Award winning Alaskan cartoonist Peter Dunlap-Shohl has been drawing since the age of six. He lives in the foothills of the Chugach Mountains in Anchorage, Alaska with his wife Pamela who is a graphic designer and their son Wiley. He has lived there most of his life, including during 1964’s Great Alaskan Earthquake, the most powerful recorded earthquake to hit North America.
Peter was the editorial cartoonist for the Anchorage Daily News for over 25 years, drawing four cartoons a week and creating animations for the paper’s website. He also drew and presided over the paper’s weekly, local political cartoon caption contest. In 2002 Peter won first place in the Society of Professional Journalists Northwest regional editorial cartoon competition and he has also received multiple awards from the Alaska Press Club, including their First Amendment Award.
Peter was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2002 but continued to work for the Anchorage Daily News for several more years. Upon his diagnosis he decided to start a blog about living with Parkinson’s. This blog Off & On, The Alaska Parkinson’s Rag is filled with his cartoons, animations and illustrations. Over time his drawings reflected the effects that Parkinson’s and the medication he was taking were having on his motor skills. Peter became the leader of the Anchorage Parkinson’s Disease Support Group. Through his Off & On blog, which became a clearinghouse of information on Parkinson’s, he has improved the life of others with this disease.
He now freelances and all of his drawing is done digitally on the computer. In addition to his Off & On blog, he runs the blog Frozen Grin which contains political cartoons, animations, short comic pieces and songs. You can view an archive of Peter’s Anchorage Daily News cartoons here and his animations about Alaska politicians can be watched here. To get your very own Peter Dunlap-Shohl swag, visit his Frozen Grin Big Box store. Peter is not only a talented cartoonist, but he also plays multiple instruments and performs with his wife and others in the band Whiskey Jacks. Check out the Whiskey Jacks blog to learn more and give the band a listen.
What is your favorite pen to use?
I am now all digital, all the time. For ergonomic reasons, I began using an Intuos pad and stylus in combination with Photoshop several years ago. Nibs never clog, and I never run out of ink. And my Mac rarely crashes.
Do you draw in pencil first and if so do you use a standard pencil or a mechanical one?
I usually do a rough on a layer in Photoshop, knock down its opacity to between 20 and thirty then use it as a guide for layers above that will be composited down to the final drawing.
Do you do your coloring by hand or on the computer?
Computer, in the process described above.
What thing(s) do you hate to draw?
I can learn to hate anything! Foreshortening gives me fits, but I love it when it works. Drawing for me is all about pushing my rendering limits, and then having my limits push back.
Do you buy your supplies from big chain art store catalogues/websites or a local one that you physically go to?
This question is mooted by my use of the computer. Plus there are no art chain stores here in remote and savage Alaska.
Are there any rituals that you do before starting to draw?
Rituals? We're supposed to do rituals??? See what you miss if you don't go to art school?
Do you listen to music while you draw and if so what genre?
I love a wide variety of music from all directions, with a bias toward the many incarnations of the guitar. I especially like Marc Ribot, Martin Carthy, Bill Frisell, Goran Sollscher, and of course that other Richard Thompson. I'm also a big fan of the music of New Orleans. Professor Longhair and Alan Toussaint etc. I'm also a big fan of Don Byron, who is a terrific clarinet player. I could go on... Renaissance music anyone?
Did you read comics as a kid and if so what was your favorite?
Peanuts, Tales from the Crypt, Eerie, CARtoons, and Mad magazine.
What is or was your favorite comic strip?
Abiding love for Peanuts, The Far Side, Doonesbury, Calvin and Hobbes, and Cul de Sac. Also a huge fan of Edward Sorel, Ronald Searle, Patrick Oliphant, and George Booth, Clay Bennett, Edward Gorey, and a guy I used to work with, Dee Boyles, who is now a plein aire landscape painter with formidable chops.
What was your favorite book as a child and do you still own a copy of it?
Hmmm... a toughie. I'm going with "The Thirteen Clocks" I've got both a paperback edition that I found in England illustrated by Ronald Searle and the NYRB reissue with the fabulous Marc Simont paintings.
Did you have any formal art training and if so where did you receive it?
I was an art major at Whitman College, where I spent most of my time watching the pottery wheels go round and round.
Do you feel that the Internet is a blessing or a curse?
For me it has been a creative blessing and, as a former newspaperman a financial disaster.
Did either of your parents draw?
My dad was handy with a pencil and certainly encouraged me. Thanks Dad.
Who in your life is/was the most supportive of your art?
Let's split that one between my dad and my wife. Thanks Pam.
Do you keep a sketchbook?
Have you ever taught cartooning/drawing and if so did you enjoy the experience?
I have done a great deal of one-on-one mentoring, which I greatly enjoyed.
Do you feel that talent or passion is more important in drawing?
Do you collect anything and if so what?
Books, music, stringed instruments.
If you were an animated cartoon character who do you think you would be?
Wile E. Coyote, a microsecond before impact.
Are you a righty or lefty?
If you weren't an artist what would you want to do for work?
In one or two sentences describe your drawing area.
Light, cluttered, small, vital.
Do you play any musical instruments?
Guitar, Dobro, Mandolin, piano.
If you could give one piece of advice to someone who wants to pursue drawing as a career what would it be?
If you love it enough to endure and learn from multiple failures go for it. You risk plenty in choosing any path in life. It will be easier to accept your second choice or third, etc if you give your first choice a decent shot. Life is long.
Who is your favorite artist?
There are quite a few listed above, to which I would add James Turrell and Andy Goldsworthy. But I have to say that for a sheer aesthetic thrill nothing equals the lean perfection and idiosyncratic brilliance of a Martin Carthy guitar line.
You can learn more about the challenges of Parkinson’s disease by reading this interview with Peter over at the Comic Riffs blog. Comic Riffs has also recently posted this profile of cartoonist Richard Thompson (Cartoonist Survey #125) who also has Parkinson’s disease.
If you would like to get involved in the fight against Parkinson’s head over to the Team Cul de Sac page at Michael J. Fox’s Team Fox website where you can make a donation.
Thanks again Peter!