Friday, April 15, 2011

Paul Madonna - Cartoonist/Artist Survey #220

Cartoonist, illustrator, painter and writer Paul Madonna was born in 1972 and grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He attended Carnegie-Mellon University and became the first art intern at MAD Magazine while in his senior year. After graduating in 1994 with a Bachelor's in Fine Arts, he moved to San Francisco. In order to get his work out to the masses he began self-publishing a series of mini-comics and leaving them for free in cafes and other public places. He launched the first version of his Paul Madonna Studio website in 2000 which was basically an online portfolio. In 2002 he began posting a weekly cartoon which he sent to friends and family. When Hank Donat requested cartoon submissions for his MisterSF website, Paul submitted his pen and ink-washed All Over Coffee strip. Featuring detailed depictions of San Francisco architecture, All Over Coffee (AOC) ran for six installments at MisterSF. The San Francisco Chronicle picked up AOC in 2003 and began running it in February of 2004. AOC continues to run every Sunday in the San Francisco Chronicle and at Two collections of this work have been released, “All Over Coffee” (2007) and the just-released “Everything Is Its Own Reward: An All Over Coffee Collection”.

As an April Fool’s joke in 2004 the San Francisco Chronicle ran another of Paul’s strips, Small Potatoes, in place of his All Over Coffee. Paul went on to create a website to post his Small Potatoes strips in 2007 and two years later they began running weekly at The Rumpus. Another of his projects is his art book series Album. The first in the series was released in November 2009 and the second volume is scheduled for the Fall of 2011. Album is filled with wonderful drawings and water color paintings of mostly childhood toys such as balsa wood airplanes, Fisher Price record player and my favorite, the Mattel Electronic Baseball game. He also illustrated Eric Maisel's “A Writer's Guide to San Francisco”.

Paul covered the 2009 Presidential Inauguration for the San Francisco Chronicle and his work from this was published in several international newspapers including the South China Morning Post. His drawings and prints have been reprinted in various book collections and publications and have been shown in galleries, museums, cafes and restaurants. He has served as "cartoonist-in-residence" at the San Francisco's Cartoon Art Museum and teaches drawing at the University of San Francisco. Paul lives with his wife Joen in San Francisco. Visit Paul’s website to learn more about him and see more of his work. Go here to purchase prints and originals of his work.

What is your favorite pen to use?

Depends on the drawing. For All Over Coffee I use a rapidograph, which I first learned to use in 8th grade. But I'll draw with anything, and I love ballpoint for cartooning.

Do you draw in pencil first and if so do you use a standard pencil or a mechanical one?

I don't pencil anything first. I prefer the immediacy and commitment of going straight to ink.

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

By hand. I do as much by hand as possible.

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

These days I'm playing with colored india inks, but I've used watercolor and gouache as well on All Over Coffee pieces. On Small Potatoes I often use markers. And with other series I've painted with acrylics and oils. Depends on what kind of pieces I'm working on.

What type of paper do you use?

Again, depends on the project. For AOC I use Arches watercolor.

What thing(s) do you hate to draw?

Fire escapes.

Do you buy your supplies from big chain art store catalogues/websites or a local one that you physically go to?

Both. I order materials that I use a lot online, because I know what I'm getting and can buy them in bulk for cheap. Anytime I'm experimenting with a new material, though, I go to the local art stores so I can inspect what I'm getting and see the range of what's available.

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

No rituals necessarily, but I do have to put myself in a certain frame of mind. I have to calm my mind and focus, slow myself down. This is part of the pleasure I get, too. It isn't meditation, but it's meditative. I generally feel better after drawing for a couple hours. Relaxing on site can sometimes be difficult, though, since I've drawn in hectic places like narrow busy lanes in China.

Do you listen to music while you draw and if so what genre?

I don't listen to music when I'm drawing on site because there's enough stimulus as it is, and I need to focus on what I'm seeing. But when I'm back in the studio and doing more painterly work with ink washes, I sometimes listen to music, but mostly I listen to audiobooks. I listen to at least two books a month in the studio. As for music, right now I'm really into the Rolling Stones albums from the seventies, also DeerTick. Love DeerTick right now.

Did you read comics as a kid and if so what was your favorite?

I read newspaper comics obsessively. My uncle, who loved comics too, used to laugh because I'd even read strips I hated. I'd read one then complain that it annoyed me, but I still couldn't not read it. I discovered MAD Magazine when I was eleven, but I never read super hero comics. Then in my late teens I discovered the underground comics from the sixties and seventies and dove into that stuff, which led to the new underground, people like Chester Brown and Julie Doucet. I really love a lot of the alternative comics that were coming out in the early nineties.

What is or was your favorite comic strip?

Peanuts was my favorite until Calvin and Hobbes came along.

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

I had a lot of books that I loved, but, shockingly, no favorite is coming to mind. I loved collections of cartoons and strips. I loved having all the different collections. They used to publish those Peanuts softbacks that were like 5x7 inches or so and cheap newsprint, with all the strips arranged vertically. They were very modern in a design sense, the way the panels bounced around on the page. I'd read those over and over. Any softback cartoon collection like that I would read, even if I'd never heard of the series. I've always had a thing for series.

Did you have any formal art training and if so where did you receive it?

I studied fine art at Carnegie Mellon University.

Do you feel that the Internet is a blessing or a curse?

Both, like anything else. But probably 51% blessing, 49% curse.

Did either of your parents draw?


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

All of my family was and has been supportive. I think because they're just supportive people. It didn't really matter that it was art that I was interested in, they would have been behind me no matter what I liked to do.

Do you keep a sketchbook?

I keep a notebook, which I have with me 24 hours a day. I sometimes sketch in that, but I don't sketch as a regular practice. I have in the past, but I go to my finished drawings as I would sketches. I go to the page and draw and call it done. But I keep a notebook for ideas, because those are the things I'm always working out.

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

I'm actually teaching drawing at the University of San Francisco right now and I love it. I don't necessarily want to be a teacher as a profession, but it's wonderful at the moment to help people learn to see and develop their drawing skills. I'm learning a lot myself about what I think I know and how to articulate that.

Do you feel that talent or passion is more important in drawing?

I think they're both important at different stages. Talent is helpful to have at the start. It lets you know the skills you have above other skills. After that, passion is good because it allows you to define why you do it. Then after that comes drive to keep going, and then, probably most important, the discipline to work your ass off. So yes, talent and passion are necessary, but without drive and discipline they mean nothing.

Do you collect anything and if so what?

I collect books and postcards. I still love series and collections. I collect art materials, too. I often dream of building a studio and library for myself.

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

Mix Calvin's petulance with Charlie Brown's anxiety and that would be me.

Are you a righty or lefty?


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

Drink coffee and read––oh, wait, they don't pay for that?

In one or two sentences describe your drawing area.


Do you play any musical instruments?


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

Don't do it unless you have to. And if you absolutely have to, work your ass off.

Who is your favorite artist?

Changes all the time. I'm really into Gary Panter right now, but I love Raymond Pettibon.

To purchase either of the All Over Coffee books click on the links below.

Thanks again for everything Paul!


Anonymous said...

great interview - was excited to hear so many questions that i would also have for paul - well done and thanks!

David said...

Thank you for the kind words. I'm glad you enjoyed it!