What time do you wake up?
I’m a fairly late riser. But also a late worker. The time depends on a number of things: how late I was up the night before, appointments, deadlines, and whether the cats or dogs keep me from sleeping.
What’s for breakfast?
The dogs get breakfast before I do—big chunks of Lab food because they’re big Labs, one black, one yellow. I usually have Greek yogurt and maybe a bran muffin, or sometimes a poached egg or oatmeal with blueberries or raisins and brown sugar. I feel like I’m filling in a form for a medical exam, here.
What do you do first?
First thing I do is check emails and voice mail. The rest is unstructured and depends on what needs to be done that day. I may finish up something from the night before, or start drawing either daily or Sunday strips or work on something for one of our books or managing the web site or work on the blog. Most likely, drawing strips isn’t part of the schedule until the afternoon unless I’m really close to deadline. I find it hard to draw too soon after I wake up. Maybe that’s why most cartoonists drink coffee. Note to self...
If it’s a workout day, I do weight training and some cardio.
Since Jerry writes Baby Blues, my writing is either side projects or lately, The Baby Blues Blog. I have sometimes gone to cafes to write on my Powerbook laptop. The writing I contribute to Baby Blues is usually in the form of general ideas for subjects or situations. Occasionally, I’ll send Jerry ideas that are more specific that came from something I observed or personal experiences.
Describe your method of creating a cartoon
Jerry emails me a script with each panel numbered, with a little stage direction and the dialogue. On rare occasions, he’ll send a sketch showing what he’s thinking of. He sends a batch of daily strips together, and the Sundays separately. For the past couple years, I’ve been saving paper by not printing out the gags anymore. I just view them on my iPad.
I draw the daily strips on a “board”—card stock that’s pre-printed with non-photo blue lines for the borders of the panels. But it’s not completely non-photo...the printer didn’t get that part quite right. Sundays are sketched on tracing paper first with my trusty Pentel mechanical pencil that I’ve had for over 30 years. I think it probably cost a buck-something back then.
The dailies used to be sketched first on tracing paper, then photocopied. Then I would put them onto the board on a light box so the sketch would show through the board. My method now is that I do a rough sketch with non-photo blue pencils and then the finished drawing over the top with a Caran d’Ache pencil holder with 3mm graphite lead in it.
Sunday strips are drawn the way I used to do the dailies. They’re traced onto 2-ply Strathmore bristol board (cold press/vellum finish) with a Faber-Castell Polychromos black colored pencil. Most cartoonists use smooth paper because they work with pen or brush. Since I work in pencil, I want the line to have some texture, so the paper has to have what they call “tooth,” which just means it’s a little rough.
I used to paint in the solid blacks with India ink and a brush or with PITT Artist Brush Pens. But now I’ve gone to filling blacks with the paint bucket tool in Photoshop.
If you’re still awake at this point, I’m sure those last three paragraphs probably read like gibberish to a non-cartoonist.
I spray the strips with Aquanet hairspray so the pencil lines don’t smear. Then I photocopy them on a copy machine. The photocopy step ensures that the pencil lines, which are grayish and not crisp and consistent, become dense black so they scan easier.
I scan the strips on my Mac using an HP scanner and VueScan software. I touch up the strips in Photoshop. For dailies, I create screened and unscreened versions. Screened versions (with black dot patterns that create a gray color for shading) go to newspapers that don’t print color strips. The unscreened versions go to the syndicate where a colorist fills in color and they’re sent to newspapers that run the strips in color.
The Sundays are done the same way until the line art portion is finished. Then I create a version with a layer on which I indicate color instructions. I mark up what colors go where and indicate gradients and shading. I send that version to my colorist, who follows the guide layer and sends back a fully-colored file. After I receive it, I’ll make any touch ups, or sometimes change my mind about colors, or add special effects. Once it’s complete, I email the line art and color files for the Sunday to the syndicate.
What’s for lunch?
On a workout day, lunch is usually a protein shake. If not, it could be canned salmon, or sliced turkey or soup or leftovers. Why all this interest in food? You’re as bad as my dogs.
What’s your afternoon schedule?
Mornings tend to be filled with a lot of non-work related tasks, appointments, phone calls, various other things. Afternoons and nights are when most of the drawing is done. In the summer, though, there’s sometimes time for a break to swim in the pool with the dogs.
Work after dinner?
Because I start late, I usually finish late, too. After dinner might be some TV, after which I sometimes put in another hour or so in the studio.
Any unusual habits or hobbies—cartoon related or not?
a) I keep a collection of abandoned cicada shells in my sock drawer
b) I snort pencil shavings
c) I play guitar or drums
d) I play tennis if nothing hurts too much