Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Nate Powell - Cartoonist Survey #253






Graphic novelist, writer, publisher and musician Nate Powell was born in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1978. He began self-publishing comics with friends Mike Lierly and Nathan Wilson when he was only 14. In 1994 he started publishing zines and also started a record label. Nate would go to punk shows and sell comics, zines, tapes and records. After graduating from North Little Rock High School in 1996 he spent a short while at George Washington University in Washington, DC. He then attended the School of Visual Arts in New York City and graduated in 2000. While at SVA he received the Outstanding Cartooning Student award and the Shakespeare & Company Books Self-Publishing Grant.



Nate used some of the grant money to self-publish his 2001 comic series “Walkie Talkie.” From 1999 to 2009, in addition to cartooning, Nate worked full-time providing support for adults with developmental disabilities. He was also an actor and skit writer for the North Little Rock sketch comedy show Fun And Games for six years between 1997 and 2002.



“Tiny Giants” is Nate’s debut anthology of work. Released in 2003 and published by Soft Skull, “Tiny Giants” contains work that spans the years 1998 to 2001. His next release was 2004’s graphic novel “It Disappears” that tells the tale about a journey of self-discovery resulting in the realization that everything eventually disappears. In 2006 “Sounds of Your Name”, another collection of his work was printed, including comics, zines and his first two books “Tiny Giants” and “It Disappears”. Nate’s collection of four autobiographical stories, “Please Release” also came out in 2006.



Nate’s next effort, “Swallow Me Whole”, spotlights the effects mental illness has on families. In 2008 “Swallow Me Whole” was awarded the Ignatz Award for Outstanding Debut. The next year it received the Ignatz Award for Outstanding Artist and the Eisner Award for Best Original Graphic Novel. “Swallow Me Whole” was also a Los Angeles Times Book Prize Finalist for Young Adult Fiction in 2009.



“Any Empire” is his latest graphic novel. Debuting last September, “Any Empire” looks at the damage that war and violence causes middle American children by shattering their innocence. Nate recently finished illustrating Mark Long and Jim Demonakos’ semi-autobiographical tale about civil rights struggle in 1967 Texas, “The Silence of Our Friends.” He is presently drawing “The Year of the Beasts” which is written by Cecil Castellucci and is scheduled to come out in May 2012.



On top of all of the above, Nate also managed the DIY punk record label Harlan Records for 16 years and has performed with numerous bands including Universe, Divorce Chord, Soophie Nun Squad, Wait, and Boomfancy. He’s also a fill-in writer/artist for DC’s Vertigo Comics series "Sweet Tooth" (by Jeff Lemire) and was a contributor to the acclaimed fundraising anthology "What You Wish For: A Book for Darfur." He lives in Bloomington, Indiana with his wife Rachel, their two pets and their brand new baby girl, Harper. Visit Nate’s blog here where you can see much more of his work and purchase comics, books and CDs.



What is your favorite pen to use?
I do about 50/50 work in Hunt 102 crowquill and Windsor & Newton 7 Series #2 brush.



Do you draw in pencil first and if so do you use a standard pencil or a mechanical one?
Until a couple of months ago, I just used a regular HB pencil, but have recently rediscovered the joy of a mechanical pencil after watching my friend work with one.


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


If you do your coloring by hand, what do you use?
I color with FW Acrylic Artists Ink and a brush, directly on the line art.



What type of paper do you use?
Strathmore 400 Smooth Finish Bristol.


What thing(s) do you hate to draw?
I feel that I’m weak at drawing feet, cars, and sleeves because I’m lazy at observing them. Also, horse anatomy and babies.


Do you buy your supplies from big chain art store catalogues/websites or a local one that you physically go to?
I split my orders between Dick Blick and my local shop, Pygmalion’s.



Are there any rituals that you do before starting to draw?
My entire daily life is one big routine. It’s the only way to keep discipline. A typical morning (before my new baby arrived) was this: wake up at about 8, drink water and eat breakfast while checking email, reading news and Cracked.com; spend about 45 minutes gently waking my wife up at 10-minute intervals, then taking my dog on a walk through the cemetery next door. The whole ordeal takes about 2 hours.


Do you listen to music while you draw and if so what genre?
This last year I’ve listened a lot to Genesis, ^(Arc), La Roux, V Manuscript, Bernard Herman, Fat Shadow, Peter Gabriel, King Crimson, New Order, Please Inform The Captain This Is A Hijack, Tammar, Dreamers Of The Ghetto, Morrow, Moby, Brian Eno, Harold Budd, Anthrax, Megadeth, Neurosis, Black Sabbath, Portraits Of Past, Yes, Siouxsie & The Banshees, Antelope, and lots of 1980’s DC hardcore.



Did you read comics as a kid and if so what was your favorite?
Of course! I started reading comics when I was 3, thanks to a steady diet of Spider-Man, The Incredible Hulk, and Wonder Woman. Until I was in about fifth grade, I loved G.I.Joe, Transformers (the comics shop in Alabama even carried totally separate British versions of both series, which were awesome and brutal), and The ‘Nam. Once I actually started coming into my true self, I devoured all X-Men related books, Daredevil, the original TMNT run, Appleseed, Orion, and Akira.


What is or was your favorite comic strip?
Calvin & Hobbes, of course.


What was your favorite book as a child and do you still own a copy of it?
Hands down, it would be "Bunnicula", and I still have my old copy at the ready.



Did you have any formal art training and if so where did you receive it?
I got a BFA in Cartooning from School Of Visual Arts in New York City, Class of 2000.


Do you feel that the Internet is a blessing or a curse?
It’s the Internet.


Did either of your parents draw?
My dad and both of his parents are/were pretty skilled at drawing, though none of them spent too much time focusing on it. My dad’s mom, Elaine Powell, began painting in 1980 for something to focus on while recovering from cancer, and lo and behold was quite good at it. From a very early age, I have strong memories of watching Bob Ross programs, smelling oil paint, and collaborating with her on paintings, adding snakes and dinosaurs to her rural Southern landscape paintings.



Who in your life is/was the most supportive of your art?
My wife Rachel Bormann is a huge support in every facet of my life, and provides crucial feedback and insight to my comics (and we’re known to crank out a few stories together like “Cakewalk”), and my best friend and collaborator Erin Tobey is a direct and constant presence with the work I do, from concept and editorial phases to art production assistance to website management. The journey would be so much harder without these two peeps!



Do you keep a sketchbook?
I have kept a sketchbook/journal fairly consistently since 1995, and have probably filled up 20 or so journals along the way. Throughout my twenties, I relied more and more on my sketchbook work to make sense of an increasingly messy and unpredictable life. As things have grounded themselves a bit more, and as projects are more long-term, I’ve virtually stopped my journal entries and simply thumbnail my books in them. I’ve never actually kept a sketchbook of life drawing, or kept in practice with it.


Have you ever taught cartooning/drawing and if so did you enjoy the experience?
I’ve done a variety of presentations and workshops in several public libraries throughout the land, and during 1999-2002 I was an art teacher at a skills center for adults with developmental disabilities in my hometown of North Little Rock, AR. Any presentations about comics had much more to do with opening up the field for folks’ specific questions—pulling back the curtain—than teaching drawing, semiotics, or the technical side of comics.


Do you feel that talent or passion is more important in drawing?
I feel that focus is more important than either, but if I had to pick one, it would maybe be talent—which seems kinda lame. But I think that part of talent in this sense can also be the developing skill set that focus brings forth in a person’s drawing, harnessing the passion and intuition that drives you to observe and create.


Do you collect anything and if so what?
I have 2,000 records, but I don’t think I would consider those a “collection” any more than my library of books or comics—maybe the difference is that these collections are constantly used and referenced. I mean, I do put all my records in little plastic baggies and stuff, but that’s because I plan to keep using them throughout my lifetime.


If you were an animated cartoon character who do you think you would be?
I’ll go transgender (and transspecies) on this one, as one of my cartoon heroes is Mrs. Brisby/Frisby from The Secret Of Nimh.



Are you a righty or lefty?
I follow the right hand path.


If you weren't an artist what would you want to do for work?
If I couldn’t make a living drawing comics, I would still gladly be doing support work for adults with developmental disabilities, a career I had from 1999 to 2009. My brother has high-functioning autism and some other disabilities and lives a very independent, functional, highly social life. Growing up with and through him gave me a natural inclination to work and communicate well with folks with disabilities, and to see the urgency of providing advocacy for folks who our society consistently wants to sweep under the couch.


In one or two sentences describe your drawing area.
A lifetime’s detritus, stuffed into rows and shelves as if my studio were the final shot of Raiders Of The Lost Ark.



Do you play any musical instruments?
I play bass decently, and play guitar, keyboard, and percussion most indecently. Over the years I’ve been in the bands Soophie Nun Squad (1992-2007), Gioteens (1999-2001), Boomfancy (2000-01), Wait (2005-2007), Divorce Chord (2008), and Universe (2008-2010).



If you could give one piece of advice to someone who wants to pursue drawing as a career what would it be?
More essential than anything else is developing and maintaining true discipline. “Draw comics every day” is a nice gesture, but it won’t cut it. After drawing comics full-time while working my job full-time for 9 years, I finally had a brief window to take a chance on full-time cartooning, but the only way I can stay afloat is working about 9 hours a day, 6 days a week, 50 weeks a year. And it’s essential to factor in several hours a day doing email/communications/media/promotion/pitch stuff on the computer. It’s a rough ride, but then again, you do get to listen to music and draw all day. It’s just that it’s ALL day.


Who is your favorite artist?
My all-time favorite mainstream comics artists are Arthur Adams and Michael Golden. These days, my very favorite cartoonist peers are Gabby Schulz, Erin Tobey, Gabriella Giandelli, Genivieve Elvrum/Castree, Dash Shaw, Becky Cloonan, Farel Dalrymple, Anders Nilsen, John Porcellino, Vanessa Davis, and Lisa Hanawalt, to name a few. It’s a great community.



Thank you very much Nate and a big congratulations on the new addition!

Friday, December 23, 2011

There's Still Time Left To Make a Child's Day...





 You can find a toy drop-off location in your area by going here - The Marine Toys for Tots Foundation


And this holiday season, don't forget to remember all those who have ever served.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Ernie Colon - Cartoonist Survey #252









Legendary comic artist Ernesto "Ernie" Col√≥n was born in Puerto Rico in July of 1931. During his long career, starting back in the Sliver Age of the late 1960’s, he has worked on children’s, superhero, horror and nonfiction comics. He’s worked for almost every major and minor comic publisher including, Harvey, Marvel, DC, Gold Key, Broadway Comics, Star Comics and Eclipse.  Ernie got his start in the comics field as a letterer at Harvey Comics. Soon he began drawing Harvey’s best known characters such as Casper the Friendly Ghost and Richie Rich. While at Harvey he met Sid Jacobson who would become his editor, lifelong friend and creative collaborator. Unfortunately Harvey never gave its many talented artists and writers credit for their work, so the almost 15,000 pages that Ernie drew went unsigned. He left Harvey after 25 years before they closed in the early 80’s.




During the mid 1960’s and through the 1970’s, his artwork regularly appeared in Warren Publishing’s black-and-white horror-comics magazines Creepy, Eerie and Vampirella. Some of my favorites from these classic monster comic magazines that Ernie drew include; “To Save Face”, “Beyond Nefera's Tomb” and “Escape into Chaos” for Eerie; “The Mind of the Monster” and “Strange Expedition” for Creepy and “Room Full of Changes” and “The Survivor” for Vampirella.




From 1982 to 1985 Ernie was an editor for DC Comics where he penciled the historical fantasy Arak, Son of Thunder (which was written by Roy Thomas) and Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld. He worked on Marvel titles as well, including Red Sonja, Damage Control, Doom 2099 and the Bullwinkle and Rocky series for Marvel's children's imprint Star Comics. He also wrote, drew, lettered and colored 1988’s science-fiction graphic novel Ax for Marvel. In the early 1990’s, he returned to Harvey along with his friend Sid Jacobson and worked on such projects as Monster in My Pocket and Ultraman.




Recently, Ernie has been working with Sid on non-fiction work. The team produced the graphic interpretation of the 9/11 Commission’s 2005 report, “The 9/11 Report: A Graphic Adaptation” and a couple of years later they created “After 9/11: America's War on Terror.” The pair also worked together on three biographies, “Anne Frank: The Anne Frank House Authorized Graphic Biography”, “Che: A Graphic Biography” and “Vlad the Impaler.”



Just a couple of weeks ago Ernie’s book “Inner Sanctum” was released through NBM Publishing. Returning to the mystery and horror radio shows of the 1940’s, this book re-creates four of the shows stories, The Horla, Death of a Doll, The Undead and Alive in the Grave. His next project with NBM, which is still in the fact-checking phase, will be “3/5ths of a Man”, the historical account of slavery in America. Ernie has recently started blogging for NBM, which you can read here.




What is your favorite pen to use?

Ballpoint. Bic is best.




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

Mech pencil, light lines. But mostly I sketch on the comp, then all the rest as well.

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

All on the comp. Afraid I don't have time for hand coloring.

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

Prisma pencils and acrylics.

What type of paper do you use?

Whatever's in the closet

What thing(s) do you hate to draw?

Buildings, steps definitely.




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

Local stationery--they have more than enough Bics in stock.

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

Turn on TCM. If a really lousy movie is on, I'm grateful so I can get to work without distraction.

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

Brazilian jazz, then a motley array of decades. Rarely classical--makes me think.

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

Yes. Captain Marvel was great--sense of humor--lost when the brains at DC acquired him and turned him into another snarling brute.




What is or was your favorite comic strip?

Noel Sickles' and Milton Caniff's Terry and the Pirates.




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

Too many. Permanent resident at the library--they still threaten to charge me rent.

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

None. Self-taught--if you don't count all the art books I bought and occasionally stole.

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

Me and Google are very close. Almost all my reference is from Goog. E-mails I write and receive by the hundreds--something I never did with U.S. mail. It's only a curse when one becomes a victim.

Did either of your parents draw?

No.

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

My mom and Step-dad.

Do you keep a sketchbook?

I tried--many times. I only succeed in filling a few pages, then putting them up with all the other mainly empty ones.

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

No, and I wouldn't. I have given talks at schools, but they were to encourage kids.

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

If by passion you mean obsession--it can get you far--else how to explain the plethora of mediocrity.

Do you collect anything and if so what?

At times, ceramic pigs, little owls. But well-meaners started gifting me awful examples--some of them expensive--which was never my measure of worth, Lovely sculpting, by some anonymous artisan somewhere in the world and turned into a cheap souvenir was more my interest.

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

Is Bugs taken?




Are you a righty or lefty?

Righty. Left hand is useless.

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

Lordy--what wouldn't I do?

In one or two sentences describe your drawing area.

TV on the left, comp with a drawing board in front. Couch in back, littler box in bathroom for our devil's spawn, Phoebe.

Do you play any musical instruments?

The ukulele once. I got too good at it and quit.

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

None--too many variables.

Who is your favorite artist?

Too many. But I see you interviewed Roz Chast. Would it be possible to forward a message to her? Just tell her I believe in polygamy.

As you can tell, Mr. Colon is quite the busy guy; and because of that I want to give him a heartfelt thank you for taking the time to participate.

I also want to thank my buddy Bill White (Cartoonist Survey #1) who was nice enough to contact Ernie and ask him if he would be interested in answering the Cartoonist Survey.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Keith Knight - Cartoonist Survey #251





Award-winning cartoonist, writer and rapper Keith (Keef) Knight was born in August of 1966 in Malden, Massachusetts. He graduated with a degree in graphic design from Salem State College and soon after graduating moved to San Francisco. He is the creator of three popular comic strips, The K Chronicles, The Knight Life and (Th)ink. His comic work has been lauded by Maya Angelou, Spike Lee, Harvey Pekar, cartoonists Lynn Johnston, Garry Trudeau and many others.



The K Chronicles is his weekly, semi-autobiographical comic strip which combines family, politics, race and humor. The strip, which ran for years at Salon.com, has garnered numerous industry awards including the 2007 Harvey Award for Best Syndicated Strip or Panel and five Glyph Comics Awards for Best Comic Strip. The strips have been collected into multiple editions including the 500 page, “The Complete K Chronicles.” In 1996 an award-winning German film short, “Jetz kommmit ein Karton!” was released that was based on three of the K Chronicles strips. Many of the K Chronicle strips are archived here on Keith’s website.



The second of Keith’s strips, (Th)ink is the weekly single-panel editorial cartoon that covers political and social issues as well as current events. (Th)ink comics have also been collected into compilations with this year’s “Too Small to Fail: Another (Th)ink Anthology” being the most recent. Access the (Th)ink comics archive here.



His third comic strip, The Knight Life, launched in 2008 and was originally syndicated through United Features. It is now syndicated through Universal/Uclick. Much like The K Chronicles, The Knight Life, is semi-autobiographical. Junk mail, re-gifting, hoarding plastic bags, pregnancy, weirdos on the bus and hippies are just a few of the topics Keith touches on in the daily The Knight Life comic strips.



Keith’s comic art has appeared in ESPN the Magazine, L.A. Weekly, Funny Times, The Washington Post, Cracked, MAD Magazine and many other publications. His work has also been featured at many museums and galleries across the globe. He has presented at workshops and on panels with subjects covering cartooning, community-based arts, health, race and media literacy. Keith performed vocals for the 5-piece Hip-Hop/Punk/Garage band, The Marginal Prophets. The band released three CD’s and with their second one, Bohemian Rap CD, winning a California Music Award for Outstanding Rap Album in 2004.



In 2007 Keith and his family moved from the San Francisco Bay area to Los Angeles. Be sure to visit his K Chronicles website to see much more of his work and purchase books, calendars and prints. You should also stop by The Knight Life website and store. Follow Keith here on his blog.



What is your favorite pen to use?

Micron Pigmas. #.08 and .05.



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

I draw with a standard pencil first.

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

Photoshop…Gawd bless it.

What type of paper do you use?

300 series smooth bristol.

What thing(s) do you hate to draw?

I don't like having nine deadlines a week. I don't like drawing backgrounds.

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

Local one that I physically go to. Graphaids in Culver City, California. Same store Sergio Aragones goes to.



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

Nope. Just freaking out about deadlines.

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

Nope.

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

Peanuts. Doonesbury. Bloom County. Calvin and Hobbes.

What is or was your favorite comic strip?

See above. Plus Tom the Dancing Bug, Hark! A Vagrant.



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

I remember the art in a Disney book that I was fascinated by. It was Sleeping Beauty, and there was some creepy shit in there.

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

I went to school for graphic design. Took some drawing courses. That's it.



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

Both. I waste a lot of time on it. Scored a lot of gigs because of it.

Did either of your parents draw?

My dad did. Only with me. We would draw extremely elaborately detailed trees together. It was great. But he never tried to do anything with his skill.

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

My great Uncle Owen. RIP.



Do you keep a sketchbook?

I have dozens of sketchbooks.

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

Yes. I hope to do more teaching soon.

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

Passion.

Do you collect anything and if so what?

Clutter.

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

Daffy Duck.

Are you a righty or lefty?

Lefty. Hardcore lefty.

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

Restaurant reviewer.

In one or two sentences describe your drawing area.

I draw in cafes and public spaces. Generally a table in the corner with an eye on the door.

Do you play any musical instruments?

A mean tambourine. And cowbell. I was a rapper in a band.



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

Perseverance.

Who is your favorite artist?

As in cartooning? I don't have one. But I like Tony Millionaire's art.


I was lucky enough to see Keith’s slideshow presentation last June when I attended the New England Chapter of the National Cartoonist Society dinner in Somerville, MA. His presentation was not only funny but also very informative. I highly recommend it to everyone. Watch this video from the Seattle Channel to see Keith in action.



Here is a scan of the inscription Keith was nice enough to add to his book I purchased at the NEC of NCS dinner.



Thanks again Keith!