Interview with

Cartoonist & Martial Arts Maniac Jeff Scarterfield

By Molly Anderson | Posted 7/29/09 | Updated 8/28/23

Jeff ScarterfieldEver try to draw your favorite superhero or cartoon character? It's tougher than it looks! Jeff Scarterfield makes it look easy. He's an amazingly talented artist and art instructor who creates drawing lessons aimed at making the learning process both simple and fun. He's also a martial arts maniac who likes to rock out to Led Zeppelin and The Doors in the studio!

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: What led you to choose this fascinating and fun career, and how do you make a living at it?

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!

Cat, House, DragonQ: 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? 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.

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 www.DickBlick.com, which were well-received.

TreeQ: Tell us a little bit about your new drawing book.

A: The new drawing project — the one that's mentioned on the site right now, is something I've been planning and working on for some time. It focuses on teaching people how to create their very own unique cartoon characters. The step-by-step lessons are easy to follow and very detailed.

The beauty of this project is that, unlike the lessons on my site, which show you how to draw a simple cartoon in one simple pose, I'll be taking things MANY steps further. Beginning with a realistic likeness of the subject, the artist will be able to fully appreciate and understand the various steps involved in developing a unique character — one that maintains attributes from the original likeness.

For example, one character I'd like to focus on is an alligator. Using a photo of this creature, I'm going to show the artist how to gradually make the transition from a realistic alligator to a unique cartoon character. Different looks, sizes, positions, and emotions, will all be taken into account.

It's been a lot of fun working on this project and I just know people are going to enjoy it! I'm planning on releasing this project in the form of a book by the end of the summer.

Q: Who are your influences and inspirations outside the cartooning world? Do you look to other media for inspiration, such as film, fine art, music and literature?

A: Outside the world of cartooning, and into our own — other influences and inspirations are definitely there. I love drawing animals, and whenever I see one, I can immediately envision how it may look as a cartoon character. It's just so much fun.

But really, anything goes. Cars, houses, trees… PEOPLE! I really like creating simplified versions of things we see in real life. I'm inspired by anything and everything that can be seen all around us.

Something else I should mention though — and this time with respect to some of the more 'unworldly' creations I've come up with over the years — are movies. One good example is Star Wars. Ever since Luke Skywalker and Ben Kenobi first set foot in the Cantina in Episode IV: A New Hope — I was blown away by the many different creatures they encountered. Movies like this really helped me to tap into and explore a more creative side with respect to drawing.

Q: Do you listen to music while you are drawing? What's your ideal soundtrack for a day in the studio?

A: I mostly listen to classic rock and/or ambient 'chill out' music in the studio, like Led Zeppelin, Neil Young, Fleetwood Mac, The Doors, and Pink Floyd. Sometimes, though, a long ambient track sets the perfect mood. Chicane is a great example — check out the song 'Offshore' if you get a chance. No words — but really gets you 'in the zone' to draw.

Q: What inspired you to create web-based drawing lessons? Which one is your favorite? Which lesson is the most popular with your fans?

A: I've always enjoyed showing people how to draw. Working with people one-on-one, I've found I have a knack for mapping out the drawing process in a way that's easy to understand. Putting my teachings online always seemed like an excellent idea, as I could be helping thousands of people, one-on-one, every single day. Helping more people learn how to draw and improve on such a grand scale is truly amazing.

Favorite lessons? I'd have to say the Red Dragon. It took super long to create, but was just so much fun to do so. I received lots of great feedback about it. Visitors to the site really love the animals and dragons. The original cartoon characters such as SpongeBob and Sonic the Hedgehog are also quite popular.

Q: What's next? Where would you like to be in five years?

A: Aside from my new website and book, I have other projects either on deck, or already on the go. And while I don't want to ruin the surprise, I'm happy to say that a love for drawing is kept in mind! Five years is quite a ways away. Let's just say I'll still be doing what I love the most… drawing — and sharing this love with others.

Q: Any final words of inspiration or advice?

A: To everyone reading this, if drawing is your passion (and I know it is!), than stick with it NO MATTER WHAT. Practice, repeat — and continuously seek out more opportunities to learn and improve.

Always remember — as Randy Pausch once put it — "the walls are there to show us just how badly we want things." You're learning and improving at something you truly love. Climb those walls and let nothing hold you back.

Get further insight on ways martial arts relate to drawing and other how-to draw lessons below.

©2009 by Molly Anderson. All rights reserved.

Creative Cartooning with Jeff Scarterfield

Kung Fu Drawing: Art & Martial Art Parallels

Let's explore five similarities between art and martial arts, and how they relate to your improvement as an artist.

Practicing Drawing: 7 Tips to Help You Improve

Fun, inspiring, and forgiving methods for continuous improvement in your cartoon art.

Learning How to Draw… Made Easy?

When drawing cartoons, it is! Cartoons are simplified versions of things we see in real life.

Jeff ScarterfieldJeff Scarterfield is an art instructor who creates drawing lessons aimed at making the learning process both simple and fun.