Monday, March 14, 2011

Brian Biggs - Cartoonist Survey #213

Illustrator Brian Biggs was born in 1968 and spent his early years split between Arkansas and Texas. In 1987 he moved to New York City to attend Parsons School of Design. He spent time in France and San Francisco and has lived in Philadelphia since 1999. Over the years Brian has worked as an art director, graphic designer, animator, teacher, writer, and illustrator. Between 1991 and 1999 Brian wrote and drew graphic novels and comics including Frederick & Eloise, Dear Julia, (nominated for an Eisner Award) and his two self-published works, Nineteen Weird Guys and a Portrait of the Artist and Interim.

Currently, Brian does illustrations for newspapers, magazines, advertising, puzzles, toys and children’s books. He has illustrated the popular children’s book series, “Roscoe Riley”, “Goofball Malone”, and “Shredderman" as well as several other titles. Visit
Brian’s website to see more of his comic and illustration work. In addition to his illustration work, Brian enjoys electronic music, even building and programming his own synthesizers. He has a website devoted to his electronic sounds and ideas called Dance Robot, Dance where you can hear and see examples of his creations.

What is your favorite pen to use?
Pentel RSVP ball-point, fine.

Do you draw in pencil first and if so do you use a standard pencil or a mechanical one?
Yes, mechanical. Various sizes.

Do you do your coloring by hand or on the computer?
Computer and Wacom tablet.

What type of paper do you use?
Strathmore 500 Series Bristol, vellum surface.

What thing(s) do you hate to draw?
Plants. Bushes, trees, etc. In fact, most natural things. Mountains are tedious. I like man-made junk, especially mechanical.

Do you buy your supplies from big chain art store catalogues/websites or a local one that you physically go to?
Both, depending on what it is and how much I need it. I buy my paper in bulk so the web is my friend. But sometimes I like wandering art supply stores picking out inks or things.

Are there any rituals that you do before starting to draw?
Just coffee. Lovely, lovely coffee.

Do you listen to music while you draw and if so what genre?
Often, yes. I listen to a lot of news-radio as well. When it's music, it's almost always electronic.

Did you read comics as a kid and if so what was your favorite?
Nope. I discovered comics in college.

What is or was your favorite comic strip?
Calvin & Hobbes.

What was your favorite book as a child and do you still own a copy of it?
Richard Scarry's Busy, Busy Town. I don't own the same copy, but I have a copy, yes.

Did you have any formal art training and if so where did you receive it?
I studied graphic design in college. Is that formal?

Do you feel that the Internet is a blessing or a curse?
Blessing. I have to weigh the pros and cons all the time, but it comes down on "blessing." Hard to concentrate sometimes when the email is so easy to get lost in.

Did either of your parents draw?
Both of them could/can, though neither of them was serious about it.

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

Do you keep a sketchbook?
Yeah, I do. But it's funny -- it's mostly to-do lists and ideas for things that I don't have time to do. Since I draw pictures all day every day, I don't sit around and sketch, really.

Have you ever taught cartooning/drawing and if so did you enjoy the experience?
I taught illustration at The University of the Arts here in Philadelphia for four years. I enjoyed it, but I'm glad I don't do it anymore.

Do you feel that talent or passion is more important in drawing?
Passion. A lot of talented illustrators are sitting around waiting for work to come to them. Passionate illustrators are just doing it. Both are a plus.

Do you collect anything and if so what?
Not really. I have my insane esoteric hobbies; I, um, invest in modular synthesizers and other weird music gear, for instance.

If you were an animated cartoon character who do you think you would be?
Oh, well, Calvin. His life is a perfect one.

Are you a righty or lefty?
Leftist. Totally. I draw with my right had if that's what you’re asking.

If you weren't an artist what would you want to do for work?
Play music in a band on a stage.

In one or two sentences describe your drawing area.
I work at a big old wooden drafting table that sits surrounded by bookshelves and bulletin boards in an old garage which I share with no one. Nearby sits another large wooden table on which I have my digital stuff like the computer, scanner, and that sort of thing.

Do you play any musical instruments?
Yes. A little accordion, a little ukulele, I'm learning guitar, and I program synthesizers.

If you could give one piece of advice to someone who wants to pursue drawing as a career what would it be?
Just draw, draw, draw. Constantly.

Who is your favorite artist?

The best answer for this I can give you is based on a thing that went around Facebook last year. Fifteen in fifteen. I can't come up with one favorite, so here's fifteen. For now.

Edward Gorey
Jacques Tardi
Chris Ware
Seymour Chwast
Arnold Lobel
Richard Scarry
Walt Disney
Saul Steinberg
B. Kliban
George Tooker
Ben Shahn
Jorge Colombo
Robert Crumb
Bill Watterson
Maurice Sendak

Thanks again for your time Brian.


Anonymous said...

Cool beans, Brian. It's fun to have a famous nephew... esp. one that is as much fun as you are.
Cannot wait to get my hands on "Everything Goes.. on Land"!!
Sure would love to see your face!
Thanks, David for recognizing Brian!!
Ain't Patt

Bill White said...

He attended Parson's when he was ELEVEN?!

David said...

Oops! Thanks Bill for pointing that out...the date has been fixed. Brian went to Parsons in 1987 not 1979 :0)