Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Jesse Reklaw - Cartoonist Survey #164

Cartoonist and painter Jesse Reklaw was born in Berkeley, California in 1971. He received a BA from Santa Cruz and a Master’s Degree in computer science at Yale University. While working towards a Ph.D. in artificial intelligence at Yale, he started self-publishing his dream-themed comic series Concave Up. Jesse was also self-syndicating his weekly strip, Slow Wave at the same time. Once Slow Wave started to take off he decided that he couldn’t do both computer science and art, so he left Yale to be a full-time cartoonist. Slow Wave is “a collective dream diary authored by people from around the world." People email their dreams to Jesse who then breaks them down into a few sentences and creates a four panel comic out of them. A new strip is uploaded every Saturday. The Slow Wave strips have been published in alternative newspapers and on the web since 1995 and have been collected in two anthologies; ‘Dreamtoons’ and ‘The Night of Your Life’.

His work also appears in self-published minicomics and small-press anthologies. You can purchase many of these comics at Global Hobo, a small press comics distributor that Jesse co-operates. In 2008 he won the Ignatz Award for Outstanding Minicomic for his Bluefuzz the Hero. In addition to drawing comics he also teaches and is currently at the Independent Publishing Resource Center in Portland, Oregon. Visit Jesse’s Slow Wave website here and then head over to Global Hobo to buy some hand-made and hard-to-find comics.

What is your favorite pen to use?
Speedball A-5 nib.

Do you draw in pencil first and if so do you use a standard pencil or a mechanical one?
Yes, I use a 0.7mm HB lead in a mechanical pencil.

Do you do your coloring by hand or on the computer?
Both. I prefer watercolor, but it can be more time-consuming (or at least it's easier to do a quick job on the computer and not have it look too sloppy/unfinished).

If you do your coloring by hand, what do you use?
My watercolor palette is ultramarine, burnt sienna, yellow ochre, alizarin, and sap green. Occasionally I'll use cerulean, viridian, cadmium red & cadmium yellow.

What type of paper do you use?
Usually 2-ply smooth Bristol for pen + ink; for watercolor I use hot press (Fabriano). I've had trouble with Bristol lately -- used to just use the Strathmore 200 series, but that has been progressively worse over the years (and it never was that great). Lately I've been using basic Utrecht 2-ply with the vellum finish, which isn't too bad. I have enjoyed 1-ply smooth Bristol (cut down from parent sheets) in the past, because it's so easy to see through with a lightbox; but it can get expensive. Sometimes I watercolor on crappy Canson student-grade watercolor paper if I'm doing something with bold monochrome washes. It really depends on the project and how much I can afford to invest in it. For example, if I'm doing quick commercial work I'll just ink on copy paper.

What thing(s) do you hate to draw?
Cars & celebrities.

Do you buy your supplies from big chain art store catalogues/websites or a local one that you physically go to?
My partner and I often do a Dick Blick order together if we have a lot of supplies to refresh at one time. Otherwise I just pick things up at the closest art store. I like to go to Asian stationary stores too (like Kinokuniya or Uwajimaya) to get Sakura stuff. The gel pens are cheaper there, and a lot of places don't carry their nibs or erasers for some reason, which is too bad since that Sakura white eraser is the best.

Are there any rituals that you do before starting to draw?
Get a beverage. Getting up to pee reminds me to take breaks.

Do you listen to music while you draw and if so what genre?
Must have music to draw. Rock n roll.

Did you read comics as a kid and if so what was your favorite?
I started when I was 8 with DC stuff, went on to Marvel, then independents. Nothing I remember that well now, or enjoy anymore. Except maybe memories of my What If...? collection.

What is or was your favorite comic strip?
Lately I've been liking Dinosaur Comics, but obviously not for the art. Underworld is always original. I also enjoy The City, Troubletown, Maakies, Tom the Dancing Bug, and other alternative weeklies; but I don't seek them out if they're not in a paper I'm reading or something.

What was your favorite book as a child and do you still own a copy of it?
I liked those wordless Mercer Mayer tiny books "A Boy, A Dog, and A Frog" or something like that? I think I have one or two of those tucked away somewhere.

Did you have any formal art training and if so where did you receive it?
BA from UC Santa Cruz 1995. My focus was figurative acrylic painting, but sometimes I found a cool teacher who would let me do comics for class.

Do you feel that the Internet is a blessing or a curse?
Both? I guess I'm not very religious.

Did either of your parents draw?
I have some goofy acid drawings my dad made. Mom got into art after the divorce, but I don't remember her exercising her creativity when I was a kid.

Who in your life is/was the most supportive of your art?

Do you keep a sketchbook?
Just disorganized scribbles and notes, nothing fancy.

Have you ever taught cartooning/drawing and if so did you enjoy the experience?
I currently teach comics at the Independent Publishing Resource Center ( in Portland, Oregon. It's a pretty powerful feeling to communicate with people and feel like you're helping them. But it doesn't always happen.

Do you feel that talent or passion is more important in drawing?
If you want to make a career out of it, passion. If not, I guess it doesn't matter.

Do you collect anything and if so what?

If you were an animated cartoon character who do you think you would be?
I'd be some weird background character in a Felix the Cat cartoon that isn't in-betweened very well because there was never a solid model sheet.

Are you a righty or lefty?

If you weren't an artist what would you want to do for work?
Electrical engineer / hobo.

In one or two sentences describe your drawing area.
A treacherous swamp bog teeming with life.

Do you play any musical instruments?
Guitars, voice, drums, keyboards. A little of everything I guess.

If you could give one piece of advice to someone who wants to pursue drawing as a career what would it be?
Maybe that you don't choose drawing as a career, it chooses you? Or: keep at it and eventually you will succeed. Which is both the most inspiring and most disheartening advice.

Who is your favorite artist?

I can't pick favorites -- there's way too many! But have continued to be enriched by the work of Art Spiegelman.

Thank you Jesse!

Answers from cartoonist and writer Bill Holbrook are coming up next.

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