Jason is the author of Perk At Work – a humorous cartoon series that pokes gentle fun at the quirky characters inhabiting a coffee shop. Join me while I get the inside scoop on cartooning, and Jason's advice for the aspiring cartoonist.
Cathy: Do you consider yourself a cartoonist? Artist? Writer?
Jason: I consider myself a humorist. That title extends to writings, cartoonist/comics, music, and speaking. Mark Twain was a humorist and I intend to ride his white coat tails.
Cathy: Cartoons range from the sophisticated New Yorker magazine, to biting political humor, from the newspaper comic strip, to the Archie comics I read as a kid. Your books are related by characters and theme, but a person can read a single strip as a stand-alone. Is this different from graphic novels?
Jason: Yes. Graphic novels are “long form”. This means that they cover an arc or several arcs to tell a larger story. My particular form of comics is called “gag-a-day”. This means that a reader can read each comic and get the gag without having to know the context of a larger story. It’s odd how this all sounds “textbook-ish” for an interview on goofy drawings, eh?
Cathy: Can you explain the difference between a comic strip, a comic book, and a graphic novel?
Jason: Here we go with my nerdy definitions again. Comics are “sequential art” which means (as it sounds) that the art is in sequence to form a bigger piece of art. Magazines usually print single-panel gags. Newspapers have gags that are one to four, maybe five panels. A comic book will have one continuous sequence of panels over 24 - 36 pages (with advertising). A graphic novel is like any other novel except it has graphics (i.e., drawings) integrated to tell the story, and no advertising.
Cathy: When did you start drawing cartoons?
Jason: Like all kids, I drew before I wrote. Yet I always liked having a humorous tone to the drawings. Maybe those could have been cartoons, not sure.
Cathy: What inspired you to create stories?
Jason: Stories are the best way to communicate. I love communicating and it is natural to want to breath life into a world from the third person point of view. Some call it “playing God”. I won’t argue with that. I believe that everything created wants to emulate that which created it. I am unapologetically Christian (though not as mainstream as most folks). Creation is within our make up.
Cathy: Do you have formal training in fine art? Graphic arts? Writing?
Jason: With drawing, I’m mostly self-taught though I don’t quite agree with that term. I learned how to draw in a humorous style from copying MAD Magazine artists as a kid. Though those artists were not a teacher standing in front of me in a class, I still learned from them. As for writing, I never did well with that in school. Teachers always wanted a specific format. I thought the story should dictate the narrative and the structure. That didn’t go over too well.
Cathy: What is more important to your books – the story or the drawing?
Jason: Story is always more important in every book. All my comics start off with writing and end up as a comic strip. In short, I love writing humor pieces. Even picture books have to have a story or they are just random drawings. Writing trumps all.
Cathy: Do you base your characters on people you have encountered in your life? Has anyone ever accused you of using him/her in your cartoons?
Jason: This is the second-most popular question I get asked. (First is “Where do you get your ideas?”) I do not use specific people as characters in my comic. That would be limiting as I would not know that person inside and out as I do my characters. I used one person in one comic strip that was a real person and I let her know I did such. But that was not a core character, just one character in one strip, an "extra".
Cathy: What advice do you have for a young person aspiring to become a cartoonist?
Jason: Three things:
○ Experience life then draw it. Too often people want to draw life without going outside the door and taking chances. Risk yields fantastic creativity. Our minds open up when we get out into the world and begin doing things that scare us.
○ Become accustomed to being uncomfortable. This craft takes hundreds, if not thousands of hours to master -- I’m still in the process.
○ Learn to take criticism. Not everything you do is golden. Learn what people like about your work and play to those strengths.
Cathy: Please tell us how to find you on the web, and where to find your books. My website is http://perkatworkcomic.com. I’m also on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/perkatwork. My books are for sale on my website.
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