Do you remember what it was like to read a newspaper? Think back to the days when you held a hard copy in your hands. You’d dig into it, and if you were anything like me, you'd reach for the comics first. If they were good, you’d show whomever was nearby, excited to see their reaction.
One such clever comic that consistently makes people think and laugh is Rubes, created by the brilliant Leigh Rubin. Rubes doesn’t produce courtesy laughs, but the lingering kind where your mouth stays open momentarily to take in the awesomeness of it all.
Rubin was kind enough to answer some questions on how he got into being a cartoonist, and avoiding crazy stalkers (for the record, I am not. Just clearing that up).
Tell us a little bit about yourself, where you’re from, and how you got into being a cartoonist.
I am the first and last of a short line of cartoonists. That is to say I am the only one in my family even remotely interested in pursuing this line of work. My parents always told me not to tip my chair at the table, but did I listen? Nope. So what happened? I tilted my chair and back I fell. All I remember is a loud "thunk," a flash of light, a big lump on the back of my head, and the desire, from that point on, to become a cartoonist.
What’s your favorite part of being a cartoonist, and what’s the most challenging part?
There is nothing as gratifying as meeting a deadline. Say what you will about the creative process. "It's so fulfilling...It's deeply satisfying...blah, blah, blah." The truth is, there is nothing more satisfying than meeting or beating yet another deadline. That is definitely the most satisfying part...and the most challenging.
What percentage of time do you dedicate to creating artistic content and dealing with the business side? Do you do it all yourself, or do you outsource anything to help you to run your business?
I would say 100% percent of the time is dedicated to the creative process and the other 100% percent is dedicated to the business aspects. The other 37% of my time is spent studying math.
If by outsourcing you mean "Do I pay pitifully small sums of money, pennies per hour, to people in developing countries to create my cartoons?” Well, that is pure nonsense. How dare you accuse me of such exploitative behavior! (Note to self: first thing in the morning do a Google search of third world cartoonists looking for work.)
There are always bizarre and hilarious scenarios happening in your cartoons. Have any of your drawings been inspired by real events?
Bizarre and hilarious scenarios are a regular part of all of our lives and most of us just take them for granted. I once did a survey by asking friends and acquaintances what they considered "normal." Not one of the people I asked had the same answer, and in fact, most of them couldn't nail down exactly what "normal" meant. Let's face it – we live on a planet with some really weird looking creatures that behave in very strange and often unpredictable ways...and those are just the people.
One of my favorite "cartoon inspired by real life scenarios" happened a few weeks before Christmas in 2007. I was walking my dog when it started raining walnuts, or walnut, as the case turned out to be. I looked up and saw a crow dropping a walnut and using the asphalt street as a nutcracker. "Smart bird!" I said to myself. (Talking to oneself is one of the mandatory requirements to being a cartoonist.) So here you have a crow cracking nuts on the street just a few weeks before Christmas. Combine the crow, the nutcracker, and the time of year together and there you go – cartoon magic without the pencil.
I know you have a deadline every day to get a cartoon out. What’s your process for creating your work?
I thought you'd never ask. I know that everyone thinks that I have a magic pencil and all I have to do is shake it hard enough and a cartoon will fall out. Let me assure you that this is not the case. If I were to describe the actual creative process your eyelids would become droopy and you would undoubtedly doze off before I finished the senten...HEY, YOU, WAKE UP! I AM TALKING TO YOU! See, I told you.
Sometimes an idea will just strike so fast that I think to myself, "Man, this is the easiest most funnest job in the whole world!" But then there are those days when no matter how hard I shake and shake and shake that #@$&% (pardon my cartoon French) magic pencil, an idea just won't fall out. That's when I think to myself, "Man, this is the hardest, mostest horrible-ist job in whole world!"
What are some things you do to help you if you’re struggling to come up with ideas or create new content? Are there any specific resources/tools/things you do that you find useful for inspiration?
Let's just say I break a lot of magic pencils, and those things are not cheap! I also buy erasers in bulk as I tend to erase more than I draw. Oh, I also read anything I can get me hands on: newspapers (see above for description), magazines, trade publications, cereal boxes – you name it, and I'll read it. Oh, I take frequent naps so my brain doesn't overheat. You know what they say, "If napping was a meal, it would be the most important meal of the day."
What’s something surprising about you that people don’t know?
This space left intentionally blank. (I'd like to remain a man of mystery!)
What are some things you like to do outside of cartooning?
Did I mention that I take frequent naps?
Do you have any funny/crazy stories that you’ve experienced with meeting your fans?
I met a couple of lovely young women at the California State fair. One of them, an actress, asked me if she could interview me for her blog. After making sure she was not some kind of crazy, nutso stalker, I agreed.
What’s a typical day look like for you? Do you have any routines you always like to follow every day?
Wake up, fall out of bed and drag a comb across my head. Gosh, how come it sounds so cool when Paul McCartney says it but when I say it it sounds like plagiarism?
Typically my glamorous day begins when I come nose to nose with our dog demanding her morning constitutional. How any living thing can have that much energy in the morning without coffee is beyond me. So after the walk, there's the usual breakfast, coffee, and the morning newspaper. For the younger readers out there, a newspaper is a small folded bundle of paper (aka "hard copy"), or "newsprint" made from trees in which ink is applied in story and picture form. It is typically delivered via a newspaper delivery person and is generally retrieved from beneath your automobile, in your bushes or in the puddle left by the runoff from the sprinklers in your front yard.
Then it's time to answer email, make any necessary phone calls, etc. I am guessing your next question will address the creative process so I will wait to answer that until after you ask the question.
You travel a lot for speaking engagements. What’s your favorite place to travel to, and is there any place you haven’t been that you’d like to go?
Any excuse to travel is good enough for me. Some people mind flying, but not me. Flying affords me more time for napping. While I don't have one favorite place to go I did really enjoy the speaking engagement in Hawaii. Hey, anyone on the islands need a speaker? Just put me on the next plane, and I'll be there!
If you could work on your dream project, with no regard to budget, what would it be about, who would you work with, and where would it be?
I am actually working on this right now except for the part about "with no regard to budget." But I don't want to spoil the surprise. So if anyone out there would like to contact me that is willing to pony up a bit of dough you know where to find me...no really, seriously!
Can you take us back to one of your worst “down” times, and how you overcame it and what you took from it?
You mean like the time I slipped a disc while mountain biking near Mt. Hood Oregon and was in agonizing, excruciating pain and they gave me morphine, but I couldn't take it because in addition to making me feel all warm and fuzzy it seriously impeded my creativity? I had to prop myself at my drawing table, and in between the tears streaming down my face, I created some pretty funny stuff if I do say so myself.
You know, being a cartoonist isn't all rainbow pooping unicorns. If you aren't tough don't even try to get into this business. Cartooning is no place for wimps.
Oh, and don't do drugs either. That will seriously upset me and believe you me, you do not want to see this cartoonist upset.
How can others find more about you, or reach out to you?
I've heard there's this new thing called social media. Apparently it's gaining some traction.
Rubes Cartoons on Facebook
Rubes Cartoons on Twitter
and of course there's always the
Rubes Cartoons website.
And last but not least, there's last century's technology, email: email@example.com.
What is the best advice you’ve heard and how do you apply it to your life?
Never take rejection personally, unless you are on a date. Sometimes "No!" really does mean "No!"
What are some tips you would give to those who aspire to do what you’re doing?
Did I mention to never take rejection personally? Well, that can't be overstated. Also, be really, really, really persistent. That, too, cannot be overstated. Be creative in your approach to the business side of things, not just the creative side of things. The world is lousy with fantastic artists but you absolutely must be willing to assume responsibility for the business side of things, or there is a very good chance you will be taken for a ride.
Thanks so much to Rubin for being so awesome and doing this interview!
Check out his cartoons here, and let us know if you have a favorite RUBES cartoon!