Saturday, November 16, 2013
Jason Nocera, Artist
From Connecticut, USA, welcome illustrator/cartoonist, the proprietor of
Niche Cartoons, Jason Nocera!
JASON: Hello, Gina! Thank you for inviting me to take part in your wonderful blog!
GINA: It's great to have a chance to interview a full-time, professional cartoonist! When did you first start drawing?
JASON: I got interested in drawing at a very early age. When I was young, my dad would run errands and we would end the afternoon at my grandparent's house for lunch. My grandfather delivered magazines at the time and amongst the magazines were comic books! I fell in love with the mix of words and pictures. I began drawing my own and would often try to entertain my older brother with my own creations.
GINA: What was your first comic strip?
JASON: I drew my first comic strip when I was 14 years old and it was published in our weekly, hometown newspaper. It gave me my first taste of trying to meet a deadline and it widened my audience. It was a strange feeling having people besides my parents and brother commenting on my work! It made me strive to be better and was a wonderful experience.
GINA: Is that when you knew you wanted to be a cartoonist?
JASON: Yes! I loved the aspect of mixing creative writing and artwork! Comic strips are not just about drawing. In fact, the writing is more important. When you are doing a comic strip, it's more about entertaining your audience and making people laugh. However, my father was very concerned about me finding a job after college. I ended up attending the School of Art and Design in Alfred, New York. I majored in Graphic Design but still pursued cartooning on the side. After I graduated from college, I worked in the corporate graphic design field for 11 years. However, I always moonlighted as a cartoonist. I ended up developing a comic strip based on two struggling musicians which I began trying to sell to various publications. When it started selling, I realized that I was getting to a point where I can earn a living doing it!
GINA: How did you create those characters?
JASON: The comic strip is called Buddy and Hopkins. I was playing bass guitar at the time and often jammed with other musicians. Through these encounters of, let's say "unique," musicians, I developed the characters. It started in 2003 and is still being published today in various entertainment magazines. This past year, the characters were also used by the prestigious Blues Foundation to promote their annual, international Blues competition held in Memphis. It was quite an honor! You can read it and celebrate my 10th anniversary on facebook at http://www.facebook.com/BuddyandHopkins.
GINA: Does the script come first or the character?
JASON: With Buddy and Hopkins, I know the characters well enough that I can place them into a situation and I know how Buddy will react and I know how Hopkins will react. With two opposing viewpoints in the characters, it leads to the humor of the strip. I also do other "niche" comic strips for trade publications. For instance, I've done comic strips for the automotive industry, fitness cartoons, gardening, mobile DJs, and the list goes on. With these types of niche strips, I read and absorb info about the day-to-day problems and work out the scripts to add humor so that people can relate. The internet is wonderful for that as I can find articles or lurk in forums and read and generate ideas.
GINA: Describe your studio and a day in your life.
JASON: I have one room in our house dedicated to my studio. It's a bit cluttered but it consists of my computer and a drafting table. Original comic art hangs on the wall for inspiration. I also have bookshelves filled with graphic novels and comic strip collections. My day starts at 7:30 and ends at 3:30 when I go to pick up my daughter from school. My work day resumes around 10:00 PM and I usually try to finish by midnight, unless I have a looming deadline. I do fit in a few hours on Saturdays and Sundays. I like to do my writing and initials pencil sketches for the comic strips in the morning hours. I feel more creative in the morning. In the afternoon, I will tend to do the inking and coloring of comics which doesn't require as much creative thinking. If I'm stuck on writing a joke, I found that I will reread some ideas at night and sleep on it. The answer always appears in the morning. Your mind doesn't stop working when you sleep!
GINA: When you are drawing, do you listen to music?
JASON: When I draw a cartoon, I prefer a quiet studio. I am constantly editing and rewriting in my head to make the punchline or comic page flow. It's hard to do that with distractions. However, when I am at the inking and coloring stage, I enjoy listening to blues and blues rock. I am one of those who prefer the Rolling Stones over the Beatles!
GINA: What type of illustration do you provide?
JASON: As a professional cartoonist, I need to offer a wide variety of services. I create custom cartoon logos and mascots for businesses. I have created cartoon mascots for every business from powerwashing and painting to pet nannies. I also do niche comic strips for trade publications. Besides that, I have designed book covers and interior drawings. Mostly, though, I create custom work as gifts. I offer comic strips and comic pages for people who want to capture moments, years or funny events in their loved ones lives. They are great for birthdays, anniversaries and retirement gifts. I have also done a few comic pages that have become "proposals." People provide a few digital images and a few details of their life and I create a comic page. I have even done books detailing lives of people celebrating their 25th anniversary. It's a good way to capture someone you love. I have done "Super Dad" pages for Father's Day and "Super Moms" for Mother's Day. Right now, I'm busy working on holiday gifts. You can see some ideas at my main website at http://www.nichecartoons.com. For more current work, you can "like" me on facebook at http://www.facebook.com/NicheCartoons.
GINA: Your recent trip to Europe must've been a blast. What was the most memorable part of your visit?
JASON: My wife is from Poland, so we went to Europe to visit her family as well as to relax. It was the first time our daughter, who is six, went with us. Poland is a wonderful country. In this trip, we visited the ruins of many castles. We also took a side trip to the Czech Republic and visited Prague. I loved the food and the hospitality! It was great seeing family and friends we haven't seen in a long time.
GINA: You recently illustrated a children's book called 'Molly and the Tornado'. What is the premise?
JASON: One cartoon logo that I had done was for a product called Duck Salt. It's a spice that can go on meat and fish and I drew a cartoon duck and designed the label. The client is from Greensburg, Kansas which was struck by a devastating tornado back in 2007. The whole town was destroyed. The pictures are unbelievable. My client, Matt, has a Dalmatian named Molly and since that devastation he started to devote his time visiting other devastated areas or areas struck by tragedies and talking with the children. The children have been very receptive to Molly and she is known as a therapy dog. He wanted to create a book to honor her and something that could be used to comfort other children. Molly and the Tornado became this book and it has been well received. We're hoping to do a series of Molly books in the future. You can order the book at http://www.mollydogbooks.com. You can learn more about appearances at http://www.facebook.com/MollyDogBooks.
GINA: I heard that Molly might make an appearance on American Pickers?
JASON: Yes, on November 20th they are doing part of the show in Greensburg, Kansas. They did do some filming with Molly and the book. I'm crossing my fingers hoping it makes the cut. We'll see!
GINA: What are you currently illustrating/drawing?
JASON: Right now I am busy doing comic strips and comic pages as gifts. I'm actually working on one which will be a proposal with the question being asked at the end. Another one is a retirement gift. A third is for a husband who's a "hero" and swoops in and saves his wife's life. That's a Christmas gift. They are a lot of fun to do and people love seeing themselves as cartoon characters! Everyone has memories or a story to tell that would make a great comic page or comic strip! Oh, I'm also wrapping up some custom, cartoon holiday greeting card designs!
GINA: What do you think of Bitstrips?
JASON: I see it a lot on Facebook which shows that people love cartoons and comics. I think it's great that people have fun with it. I don't feel it's a threat or competition to what I do. Cartooning is a unique blend of writing and drawing which is a skill that can't be replicated by generic templates.
GINA: Do you have advice for beginning cartoonists?
JASON: Of course there's always the advice to keep drawing and to learn your craft. With cartooning, you must keep writing, as well, since that is an important aspect. Also, don't limit yourself to just one aspect of cartooning. If you are a great illustrator but can't make anyone laugh, consider illustrating children's books and spot illustrations for magazines. If you can make people laugh, but your drawings are lacking, consider gag magazine cartooning or trade publication cartooning. Or write greeting cards. Or perhaps your style might be suited for t-shirt design. By trying other aspects of cartooning and illustration, you will find your niche. You will know it when you find it because people will respond to it. Follow your strengths.
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