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Take a peek over Jim Borgman's shoulder

Jim Borgman has been the Enquirer's editorial cartoonist since 1976. Borgman has won every major award in his field, including the 1991 Pulitzer Prize, the National Cartoonists Society's Reuben Award for Outstanding Cartoonist of the Year in 1993, and most recently, the Adamson Award in 2005 as International Cartoonist of the Year. His award-winning daily comic strip Zits, co-created with Jerry Scott, chronicles the life of 15-year-old Jeremy Duncan, his family and friends through the glories and challenges of the teenage years. Since debuting in July 1997, Zits has regularly finished #1 in reader comics polls across America and is syndicated in more than 1300 newspapers around the world.

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Friday, January 04, 2008

Tools and Stuff

Jim: Do you use the Micron pens on the editoons, or only on the ZITS stuff? Have you ever tried using a ball-point pen? I'm told by Locher that MacNelly, before going digital, used a ball-point pen for lots of cross-hatching--at which point I serious reevaluated my need to only use "proper" art tools on a job.

Jeff MacNelly was one of those guys who could draw with a stick in the mud and win a Pulitzer Prize. Though I have a large altar full of cartooning saints, I don't think I ever saw a more natural cartoonist than MacNelly.

I own one of Jeff's ballpoint cartoons and it's lush and beautiful. Unfortunately, it probably won't outlive me because the ink isn't permanent and has already begun to change color. Eventually it will fade and wash out. There's a lot to be said for paying attention to the materials we use.

MacNelly had a what-the-hell aspect to his personality that was part of his genius. I happen to have been present the first time he saw a Wacom tablet (I want to say late-'80s) and he picked up the stylus and drew Shoe standing on the wing of a B-52. The cartoonists around him stood with our jaws scraping the floor. As the group of us talked about where these technological developments might lead in our work, I asked him, "Wouldn't you miss drawing the strip by hand?"

"Hell, no," he said. "It would just give me more time to draw other stuff."

When Jeff transitioned to doing his editorial cartoons digitally, I don't think they looked any different than his hand-drawn stuff. The man was a force of nature.

Check out his drawing of an elephant from the website

Oh yeah, the Microns. I use them in everything I do along with good old Dr. Ph. Martin's Black Star ink. They're both permanent inks and I haven't detected any changes in the lines over the years I've been using them.


at 1/4/08, 11:33 AM Anonymous Anonymous said...

THIS is the stuff I love reading on your blog.
Stories and personal experiences that give your readers something they can get nowhere else.

You rock!

at 1/4/08, 11:43 AM Blogger Stacy Curtis said...

>>>Check out his drawing of an elephant ...

That is an excellent use of white-out on a brown paper sack. :-)

I want to be one of those people who are just compelled to draw, anywhere, anytime with anything.

There's something to be said for drawing with materials that won't stand the test of time. Having a MacNelly drawing you are watching fade away is like watching someone die right before your eyes. Luckily with a scanner and a nice printer, there can be some tangible record of it.

I agree with Anonymous 11:33 A.M., you have the best stories!

Happy New Year!

at 1/4/08, 12:02 PM Blogger Matthew Hansel said...

Thanks for info/story, Jim.

One of the GREAT regrets of my life is that I never got a chance to meet Jeff MacNelly. Just to spend 10 minutes with him would have been an amazing experience!

I'm glad that I've started to post to this blog, because I feel that you are, in many ways, Jeff's successor in many respects. The idea that I can ask questions that you may answer is just a hoot and real treat/learning experience.

Locher told me a few weeks back that he and Jeff used to have a contest in which they would do LITTLE to NO pencilling and just go straight to inks. AMAZING! Dick tries to do at least ONE of those types of drawings each day and he has these amazing sketchbooks that he keeps these in and when you look at them, they are ALLA PRIMA and they are AS GOOD if not BETTER than his published stuff.

It made me want to run how and break all the tips off of my pencils and split the hairs on all of my brushes and I don't think I'll ever be THAT good.

Thanks again for answering my questions, Jim. You are a real gent!



at 1/4/08, 5:29 PM Blogger Louann and Bari said...

Hey Jim, thanks for posting all the day to day stuff. I'm a news junkie- this is great for me.

Just wanted to add that I agree with the need to use quality materials. My mom (yes- my mom who is now 84 years old and still draws every day) used a felt tip marker in much of her work. Unfortunately even with proper framing (I'm a Custom Picture Framer by trade)- many of her works are fading into dust (brown dust to be exact). So- thanks for the workmanship-

Just a side note- you had a little comment on one of your blogs about your dad being a Sign Painter. Mine was also- you don't hear that career choice too often. -

Great to see you back--

at 1/4/08, 6:14 PM Blogger Jim Borgman said...

Good eyes, Frank. Say hey to Vada for me.

at 1/4/08, 6:23 PM Blogger Steve Willhite said...

The return of the sketches and the Q&A stuff along with a noticable lack of nut-jobs has rejuvinated my love for this blog.

Thanks, man. Welcome back!

at 1/5/08, 10:55 PM Anonymous tim of sioux Falls said...

I was fortunate enough to speak to Mr. MacNelly on the telephone in 1985 when I was a cartoonist for a college newspaper in Bozeman, Mt. I agree with the Stacy Curtis comment about the impressive drawing of an elephant on a paper sack. I also get a laugh from the photograph of Borgman and Clinton, posing in front of a Borgman original on the wall in one of the bathrooms in the White House, published in Borgman's 25th anniversary book.

at 1/7/08, 4:44 PM Anonymous Matt Reeder said...

Speaking of ruts with tools, how about an engineer who refused to use anything in college but Micron pens and Pentel 0.5mm mechanical pencils.

I say this at my desk (graduated from college) with my Pentel still right next to me.

at 1/7/08, 7:34 PM Blogger Matthew Hansel said...

I was very particular about tools while in school. I only wrote with PARKER fountain pens with BLACK india ink (which was a b**** to keep from clogging!...if only I had know about the joys of OTHER inks back then).

Dick Locher has turned me on to several different types of calligraphy pens...which is my writing weapon of choice of late.


at 1/7/08, 9:03 PM Blogger Larry Levine said...

I ink my cartoons with a Pigma brush pen. I'm very happy with the results when it's a new pen, unfortunately the brush tip broadens with usage and after a certain point (no pun intended) I have to toss it even though it is still filled with ink.

at 1/8/08, 12:33 AM Blogger Stacy Curtis said...

If you all want a GREAT brush pen, I'd suggest you try the Pentel Pocket Brush Pen. It doesn't lose it's tip because it has nylon bristles that act like a brush. It's as good of a brush pen you'll ever find, in my opinion.

It's somewhat expensive because I think the only place you can get them from is Japan. I ordered mine from Island Blue. It's worth every cent.

I love being able to have a portable inking brush without lugging along a bottle of ink.
I use it for quick jobs, sketching in my sketchbook, etc.
I still use the traditional brush and pen nibs for my illustrations and cartoons.

at 1/8/08, 8:58 AM Anonymous Anonymous said...

I own a video where you can se Jeff Macnelly drawing an editorial cartoon with a bic ballpoint pen, a shoe with a brush pen and an oil painting with... oils.
Jim is right, the man could draw with anything and it would turn beautiful, I like to play with everything I can get my hands on, bics, pencils, brushes, shoe polish...
right now I'm really thinking about getting a cintiq for some of my stuff, but, I still like having an original from my political cartoons, even when the ones with shoe polish are starting to fade away...

another cartoonist I enjoy seeing is Steve Sack, he can use ink, pencils, computer...
and it's very interesting how he construct some shades and stuff...

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