Thursday, April 19, 2012

Anders Nilsen - Cartoonist Survey #266






Award-winning artist and graphic novelist Anders Brekhus Nilsen was born in New Hampshire in 1973. He studied painting and instillation art at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque and graduated in 1996 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts. In 1999 he put together some comic strips from his sketchbooks and self-published them as Big Questions #1 and #2. That same year he moved to Chicago to do graduate work at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.


In 2000 Anders received a grant from the Xeric Foundation which allowed him to publish his first book, “The Ballad of the Two Headed Boy”. He soon dropped out of graduate school to work on his comics full time.


He received another grant, this time from Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs, and was able to publish three more issues of his Big Questions comics. He continued to work on Big Questions, which was eventually picked up by Drawn and Quarterly, until the end of 2010 when the final issue (#15) was released. Last August Drawn and Quarterly published a collection of his Big Questions comics. Weighing in at almost 5 pounds, this 658 page graphic novel just won the 2012 Lynd Ward Graphic Novel Prize.


Two more of Anders graphic novels have won awards. In 2005 his “Dogs and Water” won an Ignatz Award for Outstanding Story, and his graphic memoir “Don’t Go Where I Can’t Follow” won an Ignatz for Outstanding Graphic Novel in 2007.


Other works by him include “Monologues of the Coming Plague”, “The End” and "Monologues for Calculating the Destiny of Black Holes”. His work has been translated into several languages and has been shown internationally. Numerous anthologies have also showcased his work such as, “Mome”, “Best American Comics”, “Kramer’s Ergot”, “The Yale Anthology of Graphic Fiction”, “Best American Non-Required Reading” and others.


Anders currently lives and works in Chicago. Visit his website and his The Monologuist blog to see much more of his work. You can also purchase trading cards, prints and posters at his Picture Store.


What is your favorite pen to use?
Staedtler pigment liner.


Do you draw in pencil first and if so do you use a standard pencil or a mechanical one?
Sometimes I do. Standard. 7H usually.

Do you do your coloring by hand or on the computer?
Preferably by hand. Occasionally for illustrations I color in Photoshop.

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


What type of paper do you use?
Depends. For actual comics 2 ply bristol, smooth. Otherwise whatever's around.

What thing(s) do you hate to draw?
I'm really bad a caricature. Portraits: great. Cartoon versions of an actual face? Nightmare.


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

Are there any rituals that you do before starting to draw?
Burn a goat.

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

Did you read comics as a kid and if so what was your favorite?
Tintin and X-Men.


What is or was your favorite comic strip?
Newspaper? As a kid Farside probably. Or Bloom County.

What was your favorite book as a child and do you still own a copy of it?
That's tough. Maybe The Magician's Nephew, C.S. Lewis...probably have one around here somewhere...


Did you have any formal art training and if so where did you receive it?
Yes. MCAD here in Minneapolis when I was a kid, The University of New Mexico for Undergrad.

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

Did either of your parents draw?
My Dad and stepmother were/are both artists.

Who in your life is/was the most supportive of your art?
Parents. All four.

Do you keep a sketchbook?
Yes.


Have you ever taught cartooning/drawing and if so did you enjoy the experience?
Doing it for the first time, now. Yeah, I like it.

Do you feel that talent or passion is more important in drawing?
There's no such thing as talent. If 'passion' makes you work at it hours a day, year after year, after a while you'll have talent. Being an interesting person with something to say is helpful.

Do you collect anything and if so what?
Found playing cards, found toys, spheres.


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


Are you a righty or lefty?
Hand: Right, Politics: Left.

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


In one or two sentences describe your drawing area.
Windows on two sides. Plants. Ostrich egg. Slightly cluttered, but spacious.


Do you play any musical instruments?
I clack my teeth rhythmically.

If you could give one piece of advice to someone who wants to pursue drawing as a career what would it be?
Work hard, do what you love.

Who is your favorite artist?
Split: Daniel Higgs and Herge.


Thanks again Anders!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Jef Czekaj - Cartoonist Survey #265





Jef Czekaj is a cartoonist, musician and children's book author and illustrator who was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1969. He earned a BA in linguistics from Binghamton University. Although he loved to draw as a kid, creating his own comics and movie poster spoofs, he didn’t draw at all in college. While at Binghamton U, he worked at the radio station WHRW as the business manager and host of various radio shows. Around that time he also joined his first band, Shig Pit. Since then Jef has been a member of many bands including The Anchormen, The Tardy and Plunge into Death; and he has also been a solo performer.


After college he moved to Ithaca, New York and began drawing and distributing his mini-comic R2-D2 Is an Indie Rocker. The comic told the story of the struggling indie rock band Hypertruck and featured R2-D2 on guitar. Due to the fear of receiving threatening letters from George Lucas’s attorneys, Jef avoided copyright-infringement by renaming the comic Hypertruck.


In the late 90’s Jef moved to Somerville, MA and quickly became involved in the New England underground comics scene that included people such as Tom Devlin, Jordan Crane, Ron Rege Jr. and Brian Ralph. In 1997 he started working at Tom Devlin’s Highwater Books, a Cambridge-based independent comic book publishing company. Two years later along with Alex Pirie, Jef founded The Somerville Comics Collaborative. The Collaborative was created to bring artists, businesses, community groups and people of all ages and backgrounds together to tell stories of the city in comic form. One of the several collaborative comics that was created was the 96-page graphic novel “Fire on the Nunnery Grounds”. Published in 2000, “Fire on the Nunnery Grounds” was drawn by twelve Somerville teenagers and tells the story of the 1834 Ursuline Convent riots which resulted in the burning of the convent.


While working at Highwater Books Jef frequently attended comic conventions. It was at one of those conventions where he met Chris Duffy, who was then the editor of Nickelodeon Magazine. Chris read Jef’s mini-comic and suggested that he submit some work to the magazine. Thus began the 10-year run of Jef’s adventure comic strip, Grampa and Julie: Shark Hunters in Nickelodeon Magazine. The strip centers around a young girl, Julie, and her world-famous-scientist Grampa who search the seas for Stephen, the largest shark in the world. Grampa and Julie: Shark Hunters was read monthly by over a million children in both English and Spanish. In 2003 Jef was awarded with a Xeric Foundation Grant. The grant allowed him to publish a collection of the first three years of the strip which was distributed by Top Shelf Productions.


He has illustrated several books including, “The Quest to Digest”, “Unite or Die: How Thirteen States Became a Nation”, “The Circulatory Story” and “Horns, Tails, Spikes and Claws”. Jef also wrote and illustrated his own picture books, “Hip and Hop, Don’t Stop!”, “Cat Secrets”, “A Call for a New Alphabet” and the soon to be released “Yes, Yes, Yaul!” and “Oink-a-Doodle-Moo”.



Jef still lives and works in Somerville, MA. Be sure to visit his website to learn more about him and to see more of his work. You can also follow him here on his blog and on his Facebook page. Jef makes frequent visits to schools, libraries and book stores, where he gives multi-media presentations that combine his musical and art skills. Click here to find out how to arrange a visit from Jef.


Um, before I start answering these questions, let me say that I'm not really so picky about the tools and materials that I use. I used to get really attached to one type of brush or paper or whatever and then that brush company would go out of business or I'd be on vacation and not be able to find that brush. So now I generally use whatever I can get my hands on.

What is your favorite pen to use?
I use a #2 size brush for inking. I just go to the art store and look for one that has a good point. I assume they're usually sable, but I'm guessing a lot of times they're not. Right now, I have a bunch of Winsor & Newton Cotman III brushes. For lettering I just use a Uniball.

When I'm buying art supplies, I ask myself these questions:
1. Is this the absolute cheapest thing I can buy?
2. If I needed to, could I buy this art supply on Christmas Day (presumably at 7-11) in Ocean City, MD?


Do you draw in pencil first and if so do you use a standard pencil or a mechanical one?
Yeah, pencil first. I draw with non-photo blue pencils even though I think my scanner picks up these lines anyway. Old habits die hard.


Do you do your coloring by hand or on the computer?
I color on my computer using Photoshop. Let the record show that I've had the same Wacom Pad for over 15 years.


What type of paper do you use?
Strathmore bristol, the one with the yellow cover.


What thing(s) do you hate to draw?
Wow, this is a long, long list. Cars, Horses, Buildings, Perspective, PrettyMuchAnythingThatIsNotAFishWearingATie.

I often try to write comics/books that force me to draw things I don't like to draw. For example, when I was still doing my Grampa and Julie strips I wrote an entire story arc that was based around a race just so I would force myself to draw vehicles.


Do you buy your supplies from big chain art store catalogues/websites or a local one that you physically go to?
I always physically go to the store. There are a few art stores in Cambridge, most of which are chains: Dick Blick, Utrecht, and one called Artist and Craftsman Supply. I miss the days when the cashiers who worked at Pearl (RIP) would help you shoplift.


Are there any rituals that you do before starting to draw?
Um, procrastinate for several months.

Do you listen to music while you draw and if so what genre?
I actually listen to a lot of NPR when inking. I do most of my rough sketching in coffee shops, so I'm sort of beholden to the musical taste of baristas. In Somerville, this involves way too much of Magnetic Fields and The Postal Service.


Did you read comics as a kid and if so what was your favorite?
I read comic strips, not really comic books. I LOVED Bloom County, The Far Side, and Calvin and Hobbes.

What was your favorite book as a child and do you still own a copy of it?
I loved THERE'S A MONSTER AT THE END OF THE BOOK and yes I still own a copy. My book CAT SECRETS was an "homage" to that book (meaning, of course, that I ripped it off).



Did you have any formal art training and if so where did you receive it?
No formal training. Strangely enough, I actually didn't take ANY art classes in college.

Do you feel that the Internet is a blessing or a curse?
It's neither Satan nor God. I think it's honestly hard to argue that the Internet isn't a blessing, right? I mean, remember how hard it was to even get directions. However, I'm not naturally a "blogger" or "content provider" so it's mostly a pain in the ass for me from a promoting-my-work point of view. As much as I try, I just can't find it in my heart to tweet.


Did either of your parents draw?
Not really. I remember a painting that my mom had done in our basement, but it seemed like it was from some sort of paint-by-numbers kit and I think was done before I was alive. I had an uncle who does realistic animal/nature paintings. We had an awesome painting of a tiger by him in our living room growing up. Man, I wish we still had that painting.

Who in your life is/was the most supportive of your art?
My friends in junior high school. Everyday at lunch we would eat while I would illustrate a Lord-of-the-Rings type fantasy story that they dictated to me.


Do you keep a sketchbook?
Yes, though it's pretty informal. There aren't drawings of cute girls in coffee shops or life drawings like you're supposed to do. It's usually just page after page of me drawing the same picture of a fish wearing a tie or whatever it is I'm into.


Have you ever taught cartooning/drawing and if so did you enjoy the experience?
Yeah, I've taught a few classes on cartooning, mostly for younger kids. It's all right, but I don't think I'm especially good teacher. Since I'm entirely self-taught I really have a hard time explaining to people what I do and how I do it. I have a lot of enthusiasm.

Usually when I do workshops with kids I try to do something more dynamic than drawing. For example, in a couple of weeks I'm leading a cardboard fort-building workshop at the Boston Children's Museum.


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

Do you collect anything and if so what?
I'm really not much of a collector. I have a lot of art books and music.

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


Are you a righty or lefty?
A Proud Lefty.

If you weren't an artist what would you want to do for work?
Yikes. I have no contingency plan.

In one or two sentences describe your drawing area.
Two drafting tables, one "new", one "vintage" pushed together. Ideally one is for my computer and one is for drawing, but usually 1.75 is for storing stuff that I should put away and the corner of one of them is for drawing. I have a nasty habit of not bothering to clean off my drawing area before I start drawing. Oh, and my cat is usually sitting on my chair and refusing to get off.

Do you play any musical instruments?
I play many instruments not especially well. Primary instrument = guitar. Other instruments I am somewhat competent at: violin, drums, keyboard, computer.


These days I'm a DJ for a rap group, The Big Digits.


If you could give one piece of advice to someone who wants to pursue drawing as a career what would it be?
I bet this is what EVERYONE you ask says, but just draw as much as you can. And don't worry about whether it's a "good" drawing or a "bad" drawing.

Who is your favorite artist?
Tove Jannson.


Thanks again for participating Jef!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Tom Stiglich - Cartoonist Survey #264





Tom Stiglich is a cartoonist, illustrator and graphic designer who was born in Philadelphia, PA in 1966. He started drawing when he was very young, and while he was still at Northeast Catholic High School, had his first cartoon published by the Philadelphia Daily News. After high school he studied at the Art Institute of Philadelphia and graduated with a degree in Visual Communications in June of 1988.


Now working at a weekly newspaper in Philadelphia, Tom has had his editorial cartoons printed in most of the major papers including, USA Today, The New York Times, The Chicago Sun-Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, The Philadelphia Inquirer and many others. His cartoons have been featured in numerous magazines such as Time, Newsweek, Newsweek Japan, Mad Kids, Funny Stuff and Comic Relief. In addition to magazines and newspapers, his editorial cartoons can be found in J.P. Trostle’s “Attack of the Political Cartoonists” and also regularly appear in Charles Brooks’ annual book series “Best Editorial Cartoons of the Year”. Tom has been awarded the United Nations’ Citation of Excellence three times, and has had his work displayed at the Charles M. Schulz museum in Santa Rosa, California.


Tom’s work isn’t limited to cartooning. He has created illustrations for various children’s books such as “Woe is I Jr.: The Younger Grammarphobe's Guide to Better English in Plain English” and both “Goin’ To The Zoo” and “Hate That Thunder” for the bi-lingual Mandy and Andy series of books.


A member of both the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists and the National Cartoonists Society, Tom was recently nominated along with Nick Galifianakis and Kevin Kallaugher (KAL) for the 2012 NCS Divisional Award in the Advertisement Illustration category. Visit Tom’s website where you can see more of his editorial cartoons, read his two strips, ‘Uncle Joe’ and ‘Disconnected’ and order prints. There is also a Tom Stiglich CafePress store where you can purchase t-shirts, hats, mugs and other goodies.


What is your favorite pen to use?
Believe it or not, Papermate Black felt tip. I've tried some of the finer pens and I've stayed with these.


Do you draw in pencil first and if so do you use a standard pencil or a mechanical one?
Yes, standard yellow #2 pencil.

Do you do your coloring by hand or on the computer?
Color with Corel Draw and Photoshop


What type of paper do you use?
Anything I can steal from the office. That stuff adds up.

What thing(s) do you hate to draw?
Horses. Damn horses. The legs seem to be going the wrong way.


Do you buy your supplies from big chain art store catalogues/websites or a local one that you physically go to?
Usually Blick and Utrecht here in Philly.


Are there any rituals that you do before starting to draw?
Have a clean art table, bottle of water and turn on the music.

Do you listen to music while you draw and if so what genre?
Music is a must. Rock and Blues. Mostly Eric Burdon and the Animals, The Doors, Stones, Springsteen, Ray Davies and The Kinks, RL Burnside, Muddy Waters, etc.


Did you read comics as a kid and if so what was your favorite?
Yes, Sgt. Rock.


What is or was your favorite comic strip?
The Far Side

What was your favorite book as a child and do you still own a copy of it?
The "Stand", Stephen King. Yes, still have a copy. I was amazed how much fun reading was when it wasn't required reading from school.


Did you have any formal art training and if so where did you receive it?
Yes, Art Institute of Philadelphia.

Do you feel that the Internet is a blessing or a curse?
Both. More exposure than ever before, yet, leading to the ultimate demise of newspapers.


Did either of your parents draw?
Yes, my mom was a huge influence.

Who in your life is/was the most supportive of your art?
My girlfriend, Audrey.


Do you keep a sketchbook?
No, I should. Mostly scraps of paper that I stole from work. Recurring theme here.

Have you ever taught cartooning/drawing and if so did you enjoy the experience?
No.

Do you feel that talent or passion is more important in drawing?
Both. There has to be some talent there to start, then passion will play a big part. How bad do you want it?

Do you collect anything and if so what? I collect too much junk.
Lots of Peanuts merchandise and Bobbleheads all over the place. Do you have any extra space I can store my stuff?


If you were an animated cartoon character who do you think you would be?
Cuckoo Man from The Mighty Heroes.


Are you a righty or lefty?
Right handed.

If you weren't an artist what would you want to do for work?
Play basketball overseas. Need to work on my jump shot.


In one or two sentences describe your drawing area.
Organized with lots of pens. HATE looking for something when I'm drawing.

Do you play any musical instruments?
Harmonica.

If you could give one piece of advice to someone who wants to pursue drawing as a career what would it be?
Work hard, dedicate yourself and you'll see results. I would steer them towards animation only because, working at a newspaper company really gives you a sense of where everything is going. Print isn't dead but it's on life support.

Who is your favorite artist?
Charles Schulz. An amazing cartoonist and an even better person.




Thanks again for your time Tom and enjoy the Reuben’s!