Tuesday, June 24, 2008

New Yorker Great Bruce McCall in Great Werner Herzog Movie

From the movie Encounters at the End of the World

Because I've been going through serious snowman-making withdrawal, I went to see Werner Herzog's brilliant and surprisingly hilarious snow movie, Encounters at the End of the World. To my surprise, the movie included a bizarre funny painting of a chimp riding a goat into the sunset by my favorite illustrator of all time, New Yorker artist Bruce McCall. The movie is being holdover in Manhattan and details can be found here.

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Saturday, June 21, 2008

Meet Evan Forsch, Cartoonist and Freelancing Extraordinaire

2008 © Evan Forsch

I meet Evan through the usual Tuesday lunches of the New Yorker cartoonists. An upcoming star who just sold his first cartoons to the New Yorker, he's smack in the middle of his ascent and struggle to make cartooning his livelihood. When I or anyone else interviews someone it's because, bluntly, they have name recognition and others want to learn how they succeeded. But hearing the same old "follow your dream" routine is easier said from the top of the mountain. Far more interesting is hearing the stories from the trenches from someone who has no idea of the future. Evan also just came out with a modest self-published collection of his cartoons in a book called Don't Brag About your Nuts which can be purchased through his website.

Freelancer's Lament: Evan, where are you from and when did you get started in art?
Evan Forsch: I was born in NYC, then kidnapped by a tribe of Suburbanites who raised me as one of their own in New Jersey. I was a sickly child so they encouraged me to paint and draw -anything to keep me away from the more robust children they'd kidnapped.

FL: How long have you been cartooning? How long have you been trying to get into the New Yorker?
EF: I've been cartooning on and off since high school which was more than twenty years ago. I've been submitting toons to The New Yorker for almost five years

FL: What is the biggest misconception about trying to be a New Yorker cartoonist?
EF: The misconception is that becoming a New Yorker cartoonist is a struggle. It's really very easy. All you have to do is learn the secret handshake.

FL: Freelancing is so difficult and as educated freelancers know, the publishing field in all it's aspects is only getting tougher. What deadlines and ultimatums have you (or maybe your wife) given yourself to "making it"? Getting in once a month? Are there any?
EF: What are you trying to say about my wife? But enough about her. I'm actually very, very fortunate that my wife, Lauren, encourages me to do the work I love. She's pretty creative herself and unlike me, is fantastic at being a business type person. We have no concrete goals, like I must be in The New Yorker once a month (that's right. I'm talkin' to you Tammy).  It's all about building the creative brand that is "Evan4sh." Every year the income goes up a bit, more and more people visit the website and buy stuff or hire me in some creative capacity–cartooning, caricaturizing, illustrationing...

FL: Could you please describe how difficult it is to make a living in cartooning?
EF: Have you ever read one of those books where magic is disappearing from the world and there's only a handful of folks left who can save it? Me neither, but from my experience being a cartoonist is a little like that. We're a dying breed. Wait, what was the question?

FL: Were you aware of how difficult it was going to be going in?
EF: I never thought it would be easy but I must confess, I daydream about lucrative book deals and wealthy art patrons. Cartooning, drawing, etc. is all I can do. I really don't have a choice. Even if it comes down to (going back to) working in a bookstore or becoming a civil servant of some sort to pay the rent, I need to draw. I can only hope the fact that it's not easy will deter those who don't love it as much as I do and provide more work for me!

FL: Everyone loves to ask cartoonists where do you get your ideas...I'll spare you...but please share what is a typical day. What proportion of your work week is being creative to marketing? Do you have help with either aspect from anyone?
EF: I love to talk about the creative process but I'll spare you! I can't imagine doing any other job. I'm amazed at what other professionals do. I was talking to an accountant the other day and said, "Wow! You put all those stats into a spreadsheet? I would never think of making a spreadsheet."

I don't really have a typical week because the jobs and deadlines I have can vary greatly. I have two kinds of work - stuff I get paid for and stuff I hope I'll get paid for. It's the paying work that dictates my schedule. I do the cartoons and illustrations that help pay the rent and the bar tab then, whatever time is left over goes to the cartoons and illustrations I submit to folks like the New Yorker who may or may not pay. Usually not. All of that creative stuff takes up most of my time but there has to be some marketing if you don't want the work to stop coming in. Fortunately I married a very foxy lady who happens to be good at promoting her husband. I could probably give you a 'How many hours a week - creative work/marketing ratio' if I knew how to make a spread sheet.

FL: My biggest distraction is the refrigerator. How disciplined are you and what is the worst part of being your own boss?
EF: Man, you must have one sexy refrigerator. What I lack in discipline I make up for in panicky, last minute creative bursts that get the jobs done! The worst part of being my own boss is having no one to blame if I don't get a raise.

FL: Do you regret taking this path of vocation?
EF: No. Honestly, I regret not taking it sooner than I did.

FL: Who's your favorite cartoonist?
EF: I'd love to spend a day or two making a list, complete with links to share with you but Lauren wouldn't let me spend that much time on a non-paying gig. Instead, I'll tell you my earliest influences were the Peanuts strip and old Warner Bros. cartoons.

FL: What was the best advice anyone has ever given you?
EF: My freshman drawing professor at Pratt (Institute) used to say, "Who told you to draw what you see" This blew my mind. The idea that when you're drawing you're designing the page. You're creating stuff that may or may not be what's in front of you. Sketching a bowl of fruit or a naked lady holding a bowl of fruit, you try really hard to capture shapes and shadows, colors, textures. That's all important stuff but it's all about designing the page.

FL: OK, time for your plug. I actually have an ongoing war against the squirrels attacking my bird feeders. Your new cartoon book, "Don't Brag About your Nuts" is all squirrel cartoons. Please give us the back-story and tell us at what point did you regret doing an all squirrel cartoon book?
EF: Aw, Bob, you shouldn't fight with the squirrels. Squirrels are our friends and they're really quite delicious. The back story on "Don't Brag About Your Nuts!" is deeply personal but I'll tell you. When I decided to do a cartoon book, I went through all my cartoons to pick the best ones. A theme emerged among many of my best cartoons but I knew that Sam Gross already did a book of Swastika cartoons so, I went with the next thing that a lot of my cartoons had in common and that was animals. I think eight of the toons are squirrels and the rest an assortment of other animals.

FL: Finally, what is your take on cartooning's future?
EF: 99% of my cartoons are made to appear in print. Print is not dead but it is terminal. I love books and all kinds of ephemera but reading stuff on paper will soon be a thing of the past. Seriously. I give books and magazines fifteen years, twenty tops, before they're all replaced by digital media. This is bad news for the kind of cartoons I create. I think, at least within my lifetime, interest in non-animated cartoons won't completely vanish but as print disappears so will the single panel gags. In fact, cartoons have been disappearing from newspapers and magazines for years. Cartoons seem to be the canary in the print coal mine.

FL: Thanks, Evan, for your time.

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Thursday, June 12, 2008

Bidding Has Ended

For those following the Steampunk monitor on ebay the final winning bid was $2,850.

Apologies to those visiting Freelancer's Lament and expecting some action. I've been dodging distractions leaving behind emails, blogs and cellphones and hiding out in the lemon tree garden in the far end of the Cloisters in Manhattan to write my next book.

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Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Your Chance Has Arrived!

This beautiful Steampunk LCD is available now on ebay (bidding is at $1,500 at presstime). Built by the aforementioned Richard Nagy.

Here's a link showing you how to build your own Steampunk monitor.

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