Saturday, July 03, 2010

Ron Ferdinand Interview 1

Ron Ferdinand has been drawing Hank Ketcham's Dennis sunday pages for years and I asked him he would be willing to share some memories and their working process.

001 I had taken the family to Disneyland and this was on my drawing table when I returned to work.

a) Working with Ketcham

When did you first start working for Ketcham and what were the circumstances?

I read an interview with Hank in Cartoonist Profiles magazine in 1981. I was living in Queens, NY at the time. Hank mentioned in the interview that he had moved back to California from Geneva and was starting a training program. He gave his address so I did some sketches of the characters and mailed ‘em to him. He responded in a couple of weeks and asked for resume, photo, etc.

We corresponded for a couple of months. He sent me some single panel gags to rough out and he tissued ‘em and mailed them back. He brought me out to Monterey in August ’81 for 2 weeks for a trial run on the Marvel comic. I made it through and returned in September with my wife .

How did he familiarize you with his drawing style? Did give you tips right off the bat or did he wait till you drew something first and then make adjustments?

He’d done some model sheets , and there was plenty of reference material around . Basically, we’d do a pencil layout and he’d tissue it. In the beginning , we’d do the pencil/tissue stage several times before we’d attempt an ink finish.

You mentioned that Ketcham used to take his staff on sketching days. Can you elaborate on that?

Actually, he’d send us out in the morning and we’d come back after lunch and he’d critique our sketchbooks.

How often?

It was probably once a month for a while in the beginning.
He signed us up for a drawing class after a couple of years that lasted a few months. It was kind of a layout/composition type deal at a local school in Carmel.

How long would a session be?

Just a few hours in the morning.

What types of things would he want you to sketch?

We’d sketch anything and everything. This was the Monterey Peninsula, so there was an abundance of material to choose from.

What would he say about the value of sketching?

Hank wanted us to use flairs and concentrate on the single line as opposed to lots of sketchy lines with a pencil . He wanted us think in terms of the single line.

How did you work with him? Can you explain the process?

I’d get the script, do a rough and he’d tissue it. I’d do another, he’d tissue it again…etc…etc….until it was ready to ink. Then he’d tissue the ink and we’d either fix it or re-ink it, depending on the amount of corrections.
As I said, it was GRUELING fun.2 This is a good example of Hank's tissue suggestions. He would always push the action as far as he could.

Have you any before and after or back and forth sketches of the process that we could show to the fans?

(I see the steps on your web page, but am a bit confused…

The thumbnail sketch there looks like it’s inked and it’s pretty finished looking. Is that really what your first sketches look like?

The way I work now with Marcus is, I do a thumbnail, tighten it up in pen, fax it to Marcus for his input, enlarge it and do a finished pencil, then ink it.

more to come on meeting Preston Blair, Ed Benedict, Eldon Dedini...


Anonymous said...

Wow!!! I don't really know what to say, but that was an awesome interview, and it was really insightful of how Hank Ketcham often worked out his cartoon drawings. Ron Ferdinand seems like a great draftsman himself.

It reminds me of that interview you once did with Bill, Joe, and Friz that was posted on the ASIFA website back in 2006. Alas, I was disappointed because Steve never posted the rest of the interview. I wonder if he still has the rest of that particular interview somewhere.

drawingtherightway said...

Sorry if this is a dumb question but what does he mean when he says that ketcham "tissued" it?

Mark Mayerson said...

It means that Ketcham would put a piece of tissue paper over the drawing and make corrections on the tissue paper.

drawingtherightway said...

Oh okay thanks!

Mykal Banta said...

Very valuable. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Glad to see such a different post. The interview was great. I haven't followed Ron's work on Dennis The Menace but I do like the style. I met the other artist who does the daily at Heroes Con this year, Marcus Hamilton. We had a really good conversation about Ketcham and how he was trained by him as well. I was impressed with Hamilton's illustration and design background and not to sound like one is better than the other, but after seeing both versions of their style, I sort of prefer Hamilton's.

Elana Pritchard said...

Amazing interview- very insightful, thanks for sharing it.

manuel said...

The tissuing process appears to me as a perfect way to translate one's own studies into a more "finished" state. I figure comic inking is done in a similar way.

Craig said...

The "needs better action" rough looks like Jules Feiffer.

Chris_Garrison said...

I know the guy that draws the mon-sat Blondie strips:
Frank Cummings

RooniMan said...

I'm loving this.