Saturday, May 8, 2010

Sherm Cohen - Cartoonist Survey #120

Photo credit goes to Jessica Gao.

Click picture for giant size.
Storyboard artist, writer and cartoonist Sherm Cohen was born in January of 1965. As a teenager he worked as a cartoonist for his local newspaper and from 1983 to 1985 he studied at the Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art. He got his start in the world of animation working as a character layout artist for Nickelodeon’s Ren and Stimpy Show. After Ren and Stimpy, Sherm worked as a storyboard artist and director for the show Hey Arnold. In 1998 he was invited to be part of the original SpongeBob SquarePants crew by the creator of the show Steve Hillenburg. He worked as a storyboard artist and director for the shows first season and then served as the Storyboard Supervisor for the next three seasons. Sherm was also a character designer and lead storyboard artist for 2004’s The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie. After the fourth season of SpongeBob SquarePants he left Nickelodeon to write and illustrate his first book, Walter Foster Publications’, "Cartooning: Designing Characters". During this time he began teaching classes in storyboarding at the Entertainment Art Academy in Pasadena, CA. A lot of the material from his classes was turned into an instructional DVD on how to storyboard called, "Storyboard Elements." This DVD course has been used to teach storyboarding worldwide, including The School of Visual Arts in NYC. Sherm then spent two seasons writing and drawing boards for Cartoon Networks’ My Gym Partner’s a Monkey before moving on to work for Disney Studios, drawing storyboards and writing for the TV series Phineas and Ferb. After the first season of Phineas and Ferb he was back working for Nickelodeon as a storyboard artist for the first season of "The Mighty B! In 2008, Sherm returned to Disney to write and be a storyboard artist for the second season Phineas and Ferb. Sherm is currently working as Director and Storyboard Supervisor for Kick Buttowski for Disney TV Animation. He runs a great blog called CartoonSnap that is filled with informative posts and lessons. Be sure to add it to your favorites immediately. I also highly recommend checking out some of his tutorials on YouTube.

What is your favorite pen to use?
I love using the black Faber Castell PITT artist with the brush tip. I inked my entire book on character design with that one trusty brush pen!

Do you draw in pencil first and if so do you use a standard pencil or a mechanical one?
I draw everything first in pencil on a regular sheet of multi-use copy paper. I prefer using standard wood Tombo pencils -- usually a 3B. After I've drawn it with pencil, I always scan the drawings and resize and move them around in PhotoShop.

Do you do your coloring by hand or on the computer?
I do all my coloring in the computer. For flat colors I use PhotoShop, but for my painted artwork I use ArtRage Studio -- which is the greatest and simplest painting software known to man.

What type of paper do you use?
Generally, I used the cheapest multi-use printer paper that I could know -- the stuff you get at Staples for a few bucks. Before I used the computer, I was drawing and inking on rough surfaced Bristol board, 14 x 17 with an image area of 10 x 15.

What thing(s) do you hate to draw?
Crowds, kids riding bicycles, and cats. For some reason, the cats I draw never look like cats.

Do you buy your supplies from big chain art store catalogues/websites or a local one that you physically go to?
Aside from the paper that I buy at Staples, I get all of my art supply shopping online from Once, I ordered some G-Pen tips from Wet Paint but I gotta tell you: is awesome.

Are there any rituals that you do before starting to draw?
My favorite ritual before starting to draw is to procrastinate (I'm doing it right now). Even though I've been doing this for over 20 years, it's always hard for me to start working on a new job. Favorite methods of procrastination include cleaning, looking for references on the Internet, and watching just one more episode of The First 48.

Do you listen to music while you draw and if so what genre?
Although I used to listen to music all the time, I found in the last few years that I just need to concentrate more. Sometimes I will leave a talk radio talk show on in the background, but other times I find that I have worked for hours in total silence.

Did you read comics as a kid and if so what was your favorite?
I read tons of comics as a kid, and I probably read more now than I ever have. When I was in grade school, I used to be able to go down to the local 7-11 and browse through all the great comics of the spin racks. I also used to be able to find lots of really old comics at a local used bookstore. This was in the early 70s... but by the mid-70s the collectors mentality had taken over, and my carefree days of finding Silver age comics for pennies on the dollar were gone. As a kid, I was only into superhero comics. Gradually I started reading more humor comics, and by the time I went to the Kubert school in the early 80s, I was reading all kinds of genres -- especially independent comics like Love and Rockets, American Splendor and Peter Bagge's Neat Stuff. I was also introduced to classic comic strips like Krazy Kat and Terry and the Pirates.

What is or was your favorite comic strip?
My favorite current comic strip is Cul-De-Sac by Richard Thompson. My favorite comic strip in history is Wash Tubbs and Capt.Easy by Roy Crane. Runners-up include Krazy Kat by George Herriman, Popeye EC Segar and Dick Tracy by Chester Gould.

What was your favorite book as a child and do you still own a copy of it?
My favorite book as a child was The Peanuts Treasury. I no longer have a copy of that book, but I have so many collections of the Peanuts reprints that I'm sure I have all of those strips many times over.

Did you have any formal art training and if so where did you receive it?
I spent two years at the Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art. The Kubert School is a totally hard-core cartooning boot camp, and that experience basically laid the groundwork for all of my future in cartooning.

Do you feel that the Internet is a blessing or a curse?
The Internet is the greatest invention in the history of mankind. I'm constantly looking on the Internet for reference, and even use YouTube for any kind of reference where I need to see how things are actually moving. I've also been able to connect socially with dozens of like-minded cartoonists through my blog, Facebook and Twitter. There's no question that I waste an enormous amount of time browsing the Internet, but overall I honestly don't know how I ever lived without it.

Did either of your parents draw?
My mother drew a little bit, dabbled with oil painting, and she was really big into needlepoint. She definitely had an artistic side to her, but she only expressed it in short bursts. My mom and dad were extremely helpful and encouraging in my pursuit of a career in cartooning.
Who in your life is/was the most supportive of your art?
Like I mentioned in the point above, my mom was the most supportive of my cartooning in my early life. In my 20s, while I was working in bookstores to make a living, I had a lot of good friends and coworkers who were very supportive of what I was doing -- very enthusiastic fans as it were. By far my biggest supporter now is my wife -- she's not only very encouraging and a great sounding board for ideas, but she also takes care of so many things in our life so that I can concentrate on my cartooning.

Do you keep a sketchbook?
The sketchbook I keep is pretty unconventional; basically, I mostly draw on Post-it notes and multipurpose printer paper, as well as just about any scrap of paper that's lying around. I usually save all the good ones and paste them into a three ring binder. I don't like drawing in a bound sketchbook... I freeze up, knowing that whatever I draw is permanently bound into a book. I much prefer just doodling on whatever paper is available.

Have you ever taught cartooning/drawing and if so did you enjoy the experience?
I taught a couple of storyboarding classes a few years ago. I really enjoyed having the opportunity to solidify my thoughts on a number of drawing topics. Also really loved the interaction I had with the more enthusiastic students. It was pretty draining though, so I have not been in a big hurry to do live teaching again. I have focused my teaching lately into a series of tutorial videos, which you can see on my blog and on YouTube. I also wrote an instructional book on cartooning and character design, called 'Cartooning: Character Design' published by Walter Foster.

Do you feel that talent or passion is more important in drawing?
Well, talent without application or perseverance won't get you very far. Passion is essential, because you need that fire to keep you going. Learning to draw is a lifelong process, and I'm not just blowing smoke when I say that I constantly feel like I'm a beginner and I will always in the process of learning.

Do you collect anything and if so what?
I used to be a completely out-of-control collector of books -- particularly cartooning, art and photography books. Eventually, I had so many books in so many boxes that I could no longer find the books that I needed. So I sold off most of my collection and I have never regretted it. That's another nice thing about the Internet -- if there's something I want to read or some painting or photograph, look at, I could find it right away for free. I've also been using the public library quite a bit for the last five years. The library interface on the Internet makes it very easy to search for and find just about any book I need. I still collect a few things like vintage "how to draw" books, and also books by and about my favorite cartoonists.

If you were an animated cartoon character who do you think you would be?
Oh, I'm definitely Patrick.

Are you a righty or lefty?

If you weren't an artist what would you want to do for work?
The thought is so horrible I can't even comprehend it. Probably a bookstore manager or a teacher of some sort.

In one or two sentences describe your drawing area.
In my office/studio, I have two different desks one across from the other. The first is a drawing table with an animation disc and light box on top. This is where I do all of my drawings by hand. Between the two desks is a scanner, which is how I get all of my hand-drawn drawings into my computer. The second desk is my computer desk. I have two computers side by side. The computer on the left is a PC running Windows 7 -- this is the computer I use for all of my general computing, surfing the Internet, and editing video. The computer on the right is a Mac G5 with a Cintiq tablet, dedicated solely to artwork. This is where I do all of my digital inking in painting. That was more than two sentences, wasn't it?

Do you play any musical instruments?
I've dabbled around with a bass guitar and the ukulele, but I finally made the decision that I don't have enough brainpower to devote myself to both music and art. I have sadly come to terms with the realization that I will never be a rock star.

If you could give one piece of advice to someone who wants to pursue drawing as a career what would it be?
Aside from the usual advice to draw all the time, I would encourage anyone who's serious about making a living in art (or more specifically, cartooning) to find a way to get their work in print as soon as possible, and as frequently as possible. The cost of self-publishing comics these days is low enough for just about anyone to afford. You don't need a big distributor like Diamond to get your comics into comic shops... you just have to go through the work of visiting those shops, talking to the owners, building a relationship, and getting your work out there. My first comics were self-published, and I hustled them all over the place -- including renting a table at the San Diego comic con. It was because of those comics and because of being at that convention that I got my first opportunity to be a storyboard artist. You gotta get your work OUT THERE where it can be seen by people that will help further your career.

Who is your favorite artist?
If I had to pick one, it would be Roy Crane. Runners-up include Harvey Kurtzman, George Herriman, Dan Gordon, The Beatles and Neil Young.

Thanks for taking the time to share your answers Sherm and also for the wealth of information you provide on your blog.

Up next is Tony Piro, cartoonist for the webcomic Calamities of Nature.


Jim Lujan said...

Not only is Sherm one of the coolest dudes in the biz....but this survey is quite cool as well. Freezingly cool in its awesomeness.

Jim Lujan

MJ said...

Agreed, Sherm is the go to guy! I love browsing through his material. And I am usually drawing to cartoons he had a hand in bringing to the small screen. Plus there are excellent illustrators / cartoomists dropping by here at David's top shelf project. Sweet!

David said...

I know, I spent close to two hours watching all of the tutorials that Sherm has on his blog while writing his bio. Great stuff to learn from.