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: Izzy Ehnes of The Best Medicine Cartoon
When did you start cartooning?
I started drawing single-panel cartoons at 9 years old. I always enjoyed making people laugh, so I began drawing whatever funny ideas popped into my head, in an old notebook, and later turned them into actual cartoons using my computer and mouse.
I’ve been cartooning for almost half my life (I’m 17 now), and if you look back at my older cartoons and compare them to my more recent ones, you can really tell how both my art style and sense of humor have matured. When I was 10, my cartoons, well, looked like they were made by a 10-year-old. The jokes were more “cute,” and often played on empathy (making the reader feel sad for the character) to get laughs. As I got older, however, my sense of humor matured as I matured, and now relies on other means of getting laughs, such as cynicism or irony.
One of my first cartoons.
Any role models or mentors?
My dad introduced me to The Far Side by Gary Larson at a young age, and I instantly fell in love. For a Christmas gift one year, my parents got me “The Complete Far Side,” two 10-lb. books, which I read cover to cover more times than I can count. Gary Larson is my cartooning idol, and I credit his genius with starting my interest in cartooning.
As far as cartooning mentors go, Nick Galifianakis (Nick and Zuzu) and Stephan Pastis (Pearls Before Swine) are two of the best people someone could ask for. I met both of them at a small artists’ convention where I rented a booth, and they were the guest artists. After they visited my booth and we began talking, words could not describe how excited I was. I felt so honored that these two distinguished cartoonists showed an interest in my work, and I can’t thank them enough for all the advice and encouragement they’ve given me. They were the ones told GoComics about me, and I will always be in debt to them for that. These guys are not only excellent cartoonists, but excellent people, too.
What was your favorite comic as a child? What are your favorite comics today?
As I said before, I grew up reading The Far Side by Gary Larson. Also, on Sundays (when we got the newspaper), I would jump right to Bizarro, The Argyle Sweater and Pearls Before Swine. Now, my favorite comics are Perry Bible Fellowship, Nick and Zuzu, Pearls Before Swine, Poorly Drawn Lines and Jay Unplugged, by my good friend James Florence.
What do you do besides cartooning?
When I’m not cartooning, I’m usually doing homework or studying. I’m a junior in high school, and this year has been really challenging academically. I’ll be taking college calculus in the fall, so I’ve been studying extra hard in preparation. I love computers and math, so I’ve been looking into the fields of engineering, computer programming and cyber security. No matter which field I go into or what college I attend, cartooning will always be a big part of my life that I won’t turn my back on.
In my free time, I enjoy going for runs with my black lab/Great Dane mix, Cash. We adopted him from a shelter eight years ago, and he’s been my best friend ever since. He’s such an entertaining guy; it’s hard for me to quantify how many cartoon ideas he’s given me over the years of his goofy antics.
My dog, Cash.
When I’m not cartooning, running, studying or spending time with friends, I absolutely love playing video games. Whenever I have a little bit of free time, there is nothing better than getting comfy on the couch and grabbing the controller. Whether it be Call of Duty with my boyfriend or BioShock by myself, video games always make me happy. I have acquired quite a collection over the years, much to my parents’ dismay. My all-time favorite game franchises would have to be Borderlands, BioShock, Call of Duty, Far Cry, Infamous, Resident Evil and the Last of Us. Quite a collection, huh!
For the past three years, I’ve been volunteering at my local animal shelter. There, I walk, train and socialize the dogs. Sadly, around 75 percent of the shelter population is made up of pit bulls. I’ve always loved and respected the breed, mostly because they are completely misunderstood. Over the years, I’ve worked very closely with countless pitties. Their bodies bear the scars of hardships: missing ears, scars, emaciation. Although these dogs have been abused, neglected and forgotten by humans, nothing stops them from wagging their tails and licking your hands when you walk up to their kennel. Despite all the suffering these poor pit bulls have been through in their short lives, they are some of the sweetest animals you could ever meet. Over the past three years of working closely with the dogs at the shelter, I’ve only been growled or snapped at three times – all by chihuahuas.
Myself and one of the shelter dogs, Spencer.
Where do you do your cartooning?
I used to draw my cartoons in pencil on a blank piece of paper, scan them into the computer, and then color them in using an art program and a mouse on my family’s downstairs computer. When I was younger, the process of using a mouse and a just-OK art program worked fine. As I got older and began to take cartooning more seriously, it became apparent to both me and my folks that I needed a new workstation. My wonderful parents and I split the cost of a new computer for my room. My dad also got me a more professional art program, which made my process more efficient. The biggest and most important change in the process, however, was the addition of a drawing tablet my parents got me for Christmas two years ago. Using a tablet and stylus to draw on the computer, rather than just a mouse, not only tremendously sped the process up, but also made my cartoons look less digitized and more hand-drawn.
Every time I start a new cartoon, I let my bearded dragon lizard, Poncho (aliases include “Jon Pon Chovi,” “The Mysterious P,” “Poncho the Head Honcho,” and “PONCHITO: DESTROYER OF WORLDS”) cavort around on my desk for fun while I’m working. He likes to sit on my lap, look out the window, run around and do other lizardy things. Having him near me makes cartooning that much more fun. He always looks like he’s smiling, and it’s always nice to have a positive presence around when I’m struggling with a cartoon.
The steps in my cartooning process today are:
1. Think of an idea
2. Sketch it out and scan into the computer to use as a template
3. Make sure Poncho doesn’t try to jump off my desk
4. Outline the sketch in black with the tablet and stylus, add smaller elements
5. Fill in with color
6. Tell Poncho to stop trying to eat the moving cursor on the screen
7. Draw the shading, add details (i.e., eyes, grass, etc.)
8. Give Poncho a victory pet
And voila! A new cartoon is born.
Thanks for reading, everyone! I appreciate all of you looking at my silly drawings and reading about my life. Have a good week!
Read The Best Medicine Cartoon here.