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.
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.
SKETCHING DAYSYou 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.
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 RON WORKED WITH HANKHow 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...