Thursday, October 6, 2011

Jason Chatfield - Cartoonist Survey #243

Jason Chatfield is an Australian editorial and comic strip cartoonist and stand-up comedian who was born in Perth in 1984. He has been working as a professional cartoonist since 2003. Along with his editorial and strip cartooning, he has also created single panel gag cartoons, caricatures and book illustrations. In 2005 he was awarded the Bill Mitchell Award for up-and-coming cartoonist of the year.

Two years later Jason took over the writing and drawing of Ginger Meggs, Australia’s longest running comic strip. He is only the fifth cartoonist to draw Ginger Meggs in its 90 year run. Before Jason, the strip was being produced by his friend James Kemsley, who sadly passed away in December of 2007. James had emailed and asked Jason to take over the strip a week before he succumbed to the motor neuron disease he had been suffering from for over a year.

Ginger Meggs now appears in over 120 papers in 34 countries worldwide. Its 90th anniversary was celebrated with a commemorative 1oz Silver Australian $1 coin released by The Perth Mint. Jason helped design the coin which was a huge success selling out all 3,000 coins within an hour of it being announced.

For his editorial cartooning he was awarded the "Peoples' Choice Prize" at the "Behind the Lines" political cartooning exhibition at the National Gallery of Australia in 2008. He was nominated for the Gold Stanley for Cartoonist of the Year at the Australian Cartoonists' Association Stanley Awards in 2008 and has been nominated for Comic Strip Artist of the Year by the ACA three years in a row (2008-2010). Speaking of the Australian Cartoonists’ Association, Jason was elected its President in 2010. He is also a member of the National Cartoonists Society here in the States and the International Society of Caricature Artists.

Some recent highlights of his work as a comedian include a 22-show run of the musical/stand-up comedy ManFace at the Forum Theatre for the 2011 Melbourne International Comedy Festival and a ten-show run at the Tuxedo Cat in Flinders Lane of When Melbourne Met Sydney with Sophie Miller. In addition to everything else Jason also occasionally teaches cartooning to schools and community groups. Stop by Jason’s website and follow him on his blog. Be sure and visit the Ginger Meggs website and blog for much more information about the strip's history and characters. You can read Ginger Meggs everyday here at GoComics.

What is your favorite pen to use?

If I'm honest, it's the Stylus for the Cintiq, since it can be any pen.
But when I'm drawing by hand -a Tombow N15 (or N35 for a more 'Process' black) for Live Caricaturing and an Artline 210 *(0.6) for other cartoon work. I've used a heap of brush pens from this year but still can't find one that lasts long enough to justify the cost.

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

I use a mechanical pencil that looks like a real one. I have a fear of sharpeners.

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

I have a colourist ("colorist" in the US) who lives in Queensland (North East Australia) to colour my comic strip. He sends it back to me and I do the shading and shadows and fiddle around with the colours a bit. He's excellent- I'd highly recommend him for anyone looking for a quick, professional colourist (Phil Judd). For any other work, I use Photoshop to colour.

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

I use Derwent watercolour pencils. They give a nice texture, but they also take on a whole new life with water.

What type of paper do you use?

I use Splendorgel (smooth ivory) 300 gsm.

What thing(s) do you hate to draw?

Cars. Cars and Mohammad. There was this one time I was asked to draw Mohammad in a car..

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

I buy from all over the place. I travel a LOT, so I pick up all sorts of stuff from art stores around the world. It kinda sucks when you run out of ink in one pen and realise you have to go to Paris to get a new one.

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

I put on pants. That's my walk to work.

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

If the penciling is done, I'll listen to jazz- Bill Evans and artists of that ilk are fantastic to listen to. I prefer silence when writing and inking, but while drawing if I don't feel like listening to jazz I'll pull a Tom Richmond (Cartoonist Survey #89) and re-listen to my favourite audiobooks.

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

I did nothing else! I was a big Marvel fan as a kid - I spent all my pocket money (and my money as a paper boy) on Amazing Spider-Man comics and learned to draw anatomy by copying Bendis and those guys. Still collect, but now on my iPad. Which is sort of sad.

What is or was your favorite comic strip?

Well I have to say Ginger Meggs don't I? -But if I had to choose another, it'd be Calvin & Hobbes. The serendipitous occurrence of a brilliant mind and a wonderful artist in the one person made Watterson a bit of a hero. I still marvel at his stuff every day.

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

I read a fair bit as a kid- I started off reading the R.L.Stein series' then moved on to Tolkien and John Marsden. To date, my favourite book as a child was (believe it or not) a Ginger Meggs novel by James Kemsley, my predecessor on Ginger Meggs. I was asked to read it for a book report - I left it to the last minute and failed the book report. Then I went away an actually read it, and loved it! He published several of those.

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

No - I did do a cartooning course with the Australian College of Journalism under the tutelage of Aussie press legend Max Foley. His lessons were invaluable. But somehow the college put a dollar figure on them.

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

A bit of both. My opinion on that changes from week to week. My papers are dying, but my fan base are increasing online. I released an e-book and got a whole new readership last year, so I'm still feeling my way in the dark at the moment with that. Twitter is great for connecting to fans.

Did either of your parents draw?

I remember my mum designing our back yard barbecue in coloured pencil and thinking she could draw - then I realised she was tracing something from a book, so no. Neither of my parents could draw. My sister can paint quite well.

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

Definitely my grandparents - they used to babysit me a lot and would give me pad after pad of paper to have me fill up with drawings. They were strict about me going over the lines in colouring-in books so I always tried to get better instead of just sticking to one skill level. They were amazing at that, without being scary.

Do you keep a sketchbook?

A couple. I carry a Moleskine in my right pocket at all times. I fill up one a month, and I have big a travel sketch book I take with me everywhere overseas. It's been to 9 countries and counting..

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

Yes- I never realised I was so inept at drawing Simpsons characters. And Anime. That's all the kids seemed to want to draw. But they're good fun. Kids don't say "I can't draw" when they're young - You say "Draw a duck" and even if it ends up looking like a baked bean, they do it with such confidence. It's awesome to watch.

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

I've always felt very strongly about this; You can have all the talent in the world, but without diligence, passion, practice, and discipline, you'll get nowhere. They each rely on each other.

Do you collect anything and if so what?

I collect Ginger Meggs memorabilia. There's 90 years' worth, so there's all sorts of stuff out there. Barry Gomm in Victoria has the biggest collection in the world at the moment. I'm giving him a run for his money.

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

I'm told I'm a lot like the guy from "Tangled" - I haven't seen it, but I trust the guys that tell me that. Because they worked on the film.

Are you a righty or lefty?

Righty. I know that’s uncommon for cartoonists, but it means I can do my own tax return and work out html...

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

Stand-up comedian. I do that on the side now (about 70%/30%) It's a great way to check you're still funny and not going stale in the studio writing gags.

In one or two sentences describe your drawing area.

It's a blank, black wooden desk from IKEA, with a laptop and a Cintiq, and nothing else.

Do you play any musical instruments?

I play a 50s player Fender Stratocaster and a Washburn Acoustic Electric steel-string. I play in an all-cartoonist band called the Stanleys Steamers, and we play at the "Stanley" awards (Aussie Reubens) each year after the awards ceremony. It's a lot of fun!

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

Practice - and study artists you like. Find out what you like about other artists, and in trying to replicate it, you'll find your own style. Your style will change many times over your career, so I'm told by the best artists I know. That excites the hell out of me - it should do for you too.

Who is your favorite artist?

Jack Davis. Can't wait to get his book this year!

Thanks again Jason!

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