Monday, February 28, 2011

Peter Nilsen - Cartoonist Survey #212

Two weekends ago my wife and I attended the Bear’s Den Fly Fishing show which was held in Taunton, MA. Since my dad is a saltwater fly fishing guide, he had a booth there to answer questions and demonstrate fly tying. After hanging out with dear old dad for awhile, my wife and I took a walk around the show to check out all of the new fly tying material and tackle. My wife was the first one to spot a book of fishing cartoons (“Fish Foolishness”) and introduced herself to the next survey participant, Peter Nilsen. I must have been looking at some new synthetic wing material or searching for the tray of free brownies I was told was in the area. We chatted with Peter and I asked him if he would like to participate in my Cartoonist Survey. He readily agreed, and even saved my brain a little work by sending me his bio ready for posting (with some minor editing for length).

My cartooning started at eight years old, when I used to trace my favorite cartoon characters from the comic section of the local newspaper. When I was only 10 years old, I started taking art classes at the Art Association in Newport, RI. There I learned to draw what I saw and paint what I felt. Even then, I knew that some day, I wanted to become a professional artist. I graduated from High School in Newport and in those four years, took all the art and mechanical drawing classes they offered and of course fished every chance I could. I attended the University of Massachusetts / Dartmouth receiving a degree in Visual Arts and also taking many courses in the fine arts. My career was never about being a cartoonist, but more in the graphic design and advertising field. After college, I started out as a paste-up artist and progressed to a layout artist and then to being a creative director in many advertising agencies, but my interest and love for cartoons always flavored my graphic design work and I always did humorous illustrations at home and for special occasions.

For 10 years I was the editor, designer and producer of my local Trout Unlimited chapter's newsletter. Every month I added a fishing related cartoon to the issue, to spice it up. A lot were slanted towards local political conservation issues but more were silly things that happen to fish and fisherman on the stream. In 1996 my newsletter won the award for the best Trout Unlimited newsletter in the country. Because of my love of fly fishing, I continued to draw cartoons of fish and fisherman. So, after many years and so many cartoons on this subject matter, I figured I had to do something with these, so I worked on a book last year and it was published in December of 2010. The great response to this book and my cartoons has got me wanting to do another, so I have started 2 books with different subject matter and will choose one after seeing which idea will create more quality "toons".

What is your favorite pen to use?
I use a Rapid-o-graph pen for the final. Sometimes a Pilot Razor point (Terrific sketching pen, too).

Do you draw in pencil first and if so do you use a standard pencil or a mechanical one?
Sketch out situation in standard pencil, tissue overlay and refine, then ink.

Do you do your coloring by hand or on the computer?
By hand. Haven't mastered the "layering thing" on Photoshop as of yes. I'm trying!

If you do your coloring by hand, what do you use?
Prismacolor pencil on paper, Watercolor when on illustration board.

What type of paper do you use?
Copy paper or sketchbook for sketching, 18lb smooth marker paper for final.

What thing(s) do you hate to draw?
Dogs. Everyone wants me to draw their dog. Never can get their legs right. Glad I can do cartoons...who cares what their legs look like!

Do you buy your supplies from big chain art store catalogues/websites or a local one that you physically go to?
Local art stores & Jerry's.

Are there any rituals that you do before starting to draw?
Act silly! Talk to myself.

Do you listen to music while you draw and if so what genre?
Only when I do the finish drawings...usually Jazz.

Did you read comics as a kid and if so what was your favorite?
Read them all forever. Action Comics. Captain Marvel, Superman, The Blackhawks (damn, I gave all my comics to my sister when I went to college).

What is or was your favorite comic strip?
The strip "Henry" (ages ago). Simple strip. Started tracing him from the newspaper when I was eight. "Mother Goose & Grimm" is now...Just my style. Also, "Hagar the Horrible".

What was your favorite book as a child and do you still own a copy of it?
Curious George. Yes.

Did you have any formal art training and if so where did you receive it?
Yes, BS is Visual Design @ UMass.

Do you feel that the Internet is a blessing or a curse?
Information & resource are amazing. To help creativity...I don't know. A crutch to some.

Did either of your parents draw?
Better than most parents, but not really well.

Who in your life is/was the most supportive of your art?
Mother. Introduced me to art classes at an early age.

Do you keep a sketchbook?
Only for travel. Not a daily thing.

Have you ever taught cartooning/drawing and if so did you enjoy the experience?

Do you feel that talent or passion is more important in drawing?
Passion is the most important, a degree of talent can be learned, but real talent usually wins out in the end. But, a lot of people are successful in the art field and can't draw worth a damn.

Do you collect anything and if so what?
Along with art, my other passion is fly-fishing and I collect vintage tackle. They are "little works of art".

If you were an animated cartoon character who do you think you would be?
Probably Wimpy..."I'll gladly pay you tomorrow, for a hamburger today!"

Are you a righty or lefty?

If you weren't an artist what would you want to do for work?
A chef...I love to chop and create, but that's sort of art, isn't it?

In one or two sentences describe your drawing area.
A towering wall of pencils pens, ink, paper, pads, boxes, magazines and other related reference material, that surrounds a large drawing table. The creative cave.

Do you play any musical instruments?
No. But I bang out a mean drum solo with my thumbs on my drawing desk.

If you could give one piece of advice to someone who wants to pursue drawing as a career what would it be?
Forget it! Be a doctor or teacher and draw and paint on the side. The majority of people can't make a decent living being an artist any more. Unless you can become a technical wiz and can do animation or something like that, being successful with the pencil, pen or brush is limited to the super talented. Don't quit your day job!

Who is your favorite artist?
Wow...mmmm...Cartoonist - Gary Larson. Painter - Renoir.

Order your own copy of
Peter’s “Fish Foolishness” here or by clicking on the book cover below.

Thanks again Peter. It was very nice to meet you!


Mamabaer said...

I am Peter's baby sister. He used to take me fishing when I was little and helped me catch my first sunfish. I used to go in his room while he was out and draw with his stuff at his artists desk. Ooops, I am in trouble now. I wish I had half the talent he has. Thanks for this blog. I learned some things I never knew about my big brother.

David said...

You are more than welcome Mamabaer. It was very nice to not only meet your big brother, but also to learn more about his cartooning methods.