Image 1: My desk at school. I don’t actually work on comics here, but it has a great Jay Ryan poster, a poem I love by Pablo Neruda called “Die Slowly,” and some random pictures cut out from magazines.
Image 2: A corner of my apartment living room, featuring my cheap drawing table (which has since been thrown in the trash), my cheap bike (which has since incurred a flat tire), and my ever-growing pile of books and back issues of The New Yorker.
Image 3: My kitchen table (my current workspace-of-choice) and my toy poodle, Shelby. When my daughter was born, the drawing room became the baby room. So now my desk is any spare surface in the apartment!
Grant Snider’s interests have changed drastically since he was four years old, with one major exception: drawing. And maybe dinosaurs. Grant started out drawing a daily cartoon for the University of Kansas student newspaper, which led to a weekly strip called “Delayed Karma” for the Kansas City Star. His comics and illustrations now appear in newspapers, magazines, and across the internet. He is currently studying orthodontics at the University of Colorado-Denver and hoping that readers of Incidental Comics are easier to entertain than teenagers with braces.
FROM YOUR DESKS: How do you work?
GRANT SNIDER: I start by searching my sketchbook for an image or idea. Once I find something that strikes me, I try to write it into a page-long comic. From writing, I move to layout, thinking about panel size and composition while still revising the text. From a very rough sketch I proceed to increasingly cleaner and clearer sketches (using wonderful, horrible tracing paper for my re-drawings). Once I’m happy with my inking, I shade with marker, scan the drawing, and color in Photoshop. I try to finish at least one comic or illustration per week. I release the finished product online, or occasionally in a magazine or newspaper.
Continue to make new work consistently.
FYD: What is your favorite sentimental object at your workspace and why?
GS: I’m sentimental about new pens, clean paper, fresh coffee, and old sketchbooks full of unexplored ideas. With these things, I can work anywhere. Good lighting and a good chair are nice, too.
FYD: What is your favorite or most required work tool?
GS: I’m finicky about pens. If you’re not a cartoonist or illustrator, the rest of this might be irrelevant, so skip to the next question. Once I use a pen (usually Micron or Pitt) for a few drawings, it loses some of its flow and magic. I used refillable technical pens for a couple of years, but got tired of ink clogging and ink spills. I want to sign a promotional deal with a pen company so I can draw with a new pen for each new comic. If someone can arrange this, I’ll be forever grateful.
FYD: Do you stick to a certain work credo or mantra?
GS: “You are only as good as your next comic.” If cartooning was a high school sport, this would be on a t-shirt.
FYD: Is your Brainstorm comic based on true process? It always seems the middle of a project is the trickiest time though the kinks are always ironed out. True?
GS: Of course, minus the raining frogs. For every minute of joyous inspiration in creative work, there is an hour of frustration and despair. And my daughter just started crawling, so the panel in which creativity is interrupted by a child chasing a pet across the house is that much closer to my reality.
GS: Calvin and Hobbes was (and remains) the best comic strip my generation grew up reading. Humor, heartfelt characters, great visuals, deeper truths – Bill Watterson (pictured right) did it all. When I was not quite a teenager, my dad gave me some comic books with more grown-up themes: “Life in Hell” by Matt Groening and a few B. Kliban collections. This expanded my view of what comics could be. They could express dark, angry, racy or just plain weird. In college, I discovered Roz Chast, Tom Gauld, and graphic novelists like Chris Ware and Dan Clowes. I want to make comics that live up to the greatness of all of these cartoonists.
I’m sentimental about old sketchbooks full of unexplored ideas.
FYD: You have a great “Escape from the Digital World” – how do you manage to do this without crashing your PC?
GS: I have a hard time balancing digital life with real life, but I’ve worked to improve the balance. I rely on the computer for drawing reference, research, proofreading, and a constant stream of podcasts to listen to while drawing. I try to keep all my lines hand-drawn, and lately I’ve been trying to get away from the internet while writing. The siren-pull of Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Gmail, and blog stats is still detrimental to my creative process. I strive to practice what the “Escape from the Digital World” comic preaches. The internet is my primary place of publication, and it’s where my audience and comics live. So it’s still a great place.
FYD: How do you explain the difference between a cartoonist and an illustrator – is there a bit of both living in you?
GS: An illustrator makes pictures to interpret, illuminate, and add interest to the writing of others. Cartoonists draw to give life to their own writing, and write to give life to their drawings. The words and pictures of a skilled cartoonist are inextricably linked: one cannot create the same effect without the presence of the other. I consider myself primarily a cartoonist, because I don’t have the same excitement about my drawings unless they are combined with my own writing. It’s a thrill to get illustration work, but it’s much more of a challenge for me. For illustration jobs, I always submit a sketch with a words-and-pictures approach, secretly hoping the art director chooses it.
An illustrator makes pictures to interpret, illuminate, and add interest to the writing of others.
FYD: You attended Dental School – are there any similarities you draw between your dual professions?
GS: Both dentistry and cartooning are highly visual, detail-oriented, and require advanced spatial reasoning. They also seem to attract slightly skewed personalities. Cartooning is reclusive, while dentistry is socially demanding. For my personality they complement each other. But my work as an orthodontist doesn’t really inform my work as a cartoonist, and vice versa. I deliberately keep them separate.
FYD: How do you improve your work in life – is there a method to the madness or a lesson? Perhaps wisdom plays a role.
GS: Continue to make new work consistently. It will change as you change. Hopefully it will grow to reflect a unique perspective and voice. As far as improvement, it will happen naturally in the process of making new work.
FYD: What is your fall motto?
GS: “You are only as good as your next comic (painting).”