10 Questions for Ray Friesen

Ray Friesen is a California-based cartoonist who has created some self-published comics — which he says he don’t count anymore. What he does count are his graphic novels, which include YARG!, Another Dirt Sandwich, and A Cheese Related Mishap, which was named one of the American Library Association’s Top Ten Graphic Novels of the Year for Kids.

His brand new graphic novel, Cupcakes of DOOM!, has just been released. In addition to all that graphic noveling, he also does a daily strip, The Rambunctious Ramblings of Tbyrd Fearlessness, on his website www.DontEatAnyBugs.com.

Question 1: When did you first decide that you wanted to create your own comics for a living?

When I was about eleven, when I drew my own comics, made copies of them, and made my friends buy them, and realized this was pretty darn cool.

Question 2: Who has had the biggest influence on you outside the comics industry, and how did they affect your life?

Does the animation or film industry count? Probably not. Howzabout… My Mom! She’s a sculptor, and has always encouraged me to follow my creativity and work hard, but also if I’m not having fun, than what’s the point?

Question 3: Who has had the biggest influence on your comics career, and how has that person changed your work?

I was fortunate enough, when I was twelve, to have a fan comic I wrote and drew published in Futurama Comics by Bongo — they invited me to their studio, I got to meet Matt Groening and some of the voice actors — who in fact, acted out my comic for me! — and then the Bongo Guys themselves, Bill Morrisson, Terry Delegeane, Bob Zaugh, Jason Ho, Nathan Kane, mostly, but some of the other guys and gals were floating around too — they showed me some lettering and coloring tipniques, and were so incredibly nice, I knew I wanted to be in comics surrounded by fun people like them forever, plus three extra days beyond forever.

Question 4: What do you do to recharge your creative batteries?

Sit in my underwear, eat candy and watch cartoons, sometimes for weeks. Doesn’t everyone?

Question 5: Describe your typical work routine.

I wake up whenever I feel like it — because I also go to bed whenever I feel like it, usually this is 10:00 AM and 2:00 AM respectively — and forage for breakfast. I drive to my studio, which is the back of a t-shirt shop, I do graphic and web design for them part time — I want comics to provide my entire income, but sadly it’s not enough yet — and work on various projects, drawing comics, or doing boring business stuff like phone calls and emails and shouting.

I go to the gym every day, because of all the aforementioned candy eating, then come back to the office, and work until I can’t stand it anymore — 2:00 AM again! I don’t have much of a social life; my girlfriend is online. She’s awesome, we’ve visited, and I have plans to relocate to the geographical location in which she lives. And all my real life friends have either ,one, died in mysterious circumstances, two, joined the army, or three, grown a beard and pretend the don’t know me, so it all works out.

Question 6: What writing, drawing, or other tools do you use?

Paper, pencils, pens, computers, pixels, rams, megs, erasers, silly hats and the occasional lobster. For lobster related reasons.

Question 7: What element of your work gives you the most personal satisfaction?

When I hold the first copy of my brand new book in my hand, the culmination of all those months of work, and I can just sit around grinning and revelry-ing in my own smugness.

Question 8: What has been the most rewarding project in your professional career – in or out of comics – and why?

Well, if you’re considered a professional artist when you start getting paid for your work, I’ve been a professional since I was four-years-old. There is a big wind energy company where I live — its very breezy — and when I was four, they had me draw for them a cutesy scene of animals and windmills and the legend “clean energy for everyone” They used that image for promotion everywhere. T-shirts, posters, banners, really fun inflatable hammers that you could whack people with and it wouldn’t hurt very much, the sides of all their truck, for about a year, I could see something I had done all over the place. Boy, that inflated my ego a bit, I’ve been trying to top that success every since. Reputedly, Vice President Gore even had a big print of my image framed in his office.

Question 9: We’ve all met very talented newcomers who are trying to get their first professional projects. What’s the best advice you’ve ever heard given to a promising new creator?

Besides drawing or writing as much as you can — practice makes better! more practice makes more better! You’ll never be perfect, but you can become 99% perfect! — do everything you can to get people to read your work. With the Internet, its very cheap and easy to actually get your work out there where random people can stumble across it. They’ll criticize things — hopefully constructively — but the fact that your work is making some sort of mark on the universe will make you hungry for more and keep you motivated to keep drawing, which as I mentioned, you should be doing as much as you possibly can. Doodle, doodle, doodle! If your teacher says, “More math problems, less doodles on your paper,” buy a sketchbook!

Question 10: Time to get philosophical: What’s the most important “big idea” that you’ve learned in life – in or out of comics – and why is it important?

I’ve always been a rather solitary person, I’m not shy, I’m just not very outgoing. Trying to promote my works, book signings and conventions, has really helped me learn how to interact with people and be friendlier. I haven’t entirely got the hang of it yet — it still takes me 5 minutes to psyche myself up before making a phone call; what if I misunderspeak and they hate me forever? — but getting out in the open has really helped rub off raw edges.

Also, it never hurts to try and make the world more interesting — I’m in favor of interesting things. Never be afraid to look silly! Giant pirate hats are cool! Although that’s my thing, find your own shtick!