Founded in 1997, The Philadelphia Cartoonist Society has since become the home to some of the most talented artists in the City of Brotherly Love. Created by Jeffro Kilpatrick and Andrew Hart, it has allowed artists of all types to network, find freelance opportunities and learn from each other. Mr. Kilpatrick was nice enough to answer a few questions and become this week’s Geek of the Week.
How long have you been drawing?
I have been drawing since I was 4 years old. My first memory of drawing was sitting at the kitchen table with my Dad. He would scribble randomly all over a paper and tell me to look at it and turn it into something with the pencil. It was kind of like the game you play looking at clouds, and identifying them as recognizable shapes, but with a pencil and paper.
At what point in your life did you decide “I want to be an artist?”
I am not sure what age exactly, but definitely when I was very young. I was always watching Muppets and crazy movies and drawing monsters and weird underground worlds stuff. I would sit in front of the TV for hours on Saturdays watching “Creature Double Feature” and try to draw the monsters. I remember sending the host a drawing of a giant praying mantis monster with a word balloon saying “Drop Dead!” I thought that was so clever. The monsters were always my favorite. I also loved drawing women too, but didn’t get good at it until I was in my teenage years.
Do you find teaching art to be rewarding?
I do. It’s always good to see someone succeed in making art. Every time a student sees progress, they get that hunger to take it further. But the truth is there are also very selfish reasons I like teaching. Every time I see students not succeeding on a mass level, I have to sit down and dissect the processes of my own work. Often I have found that I was skipping steps. So it has helped me to make better art of my own. Plus, like a leech, I steal the creative energy of fearless, young, inspired students.
What made you decide that Philadelphia needed a cartoonist society?
Aside from the realization of how hard it was to find cartooning and illustration work right out of college, I’d have to say that idea came mostly from knowing and working with PCS cofounder Andrew Hart (http://andre-whart.blogspot.com/). I was amazed at what this guy was doing in his sketchbook. I was in awe. His drawings seemed to just leak out of his hands effortlessly, and he used no pencil. Everything he did seemed so brilliant. And I was amazed at how the inspiration from working together had snowballed into making me want to draw even more. I read a book around that time about a group of writers and artists creating a radical magazine around the turn of the 20th century called “The Masses”. They all seemed so inspired by each other. I wanted to create something with that kind of energy.
Did you realize when you started that there were so many talented artists in Philly?
I had no idea. A big part of the initial group pulling together came in a big way from Charlie Bordin’s “Funny Papers of Philadelphia”. He gave us a free ad and this ragtag bunch of goofballs just started to pop up out of the woodwork. Next thing I know, we are hanging out, drinking, drawing, helping each other move, publishing books, visiting each other in the hospital. It’s like a big family, except everyone is the weird brother or sister.
What events does the PCS have planned for the future?
We are looking to publish our third anthology. To say it’s been a long time coming is an understatement. But I guess that can be seen as a testament to how busy we have all become (not to mention that some of us are just plain growing old). We have also been rocking the phillytoon.org website. With Christine Larsen taking the helm and making it a blog, that website has been hoppin’ this past year. We are also recruiting a lot of new members. Younger members like James and Sam Heimer, Concetta Barbera, Adam Mazur, Ian Glaubinger, Evan Lopez, and Tim Durning keep us older guys and gals on our toes. New blood definitely continues to breathe life into this crew. We’ve been getting more creative with our events too, like the upcoming “Hobo Day” in June.
What makes being a cartoonist in Philadelphia so great?
For me, it’s this group. It’s a real support system – a brother/sisterhood. Cartoonists, being the jesters of the art world, are often not taken so seriously in spite of the fact that they work just as hard as any fine artist. It’s nice to have a crew of people who know the work behind the craft and share all their crazy secrets.