Thursday, May 12, 2011

Tom Gammill - Cartoonist Survey #224

Emmy Award-winning comedy writer, producer and cartoonist Tom Gammill was born in May of 1957 in Darien, Connecticut. He has been drawing cartoons his whole life and while in college at Harvard some of his comics ran in the Harvard Lampoon. After graduating Tom teamed up with Max Pros, who he met at Harvard, to write comedy. The two started out writing for Saturday Night Live in 1979 and since that time have worked on some of the best known TV comedies. Together they have written for It’s Garry Shandling’s Show, The Wonder Years, Seinfeld, Monk, Late Night with David Letterman, The Simpsons and many more. Tom and Max have also been producers on shows such as The Simpsons, Futurama and The Critic and won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Animated Program in 2001 for the Simpson’s episode “HOMR”.

In 2007 during the Writers Guild strike, Tom used the break to start his “Learn to Draw” series of videos on YouTube. As a kid he had collected instructional books on comics which always touted wild claims of fame and fortune by using their time tested methods. Tom’s “Learn to Draw” videos feature himself as an inept cartoonist who is completely oblivious to the fact that he’s no good. The videos often include legendary cartoonist such as Mell Lazarus, Robert Mankoff and Matt Groening who are completely nonplussed by his lack of cartooning skills.

Tom has also created a comic strip to go along with his “Learn to Draw” series called The Doozies. The strip focuses on Dean Doozie, a “lovable boob”, his wife Dana, daughter Eve and Dean’s dad. The Doozies appears daily at and is also printed in the Sierra Madre Weekly, Pasadena Independent, Monrovia Weekly, Arcadia Weekly and the Temple Tribune. Tom lives in Pasadena, CA with his wife Sandy Gillis who is also a writer. They have two children, Henry and Alice. Be sure to read The Doozies daily at and check out The Doozies official website where you can see many of Tom’s “Learn to Draw” videos. You can view all (currently 26) of the “Learn to Draw” videos here on YouTube.

What is your favorite pen to use?

I love the Uni-ball medium black pen, I carry them everywhere. But I draw The Doozies on a Wacom Cintiq.

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

It's all on the Cintiq.

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

On the computer with Photoshop.

What thing(s) do you hate to draw?

I think of a lot of jokes that I can't end up doing because my drawing is so lousy. I can draw a hand holding a telephone or a newspaper or a pen but that's about it as far as hands are concerned.

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

I turn on the computer which leads to me checking my email which leads me to reading some websites so I guess that's a ritual.

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

No, I like quiet.

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

Peanuts, Beetle Bailey, New Yorker cartoons, Momma.

What is or was your favorite comic strip?

Ernie Bushmiller's Nancy for all different reasons.

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

I loved all the Syd Hoff kids’ books, also "Harold and the Purple Crayon".

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


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

It's here to stay, get used to it.

Did either of your parents draw?

No, and I think it kind of made them nervous that I liked to draw. They were worried I was going to grow up and be poor.

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

I make my living writing for TV and all my TV writer friends think I'm a better cartoonist than a writer.

Do you keep a sketchbook?

I write on scripts I'm working on.

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

I love telling people how to draw. Check out my YouTube shorts -- Google "Tom Gammill Lesson One" to see the first one.

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

Definitely talent because I have the passion but I still can't draw a hand.

Do you collect anything and if so what?

Ernie Bushmiller's Nancy.

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

I was once in a Simpson’s episode -- I worked in the nuclear power plant. It's Season Two - "Homer the Mascot," I think. Mr. Burns says, "Look, it's the Gammills!"

Are you a righty or lefty?

Draw right.

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

I love writing for TV.

In one or two sentences describe your drawing area.

It's a computer and a Cintiq, surrounded by some cool original cartoon art by Patrick McDonnell, Mell Lazarus, KAZ and Bob Dunn.

Do you play any musical instruments?

Sax but I haven't for a few years.

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

Go for it!

Who is your favorite artist?

Today it's William Steig; I was just looking at a book of his old New Yorker cartoons.

Thank you very much Tom!

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