- How did you establish yourself as an illustrator? (Describe the process of self-promotion, making contacts/connections, and/or your first time being published).
I began cartooning by submitting my work everywhere. I looked at products and publications where I thought my work would be a good fit and then carefully followed the submission guidelines on their website. It often took multiple submissions to the same editor before my work was accepted.
- How did you select works for your portfolio? Did you tailor it to a particular market?
I select work from my portfolio for specific markets. The work I send to MAD Magazine is not the same work I submit to the New Yorker.
- Who are your influences?
I always think of my favorite cartoonists from childhood since that’s when I knew I wanted to be a cartoonist. Those influences were Jim Davis (Garfield), Sandra Boynton, Shel Silverstein and B. Kliban.
- If you went to school for illustration, describe your experience as a student. What was one of your biggest challenges?
I was a Fine Arts major in college. My biggest challenge was the head of the Art Department, who would not let me do my thesis in cartooning because he didn’t consider it to be “art.” Guess he was wrong about that one.
- How have your skills changed between graduation and now?
I was trained in traditional media while I was in school. After graduation, I learned Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign , Print Design and Web Design. I’m grateful to have a background in traditional and digital media. I use both in my work now.
- What is your favorite subject to draw or paint?
Since I have a daily panel, I’m always looking for new things to draw. I seem to gravitate toward some recurring themes such as butterflies, yoga, snakes and most animals.
- How do you work with deadlines?
My entire business is about deadlines. The newspapers have a 3 week advance deadline for dailies and a 6 week advance deadline for Sundays. I work 8-10 weeks ahead of that deadline to give myself a big buffer. The greeting card companies give me over a month to send in final art but I work hard to send in work far ahead of the deadline when I can.
- Which tools are best for self-promotion? Are book portfolios still in demand?
A well-designed website and blog, a well-maintained social media presence (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.) well-designed postcards and a good email list are all excellent tools. I use all of them and maintain brand consistency throughout all of them. It has been years since I’ve used a book portfolio. I typically put together PDFs of my work tailored to the specific client. I get calls for specific holidays from greeting card companies and go through my collection to pull out what they need. I can’t think of anyone who prefers print over a PDF. If the file is large, I’ll just send them a link from Dropbox.
- Have groups and networks helped your career?
Becoming a member of the National Cartoonists Society changed everything for me. It is a family of some of the most generous, kind and hilarious people I know.
- Which materials do you work with?
I use dip pens and India ink, Micron pens, non-photo blue mechanical pencils, Bristol board and gouache. For my daily panel, I scan my work and do clean up and color using a Wacom Cintiq tablet. I can’t live without it.
- How do you come up with ideas and concepts for compositions? How much do you brainstorm?
I brainstorm endlessly. I am constantly taking notes in my sketchbook, typing notes into my phone or telling Siri to jot things down if I’m driving or riding my bike. I’ll come up with 25-30 ideas or so each week and pick out the best 14. I save the unformed ideas and sometimes, after they have a chance to marinate they fuse with another idea and become something usable. I usually do the writing first and then create the drawing. Every once in a while, I do a silly drawing and come up with a caption for it. There are rare but are some of my favorite pieces.
- What is one lesson you’ve learned from working with clients?
Get everything in writing. Have a contract before doing any work. Carefully outline the scope of the project, especially how many changes are expected and what the cost will be if you go over that number.
- What advice would you give to an illustration student?
Artists die of “exposure.” Don’t give your work away for free from someone who promises you publicity or exposure. Get used to rejection. It’s not about you or your work, it is about an art director’s/editor’s need at that moment. Rejection is a good thing. It helps you grow. I’ve had situations where one editor passed on an image only to have it become a best selling greeting card. Know your market yet don’t try and create work for the market, create work for you. The work that you love is always your best work.
- How do you keep up your energy for art-making?
I’m doing what I wanted to do since childhood. It’s something I absolutely love to do…something that I have to do. Exercise is a huge help in keeping up my energy and ignite my creative process. I love running, cycling, mountain biking and yoga.
- What is the most difficult part of your profession, and what is the most rewarding?
The most difficult part of my profession is the daily deadline. Every week I need to come up with 7-14 new ideas and drawings. If I go away, I need to do double duty to make up for lost time. I stay several months ahead of my deadline to make a buffer for vacations, illness or any other life situations that come up.
The most rewarding part is the human connection. I’ve had people from all over the world write to me. Knowing I made someone laugh is the best thing.