5 minute read

Real Creative Magazine

ROLLI by Lon Levin

When did you first think about art as something you wanted to do? Were you encouraged or discouraged by family, friends, teachers, mentors?

I didn’t begin to draw in earnest, or write, until my mid-twenties. This was during a long convalescence. I was a scribbler before that, a practiced doodler - - - and many other things, besides.

I don’t remember ever receiving a word of encouragement. As I’ve always written (and drawn) to please myself, that didn’t dissuade me.

If teachers saw potential in me - - - perhaps they did - - - they kept it to themselves.

What kind of kid were you? Where did you grow up? What were your influences?

I grew up on the Canadian prairies. Roughly in the middle of nowhere. On a little farm, a grain farm. Wheat fields, flax fields. I was asthmatic, not much help to anyone, and left mostly to my own devices. As children will, I made my own fun. Drawing, reading, daydreaming… I lapsed into imagination.

I’m not sure what influenced me and what didn’t, but I’ve always enjoyed old school cartoonists like Chaz Addams and James Thurber. Cartoonists are a dime a dozen, but stylists are rare birds. Dodos, almost.

The first poet I loved was Poe. He’s still a favorite. I like Shakespeare quite a bit. And Agatha Christie.

Your style is very unique. Did you work on developing a style or is that what naturally came out of you? It reminds me a lot of John Lennon’s work. Any connection there?

I don't know. Somehow it turns out that such images arise in my head. It will be necessary to go to the doctor.

I’m not deliberate. Not about anything. Intuitive. I’m an intuitive person. For better or worse, my style is a natural one, and my own.

I like Mr. Lennon’s music very much. The Beatles, very much. The White Album - - - that’s a good one. I don’t know much about his artwork, I’m afraid. I’ll look into it.

I’m beginning to suspect that I must be a whimsical person. I really do try to draw things as I see them.

Has the computer affected your work? Do you work traditionally and digitally?

What’s going on in your head when you work on a piece? Your fears, anticipation, confidence, etc. How do you know something is finished?

I draw the old fashioned way - - - that’s ink on paper - - - with minimal digital touch-ups.

The difficulty is… Digital illustrations look wonderful. They also, to my eye, stylistically, look identical. Magazine illustrations in particular have never looked better - - - or more homogeneous. I expect that, in ten years’ time, everything will be AI-generated, and look phenomenal.

As far as writing goes… I used to scribble everything

I work on something until I get bored of it. If the piece is still unfinished, I toss it. If it’s finished, I’ll either toss it or, if I like it well enough, keep it. Most everything gets tossed out. I’m not easily impressed by anything on this planet, and that extends to my own work.

Nothing particularly goes on in my head when I’m working. “As we suspected,” said the critics, nodding in unison.

"Cartooning was an arduous climb up the ladder. Several rungs were missing."

I enjoy both - - - most of the time. Writing and cartooning, they’re tricky businesses. Trickier still, if you aren’t mediocre.

Maintaining enchantment is key. If I find myself growing disenchanted with one field, I switch to the other. Once I’m disenchanted with that one, I switch back. It helps keep things fresh.

I’m curious about how you choose what to work on. What does your process entail? Start to finish. Can you give us a short step-by-step?

Well, as far as cartoons go… I daydream until I come up with something. It isn’t very scientific. I have a phobia of pencils, and work exclusively with ink. I’ll redraw a given cartoon up to 24 times, and

Writing involves a lot more daydreaming, and less incineration. On a good day.

What do you do to promote yourself and get work? Do you work worldwide or exclusively in the States?

Cartooning was an arduous climb up the ladder. Several rungs were missing. Once my work started appearing in bigger outlets… It may sound strange, but I was contacted by an elite group of cartoonists who share market information and opportunities. It’s a secret society of sorts - - - I can’t say much more about it - - - but that association has made things easier. And now that I’ve teamed up with Cartoon Collections, my published work can be viewed and licensed by anyone on the planet.

I mostly work for U.S. magazines and newspapers - - - that’s where the market is - - - but I also publish a fair bit in the U.K. and Australia, and sporadically in Italy, India, China and Canada.

What’s the future hold for you? Any ultimate goal?

Who can say? I’m fortunate enough to have had a number of books published. Over a dozen, though, are still unpublished. A story collection, a poetry collection, ten-or-so children’s books. Virtually all of my best work has never been seen. Finding a home for it… That’s my immediate and ultimate goal, always. My dream.

I’ve done an enormous number of cartoons, too. For The Wall Street Journal, Reader’s Digest, The Harvard Business Review and others. I’d like to put out a collection of those one day.

I’d enjoy, also, trave+ling from country to country, sampling desserts. I’m a great fan of cake. Chocolate in particular. A Grand Dessert Tour. It would be wonderful.

If you could meet anyone in the field you’re in, who would it be and why?

James Thurber. For his cartoons and humorous writings, both. The Years with Ross - - - that’s a good one. My Life and Hard Times - - - that’s even better. His literary style is elegant. His drawing style crude and beautiful.

But he isn’t much read anymore, Thurber. Of course, he’s been dead for ages. I liked The New Yorker a lot better when it was a humor magazine. There’s already an Enquirer, a Time. Tragic masks are the fashion. Perhaps that will change one day. Perhaps not.

This story is from: