Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Greg Ruth - Cartoonist/Artist Survey #45

Greg Ruth is a comic book artist, illustrator and writer. He has been working in comics since 1993 and has published work for The New York Times, National Geographic, DC Comics, Fantagraphics Books, Dark Horse, Wizard's of the Coast and many more. He has illustrated many children's books for such companies as Scholastic Books and Graphix/Goosebumps. He even illustrated two animated music videos - one for Prince and the other for Rob Thomas. He was the artist for Dark Horse's new Conan series, "Conan: Born on the Battlefield" which focused on Conan's early life. Greg also wrote and illustrated 3 of the Matrix comics stories, A Path Among Stones, Return of the Prodigal Son and Hunters and Collectors. In January of It would take me way too long to mention all of the work Greg has created so go to his website and click on everything.

What is your favorite pen to use?
I have a few handmade Japanese brushes I go to for just about everything. No pens!

Do you draw in pencil first and if so do you use a standard pencil or a mechanical one?
Sometimes I'll block it out in pencil, or render a sketch in pencil and then draw over it- I just use a #2 from a big box of Ticonderogas. Like the ones we used to take scan-tron tests in the 1980's. Nothing special.

Do you do your coloring by hand or on the computer?
I tend to color or at least manage the color on the computer. I've no natural sense of color, so I'm too slow witted to sort it out correctly on the page. The computer let's me scan and drop in swaths and tones and like an oil painting lets me build layers and correct errors.

If you do your coloring by hand, what do you use?
I never use digital colors- it doesn't look right with my drawings style-so I'll paint and then scan that in and drop it over. Sort of like the old four color printing process, but more convoluted.

What type of paper do you use?
I like the Strathmore Alexis series drawing paper. It's a nice cream color, takes the sumi ink very well, is durable and inexpensive so as not to encourage preciousness while drawing.

What thing(s) do you hate to draw?
Huge crowds of people in period clothing in a historical setting. And superheroes.

Do you buy your supplies from big chain art store catalogues/websites or a local one that you physically go to?
I get my ink from a local art shop and order my paper from New York Central in Manhattan, and have that shipped up.

Are there any rituals that you do before starting to draw?
I tend to wash my brushes- the sumi ink is terrible for them, so I really have to shampoo them every couple of days at least. Put on a record or some news podcast and hop to it!

Do you listen to music while you draw and if so what genre?
That depends on what I'm working on. I have a kind of soundtrack for each project- especially for comics. So I'll put on a playlist of about thirty or so pieces that illustrate what I think of when I think about the story. Although I've been drawing the chapter illos for this Dickens story, and listening to a lot of PJ Harvey while doing it- and that makers no sense at all.

Did you read comics as a kid and if so what was your favorite?
Never did really. You couldn't get them nearly as easily as you can now, and I was never much encouraged towards them.

What is or was your favorite comic strip?
Calvin and Hobbes and Little Lulu. Period. Two way tie.

What was your favorite book as a child and do you still own a copy of it?
Prince Ombra... Rodrick Macleish? I can't totally recall the author's name… but I loved that book when I was a kid. Also Alfred Hithcock and the Three Investigators. Read every one of those.

Did you have any formal art training and if so where did you receive it?
I do... I went to art classes in Texas as a kid growing up at my mom's behest, and then went to the High school for Performing and Visual Arts in Houston Texas- from there to Pratt in Brooklyn.

Do you feel that the Internet is a blessing or a curse?
An absolute blessing. It puts so much power to connect with readers and offers so much in the way of research... I can't imagine surviving without it at this point.

Did either of your parents draw?
My father dabbled, but he never thought it meant anything significant enough to do more with. He could have- he's quite good naturally, I just don't think he was raised to give it much credit.

Who in your life is/was the most supportive of your art?
I would have to say my Mom was- she got me into classes young and literally forced me to go to HSPVA for High school- that place saved my life. Literally. So I don't want to think of where I'd be without her being there doing all that she did.

Do you keep a sketchbook?
I used to, but not much anymore. I don't have a lot of time to sketch and play like that these days with the kids and working in the studio to make the mortgage. That's the impetus for the 52 Weeks Project really... to bring some fun back into the studio. It's hard for your art not to become just work when you do it for a living. (Editor's note: Click on the little doggy at the top of Greg's website to view his 52 Weeks Project.)

Have you ever taught cartooning/drawing and if so did you enjoy the experience?
I have- I taught fourth graders and did some after school classes at my boys' school and I loved it. Kids have such a natural affinity for art and pictures. Especially for comics- they did some amazing stuff in those classes.

Do you feel that talent or passion is more important in drawing?
Talent helps, but it can be a trap too- passion and hard work always win out in the end. And comics is a marathon event, not a sprint- talent might get you to the starting gate, but it's passion and hard work that will drag your exhausted butt over the finish line. Tenacity also helps a lot.

Do you collect anything and if so what?
I love records... and old books new books too I guess. Antiques, hats...weird photographs. Depends on the period of time I guess. I really want a banjo and time to learn to play it.

If you were an animated cartoon character who do you think you would be?
The love child of Eeyore and Tony Millionaire's Sock Monkey.

Are you a righty or lefty?
Right in the hand- leftward in most other ways.

If you weren't an artist what would you want to do for work?
I can't imagine what that would be to be honest. Writer? Isn't that an artist? I'm no good at anything else. Reading would be a nice job.

In one or two sentences describe your drawing area.
A cacophony of materials and objects in a moderate arrangement of order that is quickly overcome by wads of crumpled paper and paper towels all soiled with ink.

Do you play any musical instruments?
Not any more. But in my mind I'm an amazing banjo-ist.

If you could give one piece of advice to someone who wants to pursue drawing as a career what would it be?
Go full bore or not at all. It's too hard to make a living out of it if you're just playing at it. You have to make sure you do everything you can to make it happen and if it doesn't anyway, then you've at least tried your damnedest and can blame the rest on fate. And never take on work that you're not interested in. Make sure you love what you're doing while your doing it and remember to notice that- otherwise it's all just drudgery. And there's enough of that to go around already.

Also never ever never miss your deadlines. Don't do it. You can make a career off of this alone- and you can ruin a genius career by doing it’s opposite.

Who is your favorite artist?

That's hard to say. I have so many... right now I love Alice Neel, Francis Bacon, Egon Schiele and Goseki Kojima.

Thank you Greg.

Up next is Alex Hallatt, creator of the comic strip Arctic Circle. Her answers come all the way from Australia.

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