Friday, September 24, 2010

Richard Sala - Cartoonist Survey #168

Cartoonist, illustrator and comic book creator Richard Sala was born in Oakland, California. He grew up in the Chicago area where as a kid he spent many hours roaming the halls of the Chicago museums. After spending a few years in Arizona he moved to the Bay Area and earned his Master of Fine Arts Degree in painting from Mills College. Once Richard graduated from college he worked at a university library while also working part-time doing illustration jobs. He switched to full-time freelancing once he started to make more money from his illustration work than the library job. In 1984 he self-published a book of his drawings and text titled Night Drive. The book was well received and soon he was creating work for Art Spiegelman’s RAW and Monte Beauchamp’s BLAB. He was also contacted by Colossal Pictures who hired him to animate one of the stories from Night Drive called "Invisible Hands". This story was expanded into a 12-minute story and ran on MTV’s Liquid Television Show.

Once Richard appeared in Raw magazine, he became a regular feature in Escape, Rip Off Comix, Buzz, Twist and Drawn & Quarterly. Two collections of his comics, Hypnotic Tales (1992) and Black Cat Crossing (1993), were published by Kitchen Sink Press. From 1993 to 1995 he drew a number of full-color comic strips for Nickelodeon Magazine. Next came his horror-thriller comic, The Chuckling Whatsit, that was later collected into a single 200-page volume by Fantagraphics. The Chuckling Whatsit was followed by Richard’s twelve issues of the comic book, Evil Eye; Peculia, which is a collection of fairy-tale like horror strips and a collection of long out-of-print short stories, titled Maniac Killer Strikes Again! 2005 saw the release of his second epic horror-thriller, the 200-page Mad Night. Other projects have included a collaboration with author Lemony Snicket for the children's anthology Little Lit, and 70 illustrations for a rediscovered screenplay written in the 1960s by Jack Kerouac titled “Dr. Sax and the Great World Snake”. His comics have appeared in many mainstream publications including The New York Times, Esquire and Playboy. Richard’s latest book, The Hidden comes out in December of this year. He presently lives in Berkeley, CA. Make sure you checkout more of his work here at his website and also on his blog.

What is your favorite pen to use?
Hunt #108

Do you draw in pencil first and if so do you use a standard pencil or a mechanical one?
Yes, I draw (and re-draw!) in pencil first using a good old Dixon Ticonderoga #2.

Do you do your coloring by hand or on the computer?
By hand.

If you do your coloring by hand, what do you use?

What type of paper do you use?
For color work, Arches Hot Press watercolor paper, because it's smooth for pen work. For work to be printed in black & white, Strathmore Bristol.

What thing(s) do you hate to draw?
Horses! I don't know why but drawing horses makes me feel as though I'm back in a beginning art class. They always come out looking like giant, deformed dogs. I suppose if, over the years, I had to draw a lot of them (or if I was obsessed with them) it might be a snap by now. But I haven't ever had to draw a lot of them (and I'm not obsessed with them either!) so it still can be a chore. Deers, too!

Do you buy your supplies from big chain art store catalogues/websites or a local one that you physically go to?
There are two local art stores that I go to for supplies. However, when I need to use a lot of paper for a big job (say, a graphic novel) I've found that it's much cheaper to buy paper in bulk online. Dick Blick is the online store I use.

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

Do you listen to music while you draw and if so what genre?
It depends on what stage of the art I'm at (penciling, inking, lettering, painting). I listen to music (all kinds) while penciling (allows ideas to flow) and lettering. While inking at the drawing table for long (long) periods of time, I've found it's helpful to listen to audio books or old radio shows (some people like talk radio, but I can't take the commercials) -- anything to keep you glued to the drawing table and focused on the tedious, mindless inking and not over-think it. For the painting, I can actually have the TV on. playing movies or DVDs, because the kind of painting I do requires taking breaks and not rushing (which can lead to overworking the art). So it's good to have something playing that you can look up at occasionally & distract you while the paint dries or you clean off your brushes.

Did you read comics as a kid and if so what was your favorite?
Yes. I guess it was a combination of newspaper strips, Jack Kirby comics and a stack of old hardcover Tintin books that got me hooked.

What is or was your favorite comic strip?
When I was a kid, they were still running the original Dick Tracy, by Chester Gould. People today wouldn't believe what was in there in daily & Sunday papers for us kids! All kinds of bloody violence and death and gruesome villains --- I loved it!!

What was your favorite book as a child and do you still own a copy of it?
There are way too many to single out just one. But since we're talking about drawing, I loved all the Charles Addams "Addams Family" books and I still have all those in hardcovers. (A couple I had to upgrade over the years since the original copies were falling apart!)

Did you have any formal art training and if so where did you receive it?
Yes. I am way over-qualified. I have a BFA in drawing from Arizona State (hey, they had a good art department!) and a Master's Degree in painting from Mills College in Oakland. I originally planned to be a painter/ teacher with gallery shows, etc. -- but I found it a lot more fun & rewarding to make comics, so after a while I just concentrated on that.

Do you feel that the Internet is a blessing or a curse?
A blessing! If I told you what we had to do to do research or find cool things before the Internet - and how much time we'd spend doing that - you wouldn't believe me. That being said, I think if I had had the Internet when I was a kid, I might not have become an artist. Wanting to be an artist, for me, was always motivated by a certain yearning for things I didn't have or couldn't find anywhere. These days you can find almost everything on-line, so I wonder if I would have been as inspired to start making my own work.... On the other hand, the Internet kind of inspires me to want to make movies -- and maybe I would have done that. I guess if the creative impulse is there, it will find its way out.

Did either of your parents draw?
Yes. My dad drew and I remember being in awe of that.

Who in your life is/was the most supportive of your art?
Besides friends & colleagues, I was lucky to have two great long-term girlfriends in my life (one later became my wife) who believed in me and encouraged me. I mean, I would have done what I do without them in my life, probably, but it sure meant a lot at the time!

Do you keep a sketchbook?
Yes -- I have stacks and stacks. But they are also filled with writing, story ideas, technical info, etc. etc. They are work books -- not lovely objects of beauty, unfortunately!

Have you ever taught cartooning/drawing and if so did you enjoy the experience?
I was a teaching assistant in a drawing class and a print-making class when I was a graduate student. That meant I actually did teach the classes for about a year and the real teacher would just look over the work and (sometimes) grade it. I liked teaching drawing the most. But I wonder if I was all that good at it, because I often found really bad art to be entertaining. Sometimes I could barely hide my glee at seeing a particularly awful drawing -- that's not something you want in a teacher!

Do you feel that talent or passion is more important in drawing?
Passion leads to talent! Talent is never enough.

Do you collect anything and if so what?
I love old books and paper stuff (like old trading cards).

If you were an animated cartoon character who do you think you would be?
There used to be an old cartoon on TV when I was a kid about a funny looking detective called "Q. T. Hush" that nobody remembers. So probably him.

Are you a righty or lefty?

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

In one or two sentences describe your drawing area.
An L-shaped arrangement of big old desk with lightbox next to drawing table next to another smaller table stacked with plastic watercolor palettes & tools, facing bay windows looking out onto a bustling street below.

Do you play any musical instruments?
Guitar (and a little piano, since we had one in the house when I was a kid), but I found playing & practicing could keep me from drawing and I had to make a choice to concentrate on drawing. That was a very important (and hard) decision for me.

If you could give one piece of advice to someone who wants to pursue drawing as a career what would it be?
Only do it if you really, really love it and are really interested in it. If it bores you even a little or seems tedious or too much work -- it's either not for you or you are approaching it wrong. Find the part of it that you most enjoy and concentrate on that.

Who is your favorite artist?

There have been many over the years, but it's probably still my childhood hero, Chester Gould.

Thanks again Richard!

Coming soon are answers from the Eisner, Harvey and Ignatz award winning cartoonist, Alex Robertson.


john said...

you where right David another interesting one....

David said...

Glad you enjoyed it John.

Belle Dee said...

One of my favorites! Thanks so much for this one!

dries said...

Great interview, love his work! Great person too! His OA is awesome (you can see some on my caf page)!