We’ve all got those dream jobs we fantasize about as we sit at our desks, counting the minutes until Friday. We here at The Park Bench went out and found someone who actually holds one of those dream jobs, and then begged her to sit with us and tell us what it’s like. That kind-hearted person is cartoonist Katie Cook. She’s an illustrating pro with an impressive portfolio of work reflecting the true girl nerd canon, including Wonder Woman, Spiderman, The Lord of the Rings and more. When you’re done reading this interview, which includes a recap of Katie’s encounter with nerd icon Joss Whedon, be sure to check out Katie’s website www.katiecandraw.com for a look at some of her fabulous work.
How did you get into illustrating?
This is a tough question to answer because I really don't think I "got into it." It kind of chose me! I've always been drawing, ever since I was a little kid. My parents tell me that since elementary school I've walked around saying, "I want to be a cartoonist!", not "I want to be an astronaut" or "I want to be a princess!", but a catoonist. My first grade teacher even threatened to hold me back to repeat the grade if I didn't stop drawing on the margins of my assignments! But, I did pursue art all through school and even in college. I have a BFA with a concentration in illustration... whatever that means.
What's your favorite thing about drawing?
For me, it's the act of drawing. There's something really calming and yet really thrilling about the feel of a pencil against paper. It's kind of a silly answer, but it's true. Seeing the end product is always really fun too. Sometimes something comes out of you that you really didn't know was in there and you get to say to yourself, "Wow! I did that!"
What's your least favorite?
I can answer this question in one word...deadlines.
What tools do you use?
My main tools of the trade are a .5 mechanical pencil, Micron Pigma pens (my favorite size is the 01), a giant bucket full of prismacolor art markers, and a shiny intel imac. I draw most of my work on bristol board. Most commissioned work I color in marker, but I do quite a bit of digital coloring as well. Also, it never hurts to have a cat. They provide no actual enhancement to the drawing (other than a few stray cat hairs), but they DO provide cute company and the occasional outburst of attacking the pencil while you're drawing. Hours of entertainment people!
Where do you find your inspiration?
Oh, a little bit here, a little bit there. Mostly, my love for all things nerd inspires me. I love drawing comic book characters and things from movies that I love. I love to sit down with a movie and just draw while I'm watching it. Sometimes some great stuff pops up just when you're doodling! A lot of my inspiration also comes from the people who follow my work. They offer a lot of fun suggestions or say something like, "Wow! I'd love to see you draw _____", and a little lightbulb goes off saying, "Man, I should draw that!"
If someone came up to you and said they wanted to learn how to draw, what would you tell them?
To just draw! That's the best answer I have...observing objects, nature, light, etc and just practicing how to translate them onto the page is very important. I may draw cartoons for a living now, but I got my start as a technical and medical illustrator! (very detailed, mechanical drawings). I am a HUGE proponent of the fact that you should be able to draw everything spot-on before you can start deconstructing them (cartooning).
I know you draw a lot of superheroes, so you're definitely qualified to answer this one: what's the best super power?
I've had this conversation more that you'll ever know. I'm personally a big fan of the "being super" super power. This is the term I use for having powers like Wonder Woman or Superman...just a collection of strength, agility, flying, etc., that all wrap up into a very neat lil' package.
Okay, you're a Star Wars fan, too, so here's a tough one: Luke or Han?
You've met nerd icon Joss Whedon -- was his magnificence overwhelming?
Actually, he was very nice and laid back. His assistant snapped a photo of us and Joss said, "You know, we were facing a window... it might be washed out, can we take another one?" Truly awesome. I ran into him at the airport that same weekend (Comic Con 2006) and handed him a little picture I drew of him. He was even on our flight with us and he was sitting back in coach! I mean, Joss Whedon... flies coach!