The GoComics “Meet Your Creator” series brings you firsthand insight into the lives and careers of your favorite cartoonists. Each week, we hand over the keys to one of our talented creators, who share their inspirations, achievements, creative processes, studios and more! Read on to hear from this week’s featured cartoonist: Chris Rozzi of Tiny Confessions
How did you get started in cartooning?
I didn’t really set out to be a cartoonist. I originally wanted to create prints of pets (and other things) with phrases that people could frame and hang in their homes, almost like fine art. I do Tiny Confessions as sort of “realistic cartoons” so that people can make an emotional connection to the text. It only occurred to me later on that they might work as comic panels as well.
When I was very young, my father taught me the basics of drawing through a wonderful book called "Draw 50 Famous Cartoons: The Step-by-Step Way to Draw Your Favorite Cartoon Characters" by Lee J. Ames. It helped me to understand how the cartoon characters that I loved were made up of basic shapes. Secretly, my goal was to just be better than my father at drawing (he was pretty good!). In school, I began drawing Snoopy and other characters wherever and whenever I could. One time, a teacher held up a classmate’s wonderful drawing of a landscape, and I was very jealous. I started to realize that there would always be someone who was more skilled, smarter, faster. It made me work harder. I was very fortunate that my parents sent me to private art lessons by a wonderful teacher named Charlene Margiotta, who helped me to draw anything I could see. It was kind of the equivalent of a musician learning scales. These are lessons and techniques that I still use today.
Eventually, I studied drawing and painting at the School of Visual Arts in New York, and there I learned from talented working artists.
What inspires you?
I try to keep my mind open at all times and not disregard anything; low or high art. Music is big for me. In fact, there are very few times during the day that I am not listening to something. Thelonious Monk is one of my favorite musicians to have on to while I’m painting, but then I might throw on some Queen as well. I also love watching old movies like those of Astaire & Rogers or '70s detective shows like "Columbo" while I work.
In terms of art, I tend to look at painters such as Vuillard, Klimt, Basquiat and Rothko. I am much more influenced by fine art than comic book art for the Tiny Confessions style.
My writing style is the result of being a comedian and performing my own material for years. Since I was a little kid, I’ve been a huge fan of Charlie Chaplin, Laurel & Hardy, Woody Allen, Albert Brooks, "SCTV" and Spike Milligan. They influence the confessions that I come up with, especially the “wise-guy” aspect of them.
The inspiration for Tiny Confessions itself is my dog, Willie. A few years ago, while walking him around the streets of New York, I started wondering what he might be thinking. I decided that “confessions” were a funny and specific way to approach it. I also have a deep affection for all animals, which motivates me to give them a voice, albeit a comedic one.
I should mention that my wife, Pauline, is always a source of inspiration and is usually a sounding board for my writing. If I get her to laugh like Snoopy, I know I have something.
Tell us about your achievements and accomplishments.
I began by selling my prints on Etsy, Fab.com and elsewhere. It was there that Penguin saw Tiny Confessions and decided to publish a book containing 90 images. We are now exploring various licensing opportunities and have just released a 2016 calendar through TF Publishing, with a 2017 calendar coming next year. Other projects are in the negotiation stages, and I can’t mention them just yet.
Aside from Tiny Confessions, I have been a comedian in New York for over 20 years, performing in venues such as Joe’s Pub, Ars Nova and Union Pool. The characters that I play are all from my one-man show about a lost fictional island and are walking cartoon characters themselves. I am secretly working on a cartoon world for them as well …
What were your favorite childhood comics? What comics do you read today?
As a child, my favorite comics were Sad Sack, Archie, Felix the Cat and Popeye. I’ve always been attracted to the exaggerated cartoon drawing style of the '20s, '30s and '40s. Eventually, I discovered what an incredible genius Winsor McCay was. I can sit for hours and pour through collections of Little Nemo, just taking in the complexity and creativity of each page.
When we were young, my brother and I always loved books by Mad magazine cartoonists such as Al Jaffe and Don Martin (although sometimes we didn’t understand some of the more adult jokes).
What’s your studio/workspace like?
Since my wife, dog and I live in a small studio in New York City, it’s difficult to really have a “workspace.” I mostly work in the corner area that has my computer, scanner and printer. I create Tiny Confessions by sketching the image in pencil and then scanning the drawing. I then do the “painting” in Inspire Pro on the iPad and email it to myself in order to complete the piece in Photoshop.
I consider anywhere that I write to be my workspace, however, and I have favorite places that I frequent. When I really need to come up with some ideas in a pinch, I like to go to Brooklyn Heights, where I lived for a few years. For some reason, that area seems to get me thinking. I don’t question it.
Read Tiny Confessions here. Or follow along on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.