Thursday, April 26, 2012
Meet a Local Cartoonist: Gregory Uchrin
A rarer breed than many other cartoonist types, Gregory Uchrin is a webcomic political cartoonist who answered my questions at last fall’s Intervention con.
Mike Rhode: What type of comic work or cartooning do you do?
Gregory Uchrin: I’ve been doing a political cartoon on the web since 2003. The original title was “Hail Dubyus!” -in response to the imperial aspirations of our then administration, but since 2008, I’ve published under a more neutral title “Intravenous Caffeine” , since I realized I would have much more scope for parody with the new administration. I also wanted to expand into less political areas with other works.
How do you do it? Traditional pen and ink, computer or a combination?
I sketch, pencil and ink traditionally. Depending on the complexity of the cartoon, I may scan in the sketch or pencil work and print it out in non-photo blue for inking, but usually I will ink directly on the pencils. After scanning my inks, I color them on the computer.
When (within a decade is fine) and where were you born?
1951—I was 60 in October. I’m an old fart :D I was born in New Jersey.
Why are you in Washington now? What neighborhood or area do you live in?
I grew up in New Jersey, but came to DC for college and stayed on because I liked it here. I lived up by Catholic U in Brookland. I also did grad school at Catholic, but since marriage, I’ve lived just outside the city in Alexandria VA.
What is your training and/or education in cartooning?
I’m self-taught, but with all the art books and internet tutorials available, being self-taught is a highly individual thing. I grew up watching Jon Gnagy on live television and that was the start of my artistic education. Classwork can be very important though, because if you’re self-taught, you have to figure out everything for yourself, while a good teacher will help you to learn the techniques that will aid in the realization of what you’re trying to show.
Who are your influences?
So many to choose from! I really love the late 19th/early 20th century illustrators like the Brandywine School, Edwin Austin Abbey, and J. Allen St. John and the science fiction/fantasy illustrators of the 30s/40s like Virgil Finlay and Margaret Brundage. In serious comics, for sheer style, I go for the classics like Hal Foster and Alex Raymond, but for comic stuff, I go for the early MAD school, like Harvey Kurtzman, Wally Wood, Bill Elder and Jack Davis. New Yorker cartoons, especially Charles Addams. CREEPY and EERIE (and EC reprints) were another early love. In politics, I love Herblock and Doonesbury, but they really haven’t influenced my style. I’ve been getting more and more into manga but at this point, it’s too early to talk about any influences except in a general way. Except Masamune Shirow!
If you could, what in your career would you do-over or change?
LOL - I would have started a LOT earlier and taken some courses in anatomy and life drawing.
What work are you best-known for?
My political cartoon series are still my most recognizable works, but I’m starting to be known for my quirky humor pieces, like my Chibi Last Supper, a parody of the da Vinci picture.
What work are you most proud of?
My next one :D. I did some rather hard-hitting cartoons during the Bush administration that make me feel like I actually did something important. And I’ve got a BLEACH parody (called BLECCH!) that makes people laugh out loud. On a more artistic note, I recently did a pastel portrait of a cosplayer friend of mine that surprised me that I managed to do it so well. It’s on my deviantart site.
What would you like to do or work on in the future?
I’d like to do a narrative webcomic that’s character rather than news driven. With political cartoons, you spend 75% of your time reading and watching news, looking for something that gives you a comic image. I’ve got a series of “fantasy casting” pieces--what actors/actresses I’d cast in a live version of an anime or manga and I’m currently working on a “Ghost in the Shell” picture. And I’ve been sketching out a horror story I’d like to turn into a graphic novel.
What do you do when you're in a rut or have writer's block?
I experiment with sound restoration. 78s. PRE-VINYL! And I do research on the medieval period and Arthurian legends. Anything far from actually drawing anything. I’m not a games player though. I never seemed to develop that kind of hand-eye coordination with the early videogames. Which may be a good thing for me since it keeps me working.
What do you think will be the future of your field?
I’m not sure. After the insanity of last week’s Miss Republican Idol—ooops, I mean, CNN tribute to anyone running against Barry--oh, wait, was that supposed to be a debate?--I’m not sure politics hasn’t gotten so ridiculous that it’s impossible to satire. It’s probably a good time to expand beyond it.
What local cons do you attend ? The Small Press Expo, Intervention, or others? Any comments about attending them?
I attend all of the local cons, but I’ve only started participating in Artist’s Alleys in the past year. InterventionCon is only two years old and it’s becoming a very well run event. I also did AA at Katsucon and Anime MidAtlantic, but I missed out on applying to AnimeUSA because they announced the Alley practically the same day of the Japanese earthquake and my attention was elsewhere. But I like AUSA a lot and may actually cosplay there this year! T-mode is a nice small con, but I’ve only attended once. And of course, Otakon is mind-blowing. Both as an attendee and Alley participant.
What's your favorite thing about DC?
I like that it’s a big town that’s small enough to know. I can go anywhere and wind up running into a friend or colleague.
What monument or museum do like to take visitors to?
The Smithsonian, National Gallery, Freer Gallery, Hirschhorn.
How about a favorite local restaurant?
Since moving to Alexandria, I don’t get much into the city for dining, especially since there’s a number of great restaurants in my neighborhood that I love: Hana Tokyo, La Casa for pizza, and Tempo for more elegant but laidback dining.
Do you have a website or blog?
Politics: Intravenous Caffeine— http://ivcaffeine.com/ —my older Bush era cartoons are still on HAIL DUBYUS! http://haildubyus.com/ I display my non-political works at DeviantArt at http://gregoriusu.deviantart.com/gallery My books BUSHWHACKED and BLECCH! -are available at Ka-Blam http://ka-blam.com/ (search for the titles).