The Cartoonists by Susanna McLeod

Susanna@thecartoonists.ca

 

Interview with John Fiedler, Cartoonist and Creator

November 30, 2011

 

Sketching, illustrating and creating for most of his life, John Fiedler has a deep love of cartooning. Recently, he earned a position as a newspaper cartoonist for the Town Crier in Milford, MA. John has generously taken time from his work to have a chat with The Cartoonists. Let's jump right in to learn about the life, art and humour of cartoonist John Fiedler...

Welcome to The Cartoonists, John!

 

Where were you born and raised, John?  Did you grow up in a family of creative and artistic people?

I was born and raised in North Plainfield , New Jersey. My dad was a bank officer, Mom was housewife and I have one older sister. Music was a dominant element in the Fiedler Family.  Both Mom and Sister played the piano. Dad was a tenor. I played the trumpet. There was a strong correlation between music and art in our family. Dad enjoyed scene painting (oil paint) for relaxation and I always liked to draw.

Were you bitten by the artistic bug early, and enrolled in classes in drawing, illustration or art?

Cartoonist John Fiedler in his Studio

Cartoonist John Fiedler in his home studio. Visit his website at Ole Fuzz Cartoons.
All images courtesy and copyright of John Fiedler.

It was in high school when really started  doing portraits and some graphic art. I discovered I had good eye-hand coordination.  I would get requests from guys to draw portraits of their girlfriends from photographs.  I usually got positive feedback from the high school art teacher.  Again, I liked Art and Music.

The only art “training” I had was the American Artist Correspondence Course.  I soon discovered I was not good at “corresponding” art sessions because my art “style” was not “in  sync” with the established artist/instructors. I decided to “train myself” and stopped the correspondence course. I purchased a few “how to be a cartoonist books” to better understand cartooning techniques.  My interview at the New York School of Fine Arts was a disaster!

Were you one of those kids that always dreamt of being a cartoonist?

No I never dreamed about being a cartoonist. I always enjoyed comic books and cartoon humor. My cartooning started in College (MacMurray College, Jacksonville, IL.). I still have my College Furrie drawings. Back then they were simple one-panel sketches with humorous text.

Did you have a favorite comic strip or cartoonist when you were a youngster?

WOW…. Where do I begin!?!  As a kid I liked the cartoons MORE than the movies in the theater. LOONEY TUNES IS HUGE (Even today), Peanuts, Popeye, Lil’ Abner, Barney and Frank, BC, Herman. The list goes on and on! Shel Silverstein, Mort Walker ,John Hart and Al Unger are a couple of my favorite cartoonists!

"Furrie" by John Fiedler

How did you get started in cartooning and illustrating?

I love (sardonic) Humor! I think it is Therapeutic.  I also love to draw. To me combining these is a PERFECT MARRIAGE.  In most cases my artwork started with “ hey can you draw me a______”? it was a challenge and I was only satisfied when it was done right. I seldom turned down a project (unless It was unethical or improper). I guess I am a “trial and error artist”.  It gets a little “scary” thinking about all the different art related things I have done all these years

Have you held other jobs to pay the bills?  Have they been sources of comic material? 

Lets start with Uncle Sam’s Yacht Club (US Navy) 1964-68; I did a lot of cartoons of Navy and or Military subjects. It was a gold mine!  One of my cartoons won Third Prize in a Navy Magazine cartoon contest. 

Bethlehem Steel Corporation 1968-1983 (purchasing)  I did cartoons for meeting presentations,  I created a character called Sir Super Sleuth (which looked like Sherlock Holmes) to advertise managing surplus equipment and material.  I also created a small business doing hand painted tee shirts called Furrie Tee shirts and special airbrushed illustration artwork.  It didn’t pay the bills, but it was a lot of fun!

 

Avery Dennison 1985-2000 ( purchasing)  I expanded Furrie into a cartoon strip and  illustrated a children’s book entitled “Furrie Meets a Friend”.  I also submitted Furrie cartoons to King Features Syndicate  but was not accepted (I was not yet published). I designed a Furrie night shirt called “nighty-nite” and  tried to expand Furrie into other commercial applications.  I started creating more humorous situation which I submitted to the New Yorker magazine and other publications.

Intel Corporation ( purchasing) 2001-2010  I created EJ’s World,  a cartoon series about our daughter Erika Jeanine.  EJ’s World first started with her college experiences. However, I still keep the strip active referring to Erika’s funny everyday situations. I continued the situation cartoons and occasionally used my humor at Intel Business meetings. I even did a cartoon about my retirement in 2010 and sent it to my senior manager.

Do you wake up in the middle of the night and jot down notes or sketches?

Only occasional do I pop up like toast in bed to jot down an idea. Most of the times I satirize common events and issues we see each day. Paper in any form is acceptable to capture a cartoon idea, napkins, place mats, paper bags, receipts, post it notes…..anything handy.  I did this for YEARS! 

Do you work in a home studio, John?  What does it look like?  Do you have help from family with your work?

My wife Carol and I  share  a craft room in our house.  Carol does sewing hand -crafts and I have My MAC, light board, table and storage drawers. My “set up” is portable. In the winter I continue my cartooning in Ocala, FL   The picture [top photo] shows my “studio”.  A cartoonist is only as good as his critics and I enlist family members to tell me what they think. They also provide good cartoon ideas. I am on Facebook as olefuzzcartoons. I download my cartoons to get feedback

Cartoon Panel by John Fiedler

Do you have a special pencil or pen to sketch your creations?  Which brushes and papers or equipment to you prefer to use?  Do you apply colour by hand or by computer?

Over time, I have tried a variety of art media.   I used Aquatec for airbrushing/painting tee shirts; pastels, craypas, charcoal, pen and ink for illustrations. I like colored pencils and dual brush-tip pens for most of the cartoons I do now.  In the past, I have used Painter, photoshop, Illustrator with a Wacom tablet for some of my cartoons. I am interested in some new digital technology, which will simplify the manual step I use for creating cartoons.

How did you develop your signature character “Furrie“?

Furrie was created at the MacMurray College soda shop.  I would go down there to escape studying and sketching was my way to unwind.  I was doodling on a napkin.  Furrie started as a ball of hair with a bulbous nose. The feet were somewhat standard.  Suddenly a young lady looked at “Furrie” and said “hey he’s cute…did you draw him”?  Well that’s  all I needed ……someone liked the doodle.  So I gave him the name Furrie.  I decided to give Furrie a naive but willing to try anything personality.  The transition has been walking to hopping to skate boarding to Flying.

What things do you enjoy drawing most?

Right now I am concentrating on Situational cartoons for the Local Newspaper. However, I get positive feedback to continue the Furrie Cartoon strips.  I also have been doing Caricatures.  I like diversity.  My dad said “as soon as you have learned something, go out and learn something new.”

 

Which do you consider is more important, the drawing or the writing?

I like both.  I have done cartoons with no captions that convey the humor just by the drawing. There are other cartoons that are cryptic with out text.  For example the 40 MPG smart plow cartoon without text cannot adequately convey the humor.

Has your position as a newspaper cartoonist changed your perspective on cartooning?

It’s great being a newspaper’s cartoonist. Getting published has been one of my long-term goals. The Town Crier is a great local newspaper, which prefers me submitting cartoons that have a local community theme or reference. I don’t think there has been any change in my love for cartooning. If anything I want to devote more time to developing my cartoons.

What is your most desired goal for your cartooning work?

Colour Panel by John Fiedler  

I would like to expand my humor to more general topics, employment, quality control, travel, family humor, etc. This means getting to a larger audience. I also would like to improve the quality (appearance) of my cartoons. I want to be a better cartoonist!

Do you have any advice for aspiring cartoonists, John?

Follow your Dream!  Never get discouraged. You are as good as YOU WANT TO BE!

Has your talent for art passed along to any of your children – any future Fiedler cartoonists in the works?

Unfortunately there aren’t any other future Fiedler cartoonists,  We have 2 lovely daughters,  Erika and Anne.  Both daughters like art.  Anne has a degree in three-dimensional art from Salem University and she Is very creative. She uses her artistic talents when using Photoshop to enhance the on-line catalog for her employer.  Erika likes to sketch occasionally and has an awesome sense of humor. Both daughters are happily married and pursuing different careers.

Thank you for sharing your life and interests with The Cartoonists, John - it sounds like you are bursting with inspiration and creativity. Best wishes for success as the Town Crier cartoonist.

To contact John Fiedler, visit Ole Fuzz Cartoons.

 
 
   

© Susanna McLeod 2011
TheCartoonists.ca