Little Golden Book that was produced back in 2001 before Golden Books got taken over by Random House. It was a Scooby-Doo one, so that was a happy moment.

Did you have any formal art training and if so where did you receive it?
I'm self-taught. I learned everything in high school from two years of mechanical drawing and two years of graphic design. That was all I needed really. Never got less than an A+ and I had a teacher who pushed me. I think watching movies and reading comics helped greatly in shaping my artistic eye towards design as well. I did go to a local community college in 2001 to learn the digital end of art by taking Photoshop, Illustrator and Quark classes.

Do you feel that the Internet is a blessing or a curse?
It's a blessing since I got rid of my old artist morgue of reference that I had collected for over ten years starting in 1990. Now with Google, you can find anything that you need to reference. I needed a snowmaker for a Scooby project since the mystery took place on the ski slopes, and I found a company online that made snowmakers and they had big pictures that were great for using as reference since I had no idea what one looked like. In the old days, I would have had to make one up out of my head since I was sure the local library had no books on snowmakers for ski slopes. Also, you can reach a wider audience so it's easier to get work and I get hits and emails from all over the world off my art blog! Who knew that Ed, Edd n Eddy and Power Rangers were big in Russia?!

Did either of your parents draw?
Nope. My grandfather (my father's father) had his own business and he was a machinist who had his own shop out in back of his house and made parts for machines his whole life. He'd do the work and deliver it and worked when he wanted. He was good at intricate work and math and I think I got a lot of his thought process through genetics. He also told great dirty jokes. My father also has a good mechanical mind. He can rip something apart and rebuild it without the instruction book.

Who in your life is/was the most supportive of your art?
Three people: Me, Myself and I. No one was really on my side when I set out to do it. It was like telling your parents that you wanted to be an actor or something. Once I made it, then everyone was on the Scott Neely Train... but there was like seven or eight years that I alienated everyone just chasing the dream. At a point it was like being in a rock band and you knew that you were going to hit it big. You just knew it and I can't explain it anymore than that. I felt strong about it and just stuck it out and worked a part time job to sustain me. Most don't make it unless they are driven to then make a point of it. I wanted to prove people wrong and I did.

Do you keep a sketchbook?
No. I have always had a mental block when it came to sketchbooks. When you have a brand new hardcover sketchbook which is really well made, and then you have three or four really nice drawings in it on the first couple pages, and then you get paranoid about doing a bad one because you can't get the bad pages out. You could trim them out but you can still see that a trim was made. So I just sketch on loose paper and keep them in a nice pile in a folder. If it's really bad, I throw it out; if it's nice I usually save it in an Itoya Portfolio. I love those portfolios! They are great for protecting and traveling with your work if you have to.

Have you ever taught cartooning/drawing and if so did you enjoy the experience?
I have taught many classes of all ages in cartooning, drawing, or animation of some sort over the years. It was extra filler for my resume and it looks good to have it. I enjoyed doing it, but then I do get burned out on it and need to take a break from it for a couple years and recharge. I do a lot of speaking engagements for schools and libraries and that has been nice for promotional reasons as well as soup for the soul.

Do you feel that talent or passion is more important in drawing?
Talent is a key in a lot of areas, though the passion to do it can push you to the top. There are a lot of talented artists that are lazy and don't produce. Meeting deadlines is crucial too and it can be a career killer to a lot. Passionate people can make things happen.

Do you collect anything and if so what?
Comics, old toys, and old time radio shows.

If you were an animated cartoon character who do you think you would be?
Spider-Man...from the 1967 cartoon series! I love that series!

Are you a righty or lefty?
Right-handed for drawing and I usually hold the eraser and erase with my left.

If you weren't an artist what would you want to do for work?
If the art dried up, I'd go back to graphic design which I still do on the side. If that dried up, I'd probably be a sound engineer for some kind of audio dramas or sound restoration work. I've taken a lot of my old records and run them through the computer and digitally re-mastered them. Again, it's a creative thought process that I like. It's all problem solving.

In one or two sentences describe your drawing area.
I have my light table and art supplies in one room and that sits next to a computer system with a 24" monitor that I work on. In another room, I have another computer system which has a 24" monitor and also has a printer and large-size scanner attached to it. So I go back and forth between the two since they all have the same programs and settings on them all. I also have a laptop one for traveling and presentations. All are PC's and run Windows XP Pro. Some days I'm running all three!

Do you play any musical instruments?
Nope. I did back in school growing up but never loved it enough to pursue it.

If you could give one piece of advice to someone who wants to pursue drawing as a career what would it be?
Stick with it and if you want to do it that badly, nothing that I say will change your mind. You will find your niche eventually and what you do well. You either can make it happen or you don't. It's all on you whether or not you win or lose.

Who is your favorite artist?

John Romita. There's a long list but John Romita is king of the hill since it was his version of Spider-Man and the Marvel Universe that I grew up seeing on a lot of comics, toys and advertising. He had the perfect sensibility in creating a commercialized look to a character and everything he did had a lot of appeal to it! He had a great sense of design as well to all his cover illustrations. Neal Adams is number two and his work was all over the place too when I was growing up and he did the best version of Batman out of anyone.

Thanks again Scott, I really appreciate you taking the time to answer!

Cartoonist and illustrator Jeremy Eaton shares his answers next.


Bill White said...

Now this was a good survey!

I am a fan of Scott's, and it was good to see him answer the questions with detailed, thoughtful responses. None of that "one word" stuff!

Gotta try that paper he recommends...

SNeelyArt said...

Thanks, Bill! Glad you liked it. I like interviews with some meat to them as well.

You can buy a small pad of the paper I use as well to try it out. It comes in 3 sizes. The 9 x 12 and the 14 x 17 (I use for comic work and cut it down to around 12 x 17). The 9 x 12 I think runs arouns 12.99 a pad. Not sure now. I buy so much and stock it away that I forget what it cost.

P.L. Frederick said...

Great interview! By the quality of Scott's answers it's easy to see that he enjoys helping people. Such a wealth of information! I learned a ton. I also caught some sort of Inner Strength Virus. Thanks, Scott!

P.L. Frederick (Small & Big)

P.L. Frederick said...

And I second trying out the Borden & Riley #234 paper. I got some a couple weeks back at the Art Experience in Avon, for $13 or $14. It's incredibly smooth.

P.L. Frederick (Small & Big)

SNeelyArt said...

P.L. - Thanks for the comments. The paper is really smooth. It has a feel of vellum as the ink goes across it but it's paper. You do have to be gentle in how you handle it though. It's not sturdy like heavy bristol board. It's also thin enough to lightbox over and you can see more detail which I love. I like to keep my final art as clean as I can so there are usually two pieces of art: the pencilled art and the inked one. I lighttable everything and the inks are clean and that means the scan will have less to fix.

I used to ink over my pencil lines on final pro jobs and then gently erase the pencil underneath but I kept lightening the ink line as I was doing it. It would go from black to a light brown and look faded. I'd have to reink some spots to darken them again which could take another hour or more depending on how much work there was. Needless to say, I said the hell with that and I now just lighttable it all and there's nothing to erase on the final art.