Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Les McClaine - Cartoonist Survey #235

Cartoonist and illustrator Leslie “Les” McClaine was born in September of 1977 in Ventura California. His family moved to Massachusetts in 1978 so he grew up here on the East Coast in Lexington, MA. He attended the Savannah College of Arts and Design and in 1999 graduated cum laude with a BFA in Sequential Art. Les moved back to Massachusetts after college and worked at Newbury Comics (a chain of record and comics stores throughout New England) while also creating comics. He was lucky enough to have his first pitch for a comic book series, Highway 13, accepted by Slave Labor Graphics Publishing. Les wrote for and drew Highway 13 for SLG Publishing from 2000 until 2003, creating 10 issues. During this time he was also producing the popular web-comic Life with Leslie, an autobiographical comic strip. He went on to publish a collection of the Life with Leslie strips called “Repeat Until Death”.

Les became the artist for Viper Comics’ The Middleman comic book series in 2004 and at the same time began writing and drawing his own webcomic, Jonny Crossbones. In 2005 Jonny Crossbones was nominated for an Eisner Award in the Best Digital Comic. That same year Les moved to Portland, OR where he still lives and works as a freelance illustrator and cartoonist. His most recent work has been the drawing duties on the new Tick series for New England Comics and drawing the webcomic TUNE for Derek Kirk Kim. He has also recently worked on Marvel movie figures for Hasbro, is occasionally a freelance contributor to The Portland Mercury newspaper as an illustrator, and has been working at the shared studio of cartoonists and illustrators called Tranquility Base. Visit his website, his Evil Space Robot sketchblog and the Jonny Crossbones website to see more of his work. I highly recommend that you check out these two Photoshop tutorials on making your comics look old and beat which Les has posted on the Jonny Crossbones website.

What is your favorite pen to use?

For the past few years, I've just been using a Pentel Pocket Brush Pen and a few different sizes of Micron Pigma pens. Just recently, like in the last month or so, I decided to try using a Hunt 102 nib again for the first time in 12 years, and I really like it. I'm probably going to be shifting to a mix of that and the brush pen from here on out.

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

I always draw in pencil. I use Prismacolor Colerase pencils, usually a light blue or crimson red. I like the wood pencils, and the colors are easy to drop out in Photoshop after scanning.

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

Always on the computer. I've never developed enough skill with traditional color media to be confident with it. I can make a computer do pretty much whatever I want it to.

What type of paper do you use?

I like Strathmore series 400 Bristol, smooth surface. I've tried the 500, but it feels just a little too fancy and I get intimidated. The 300 bleeds and tears and isn't any good for anybody.

What thing(s) do you hate to draw?

There's no specific objects I hate drawing. If I can get reference, I can usually make it look okay. I hate drawing things I'm not interested in. If I'm trying to draw a script I don't like, it can be a real slog.

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

Not really. I have a studio downtown, so I just go in and start working. The commute is the "gettin' ready" ritual, I guess.

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

I usually listen to audiobooks. There's a ton of them at, and I have a huge stockpile waiting for a listen.

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

I read the stuff I could get at the local library. My favorite was Asterix. I didn't really understand the idea of a periodical comic book until I was 14 or so.

What is or was your favorite comic strip?

My favorite as a kid was Calvin and Hobbes. I think I was 8 or so when it launched and it struck just the right note for me. My favorite currently running strip is Cul de Sac. (But the art is super great on Rip Haywire, too.)

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

The Ghost of Dibble Hollow, by May Nickerson Wallace. It was a cheap Scholastic paperback I got at a school book sale for fifty cents. I still have it.

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

I have a BFA in Sequential Art from the Savannah College of Art and Design.

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

It can be a time sink, but I think I'd have a much harder time in my career without it.

Did either of your parents draw?

Not really.

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

My parents have been tremendously supportive. They have done nothing but encourage me to pursue whatever made me happy my entire life.

Do you keep a sketchbook?

I used to, but I don't any more. I probably ought to get back into that. The only things in my sketchbook for the last seven or eight years is rough character sketches or page layouts for finished work.

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

I have. I've taught classes for children and also guest-lectured at a college level. I enjoy both. It's a path I still think about regularly.

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

Gosh, I don't know. I guess I prefer looking at art produced with talent AND passion, but without the talent I'm not as interested.

Do you collect anything and if so what?

Books, computer parts, things with Frankenstein on them.

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

Donald Duck?

Are you a righty or lefty?

I'm left-handed for drawing and writing, right-handed for almost everything else.

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

I have absolutely no idea. I decided on my career when I was eight and I haven't thought beyond that.

In one or two sentences describe your drawing area.

I share a large studio in downtown Portland with six other cartoonists. My area of the room has a drafting table, a large tank-style desk from the seventies with my computer workstation on it, and a credenza next to the drafting table where I keep my drawing tools and supplies.

Do you play any musical instruments?

No, I've never been able to learn any.

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

Get your business organized early on! I'm still trying to organize my billing and record-keeping effectively.

Who is your favorite artist?

Patrick McEown. I just had to order his new book from because he doesn't have an American publisher yet. Get on that, America!

Thanks again Les.

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