Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Eleanor Davis and Drew Weing - Cartoonist Survey #233

Today we have a real treat, the first husband and wife Cartoonist Survey. It features Eleanor Davis and her husband Drew Weing.

Photo Credit; Yvonne Brooks

Eleanor Davis is a cartoonist and illustrator who was born and raised in Tucson, Arizona. As a child her parents introduced her to the classic comics such as Little Nemo, Krazy Kat, Little Lulu and Kinder Kids. In high school she discovered the zines and mini-comics of alternative cartoonists and soon began self-publishing her own. Eleanor studied sequential art at the Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree. In addition to her self-published work such as “The Beast Mother”, she has contributed work to the anthologies “MOME “ (Fantagraphics) and “Best American Comics 2008” (Houghton Mifflin). She has also created two children’s graphic novels, “Stinky” published by Fran├žoise Mouly's TOON Books in 2008 and “The Secret Science Alliance and the Copycat Crook” published by Bloomsbury Children's in 2009. “The Secret Science Alliance” was a collaborative book where her illustrations were inked by her husband Drew. The book was nominated for an Eisner Award. Eleanor continues to produce comics, mini-comics, illustrations and other works of art. She lives and works in Athens, Georgia with her husband Drew. Visit her website here and her sketch blog here to see much more of her work.

This is Drew with the Serbian edition of his book, "Set to Sea".

Drew Weing is a comic book and webcomic creator who was born and raised in Lexington, Virginia. Like his wife, Eleanor, he also earned a BA while studying sequential art at the Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia. From March of 2002 to July of 2003 he drew an almost daily autobiographical comic called The Journal Comic that he posted on his website. Drew is well known for his infinite canvas webcomic Pup which appeared on Serializer.net. For those unfamiliar with infinite canvas comics, they are based on the idea that the size of the digital comics page is infinite and therefore not limited to a conventional page size. (To learn more about infinite canvas comics, check out Scott McCloud’s book, “Reinventing Comics”.) Drew’s first book is the graphic novel “Set to Sea” which was published last August by Fantagraphics. The main character in “Set to Sea” is a poet who has lost his passion for writing. After getting kicked out of a tavern for not being able to pay his bill, he ends up being kidnapped by sailors and impressed into service. During his time at sea he ends up finding inspiration and regains his passion. Check out Drew’s website where you can read The Journal Comic, most of the Pup strips and the first part of “Set to Sea”.

To purchase their books, mini-comics and prints, head over to Drew and Eleanor's Little House Comics shop.

***Ladies first, so Eleanor's answers are first in italics and Drew's are in plain text.***

What is your favorite pen to use?

For awhile I was switching between a 102 and a 107 but now I just use a Deleter Maru pen. They are the best pens!

I was the one who introduced her to the Maru pen! It's like a Hunt crow quill, but well made and consistent.

Thanks, man! I'll never go back!

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

Mechanical pencils!

Ditto, but sometimes I'll use an old-fashioned yellow pencil if I'm feeling I've gotten too uptight about details.

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

Some of my comics are computer colored, some are hand colored. But mostly I work in black and white.

Mostly computer colored, but I've been inspired by Eleanor to do more painting recently.

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

Ink linework w/ Bombay Black, then combination of watercolor and gouache (Windsor & Newton), often mixed with Ph. Martin's watercolor dyes. I try not to use the dyes too much because they fade badly over time.

Windsor & Newton watercolors.

What type of paper do you use?

I use Fabriano Medioevalis a lot. It works well with dip pens. It's printmaking paper, so it's pre-sized: you don't have to stretch it and the sizing keeps the ink from bleeding. I've used other printmaking papers as well. But it's not as fun to paint on as a more absorbent paper - you can't really do washes, which is a pain.

Eleanor's the authority!

What thing(s) do you hate to draw?

I feel weird about how bad I am at drawing folds. All the life drawing sessions I've gone to have made me really good at drawing naked people but lousy at drawing clothes.

There's no particular single thing I hate; mostly I hate getting into certain habits or styles of drawing that seem stale or over-rendered.

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

We buy little things from our local store, The Loft. We order things like 400 series bristol online.

We always try to go local, but a lot of our cartooning paraphernalia is too obscure and particular to find locally. Dick Blick is the fallback.

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

Too many horrible little rituals to count. The pee ritual. The check-the-email ritual. The make-a-cup-of-tea ritual. The pee-again ritual. And then, it's bedtime.

Maybe I should start! My only ritual lately has been avoiding my drawing desk as much as possible.

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

Yes. I listen to a lot of shitty pop music and club music. I have to listen to something that keeps me excited and not sleepy. I have listened to a lot of Lady Gaga.

I find that listening to audiobooks when I'm doing slightly more boring stuff (inking, coloring) can be really useful to distract the part of my brain that doesn't want to sit still. But for more complicated writing and drawing, I sometimes have to turn off everything, to get my thoughts straight.

Ditto the audiobook thing. Also NPR.

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

I read an insane amount of comics when I was a kid. My parents were really into comics: basically anything that was good; everything that wasn't violent or Archie. My favorite may have been Little Lulu. But there were tons.

As a little kid, mostly I read whatever crossed my path - from Garfield to dog-eared superhero comics.

What is or was your favorite comic strip?

Was: Calvin and Hobbes, Newspaper: Cul De Sac, Web: Achewood

Those are all pretty great.

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

Too many to mention. Probably Tove Jansson's Comet in Moominland, and, yes.

Hmm, maybe Lloyd Alexander's "Chronicles of Prydain" series? I still have the tattered remains of those books.

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

I got a BA in Sequential Art from Savannah College of Art and Design.


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

Everything good that's happened to me, career wise, has come from the Internet. I've found out about many of my favorite contemporary cartoonists through the Internet, and many of them work primarily online. The Internet gives everyone (with a computer) a voice that can be heard by anyone else (with a computer). These things are all overwhelmingly positive.

That said, I'm just as confused as everyone else about how the online economy is going to shake out, and how artist and writers and creators of all kinds are going to be able to make a living.

It's a real mix. The widespread, democratic nature of distribution is amazingly positive and unprecedented. But the "how to make a living" part aside, I personally have trouble moderating my Internet "intake." It's so easy to get distracted!

Did either of your parents draw?

My only memory of my parents really sitting down and drawing is of when I was 6 and made them take a comic-book drawing class from me. I may have even made them pay me money. My dad drew a comic about a chihuahua who stole dirty laundry. My mom drew a comic about my dad accidentally going to sleep with a pillow over his head and the tooth fairy stealing all his teeth.

My mom drew some when she was younger, but I think had mostly given it up by the time I was around. I found some of her old sketchbooks with some drawings in them (mostly cats!) and filled in the blank pages.

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

My parents are supportive to the point of it becoming ridiculous. But they would be ridiculously supportive if I became a career burger-flipper, or a professional nose-picker.

Drew is also supportive but we are also Rivals so it gets tense.

Ha ha. It's Eleanor. But it's a tough love.

Do you keep a sketchbook?


Sort of. It doesn't come easy.

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

Yes, Drew and I teach a week-long cartooning camp to teens every year. It is really challenging for us but we love it; the kids are so filled with passion and confidence and excitement. Someday we hope to be good at it.

It's true, we're always feeling really inspired by the end. But we put a lot into it, too! We spend the first couple days agonizing over how we'll fill an entire week and wondering how we got ourselves into this mess.

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

Passion? I think hard work and practice is the most important thing, and it's hard to do that without passion. I've known plenty of talented artists who never came to anything because they never did any work.

Amen! Hey, wait a minute - just who are you talking about?

Do you collect anything and if so what?

I really like neat labels, from food packages and fireworks etc. I buy a lot of exotic food products I don't know how to prepare just because I like the labels so much. I have a scrapbook for stuff like that.

Ha, Eleanor says I have a collector's mentality, and it's true - if I own more than 2 of something, I start wanting to complete the set. If I were a rich man, I'd own all of the Criterion DVDs, ever NES game ever made, and a lot more pretty book sets.

Drew wants to be a rich guy in a huge mansion filled with expensive dude-collections.

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

Shizuku Tsukishima from Mimi o Sumaseba.

Gargamel from the Smurfs.

Are you a righty or lefty?



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

I work part time at a food co-op as the produce buyer and that is pretty much my dream Other Job. I also think a lot about going into radio. Radio is a big part of my life.

I would probably be a frustrated, blocked writer, instead of a frustrated, blocked cartoonist. When I was a kid, I wanted to be a chef, which is hilarious considering how picky I was.

In one or two sentences describe your drawing area.

Right now, we are in a small apartment and our desks face each other. We have a curtain we can pull back to separate them. We are moving into a house this August and we will both have separate studios which we are really excited about.

Plus, it's also our living room, and basically a cat storage area.

Do you play any musical instruments?


I played trumpet in middle school, but lost the small competence I once had!

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

Don't pursue art as a career. Do it because you love it and then see if you can make money of it. Don't do it the other way around. Work hard. Make things that are interesting. Think about what you do.

Be a well-rounded person. Don't just concentrate on drawing - even if you're good, you'll be boring. And you should probably try doing art in your spare time - you know, just to see if you like doing it or are any good at it - before you quit your job!

Who is your favorite artist?

That is impossible to answer.

Eleanor Davis. (Take that!)

I guess my favorite artist is Drew, too. I liked him enough to marry him at least!

Here is the first segment of a four part interview for The Comics Journal with the creators of "The Secret Science Alliance and Copycat Crook". From left to right are Drew Weing, Eleanor Davis, Michele Chidester and Joey Weiser (Cartoonist Survey #218). You can see the other three segments on Youtube.

Here is a video preview from Fantagraphics of Drew's "Set to Sea".

Thank you very much Eleanor and Drew!

1 comment:

vollsticks said...

AAWWWWW!!!! Always wondered what pens Ms. Davis used, thanks for that. What a lovely couple of inspirational young cartoonists!