Child With a Pencil
I've been making drawings for as long as I can remember. As a child, I copied the drawings in my coloring books instead of coloring them. I copied from comic books, newspaper ads, bubblegum cards and the animated cartoons I watched on Saturday mornings. My first "published" comic was a gag I copied from some now-forgotten animated cartoon. Our third grade class put together a hand-made newspaper, and I volunteered to do the comics page. There was only one copy made, and it was posted on our bulletin board. Thankfully, it did not survive into the 21st century.
I've always been inspired by disposable art and design. The bold simplicity of images that appeared on matchbook covers, menus, placemats, and pizza boxes has always appealed to me. I love the imperfections introduced by old-school printing and cheap paper.
Music has been another major inspiration throughout my life. I recently ran in to the guy who owned a local record store I frequented as a teenager, and told him that he took all of my lunch money. My parents gave me cash every day for a nutritious meal, but I'd buy a pack of cheese crackers and a carton of chocolate milk, so I could pocket the rest of the money for the weekend trip to the record store. I was always hunting for weird music that the other kids didn't know about, and often found myself buying cheap old records because of the interesting cover art and design.
When I was a kid haunting record stores, many of the shops also carried underground comix. Discovering the work of Robert Crumb, Gilbert Shelton and the rest of the Zap Comix artists was a revelation and a turning point for me. The "adults only" warnings on the covers added to their appeal. There was an overwhelming excitement to reading these books that I knew my parents wouldn't want me to have. I had that same feeling years earlier when I found paperback reprints of the Harvey Kurtzman's early issues of MAD, and later when National Lampoon launched. Each of these discoveries opened my mind to new possibilities in comics and art.
The Funny Pages
From a very young age, I also read all of the comics our local paper carried, even the ones I didn't really like. I remember enjoying Dennis the Menace, and was particularly fascinated by the weird character design and deadpan humor of Tom K. Ryan's Tumbleweeds, and the very simple but effective art of Howie Schneider's Eek and Meek.
The comics I now read every day include Bill Griffith's Zippy the Pinhead, Dan Piraro's Bizarro, Hilary Price's Rhymes With Orange, J.C. Duffy's The Fusco Brothers, Wiley Miller's Non Sequitur, Patrick McDonnell's Mutts and Mike Peters's Mother Goose & Grimm, along with editorial comics by Jen Sorensen, Ann Telnaes, Rob Rogers and Matt Bors. I also devour The New Yorker cartoons every week.
My all-time favorite cartoonist is Virgil ("VIP") Partch. I admire the looseness of his art and his crazy gag style. In his prime, his brushwork was absolutely masterful. I'm lucky enough to own a few pieces of his original art, which still inspire me.
Another artist who had a big influence on me is Cal Schenkel. Cal is best known as artist and designer of many of Frank Zappa's early album covers. I first saw Cal's work in an ad for United Mutations (the Zappa/Mothers of Invention fan club) that appeared in various Marvel comic books. He's responsible for the cover of We're Only In It For the Money, which viciously parodied the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper cover, less than a year after its release. Cal was a pioneer of "ratty" art, using torn paper, found images, scratchy lines and blobs of paint, resulting in a glorious mess. It's been my privilege to meet and become friends with Cal, and to co-sponsor an exhibit of his work near my home in Pittsburgh.
Steps along a Twisted Career Path
In the mid-1980s, I started making my own minicomics and trading them with other artists through a pre-Internet postal network, where I met many artists who are still friends today.
In the 1990s, I created Beer Nutz, a "post-underground" solo comic book. It lasted for three issues, and caught the attention of several art directors, who got in touch and began hiring me for illustration work. My illustrations always showed a cartoonist's sensibilities, and I never stopped loving cartoons. I did some of my own gag cartoons for Nickelodeon Magazine and National Geographic Kids in addition to illustration work.
About seven years ago, I began collaborating with Dan Piraro, first as a gag writer, then as colorist, and eventually I filled in as Bizarro's guest cartoonist for two weeklong stints. I've also written with and done a guest turn for Hilary Price. Working with two such thoughtful and masterful cartoonists has been a tremendous learning experience. With both Dan and Hilary, we discuss the gags in-depth, refining and revising them until we're happy with the result.
I think long and hard about my WaynoVision cartoons and often revise them, even after they've been uploaded to the GoComics site. I regularly write about my cartooning process on my own blog.
I work in a spare room in our house, where I live with my wife, Kim, and our cats, Foster and Jackson. I have a very short commute to work, which is quite nice. Sometimes, though, it's a little too close, because every time I walk past the room, I'm compelled to go in and write down an idea or tweak a sketch. Overall, I know I'm very lucky to be able to draw cartoons in my own space, where I have all of my books and music to accompany me.
I still draw all of my comics by hand, with ink, brush and pens on paper. Then I scan them and add color digitally. I like to maintain that handmade, organic look, and I also enjoy having a stack of actual drawings after the comics are published.
Upcoming projects or appearances
I'll be attending the National Cartoonists Society's Reuben Awards weekend in late May, rubbing elbows with many of my fellow creators, which is always an energizing experience.
I've done several one-man art shows over the years, and had a great time teaching students during an artist-in-residence project, and hope to do more of that in the future.
I also sing and play in a band called The Chalk Outlines. We recently recorded two original tunes, and plan to release a 45 rpm record, as well as a digital version.
I'm very happy to be part of the GoComics family of artists, and look forward to hearing from readers. I do read and think about every comment.
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