When you started out, how well were you accepted by the old guard of cartoonists or by the newspaper community? Was there much jealousy or support as you began to succeed?
When I first joined the National Cartoonists Society (NCS), I felt a warm and enthusiastic reception from other cartoonists, men and women, especially those who were the same age! The older cartoonists were welcoming but reserved, and I now know it’s because they didn’t read all the new stuff out there and were embarrassed to admit they didn’t know who I was or what I did. I’m an old cartoonist now and this is what’s happening to me! The only time I felt the cloud of sexism and discrimination was when I became president of the NCS and most of the board members were the old guard. They just weren’t used to a woman at the helm! One of these guys would draw naked pictures of me as I was trying to run a meeting. I eventually drew a suitably graphic one of him…wrinkles, warts, and all…which ended the problem. Today, I would say there is real equality. If you have the gift, you have the key. The friendships I have in the comic art world are life-long!
What was your process for story ideas?
The writing process is different for everyone. I tended to be a “fly on the wall” floating about the characters and watching them interact. I would think about who had been highlighted and who had not. I thought about integrating serious stories with easy, funny vignettes. It was a kind of juggling act: trying to make sure the strip was entertaining, realistic and funny without falling into a routine. Sometimes I was the character. Sometimes I was the reader. As a character, I had to try to think and act the way they would, and this is especially true when drawing a character. I have to feel their emotions before I can draw them. As Farley the dog, I would have to think like Farley and act like Farley, otherwise the cartoon image of Farley would have no life. Cartooning requires acting skills as well as drawing skills. Many professional cartoonists are really good stand-up comics! The skill set is very similar.
[Read The Making of FBorFW here for more!]
What was a typical work day or week like, doing the strip while raising a family and living in a small town?
Writing and drawing a daily syndicated strip is a lot of work. This is especially true if you have a family and manage a household. I worked from 9 until noon when the kids were small, then – after they went to bed, I worked until 11. I worked weekends and holidays. I worked on planes, cars, in hotel rooms, and when I went to see my folks or for a vacation somewhere, I took a miniature, folding drafting table and set up a makeshift studio.
At the same time, I was working on books, calendars, greeting cards and small illustrations of all kinds. I went on book tours. I did interviews and speaking engagements while keeping ahead of the 6- and 8-week deadlines. Somewhere in there, I worked on a series of animated shows. I also got my pilot’s license. I can’t believe, now, how I did all that and still found time to be with my kids, my friends and my extended family. I used to think that sleep was a nuisance. If I didn’t have to sleep, I could get so much more done! Retirement has been almost a shock! But it’s wonderful.
How much “say” did your editor have over what you produced? Was there anything you really wanted to do, but had second thought about because you were worried about how it might be received by readers or your clients, the newspapers? Did you ever have to create extra strips for newspapers that didn’t want to run the main storyline if it was dealing with something controversial?
The only time we did something controversial (the Lawrence story), we put together a three-week package of material for those publications not wanting to print it. We provided something that could be run in its stead. This package was created by taking older strips, which were not part of a sequence, putting them into “weeks,” and re-dating them. Unfortunately, even with a letter indicating that a serious story was coming, some features editors did not look at the package and ran the Lawrence story sight unseen. There was quite a backlash, but we had done what we could do. In the end, it was the story we are all most proud of.
Watch Lynn talk about Lawrence’s story:
Did ideas flow naturally or did you have an idea you would REALLY have to work on before it was something you thought you could use?
Most ideas flowed pretty smoothly. The awkward times were mostly at the beginning when I was learning how to write. Tight deadlines were a killer. If I sent off a story I didn’t know how to end, it was too late to change anything—I had to work with what I’d sent in. I learned quickly and on the job, which shows if you’re looking for the rough patches!
What kinds of pens and paper did you use?
For drawing, I use a mechanical pencil with an HB lead. I erase with a kneaded eraser. I have always used a C-6 Speedball nib in one of those old-fashioned holders. I have used various inks as manufacturers changed their formulas (and ruined a perfectly good product). Now, I look for a very opaque, fast drying black ink. Some of the Chinese inks made for “wash drawings” are good. I try all kinds.
I use “Cartoon Color” paint for white-out. It dries flat and fast, and is perfect for filling in areas you have to draw over. A nib won’t catch on the surface. I use Strathmore Bond paper, #2 weight. I also use a good vellum when I want to trace an original—instead of drawing, inking and erasing. Albanene is a good brand, as is Clearprint. Everyone has their own preferred tools and methods, and these are mine. Hope that’s helpful!