Monday, August 11, 2008

I Keep the Oompa Loompas in the Closet

This is where the MAGIC! happens: the spare bedroom of a regular ol' house that has served as my office for about ten years now. That explains the mess. I took these pictures just now without cleaning up or staging anything. My wife Karen will be overjoyed.

The first photo is of my rolltop desk, where I draw. Amber the Simple Cat is pre-warming one of the room's two chairs; when I need one of them, she hops over to the other. I wrote about this desk and provided a key to the drawers' contents a while ago, and not much has changed since. The comic strip on top of the desk at upper left is the "Pogo" daily I got at Comic-Con International last month. It'll soon be framed and on my wall. The U.S. flag behind it covered my grandfather's casket. Atop the desk at the right is the bronze "Momo" statue I received when Mom's Cancer won the Deutscher Jugendliteraturpreis, and the sharp-eyed may spot various car models and reference materials I'm using for Whatever Happened to the World of Tomorrow? scattered about.

The red box behind the chair is piled high with original pages from WHTTWOT waiting to be filed, while on the left side of the desk under the roll of white tape is a stack of blank Bristol board pages waiting to be drawn on. Sometimes I feel like one of those New Math "function machines" that receives an input from the left, turns the f(x) crank a while, and deposits an output on the right. The green box on the floor holds the originals from Mom's Cancer. Leaning against the desk beside the chair is my drawing board.

This space really ought to have better lighting--probably one of those big fluorescent architect's lamps perched right on top of the desk shining down onto my drawing board. I really should have a better chair, too. In fact, the ergonomics of this entire set-up are terrible, what with me all hunched over and squinting like Bob Cratchit after one of Scrooge's rants about the high cost of lamp oil and coal. But I did Mom's Cancer here and am almost done drawing WHTTWOT without noticeable harm. Maybe I'll fix it up properly for my next book (heh!).

The other half of the magic(!) happens here, three feet away, on the computer. The binder is open to the spreadsheet I described in my last post and contains my working draft of WHTTWOT. Barely visible at left is a Mustek scanner that can handle pages up to about 12 x 17 inches, thus saving me hours I once spent stitching several small scans into fewer big ones. I rarely recommend or endorse anything, but I don't mind mentioning the Mustek because it's the only affordable large-format scanner I ever found and has performed flawlessly for me. I've got a respectably large flat-screen monitor (thanks Karen!) and a smallish Wacom tablet. The keyboard is on a sliding tray I built into this simple student desk we've had for 25 years (since we were, well, students). The springy Santa hat behind the monitor sits on the end of my little Newtonian telescope.

It occurs to me that this looks like a lot of stuff. However, it's also been accumulating a long time. Very occasionally, someone asks me about the materials needed to be a cartoonist and it really is this simple: paper and something that leaves a mark on it. Or, these days, a computer and whatever tools and programs allow you to draw pictures with it (I've seen webcomics done using a mouse and Microsoft Paint).

It truly is one of the most economical and egalitarian fields a person could go into. It doesn't matter what you look like, how old or young you are, how much education you have, or where you live. I could set you up with everything you need to be a professional cartoonist for less than $30. After that, all that matters is your skill, your effort, and the quality of your ideas.



Mark Heath said...

My $30 is in the mail.

Mike Lynch said...

Thanks for showing all of you mess in all of its wonder and glory.

Your last paragraph is very true. All that matters is the ability to do good work and get it out there. But you have to do a lot of good work before someone "out there" notices!

Brian Fies said...

Mark: Sorry, no ringers.

Mike: I never said it was easy!