Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Rich Tennant - Cartoonist Survey #211

Richard Tennant is a cartoonist who was born in Chicago in May of 1947. He started drawing as a boy and honed his skills by copying drawings from newspapers, comics, comic books and magazines. His father was a professional pianist and not only introduced Rich to a wide variety of musical styles, he also taught him how to play the piano. After graduating from high school, Rich spent time studying at both the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts and the Chicago Musical College of Roosevelt University. He was drafted by the Army in 1967 and served for two years. When he got back to civilian life he worked as a paralegal, advertising copywriter, caterer, and entrepreneur. He also studied for awhile at the Berklee School of Music in Boston.

His single panel gag cartoon, “The 5th Wave” was started in 1981. This long running cartoon series got it’s name from Alvin Toffler’s book “Future Shock” and has been collected in three books and syndicated to numerous newspapers and magazines. He was the editorial cartoonist for IDG’s (International Data Group) magazines, Computerworld and Federal Computer World from 1987 to 1999. During this time he also freelanced, specializing in computer and technology cartoons for newspapers, magazines, and corporate publications around the world. Rich has been the resident cartoonist of the “For Dummies” book series since 1991. His “The 5th Wave” cartoons have been printed in every single one of the over 1,600 titles of the “For Dummies” books. He lives with his wife Cynthia here in my home state of Massachusetts. Visit “The 5th Wave” website where you can learn more about Rich, see more examples of his work and even buy cartoons for use in PowerPoint presentations, newsletters, books, websites, blogs and personal prints.

What is your favorite pen to use?
Pigma Micron, black, .03 tip for drawing, .05 tip for lettering.

Do you draw in pencil first and if so do you use a standard pencil or a mechanical one?
I sketch ideas on tracing paper with Staples #2 HB pencils, then trace sketches onto bristol board with any #4H pencil.

Do you do your coloring by hand or on the computer?
I used to hand color my work with watercolors and Dr. Martin dyes. I now use Photoshop.

What type of paper do you use?
I sketch on any tracing paper around, mostly 9x 12 Strathmore, and finished work on Aquabee 9 x 12 plate bristol board.

What thing(s) do you hate to draw?
It takes time for me to get groups of people klumped together in the right way, like in the background of a cocktail party, and I'm not fond of drawing people sitting around a table in a conference room. I don't like drawing the backs of people. It's so dull.

Do you buy your supplies from big chain art store catalogues/websites or a local one that you physically go to?
I used to buy my materials at a small local art store until he closed up shop. I now drive to AC Moore or Michaels and make my purchases.

Are there any rituals that you do before starting to draw?
No rituals other than the usual - coffee, newspaper, shower, shave, etc. But I work best in the morning and I try to make sure I'm feeling good before I sit down at the drawing board. I have some "unintentional laughter" YouTube videos that I sometimes deploy just to get me chuckling.

Do you listen to music while you draw and if so what genre?
I love music - jazz and classical - but I find it affects my drawing because too much of my energy is engaged with the music and not what's happening on the paper. For that reason, I don't listen to anything when I'm drawing.

Did you read comics as a kid and if so what was your favorite?
I'm not sure I had a favorite, but I read Archie, Blackhawk, Combat, Plastic Man and Superman...

What is or was your favorite comic strip?
Again, not sure I had a favorite. Whatever was in the Sunday Chicago Tribune.

What was your favorite book as a child and do you still own a copy of it?
My parents had a large hard-bound book that was a compendium of stories, illustrations, comics, and poems that I would read, mostly when confined to bed with an illness. I don't remember the name of the book and I don't own a copy of it, but it contained fine Hal Foster-type illustrations and wonderful poems, like Robert Louis Stevenson's, "The Land of Counterpane".

Did you have any formal art training and if so where did you receive it?
I drew constantly as a young boy, copying the entire Sunday comics page, pictures from my father’s art books from classes he took at the Art Institute of Chicago, and anything else I could find. By the time I was in the 8th grade I had some pretty decent drafting skills. This continued through high school and then 2 years of fine art training at a junior college. I never intended to be a cartoonist, though, (I thought I might be a commercial illustrator), so I had to figure that out on my own.

Do you feel that the Internet is a blessing or a curse?
It's neither and both. Like money.

Did either of your parents draw?
My father flirted with the idea of being an artist but never really pursued it. He worked his entire life as a pianist in clubs and hotels in Chicago.

Who in your life is/was the most supportive of your art?
My father. He would sit me on his lap after supper and the two of us would draw pictures together.

Do you keep a sketchbook?

Have you ever taught cartooning/drawing and if so did you enjoy the experience?
No. I wouldn't know how to teach cartooning.

Do you feel that talent or passion is more important in drawing?
Passion. Without that, all the talent in the world won't amount to much.

Do you collect anything and if so what?
I'm not sure I actually "collect" anything, but I do enjoy procuring DVDs of old horror and sci-fi movies. Everything from the early Universal Pictures stuff to the mid-50's B-grade movies like, "Them", "The Blob", the gill-man trilogy... There's just something warm and fuzzy about those old, schlocky black-and-white films.

If you were an animated cartoon character who do you think you would be?

Are you a righty or lefty?

If you weren't an artist what would you want to do for work?
Be a jazz musician (fantasy), or, a jazz disc jockey (more realistic).

In one or two sentences describe your drawing area.
Pretty clean and neat. I use a light table so I had a special one built that acts as a drawing board. I face a window with blinds that can be closed; I'm surrounded by bookshelves and have a small couch I sometimes work on, sometimes nap on.

Do you play any musical instruments?
I play the piano. I studied as much piano as I did art, maybe more, and thought I would someday be a professional jazz pianist.

If you could give one piece of advice to someone who wants to pursue drawing as a career what would it be?
Be persistent. Never stop improving and never stop pushing your business forward. I've found most people become successful in this business because they simply kept doing it longer than anyone else. You win by attrition.

Who is your favorite artist?

Hard to pick a favorite. For cartoon illustration, probably the late, great, Jeff MacNelly. For fine art, I love Claes Oldenburg's work, and recently discovered a few newer artists whose work I enjoy very much, Wosene Kosrof and Cole Morgan.

Thanks again for everything Rich!

Up next is cartoonist and fly fisherman Peter Nilsen.

No comments: