Monday, September 03, 2012

Interview: Kieran Meehan "Nowt So Daft"

There is that old business joke sign that says "You Don't Have to Be Crazy to Work Here -- But It Sure Helps." For cartoonists, it's a necessity.

For British-born Kieran Meehan it's a good kinda crazy.

After some bad exam results, a teacher told young Keiran that he was a fool. After a move from London to Glasgow, a St. Charles Primary School teacher noticed correctly that he was short-sighted. This explained why things like seeing the blackboard and team sports were "an unhappy experience."

Kieran read a lot of comics, THE BEANO and THE DANDY among them. He also liked to draw comics. His parents, recognizing his talent, sent him to weekly classes at the Glasgow School of Art.

Kieran went into advertising and design as a profession. He would continue this path for twenty years, but cartoons were a constant. He began to draw single panel cartoons, sending them out en masse to magazines in the late 1980s. He also sent them to King Features, where they caught the attention of Comics Editor Jay Kennedy.

It was a long struggle, and now Kieran is a regularly published cartoonist, with cartoons in many publications and a King Features syndicated cartoon feature 'Pros & Cons.'

His new book NOWT SO DAFT is a collection of his single panel cartoons.

Here's my August 31, 2012 interview with Kieran about his life and his new book:

Did your parents encourage your art? Did attending the Glasgow School of Art help you draw better? Looking back, was art instruction helpful to you being the cartoonist you are now?

My parents encouraged and paid for me to attend Saturday morning classes but I suspect it was just an excuse to get me out of the house. I'm certain I became more accomplished thanks to the lessons I received then and later. I might still have become a cartoonist without tuition but the drawings would have been very different.

What were your favorite comics when you were growing up? What are your favorite comics/cartoons now?

As a child my favorite comics were:- The Beano, The Beezer, The Dandy, Oor Wullie, The Broons, Popeye and Beetle Bailey. As an adolescent, Look & Learn and Tell Me Why. About the only genre I couldn't relate to was the superhero. I never counted Popeye as a superhero. What superhero is obsessed with a healthy diet and yet displays a flamboyant disregard for the dangers of smoking?

Of the many comics and cartoons I now admire:- Cul de Sac, Calvin and Hobbes, Retail, Andy Capp, Hagar the Horrible, Speed Bump, Dilbert, Doonesbury, The Duplex and Pooch Cafe immediately spring to mind. I'm certain there are many more great comics and cartoonists I've missed, or have yet to discover.
When you look back at the years from 1989, when you began mailing out single panel cartoons to various magazines, to 1991, when you made your first sale to Private Eye magazine (they bought three) -- what do you think kept you going during those years of rejection?
I made several false starts to my career in cartoons prior to 1989. Each time I had received multiple rejections and these experiences stood me in good stead for my final push. Because I anticipated rejection on a grand scale I had prepared dozens of cartoons and placed these in stamped addressed envelopes. As soon as I received a rejection I mailed another batch off. I'm only thankful Private Eye threw in the towel before I did.

NOWT SO DAFT is not a common expression in the States. What's the story behind the title?

'Nowt (nothing) so daft (odd) as folk' was a common Lancashire/Yorkshire phrase and something my Mother said regularly. She would often abbreviate this to, 'Daft' when I showed her one of my cartoons. I interpreted this to mean she was trying to stop herself laughing and it was a good cartoon. When she laughed and THEN said 'Daft' I interpreted this to mean it was a excellent cartoon. 
NOWT SO DAFT seemed the logical title for my first collection of single panel cartoons.

What drawing tools/paper do you use?

I used to put my faith in Rotring Art Pens but after a protracted period flooding, blotching, jamming, squirting and cursing, I swore I'd never use Rotring again. I now use Rotring Isograph pens. I'm not one to hold a grudge. I draw on either 'Daler' cartridge paper or 'Seawhite of Brighton' Layout paper.

What's next? Will there be more books? Are you thinking about maybe doing other forms of cartoons like a graphic novel or animation?

There are two more NOWT SO DAFT pocketbooks in the pipeline. I've also produced a 132 page graphic novel based on the characters in 'Pros & Cons,' my daily comic strip. 'Trial and Tribulation' will be published early next year. I'd love to work in animation but the art form is so wonderfully accomplished, refined and sophisticated I don't think I could add anything to the art form.
My thanks to Kieran Meehan for agreeing to do this interview. You see? He isn't so daft. Please consider supporting his terrific cartoons by buying his book.

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