And happy Wednesday! Gosh, it feels like I haven’t written in the Blog in a long, long time, even though I know the last time was just on Friday when I posted two really good animations (one a short film, the other a music video)—if you missed them you can click here to see them.
Another quick update…you know how you’ve heard me say that I’ve been curious about sewing for a couple of months now? Well, yesterday I took an introductory class where I learned how to thread a sewing machine, make knots at the beginning and at the end of a seam, and how to work with patterns. It was fun! This whole experience was made even more memorable by the fact that during our class, we all felt the quake that shook VA shaking our class. For a second, I thought I may have been responsible in a “the-day-Carolina-uses-a-sewing-machine-pigs-will-fly-type” of cause and effect. If that is so, someone might want to check on Hell…perhaps a brand new skating rink opened down there! It was an odd experience—even though I have been through quakes before…however, never in this area! But in the end I was still able to learn what notches and interface are! I’m signed up for two more classes! Woohoo!
Today I am very excited to be posting a brand new “why people draw” interview for you to enjoy…even better is that it is with Canadian comic strip creator Jonathan Mahood! Jonathan is the creator of the comic strip Bleeker: the Rechargeable Dog. Bleeker (previously named Hoover) originally came to life as an online strip, and was then picked up by King Features Syndicate—so now it appears in newspapers all over the place!
It was not too long ago that I came across Bleeker thanks to Twitter! I believe I found Jonathan’s account either as a recommended one to follow, or by checking out someone else’s list. And I loved it from the beginning. Bleeker alone is such a neat-looking little dog (you have to check out this post on Jonathan’s blog about the Evolution of a Cartoon Character)…and the fact that he has the capabilities (and glitches, of course) of all the cool high-tech gadgets out in the world today, makes him so much fun! And who can’t identify with his owner, Skip, who now lives with this little bag (or mutt) of technological tricks? (and he is not quite the sharpest tool in the shed, to boot). All this adds up to very humorous situations…all created inside Jonathan’s brain!
There’s a bit of the Bleeker comic strip that fondly reminds me of Bill Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes. I think Jonathan manages to bring wit, smarts and humor into a strip that can at times also have just the right amount of sweetness and reflection.
I wish I could say I’ve met Jonathan, but our communication has only been through email. Nevertheless, I have truly appreciated how receptive and responsive he has been every time we’ve been in touch. In many ways, I think I get a sense of what Jonathan might be like through his drawing and his humor, and I like what I “sense.” I guess that’s yet another thing that drawing does…it not only communicates ideas (among many other things), but also becomes a reflection of who we are. After all, I’ve always thought that drawing allows you to spill onto paper what’s floating around in your head! No use crying over spilled ideas!
JONATHAN MAHOOD (tah-dah!)
So, as easy as it would be for me to continue to ramble on and on, I would much rather let you start enjoying this interview with none other than (drum, drum drum) artist Jonathan Mahood! Thank you Jonathan for accepting the invitation to do this interview…I’m officially hooked on Bleeker, your humor and your drawing style!
HW: What’s your earliest memory of drawing (or of being able to draw)?
JM: I started drawing as soon as I could hold a crayon but my earliest memory is probably Grade 2. We had to draw a mask and I did a West Coast Haida mask (I think it was a Sea Wolf and it was in a National Geographic magazine) It turned out great and was hung in a special “exhibit” at the local shopping mall. (I may have peaked too early)
HW: What does being able to draw mean to you?
JM: Drawing is a huge part of who I am. When I’ve been prohibited from drawing I can get really down. For me, it’s a mix of design, communication and escapism.
Also, as you continue to draw over the years, you effectively complete a diary for yourself. I can look back at drawings and remember exactly where I was in my life and what was going on.
HW: What part of your day/week is spent sketching, drawing and digitally painting, and what part is spent infusing your brain with stories and jokes so you can draw about them?
JM: Since I draw a daily comic strip 365 days a year, I have deadlines that keep me hopping…and sweating!
I generally start the week writing and drawing my rough comics. These are sent to my editor in New York for him to look over. All week I jot down ideas in my sketchbook as they come to me. I keep a pen and pad by my bed as well. The roughs take me a couple of days in total.
Then I get going on drawing and inking the finished strips for the week. I draw using a blue pencil on #400 smooth Bristol. Using a Brause blue steno nib and black W&N ink I draw over the blue lines. After scanning the artwork, I correct any mistakes in Photoshop, color it and then send it off to the syndicate for publication. That usually takes 3-4 days. Then I repeat that process each week…every week.
HW: How and when did you discover that drawing and humor were a good mix? And, what comes first for you, the drawing or the writing?
JM: It was Grade 5 or 6 that I realized you could make other kids laugh by doodling in your notebook. When I got into high school I did full comics and joined the school newspaper.
Sometimes I’ll draw a funny doodle and it will become a finished comic. Other times I’ll read something and write it all down before I have any idea what it will look like It really depends on how and when the inspiration hits me. Most times when I’m stuck I’ll just keep drawing. Eventually, after you keep playing around something pops up and takes you in a new direction.
HW: What is the easiest thing for you about providing enough action & dialogue in order to deliver the punch line in two or more panels? What is the toughest?
JM: When I started, I made the usual mistake of writing too much dialogue. The panels would be packed with text. I looked at successful strips and counted how many words were in each panel. (I think the number was around 15 words) I then would edit my dialogue down to that. I would just keep rewording it until I was hitting those kinds of numbers. Eventually it became instinctual and I could stop counting! By limiting the dialogue it forces you to make the drawings do a lot of the lifting and that, I think, makes for a more visually dynamic comic. So now, for the most part I find it quite easy to work within the small sizes of the newspaper comic format.
Where I notice the limitation is in developing longer story lines. Until people really know your comic and understand the characters, each day’s comic needs to stand alone. Since my comic only launched in newspapers about 7 months ago I’m still in the introductory stage. Towards the end of this year I will start doing short 3-day stories, which are a lot of fun to write.
HW: What do you like to do when you’re not drawing or working on your comic strip?
JM: I like going outside! I live in cottage country so there are lots of trails and the Georgian Bay is right on my doorstep.
HW: If you could write a recipe for your drawings, what would the ingredient list be (read like)?
JM: First panel of the comic, mix in the setup. Next panel add some action. Finally, bake an unexpected funny ending and hope it doesn’t sink in the middle.
HW: What gets your Hamster Wheel running? (what gets you itching to draw or create?)
JM: Getting a laugh out of someone…it’s very addictive! It really hasn’t changed since school. I’m still drawing a goofy looking picture and hoping the person next me will crack a smile.
I also really enjoy music. My favorite space is sitting on the front porch with the headphones on drawing in my sketchbook. Loud music and comics go really well together!
Thanks for the tip Jonathan!…I’m looking for my headphones as I type! Thank you again for the interview! It has been so great to learn more about your process, and continued success to you!
King Features Syndicate
Bleeker on Facebook
Jonathan on Twitter
Bleeker on CaféPress
WIRED: Meet Bleeker: The Rechargeable Dog and His Creator Jonathan Mahood (June 29, 2011)
IGN Comics: Cartoonist Tackles Video Games in Comic Strip (June 30, 2011)
ABCNews Bleeker Strip Bridges Online, Comics Page (April 8, 2011)
Cottage Country Now (Canada): Bleeker Goes to Germany
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