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Creative Careers Interviews : 2009 : Jeff Scarterfield Interview

Creative Careers in the Arts Interviews

Cartoonist & Martial Arts Maniac Jeff Scarterfield

By Molly Anderson-Childers

Jeff ScarterfieldEver try to draw your favorite superhero or cartoon character? It's tougher than it looks! This month, we'll be interviewing a man who makes it look easy — Jeff Scarterfield. He's an amazingly talented artist and instructor who's best known for his online drawing lessons on his Web site These step-by-step instructions are an amazing way to improve your drawing technique. He's also a martial arts maniac who likes to rock out to Led Zeppelin and The Doors in the studio! Thanks for joining us today, Jeff — it's great to have you here!

Q: What was your favorite Saturday morning cartoon when you were a kid?

A: Good question Molly! There are actually a few childhood cartoons that inspired me along the way, but I'd have to say my all time favorite is Thundercats. All around, this show had the coolest mix of heroes and villains — and the plot was always top notch. Close seconds... Transformers, Voltron, He-Man, Silverhawks, and Gargoyles. It was cartoon shows like these that really captured and helped to develop my imagination as an artist.

Q: Readers want to know — what led you to choose this fascinating, fun and fabulous career, and how do you make a living at it? Any advice for beginners trying to break into this field is most welcome!

A: Coming into the world of drawing and cartooning all began with a sincere passion and drive to want to draw. Practicing to get better came naturally to me, as drawing has always been something I've loved to do. I'd take my sketchbook with me pretty much everywhere I went, and by constantly drawing things over and over — I'd gradually see improvement in my work.

You mentioned 'career' though, and so I'll give you a bit of insight into building a website and 'getting your work out there' and in front of thousands (millions!?) of people. The Internet is an extremely powerful tool. Today, we have the ability to showcase our talents in front of millions of people, 24 hours a day, and all with the click of a single button.

If you're just starting out in the website sector, and you wish to share your work with the rest of the world on the Internet, it's important that you develop a solid understanding of basic web design (HTML). To learn the basics of designing a simple website, I recommend you buy one of those 'Teach Yourself HTML in 24 Hours' books, from your local bookstore.

Still, getting a website up on the net is one thing. Ensuring that your work is being seen is another. You'll need a sound understanding of search engine optimization (SEO) and Internet marketing. A quick 'Google' of either of these terms, and you'll be well on your way!

Q: What were the early influences that informed your work when you first started cartooning?

A: My immediate family always encouraged me when it came to drawing. I was also inspired early in life by two other family members — my Aunt Jayne and my Grandpa Gord. Both are excellent artists/painters, and during my early years, I strived to someday be as good as they were. I later discovered that cartooning was something I quite enjoyed. You could say I was 'drawn' to it! :-)

Every Saturday, my parents bought a copy of the local paper. I couldn't wait to read it — and when I did — I'd go straight to the comic section where you'd find Garfield (my favorite comic!), Snoopy, and the gang. Studying these cartoons really helped in my development with respect to drawing my own cartoons — something I continue to do to this day.

Q: Who inspires, informs, and influences your work now?

A: From the second my website began, my girlfriend Hansu was there with me. She's been such an amazing inspiration and influence — I really can't thank her enough. Hansu, as I know you'll be reading this... thank you so very much for everything!!! :-)

Kung Fu Drawing by Jeff ScarterfieldQ: I understand you're a bit of a martial arts fanatic. In what ways do the martial arts influence the way you work as an artist?

A: The single most important factor that relates both martial arts and drawing for me, is practice and repetition. I've learned first-hand, that the only way to get better at a kick, is to practice over and over. Gradually, you become more relaxed. Your kicks become more fluid and precise. In time, you think about the form involved less and less, and you get to the point where you 'just do it without thinking'.

This is also true of art. Every new drawing, while different, is another brick along the road to success. When you relax and just let things happen — while still being persistent, practicing and repeating your drawings — the mind retains various patterns and techniques associated with whatever particular type of drawing you're working on. It's similar to improving your kicking form; eventually, it gets to the point where you just 'draw without thinking'.

Q: I understand that Drawing Day 2009 was a huge success. For readers who aren't in the know, could we have a little background on how this event got started?

A: I got involved in the event in March of 2008 — when Mick Gow, the catalyst of Drawing Day, first presented the idea. As soon as I heard about it, I just had to get involved. I mean really. A day where people all over the world and web come together to draw for the sake of art... what could be better!?

Q: What did you do to celebrate this event? Can you talk about some of your favorite pieces other artists submitted, and what prizes were offered to the winners?

A: I created five new drawing lessons for the site, and posted drawings on the web from artists all over the world. As for favorite drawings (I have many!) — I'd like to point out the dragons that one particular artist, Emily, has created. I've seen her come a long way with her drawing first hand, so it was really neat to have her participating in the event with all the others. You can see Emily's work, along with many others — in the Cartoon Gallery on the main website.

It was great to see so many people come together, all passionate about drawing. There were lots of really neat drawings submitted. To spice things up, I offered prizes to be awarded randomly to Drawing Day participants. Our grand prize was a Wacom graphics tablet, and we also gave away three $15.00 gift certificates for art supplies at They were well-received. :-)

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