Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Meet a Visiting Cartoonist: Spain's Tomás Serrano

by Mike Rhode

Tomás Serrano visited Washington recently just as the city was shutting down from the coronavirus. We were still able to meet and chat about his work with local cartoonists Matt Wuerker and Mike Jenkins, although this interview was done by email later. Tomás is temporarily living in America and cartooning via long distance.

What type of comic work or cartooning do you do?

Several types. At 25, I got my paid to start doing caricatures for a local newspaper in Salamanca, Spain. Years later I got into political and gag cartoons, and one of them won me the Mingote Award in 1995. Six years later, my first children´s book was published. In 2013, I made an animated musical video. In 2014, I began to work for the Spanish newspaper ABC drawing caricatures and editorial illustrations. Since 2015, I´ve been the political cartoonist of the online newspaper El Español and also sometimes I illustrate the editorials of the newspaper. In recent years, I did caricatures for the Magazine of the University of Chicago.

How do you do it? Traditional pen and ink, computer or a combination?

In the beginning, I used traditional tools like color pencils, gouache or watercolors. At this moment, I do sketches with a red pencil and mark the lines with a 5B pencil then scanning and adding color with a Tablet and Photoshop. It´s the fast way because, usually, I have only a couple of hours to send the cartoon.

When (within a decade is fine) and where were you born?

I was born in León, Spain, in 1960.

Where are you living now? Why?

Since July 2019, I moved to Lexington, Kentucky because Heminia, my wife, is working as a middle school teacher. For me, living in the US is a great experience. I love it. The American culture was always present in my life since I was a child: old TV series, movies, illustrated books, music…

Is it hard being an editorial cartoonist from a different continent and with 5 time zones changes?

Not at all. It´s so easy now. The only difference is the time: There, I drew after lunch; here, before. I´m following the current Spanish trends through the radio, podcasts, streaming live TV and the online newspapers.

What is your training and/or education in cartooning?  Why did you leave architecture?

My training is in architecture. This helped so much in staging my ideas and composing the images. I use to draw realistic architectural backgrounds because it emphasized the nonsense of the conduct of politicians. The strong crisis for architects in Spain from 2008 helped me to recover my passion for cartooning.

Who are your influences?

When I was young, my principal influence was Francisco Ibañez´s comics, Mortadelo y Filemón author. Visually, Disney´s artists were my favorites so far. Uderzo, Jean Giraud… Back then I didn´t like the UPA artists that I love now. Over time, I realized the influence of the freshness of my brother Carlos “badly done” drawings. Regarding humor, the movies of Charles Chaplin, the Marx Brothers, Bob Hope, Billy Wilder and Woody Allen. My favorite cartoonists are Jean Jacques Sempé, Ronald Searle, Charles Addams and the caricaturist Al Hirschfeld.

If you could, what in your career would you do-over or change?

I think I´ve been very lucky in my cartoonist career. In Spain, I was awarded with the best prize you can get. I feel recognized by my the heads of my newspaper… I wouldn´t change anything.

What work are you best-known for?

Maybe for my current cartoons in El Español, the number one in the top ranking of the Spanish native online newspapers.

What work are you most proud of?

For my first published children´s book Salfón el limpiador de tejados, by the unforgettable moment when I told and drew it to my son Guillermo, improvising the characters and the story.  I would be happy if it was published in the States.

I´m so proud too of my Mingote Award and my first illustration in the US for the Magazine of the University of Chicago.

What would you like to do  or work on in the future?

I would like to design characters for the movies, or have orders for advertising campaigns, or covers of books… And yes, I would like to work for US publishers.

What do you do when you're in a rut or have writer's block?

I take it easy. It happens sometimes, but experience makes last minute ideas to come…  That´s what I always say to my daughter Paula. For drawing and for everything.

What do you think will be the future of your field?

These are bad times for the press, and there are a lot of people doing funny things for free on the net. Many online newspapers have no cartoonist. Maybe the brilliant ones will survive because an image has still a high value.
Mike Jenkins and Seranno share a caricature moment

What's your favorite thing about DC?

You know I was in DC only for a weekend. As a big fan of the movies, I liked to be in the places I´ve seen there: the White House, the Capitol, the Memorials… and The Exorcist steps! In addition, I would recommend the Blues Alley Club and the Off the Record Bar.

Least favorite?

There are outstanding buildings in DC (e.g. the Old Post Office), but some mixes of styles in the streets didn´t convince me. Anyway I´ll remember the beautiful houses in Capitol Hill and Georgetown.

What monument or museum do you enjoy? What did you hope to see, but missed due to the coronavirus shutdowns?

I loved the Lincoln Memorial and the National Portrait Gallery. I enjoyed the fantastic exhibition of John Singer Sargent portraits in charcoal. I missed, among others, the National Gallery of Art. I hope to come back.

How about a favorite local restaurant when you visited?

I enjoyed the Indian food of Rasika and The Smith's burger.

Do you have a website or blog?

I recently renewed my website:

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