How did it all begin?
I had the standard training in classical technique at the Academy, but this was, for me, a constraint, and I soon began to take every opportunity to sketch from everyday life. The formal instruction at the academy just wasn´t right for me. It was too hierarchical. So I broke off my studies and went my own way.
What's the chief source of your ideas?
Well, there is no one source. I might seem a little chaotic to you, but here's how it works. Basically, I more-or-less immerse myself in a theme.
For example, if the issue is politics, I go to museums for the cultural and historical background, attend party conventions, go to local meetings and demonstrations, leaf through dozens of newspapers and magazines, and maybe most important, just circulate among average voters. By the way, please don't get the idea that I walk around with my sketchpad and pencils. It's too intrusive. I pretty much rely on my memory banks, then I make the initial drawings at home.
Then what? How do you work? What kinds of materials do you need?
I lock myself in, sort of, and get ready for a real siege. One has to achieve a certain mental focus for this kind of work. First off, I make a pencil sketch, then I develop it, so to speak, by projecting it from a light table, and drawing an enhanced version from the original, this time in India Ink. I also use an ink that is called "Encre de Chine" here in Europe...it's hard to find in the USA. As for colors, I use watercolors, colored inks, and (special) colored pencils. I try to cover up the mistakes with a gouache. But with watercolors, it isn't easy to cover up errors. Now here's the key: PAPER. It's crucial to get the right kind. If the paper is too soft, the pen gets stuck. And you've got to find paper that will accept both pen-and-ink and transparent watercolors. I've spent days searching for the right paper.
It seems like these materials are mostly for the cartoons. What about the full-size paintings?
That's rather different: I paint on both canvas and paper. I use pen-and-ink, paintbrush, and any color medium you can name, watercolors, acrylic, oils, colored pencils. Also things you find in craft stores, like rubber stamps, glue-on stars, the gold liquid one squeezes out of a tube. Then come the found objects. There's really no limit here. I use feathers, bandages, measuring tape, scrap wood, grass, dishrags, toilet paper (unused), you name it.
Back to the comics for a minute. How long, on average, does it take you to complete a comic strip?
That depends. I'd say from three to five weeks. It's a question of preparation, and above all, the complexity of the theme. And accidents will happen, so you have to clean these up and correct errors. The preparation, getting in the mood, assembling the information, checking accuracy, that's the real time-eater. Years ago, I used to pull all-nighters on these, but I've given up on that.
After being in your profession for thirty years, how does it feel when you look at your earlier work?
Frankly, I prefer not to on a regular basis because I think it might stifle innovation. But I have to admit, it's nice to walk into a gallery or a museum and see something I did years ago. You stand back and gaze at it hanging on the blank wall, and see it with greater objectivity and perspective. And, let's face it, it makes me feel good.
The computer. There's a laptop on your work table. Do you use one to draw?
No; I haven't even considered it yet. The nature of my work is highly tactile, and I don't think computers are at this point compatible. Let me give you a few examples; Paper makes noises, different pens sound differently, oils and acrylics smell different. A lot of the sensory input one needs would be lost with a computer. By the way, I'm asked to give lectures fairly often, and in giving these I use an overhead projector where I can draw directly on the lens. I don't know of any current technology which preserves tactile stimuli in this way. Maybe someday, but not now.
Any advice for budding cartoonists? What are the basic requirements?
A little talent always helps. Also, curiosity. Dedication and perseverance. And PRACTICE-PRACTICE-PRACTICE. I'd strongly recommend life classes. You really have to learn how the human body moves. Be open to, and seek out, criticism: Don't take it too personally (many women fall into this trap). Learn to appreciate the grotesque and the exaggerated. Keep your eyes open for people and situations. Cultivate the art of observation. Establish dialog with your subjects, don't be passive. Learn to appreciate and to employ black humor.
What else? Find yourself a good agent, if you can, and if possible, select wealthy parents.