So look, everyone is saying that Matthew Hughes’ first novel for Angry Robot, The Damned Busters, is bloody great fun. And they are wise to say such a thing, for it be true.

But perhaps as much attention has been paid – by those who’ve seen the physical editions at least – to the fab cover from cartoonist and illustrator Tom Gauld. In the UK, trendy bookish types like us know him from his pithy cartoons on the letters page of The Guardian‘s Review section every Saturday. In the US and even further afield, though, I suspect he is known to just a few connoisseurs of small press cartoon work. So we tracked him down last Friday afternoon and fired a few questions at the fellow. This is what came back… (All images can be clicked for larger versions, in case you were wondering.)

Q: What do you call yourself – graphic artist, cartoonist, professional doodler, etc?
I say “cartoonist and illustrator”.

Q: How did you get into “all this”?
I drew a lot as a child, and when I realised that you could draw as a job I decided that was for me. I studied illustration at Edinburgh College of art and the Royal College and since graduating in 2001 I’ve been drawing full time.

Q: Do you do lots of sketches and throw all the bad ones around the room or do you chew your pencil for days and then nail it first off?
I sit and doodle in my sketchbook and try to play around quite a lot about with ideas before going on to make a picture. My technique is relatively time consuming and its not easy to change things once they’re drawn so I try to think it all through at the beginning.

Q: What’s your typical working day, if there is one?
I’m at my studio from about 8.30am till 4.30pm. I work best in the morning so that’s when I do most of my creative work and in the afternoons I do more research and admin and internet time-wasting.

Q: Is it really annoying, when people say it’s just scribbling and colouring in, and when will you get a proper job?
Well it’s not really a proper job, and much of it IS just scribbling and colouring in. I don’t deny that it’s a nice way to make a living. A more common misunderstanding is that people say “Oh you must have such FUN coming up with all these FUNNY ideas! You must be laughing all day long!” whereas I’m either wracking my brain for a good idea or meticulously editing the idea to make it as funny or interesting as possible.

Q: Do you think there should be more cartoon-style novel covers?
I don’t think THAT many novels really suit this style, but when it’s done right it can be really great: I’d like to see more great ones. Chris Ware’s cover for Candide was one of the first I saw and one of the best.

Q: What would you kill to illustrate?
Kurt Vonnegut’s books.

Q: Anything you really hate/struggle with drawing?
People. I’m continually seeking a way of drawing people which satisfies me and works for my ideas and stories. I’m slowly getting better but I’m not there yet. Robots are so much easier.

Q: You’ve got a really distinctive style – do you ever experiment with other techniques, formats or materials?
I mess around a bit with other things (brushes, colouring pens, collage, Lego) and I find it can be very helpful for generating and exploring ideas, but I tend to find that when it comes to finished work I’m happy with the simplicity of my usual pen on paper style.

Q: Just how obsessed with robots are you?
I wouldn’t like to say obsessed, but I find them almost endlessly interesting. There is tragedy in their place between sentient beings and disposable products. And as I said, they are much easier to draw than real people.

Q: Isn’t it great how many times you sneak SF/genre tropes into your Guardian Review cartoons? (Sorry, that’s more of a statement.)
Yeah. Sci-fi and genre fiction have much better visuals than literary fiction. I’ve attached a cartoon about this.

Q: Which means you must read widely too – who are your favourite authors, any genre?
Off the top of my head Kurt Vonnegut, PG Wodehouse, John le Carre, Magnus Mills, William Golding, Geoges Simenon.

Q: Who in your field deserves more acclaim?
Anders Nilson is an amazing artist, I’m very excited about his forthcoming 600-page epic Big Questions.

Q: What would you be if you didn’t do this?
If I couldn’t draw for a living, I’d like to write or animate. If I had to do something completely different I’d be a baker.

Q: And will we ever see the Bumper Complete Book of Collected Tom Gauld one day?
Yes, well sort of. I’m just finishing up a graphic novel and once that’s out of the way I’m going to figure out a way to collect much of my previous work in some way or other.

Massive thanks to Tom. See his work online at tomgauld.com. And look, he even made us a new Angry Robot logo. <3

2 Comments

  1. Pingback: SF Signal: SF Tidbits for 5/31/11

  2. And I would kill to see Kurt Vonnegut illustrated by Tom Gauld. Somehow their humor seems compatible to me.

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