Meet a Local Cartoonist: A Chat with Jeffrey Thompson
Jeffrey Thompson’s worked at Big Planet Comics Bethesda for a long time, but he's also an artist. He’s had gallery shows of his paintings in Baltimore, does spot illustration on demand, and has done children’s books in a very interesting scratchboard style. Recently he began creating in the comics field, although his new works won’t be appearing in a comic book store. Find out why after the jump:
Washington City Paper: What type of comic work or cartooning do you do?
Jeffrey Thompson: I’m doing children's educational work right now. It’s sequential art about life in different jobs from Capstone Publications, part of their "My Community" series. I just finished up Firehouse, Vet, Farm, and Dentist. I am working on Transportation, Police Station, and Library.
WCP: When (within a decade is fine) and where were you born?
JT: January 1970. In Washington, D.C.
WCP: Why are you in Washington now? What neighborhood or area do you live in?
JT: Nope, I’m not in D.C. I live in Charles Village in Baltimore.
WCP: What is your training and/or education in cartooning?
JT: Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore...and 10 years as a comic monkey at Bethesda's Big Planet Comics.
WCP: Who are your influences?
JT: In comics? Matt Wagner, Wendy Pini when I was growing up. Since then I seem now to prefer the simple line of Mike Mignola, ink work of Paul Pope and Jeff Smith....Scott Morse is the person I wish I could emulate the most.
WCP: If you could, what in your career would you do-over or change?
JT: I think about that a lot. I think no matter what I did to change my past I would still find myself doing something art-related....so I figure that wouldn't change. Maybe I’d have tried New York or L.A. when I was 15 years younger. I pretty sure that would have led to working in a coffee shop and never having time for art...but those are the illustration Meccas. Who knows? Now it’s probably not so important to be based in those places...but 15 or 20 years ago it was important. Now work is shunted around FTP sites and jobs come in through e-mail. I never meet anyone in real life anymore when I do jobs...I rarely even hear a voice over the phone.
WCP: What work are you best-known for?
JT: I did a couple of children's books for National Geographic a decade ago and The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere got some notice for the style of woodcut/digital I was doing. It’s a bit dated-looking now...but its still in print.
WCP: What work are you most proud of?
JT: Hiawatha and Megissogwon (also from National Geographic). Like Revere it’s a bit dated in style now, but it was so gosh darn pretty and the designer did a wonderful job on it.
WCP: What would you like to do or work on in the future?
JT: I love folktales. I love what Gaiman and Vess do together. I'd like to tackle something along those lines. I have 10 pages done for an adaption of the Japanese folktale The Boy Who Painted Cats, but it has languished for a year or more now. I also love the style of the 1950s Little Golden Books and that is a style I want to work in for something as well. Scott Morse has that style down pat and something simple but flowing would be great. I only have so much time though.
WCP: What do you do when you're in a rut or have writer's block?
JT: Whine about it to anyone who puts up with it. Take a walk. Drink.
WCP: What do you think will be the future of your field?
JT: Something like what you see in Japan with the sea of manga they swim in. Sequential art for every possible story topic, readily available for anyone at anytime...that’s a few years off, but children's educational graphic novels and Scholastic’s production of books like Bone are feeding a generation...
WCP: What's your favorite thing about D.C.?
JT: Oak Hill Cemetery.
WCP: Least favorite?
JT: Crowds of zombies.
WCP: What monument or museum do you take most out-of-town guests to?
JT: Natural History Museum because they have dinosaurs.
WCP: Do you have a website or blog?