Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Michael Jantze - Cartoonist Survey #242


(Click strips for a larger view.)







Cartoonist, filmmaker, animator, newspaper journalist and college professor, Michael Jantze was born in Middletown, New York in 1962. He grew up in Normal, Illinois and graduated with a B.A. in film studies from California State University, Northridge. While at CSUN he drew editorial cartoons and his own strip called ‘Normal State’ for the school’s newspaper. After graduating he freelanced in the film industry for a few years before taking a job as an art director. Not enjoying his job very much, Michael started concentrating on getting a comic strip syndicated. While pursuing syndication he freelanced Web Design, worked for three daily newspapers and PC World magazine.



In 1996 King Features launched his strip ‘The Norm’, which features Norman, a laid back graphic designer who has an affinity for gadgets and new technology. ‘The Norm’ ran in newspapers for nine years until Michael pulled the strip from syndication in 2004. During this time the strip was also collected in the quarterly The Norm Magazine. After pulling the strip Michael was inundated with requests from fans of ‘The Norm’ to bring it back. This outpouring inspired his wife to create a subscription-based feature on the Jantze.com website in 2005. ‘The Norm’ ran online for two years until it was retired to GoComics.com.



At the same time that ‘The Norm’ was launched, Michael was offered a job at George Lucas’ Industrial Light & Magic. He accepted the job and returned to California to work for ILM where he was an art director on such films as "The Mummy," "Curious George" and "The Hulk.". Michael is now Principal and CEO for his Jantze Studios which “develops character-based animation and comics for traditional and new media projects.” He also teaches animation and sequential art at the Savannah College of Art and Design, with classes ranging from Comic Book Scripting to Digital Cel Animation. A member of the National Cartoonists Society, Society of Illustrators and the Graphic Artist Guild, Michael has won many awards for his writing, design and animation. He lives in Savannah, Georgia with his wife and two children. Visit his Jantze Studios website and read archives of 'The Norm' here on GoComics.com. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter and watch some animation shorts on the Jantze Studios YouTube channel. Michael also has a page over at the Cartoonist Studio website that you should check out.



What is your favorite pen to use?

These days I use the Pentel Brush pen for inking.

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

I use a Col-erase "Blue" pencil, but I also have some blue pencil lead (.7mm, I think) that I use when I travel, then I don't have to sharpen it.



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

Mostly on the computer. But I'm looking for people with my sensibility who can do it for me.

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

Watercolors, guache, acrylics....more acrylics this past summer.

What type of paper do you use?

I'd draw on bristol more, but it makes me nervous. So I work on a printer's stock similar to the old Zellerbach Starwhite Vicksburg...60 to 80lb. And for most of my animation and film work, I'm just going through copy paper 20 lb. Nothing fancy...

What thing(s) do you hate to draw?

Buildings. I don't know why anyone ever invented them...and architecture is just a Ponzi scheme!

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

I head downtown to one of the stores near the Savannah College of Art and Design. I used to mail away for the Pentel brush pens...first to Canada and then WetPaint in Minneapolis...but now they're showing up at Kroger in the checkout lane. So I get them while I'm buying alcohol and cough medicine.

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

Everything on my "to do" list and the laundry and the gardening.



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

Jazz.

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

Comics were verboten in the Jantze household. I mostly read comics at my friends' houses. About the only time comics entered our house was on long car trips...so they weren't really IN our house. Brands were Harvey, Dell, Golden something something and a few DC. No Marvel, the stories never ended in the same issue...so I had no idea what was going on or how it ever ended. I still don't know who Spider-Man is...but I'm thinking it's either the editor guy or Aunt May.



What is or was your favorite comic strip?

"Peanuts" for the longest time. Then "Doonesbury" and "Pogo" book reprints. Then "Bloom County" and then "Far Side" and "C&H".

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

Yes. I still have all my "Peanuts" Fawcett trades. Some are now signed by Sparky.



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

I learned art at the public library...

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

I think it's more good than evil.

Did either of your parents draw?

Yes, there's a lot of that kind of talent in my family. My mother is an amazing interior designer and quilt-maker. My father took some art classes when he was working on his college degree and I remember how good he was at it. I always used to have him draw horses and tractors for me.

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

Who cares? The only person that needs to love what an artist does is the artist himself.



Do you keep a sketchbook?

Yes.

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

I'm a professor of sequential art and animation at SCAD here in Savannah.



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

Passion, probably. But man, talent is an awesome shortcut.

Do you collect anything and if so what?

Old cameras and film projectors. If you have one, send it to me post-paid.



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

Norm Miller.

Are you a righty or lefty?

T: Right, B: Right, D: Right.

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

I wouldn't exist.

In one or two sentences describe your drawing area.

Ridiculously clean. Two words! Nailed it! Crap, that was three phrases.



Do you play any musical instruments?

Piano, guitar and harmonica.

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

Go to SCAD. It's amazing here.



Who is your favorite artist?

Woof. That's a hard one. I don't have just one, so I'm going to chicken out and not answer and pretend it's out of awesome respect.

(Watch this short video of Michael drawing Norm and Chris the Wookie.)



Thanks again for your time Michael!

Friday, September 23, 2011

We Now Pause For This Commercial Break...

I had some great toys when I was a kid and when I think back I realize that even the commercials for those toys were great. Here are some favorite toys I owned those many years ago...

The Outer Space Men from Colorforms. I only had a couple of these, but my cousin had them all.


Pressman's Witch Doctor Head Shrinker Kit. These were a lot of fun to paint, but waiting the full 24 hours for them to shrink was torture.


Mattel's Creepy Crawlers. This toy combined two things every 8 year old boy needed for fun, electricity and molten hot liquid Plastigoop. I still have scars.


I owned Johnny West, his trusty horse Thunderbolt and Geronimo.


I had ZOBOR and used to line up plastic toy soldiers for him to run down.


Mine was the Fighting Knights set...knights against vikings.


Major Matt's arms and legs could be bent into all kinds of great poses until his wires broke. "He lives on the moon. We may all be there soon."


Even cereal commercials were great way back when. Quisp was definitely better!


Combining sugary sweet cereal with toys was pure marketing genius.



Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Mark Brewer - Cartoonist Survey #241


Photo credit: Erik Johnson





Mark Brewer is an award-winning illustrator who was born in Illinois in 1971. At the age of 15 while still in junior high school, his drawings were being published in his local Connecticut newspaper, Shore Line Times. Before becoming a full-time illustrator he was a highly regarded inker, using his brush on Archie, Disney and Warner Brother’s comics books. He also assisted on many of the most well known comic strips such as 'Beetle Bailey', 'Nancy' and 'Slylock Fox'. Mark’s list of some of the people who have influenced his work includes, Bob Weber, Jerry Marcus, Orlando Busino, Guy and Brad Gilchrist, Gill Fox, Jim Borgman, George Booth, Jim Henson, and Shel Silverstein.



His humorous ink illustrations are in high demand by art directors and advertising agencies and have been published in and on the cover of numerous magazines around the world. A partial list of his clients includes, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Newsweek, Barron’s, Sports Illustrated for Kids, Weekly Reader, Playboy, Wine & Spirits Magazine, The American Conservative and Major League Baseball. A long-time baseball fan, Mark was lucky enough to be hired to create six illustrations for the 2009 Major League Baseball World Series Program.



In 2002 he was honored by the National Cartoonists Society with the Best Magazine Illustration Award at the Reuben Awards in Cancun, Mexico. He even had the privilege of being presented with the award from none other than MAD magazine's own award-winning cartoonist, Sergio Aragones. Mark is the current President of the Pittsburgh Society Of Illustrators. He lives in Bridgeville, PA with his two children. Visit his website to see more of his work and to sign up for his mailing list.



Want to collect some art and help children in need at the same time? Read on…

When Mark’s grandmother was a child she contracted scarlet fever and as result of this disease became permanently blind. She didn’t let her blindness stop her from living and learned to see with her hands and ears. The illustration "A Walk in the Woods" is Mark’s tribute to his grandmother's determination to overcome obstacles. He remembers “the long rope she fingered from the front door to her mailbox to avoid getting lost along the way.” Mark is selling Giclee prints of "A Walk in the Woods" and all of the proceeds benefit the Western Pennsylvania School For Blind Children.



Click here to see how you can make a difference in a child’s life by purchasing a print.



What is your favorite pen to use?

I like to use dip pens so rather than my favorite pen, I have favorite pen nibs. Right now I'm using a Telephone Pen nib #0278 F. No, you can't make calls with it but it's got some flexibility which I need when I'm drawing. I'll typically change to a different nib just to mix things up every now and then. Before the Telephone nib I was using a Hunt EF Bowl Point which you can buy here in the US.

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

I draw first with a mechanical pencil size 7mm with HB lead. I've been using a Papermate Pro-Touch II for about five years now. They seem to hold up well after all that clicking I do to get more lead out of the pencil. Some days I'm more heavy handed than others. On those days it seems like all I do is break lead, click, break lead, clickity click!, break, click click click!

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

I hand color my drawings with watercolors.

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

I use a mixture of Holbein and Winsor & Newton watercolor paint. I use a lot of opaque white and some color pencils too.



What type of paper do you use?

I draw on an acid free Crescent Illustration Board #310. I usually buy it in bulk because it's less expensive.

What thing(s) do you hate to draw?

I don't like to draw cars. They always look like Tupperware containers with wheels. I have to work hard at getting the fenders and wheels to look just right. But not contrived and still with a little bounce in my line so it doesn't look like I struggled. When my cars stop looking like the container I put yesterdays dinner in I know I'm good to go.

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

I purchase most of my supplies online although I still enjoy going to the local art store to purchase a few supplies. When I'm looking at all the supplies I still feel like a kid in a toy store. "I'll take one of everything please!" I cannot believe how many things I have purchased over the years that I do not need but convinced myself in the name of "creating" that it was OK to drop the cash.

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

Not sure about rituals before I start drawing but I usually have a cup of coffee on hand in the morning and an adult beverage in each hand after I put the kids to bed in the evening.

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

I listen to all kinds of music all the time. I can't really pin it down to one genre. Right now I'm listening to Adele and before that it was Dylan's old recordings. Sometimes when it looks like it wants to rain outside I'll help Mother Nature by turning on my cd's of rain storms really loud. I swear it's just like the real thing!

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

My favorite comic books were Sad Sack, Batman, Spider-Man, Casper and Richie Rich. I felt guilty later in life when I worked for Archie Comics because I never read even one Archie Comic when I was a kid. It was a secret I took into that office each time I came to pick up and drop off. They were wonderful to work for and I so appreciated them for keeping me busy for years. I always did the best job I could for them.

What is or was your favorite comic strip?

I'm not sure I ever had an absolute favorite comic strip because I liked so many. Calvin and Hobbes, The Far Side, Moose, Trudy, Gus (from Boys Life), Beetle Bailey, the Muppets. I was 18 or 19 when I got my first day job working for Guy Gilchrist Studios. Guy and his brother Brad wrote and drew the Muppet strip! They lived about 45 min from me in Connecticut.

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

My favorite book is “Where The Sidewalk Ends” by Shel Silverstein. It changed my life actually. I always wrote funny poems as a teenager and here was a man who drew and wrote his own stuff. Seemed like a powerful thing to be both artistic with drawing and writing.



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

No school. It wasn't for me however I was extremely ambitious. I still am! I think you have to be if you want to keep working. Since I was a teenager I was fortunate to learn most everything from other professionals in the business who were willing to give me pointers week after week, month after month and year after year. There were different groups of cartoonists who would meet for lunch a few times each week. All I had to do was make sure I made it on time to lunch to get a lesson. Unbelievable how fortunate I was when I think about it now.

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

It's a blessing of course! For most of us I would think. I used to run to the library after receiving a magazine assignment to look for reference material on what I was drawing.

Did either of your parents draw?

No although my dad remembers going to Grandma Gould's house when he was a boy. Her husband Chester created and drew the comic strip, Dick Tracy. So maybe it is in the blood.

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

My mom supported me first when I was in high school. If it weren't for her support I would probably be doing something else.



Do you keep a sketchbook?

95% of the sketches I email to Art Directors for approval are done in my sketch book. the other 5% are on the backs of envelopes and napkins. Once I drew on a map and when I went back to use it another day because I was lost, well... I had to buy a new map.

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

I've taught drawing classes many times in the past. The best part of teaching for me is getting out of my studio and being able to socialize. When you work alone from a studio at home it's amazing how many days can go by without ever leaving the house.

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

Passion.

Do you collect anything and if so what?

I'm not a collector although I value the art I have from friends that I know collectors would like to have.

Are you a righty or lefty?

Righty for everything except when I eat. I hold the fork in my left hand.

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

Not sure but I do know that I would work for myself. I've been in this business of drawing for so long now that at this point I better stick it out cause I'm not sure what else I would really be qualified to do. Yikes!

Do you play any musical instruments?

I've played guitar since I was a teenager. I get so addicted to playing sometimes that I have to make myself put it down and get back to the other creative thing that pays my bills.

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

If you understand that the odds are against you from the beginning, that there are a ton of people who can outdraw you and are more creative than you'll ever be and you really don't care what I'm saying right now because you're really stubborn and have a burning desire to do it anyway... go for it! You'll probably do just fine. In my humble opinion, the difference in cartoonists/illustrators who receive work regularly and those who don't isn't talent. It's that burning desire and ambitious attitude they've always had. You can't get a credit for that in college. You're either born with it or...



Who is your favorite artist?

Shel Silverstein, Jim Henson, Ronald Searle, George Booth and Norman Rockwell to name a few.



Thanks again Mark!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Bill Amend - Cartoonist Survey #240


(Click strips for larger size.)





Award-winning cartoonist Bill Amend was born in Northampton, Massachusetts in September of 1962. While in grade school he realized he had a knack for drawing cartoons and was soon creating his own comic books. He moved with his family to California in 1974 and attended high school in Burlingame where he contributed cartoons to various school publications. After high school Bill studied at Amherst College and was the editorial cartoonist for the twice-weekly college newspaper. He graduated from Amherst with honors in 1984 and received a Bachelor’s degree in Physics. He worked in the film and animation industry in San Francisco after college and in his spare time sent out cartoons trying to get syndicated. It took about three years of submissions before Universal Press Syndication offered him a contract in the fall of 1987.



On April 10, 1988 Bill’s strip, FoxTrot, debuted as a seven day a week strip. FoxTrot revolves around the daily lives of the Fox family, comprised of Roger and Andrea Fox, their three kids, Peter, Paige and Jason and Jason’s Iguana, Quincy. The strip covers a wide range of topics including nerd culture, popular consumer products and pop culture. As Bill puts it, “FoxTrot tends toward the geeky, with occasional forays into the super geeky.” When FoxTrot started in syndication it appeared in about 70 newspapers and grew to more than 1,000 newspapers worldwide at its peak. In January of 2007 Bill cut back the strip to Sundays only in order to “free up time for other things and to generally preserve what sanity I had left.” There have been well over 30 collections of FoxTrot strips published, with the most recent being last November’s “The Best of FoxTrot”.



Bill was presented with the National Cartoonists Society’s most prestigious award in May of 2007, the Reuben Award as Cartoonist of the Year for 2006. He also received an Honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters from Amherst College in 2000. He presently lives in Kansas City, MO with his wife Kristin and two children. Visit the official FoxTrot website to learn more about Bill, read the strips and also purchase prints. He also has a CafePress store where you can buy FoxTrot mugs, t-shirts, sweatshirts, mouse pads and even infant onesies.



What is your favorite pen to use?

For writing I like Uni-balls. For drawing on paper I use Pigma Microns (05 mostly). I draw the strip on a Cintiq now, though.

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

I've never liked mechanical pencils. When I draw on paper, I always lightly pencil first with a 2H pencil.

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

Computer.

What type of paper do you use?

Strathmore 400 series smooth finish bristol. The 11x14 pads usually (can chop in half for dailies, or use whole for Sundays).

What thing(s) do you hate to draw?

Trees in the winter.



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

Both. Depends how soon I need stuff.

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

Depends. Does procrastination count as a ritual?

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

If I'm still fiddling with dialogue, I'll play music without words, such as movie soundtracks or classical stuff. If I'm just working on the art, I'll play whatever I'm in the mood for.

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

MAD magazine was probably my favorite source of comic entertainment as a kid.

What is or was your favorite comic strip?

Calvin and Hobbes.

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

Richard Scarry's Busy, Busy World. It's out of print now, I think. I bought a copy off e-Bay to read to my kids when they were little.

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

No, I studied physics in college.



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

Huge time sink, but great way to research stuff quickly and connect with readers. Making the newspaper business a little iffy, which isn't fun for those of us who rely on it, but hopefully we'll adapt.

Did either of your parents draw?

Not often.

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

My parents were always really supportive, which was especially important during the years after college when I was mostly unemployed and trying to get syndicated.

Do you keep a sketchbook?

No.

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

I taught a one-week class over winter break once in college. Was fun, but I was pretty disorganized, so not sure how much they learned.

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

Well, with comic strips, I'd say having interesting/entertaining things to say is the most important thing. Talent is obviously important but some of us have succeeded with only a mild amount of it. Passion helps keep you going when it's 3am and stuff is due the next day or when rejection letter number 500 comes in the mail.

Do you collect anything and if so what?

Not really. My office collects clutter, but that's not intentional.

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

As a kid I always liked the smart alec types like Bugs Bunny and Top Cat. As I've grown more nerdy, I'd probably be pegged as more of a Dexter (the mad scientist, not the serial killer lol).


Are you a righty or lefty?

I'm right handed.

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

Program computers.

In one or two sentences describe your drawing area.

Sort of a U with my traditional drawing table and supplies on one side and my computer stuff on the other. Books and papers and a sea of coffee cups in the middle.



Do you play any musical instruments?

Piano, guitar, tuba. None well.

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

Well, if it's someone wanting to do a comic strip, I would advise not focusing purely on art. Drawing is only about 30% of the job. Learn/experience lots of other things so you'll have stuff to write about.


Who is your favorite artist?

N.C. Wyeth




Thank you very much for taking the time to participate Bill!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Faber-Castell Pitt Artist Pens Review

Lisa Brody at Faber-Castell was nice enough to send me a package filled with various PITT Artist Pens to review. I will be breaking down the different sets of the Pitt Pens she sent me into multiple posts.

This first review is of Faber-Castell's set of four Black Fineliner PITT Artist Pens. The set comes with four different sized nibs, X-superfine, Superfine, Fine and Medium. The ink in the PITT Artist Pen line is great for everything from sketching to finished inking and because they are waterproof they also work great with watercolor paint. The reusable pouch they come in makes this a great little set to have for home use or travel.


This is a sample of the line width of the X-superfine nib.


Here is the Superfine nib.


The Fine nib.


The Medium nib.


I used the Superfine sized nib to sketch out these mash-ups of Peanuts characters with superheroes.


I finished inking them using the Medium, Fine and X-superfine nibs. I then colored them with colored pencils.

This is Charlie Brown as Captain America.

Here is Lucy as Wonder Woman.

Pig-Pen as The Thing.

Linus as Batman.

Woodstock as Robin.

Sally as the Invisible Woman (Sue Storm).

And finally Snoopy as the Green Lantern.

The group inked and colored.


Overall I find the Faber-Castell PITT Black Fineliner Artist Pens to be workhorses that I use everyday. Whether it's just sitting around watching TV and sketching or working on a finished piece the PITT Artist Pens are always my first choice. The ink quality is consistent, they are reasonably priced and they last quite awhile.

Thanks again to Lisa Brody at Faber-Castell for sending me these fine products to review. Be sure to check back for future reviews of Faber-Castell products as well as more product reviews of Pilot Pens and Strathmore Artist Papers. Of course there will also be more Cartoonist Surveys. Both of the next two upcoming Cartoonist Survey participants have received awards from the National Cartoonists Society, FoxTrot's Bill Amend and illustrator Mark Brewer.