I’ve been making comics since I was a kid, so probably whatever I was reading/had read to me back then. Most likely Tintin and Asterix comics, as well as Raymond Briggs and then the inevitable superhero comics. And Garfield, which I used to really love, but eventually outgrew. There’s a remix kind of a comic online called “Garfield Minus Garfield,” though, which is totally brilliant. Total postmodern art, but in a good way. It’s just the Garfield strips with the cat taken out, so Jon Arbuckle is this crazy man who talks to himself–which is essentially what he was doing in the actual comic anyway. Someone’s gonna remix Calvin & Hobbes in the same way eventually, and it’s gonna be depressing, ’cause you could argue that that comic was also about a guy talking to himself via a nonresponsive cat, in this case a stuffed one. Sorry, got off on a tangent there.
What would you say is a common theme in your work? Are there some general points you’re subtly making?
I’d like my work to convey various ideas, so I try to cram as much truth in there as I can. Or at least what I think is the truth. I’m all about the issues, to put it glibly. I wanna entertain, but I want to communicate as well. I’m realistic about it–I know that the majority of people are just there to be entertained for a few minutes, but also I know that someone out there is looking to soak up ideas so hopefully my ideas are both available and at the very least worth discussing. I would hope that both humor and truth are common themes to my work, because those are what matter to me. I know how pretentious that sounds, but this is my thought process, so there you go. More quotable version: “I want to entertain people, but if I can make them think, too, then great.” But if they’re “only” being entertained then I can certainly live with that, cause that ain’t bad.
I mow lawns, with some occasional gardening and leaf cleanup. Money’s not my priority, so when you’re prioritizing other things then it’s a pretty good job to have. I only work eight months a year, and when I am working I have all the thinking time I need to come up with ideas for comics. I can remember what lawn I was on when I thought up a particular comic, with regard to the first six months of my Subnormality strip. The writing-in-your-head process is 75% of the work, so I need all the time I can get. No comic comes out fully formed. Plus I like to be outdoors and to get exercise, so it’s the job for me right now.
What’s the production process of your work (Pencil, ink, photoshop, etc.)?
Exactly like that: pencil, ink, photoshop. Except I use Paint Shop instead of actual Photoshop, because it was like 700 dollars cheaper. Besides, I’m not laying out an art history textbook or whatever, so high-end graphics editing software would just be overkill.
Are there other like minded artists out there that you admire and/or feel helped you hone your own direction?
Definitely Bill Watterson (Calvin & Hobbes), in terms of the comic taking precedence over everything else. Like how he fought to get more space for his sunday comics, and how he lamented the general scaling-down and cheapening of the comics in the newspaper, and
how he turned down literally millions of dollars to merchandise his comic (and how he was prepared to quit over the issue), and how he wouldn’t accept a phone call from Steven Spielberg regarding a film version of his comic, and how he took his art form seriously and treated it with respect and put all of himself into his work–with, thus far, timeless results. Admiration is definitely the right word. The fact that more people haven’t followed his example is disappointing. All it takes to make good comics is to do what Watterson did: take it seriously, work hard, and believe in the instrinsic value of what you’re doing. And keep a regular update schedule!!
Your strips have a lot more text than most. Is this because you feel it necessary to get the point across or do people just talk a lot in your world?
I think that people talk a lot in the real world, and thus they talk a lot in my world. If you even want to call it “a lot.” I also think that it’s completely artificial to limit a comic strip to three or four tiny panels and thus limit the amount of text you can use. But that’s been the tradition so far, and thus people have become accustomed to the idea of “Comic Strips = brisk dialogue.” In addition, I enjoy writing, so a lot of text is the result. Besides, it’s good value. When it’s a week between comics, it’s more worth the wait if it takes you longer than three seconds to read the thing. It’s my style. I’ve looked at it logically, and it’s not intrinsically bad, so the huge blocks of text are here to stay–not for their own sake, but because that’s just how I write comics. Take it or leave it. And many are leaving it, I’m well aware, but I belive in what I’m doing. I feel I’m offering something different. For those that simply prefer low-dialogue comics, there are thousands of alternatives out there. I know that the text can be daunting, but I work hard to make sure it’s worth the read.
Who makes the best french fries in your town? What town would that be?
My town is Toronto, Canada, and I’ve been getting some good fries (poutine, actually) at a pizza joint at College St. and Ossington, the name of which escapes me right now. It’s just east of Ossington on the south side. Good poutine, and good pizza–lots of garlic.
What does the future hold for “Winston Rowntree“?
The future holds more comics, and a close eye watching the size of my audience. Should that size continue to grow, then in a year or two I’ll definitely consider putting a Subnormality book together. If the demand is there, anyway. I’d make it worthwhile, at least. Lots of new comics and art and annotations. But, like I said, that’s in the future. More comics. Lots more comics. Comics are what I care about, for whatever reason, so I want to be well-regarded in my field. Just gotta earn it first, and that takes a while.