Laura Dowds: No One Would Suspect the Perfect Suburban Housewife
Posted: Monday, June 23, 2008
By: Darren Schroeder
Laura wrote to me asking if I review cartoons. As I find them tricky to write a sensible review about, seeing as gag comics either work or they don't, I suggested we do an interview instead, with a sample of her cartoons so you, our reader, can judge for yourself..
Darren Schroeder: What's your full Name?
My name is Laura Dowds.
DS: What is your age?
LD: I am 41 years old and have been drawing comics for nearly 30 years.
DS: Describe your artwork:
LD: I'm almost embarrassed to explain this art style. I describe it is "Scapbooking On Crack". They are actually paper cutouts with some illustration added. I just scan them into "Picture It" and drop in my type. It's VERY sophisticated....even my tools of the trade are quite impressive....my kids' "Crayola" markers. I can create them electronically but they seem to lose some of the expression that I want to convey. I like this style because it really grabs the reader's eye...then it's like a "tickle"... a quick laugh with a slight frown. I want the entire scenario...the entire situation and the entire dialogue condensed into just one line...no extensive attention span required.
DS: What's the difference between a comic and a cartoon?
LD: I believe a cartoon has a finite story...a beginning and an end. Comics are short term...a quick laugh and it's over...until the next one. Those are my interpretations anyway.
DS: When did you start drawing?
LD: I've been drawing as far back as I can remember but started drawings comics around the age of 12. They were (and still are) a coping mechanism for me. Teachers, employers, ex-boyfriends, my husband's ex-wife...the usual suspects.
DS: What sort of formal art training have you had?
LD: I have no formal training....I started out as an art major and spent a few years doing pencil drawings of people (I'll attach an example) but I did NOT want to end up as one of those people in shopping malls selling Loni Anderson and John Wayne portraits. No offense...they're talented....it just didn't appeal to me. I "sold out" and graduated a business major.
DS: Did the art major work ever come in handy in the business world?
LD: Unfortunately, in my accounting and administrative jobs there was no room for creativity but the need still existed for me so I found a way. I entertained co-workers with cartoons of our supervisors...so juvenile but such a release. I have to admit though, they were extremely inappropriate...but a workday that starts with employees crying, spewing coffee from their nostrils or racing for the toilet...now that's a good day.
DS: Describe your work space.
LD: It's the only thing in my house that I can't seem to keep organized. I'm terribly obsessive-compulsive and an admitted "neat freak" but my desk seems to have a mind of its own.
DS: Describe the view from your front door
LD: I usually only see the inside of the front door since I'm constantly mopping the foyer. Outside it's just the typical American suburb and I love it dearly.
DS: What comic work has inspired you in the past?
LD: Gary Larson is definitely an inspiration.
DS: What makes you laugh?
LD: I love the humor that leans toward the dark. I've always heard that tragedy + timing = comedy. Parody and satire are my absolute favorites...I always wanted to write for "Saturday Night Live" or "Mad TV"...and I will always have an affection for the "inappropriate".
DS: Tell us an inappropriate joke
LD: An inappropriate joke: A redneck couple had just married and were checking into a hotel for their honeymoon. Still in their wedding attire, the hotel employee smiles and congratulates them as he's locating a room for them.. Finally he cheerfully states, "Well, you two are in luck...I can give you the bridal if you'd like" to which the new husband responds "Oh, that's OK...I'll just hang on to her ears 'till she gets the hang of it."
DS: What town do you Live in?
LD: I now live in Mebane, North Carolina.
DS: Is there much of a comics/cartoon community there?
LD: I have to say, there is absolutely no community of comics or cartoons here. The local paper has no comics. My husband wants me to submit some work to them but I'm not sure it would be welcomed here in the "Bible Belt" of the south. It doesn't take much to offend and although my latest work is fairly tame....I probably couldn't use my real name....I have a family here. I am what you might call a "closet comic". No one would suspect the perfect little suburban housewife!!
DS: What sort of creative outlets are there for those with an artistic streak in your town?
LD: There really aren't too many creative outlets here. Crafting seems to be the big thing. Again, I'm not patient enough for that.
DS: Where can people see more of your comics?
LD: I am not published but I do have some work currently under review for syndication here. They tell me to be patient...not one of my virtues! You can find a few examples on toonut.com.... I'm under the name "ComicMom". People vote every day and the winner makes the "Front Page". I thought it would be fun but no one else seems to be submitting much work anymore. The Randy Rhoades portrait (attached) is on stars-portraits.com. I'm under the name "ArtistMom" there. That type of art is a strange thing for me....I'm actually afraid I can't do it again. I do actually draw comic characters but I'm just not as consistent with them. They really frustrate me and I get totally blocked. I'll attach a sample just to show some diversity.
DS: What is your favourite piece of art equipment, and why?
LD: My favorite pieces of art equipment are my paper cutters and circle punches. The shapes are cut so precise...so quickly...perfect circles, perfect lines. I can't draw a straight line or decent circle to save my life. I can't seem to even use a ruler or stencil properly...I'm too impatient.
DS: Where do your ideas for comics come from?
LD: I don't know where my ideas come from. I've been doing this for thirty years so they must have come from some sort of need in me to find humor at times when life just isn't funny. I usually start out with "What If..." or "Wouldn't it be awful if someone said...". I enjoy the challenge of trying to make people laugh when they know they really shouldn't.
DS: How helpful have you found the different on-line cartoon communities?
LD: I've just started with the on-line cartoon communities. They're helpful in the sense that they can give you some feedback from people you don't know. It builds your confidence to see your work and see that people voted for you. There's so much competition and rejection in this business. I know I really need the encouragement sometimes.
DS: What do your children make of your artwork?
LD: My children love my comics, especially the teenagers. Some of it I can't let the little ones see (yet). Humor is just part of our communication...it's a bond. There are times when I venture a little too far into left field and they'll say "Mom, you're retarded."
DS: Laura asked if I had any advice for a cartoonist on breaking into the syndicated cartoon business. Never having done it myself I asked cartoonist and animator Alex Hallatt, whose cartoon strip "Arctic Circle" is distributed by King Features Syndicate, for her advice:
Having a web site is enormously useful in promoting your work to potential clients (including the syndicates) and readers alike, so if you don't have one, I would urge you to put one up, or at least put your work on a gallery site (like ComicSpace).
The best advice on how to submit to the syndicates can be found on their web sites. Be sure to follow their submission guidelines, as otherwise your work may not get the attention it deserves. King Features certainly look at every submission they get, which is impressive since they get sent over 5000 packages a year.
Before any cartoonist submits to a syndicate, I would suggest they draw up as many strips as they can to get into the look and feel of the strip and develop their characters, who may change in appearance and personality the more they get drawn. It is important that characters are distinct in personality, especially at the beginning, when subtle differences may be lost on the casual reader.
Ideally, they should see if they can keep to the demand of a daily schedule. Getting published in a local newspaper is a fantastic experience. I worked for the daily newspaper in Brighton for 4 years and it taught me a lot about drawing more efficiently, writing tight copy and meeting heinous deadlines!
More and more cartoons are being published on the web and this is a great way to build up your readership. Getting your comic noticed can be difficult though. One of the sites I found most helpful in the development of my single panel cartoon, humancull.com was Comics Sherpa. For a small fee, you can put up your cartoons in a daily format, complete with archives. It allows a lot more people to see your cartoon than might come to your personal web site and the feedback you get from readers (including other cartoonists) is invaluable.
I would also recommend getting involved in the cartoon community online (eg. thedailycartoonist.com), even if it is only to lurk, rather than comment.
How ever you approach it, I wish you the best of luck, Alex
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