I follow his cartoons, and finally decided I had to write and learn more about Ray Kelly.
I must say, he was quite generous with his time and comments. I asked many questions and he answered them. I asked if he could pick some favorite cartoons and add some comments, and he did. If I had gone to the ‘about’ tab on his blog, some of my questions would have been answered. So, check out the blog and click on’ about’ for questions I forgot to ask. He launched into more detail with another cartoon blogger about layers, and software, and technique, which I kind of followed along, but if you are serious about web cartooning, or commercial illustrating, you will find their discussion quite helpful.
First, from his site,
Ray Kelly, author, owns a small sign shop in central Montana. I have been a frustrated cartoonist for 50+ years, and now I have an opportunity to show the world my distorted view of life. Enjoy!
So, on to the questions and answers.
Visual Humor. I am nonplussed with the city-county link on your your site. Family?
Ray Kelly. Yes, the City-County link is a blog my daughter writes.
VH. You mention being an author, what titles?
VH. How did you decide to focus on web based cartooning?
RK. I have always enjoyed drawing and illustrating, but my patience and discipline has been lacking. Being somewhat of a perfectionist I would never be entirely pleased with any of my work, continually working and reworking illustrations, before computers, was a long process of trial and error, erasing, tossing unpleasing results, and starting over from scratch. Now with the computer and illustrating programs, results are seen quickly and errors instantly undone. When these blogging sites became available I thought it would be a wonderful medium to hone my abilities and to see if the world would enjoy my sense of humor as much as I do.
VH. You are in central Montana. How central?
RK. Central Montana is Great Falls, smack dab in the middle of Big Sky Country. 220 miles from Yellowstone National Park, 145 miles to Glacier National Park and about 20 years from the rest of the country.
Comment by Visual Humor. Many years ago I had a relative who drove Trailways buses. When crossing into Utah, he would tell his passengers to set their watches back twenty years. Must be something about that slice of the US. Also, since this is about visual items, here is a link to Great Falls, MT map. I have actually been through Great Falls because I wanted to see the Charles Russell museum/gallery. Wish I had know that there was another artist in town.
VH. Does the weather influence your cartoons?
RK. I really do not have a lot of weather related humor, although, penguins and snowmen seem to show up frequently. When its cold in Montana, it just gives me more of an opportunity to stay inside and draw.
VH. How did you come to be in Montana?
RK. I am a born and bred Montanan. My family originally came to Great Falls around 1883 These home grown roots are where I get the “Spitewall” name for my comics. My great grandfather built the “Rolland hotel” in downtown Great Falls, at the same time the hotel Woodworth was being constructed in the adjacent lot. Before construction began, the two owners agreed to build a certain distance from the property line. My great grandfather ignored the agreement and built right next to the line. This incensed the owner of the Woodworth and he proceeded to construct a two story, brick “spitewall” right next to the property line, that efficiently blocked any view or light entering the east side windows of the Rolland. The story actually made it into Ripley’s Believe or Not. Ironically, in the mid 70’s, the hotel Woodworth burned down and the Rolland was saved from the same fate, by the spitewall.
VH. What does your family think of the cartoons.
RK. My wife, daughters and family are very supportive and show nothing but encouragement.
VH. What did your teachers in school have to say about your talent?
RK. My doodling was frowned upon through high school. Many teachers appreciated my talents and I would do illustrations and drawings for school projects. I was an extremely shy child who definitely did not like to attract attention, so I kept a low profile. There was never any real encouragement for me to pursue an art career.
VH. Any military service?
VH. Do you use a Bamboo or similar tablet, or do you draw and scan?
RK. I use a Wacom tablet and illustrate with SketchBook Pro. I import the images into CorelDraw for final tweaking.
VH. Comments on how you picked your style would be welcome.
RK. My style has been a continuing process. Since I started this blog, three years ago, I have undergone many changes to my techniques and characters style. I constantly try to create a consistent look, which, believe it or not, is harder than it looks.
VH. Any suggestions for others who want to emulate you, or any suggestions for others in genera.
RK. If you think something is humorous, make a note or sketch right away, I have a journal. Don’t be concerned that no one will “get it” or understand it, if you think it’s funny, do it. You can’t do a cartoon that everyone will like… so you might as well enjoy it. Don’t over think it, humor is usually spontaneous. Keep drawing, persevere, and don’t be afraid to be a little crazy.
VH. Do you write your own gags, or have a collaborator?
RK. All of my work is original. I try to scan the internet and see if the idea has been done before. I will sometimes get a brilliant idea, then check and find the concept has been done hundreds of times.
VH. Do you have a favorite strip or cartoonist(s)?
RK. When I was young, Peanuts, Tumbleweeds, and B.C. were some of my favorites. Later on, Doonesbury, Far Side, Bloom County and of course Calvin & Hobbes influenced me. The T.V. show M.A.S.H, with Alan Alda influenced my humor tremendously in my youth.
VH. Any controversy of a particular cartoon(s), and the outcome?
RK. I haven’t done any real controversial topics or had any controversy with my work, that I know of. In the meantime, I feel, in this day and age we, especially children, are bombarded with ugly humor… humor that insults, ridicules or belittles are commonplace. I would rather not contribute to that. Hence my cartoons try to reflect good, clean fun and hopefully amuse the mind and fire up some synapses.
VH. What does your studio look like?
VH. Do you display the strip in your shop? If so, comments?
RK. I have some comic book covers I have illustrated in my shop. I illustrate comic book covers for children’s birthdays, with the child as the main character in whatever their interests lie, pirates, hockey, football, dragonfly’s … etc.
VH. Does the Rotary ask for you to talk at their meetings?
RK. I have not been contacted by the Rotary but I am a member of the artistic advisors for the local college and we review students portfolios three times a year.
I then asked Ray to pick a dozen or so of his cartoons with comments on how they came to be. He graciously provided the following fifteen cartoons with comments.
When my kids had this book, I always thought it was an awkward title…but now it works.
This is a play on the “Stewart Smalley’s Daily Affirmations” skit from 90’s SNL
I actually drew this before I had a caption, I think it works.
What can I say, I like penguins, they are an easy mark.
If you don’t pronounce it well it sounds like organ trail.
I was just wondering how that game ever got started.
This is my feelings of the lottery in a nutshell.
I really like old phrases and sayings and what they could ever possibly mean.
This is one of my first cartoons, a twist on the old westerns that always had a poker game going on.
Sometimes when you say a movie title out loud, a different meaning comes through.
I am a UFO and paranormal fanatic – The above are two of my favorites. The “first contact” is, of course, just a play on words. That is what I really like about the English language…so many words have different meanings depending on their usage. The cow ufo is a play on the cattle abductions and mutilations. Living in Montana we probably are aware of them more than other parts of the world…but I thought it was funny.
Another of one of my first cartoons. A snail murder…criminal couldn/t have gotten far…hilarious!
This idea came from a “They Might be Giants” song…”You are older than you ever were and now you are even older.” Basically life is a time machine.
Eels are another one of my favorite animals – (along with penguins, cows, etc.) I was just thinking of what kind of toys would a young eel play with. And this was the result.