Featured artist Jeff Manley - The World’s Most Under-Appreciated Cartoonist!™
Jeff Manley is tenacious! It’s rare for a guy to put out so much work and for nobody to know who he is. That’s all about to change… unleashing the massive reach and power of Sketch Wallet’s media prowess we now introduce to the world… Jeff Manley, cartoonist extraordinaire.
We’re going to help a fellow artist and dreamer out. First off, we need to add some followers to his social media. He should have at-least 20x what he has now. Take a moment and like/follow him on the following:
Instagram - Twitter - Facebook
I’m serious, do it and then come back and read the rest of this interview. I think you’ll find a lot in common with Jeff as he finds balance between family, work, his art and struggles to do what he loves or dare I say, what he was born to do.
Jeff’s comics go in a lot of directions: biographical, hilarious, heartfelt, adventurous, sincere and more. Learn from his mistakes and triumphs and join us as we look into the future plans of the hardest working cartoonist you have never heard of. Read on…
Ok, let’s start with your origin story, what age did you realize your were (or wanted to be) an artist?
As my mom always told people, "Oh... he's been drawing since he could hold a crayon." My dad was a newspaper reader. And at a very early age I discovered comic strips. I loved them all. I was hooked. And wanted nothing else but to be a cartoonist.
How did you visualize getting there and what was the reality of that journey?
I never was good at planning. I thought if I just kept drawing it would happen for me.
How does cartooning fit into your life now?
My life is divided into three parts. 1. Family ( I am married and we have 5 children) 2. Work (Graphic Designer - recently laid off) 3. Cartoonist (working on a graphic novel that I want to shop out for a publisher). So, when I am not working or spending time with my family, I am trying to draw. Which means drawing whenever and wherever I can.
What materials/tools do you like to use best?
I am a simple man (cue Lynard Skynard song) and I want to be able to produce comics in the most affordable way possible. I use Zig Writers, which are scrapbook markers, sold in the scrap book sections of Walmart or Micheals. They have a great fine point that lasts a long time and also has a broad tip that is great for filling in black areas. And it's archival! I am very old school when it comes to sketches. I use whatever paper I can find. I have bought every style of sketchbook available and still will draw on 3x5 index cards.... but, it is very nice to have a sketchbook with me at all times, in my SKETCH WALLET. I also carry a Midori Brass Bullet Pencil Holder. That is an amazing combination.
Is it difficult to balance work, family and your art?
Yes. One hundred percent. Especially since I don't get paid to make comics I have to convince myself that what I am doing is important enough in the grand scheme of things to take time away from my family to do it. When I am already taking time away from them to work my day job. Most of the time I am either on a lunch break or people are sleeping when I am drawing.
What do your wife and kids think of your cartoons?
My wife wishes that I never stopped drawing a daily journal comic about our family... and she wishes my stories were either about us, or pugs. My kids just look at my art as the thing daddy does. They know I am talented, but they have always seen me drawing, so it's not magical.
When you were doing biographical comics, was there ever a time that you really wanted to share something but thought it might be crossing the line and embarrass your family? Or were there times when you shared something and then got some backlash from them later?
I drew a daily journal comic for 4-5 years (on and off) and I hid nothing. The only thing I kept out of it was dealing with my ex-wife. Everything else was put in. I really feel that honesty was the best way to capture what it's like to be in the Manley family.
You have a lot of titles on Amazon, which was your favorite to work on?
Gone. It was the first time I attempted a Graphic Novel and not just comic strips. I was really pushing myself to try things I would never do in a strip.
What’s the story behind the title, “FAIL”?
At the point I created FAIL I was going to some regional conventions and trying to sell my books and 8x10 drawings of characters I thought were cool. The attendees did not think they were cool. And they went unsold. For multiple conventions. I really liked what I did. And thought of putting them into an art book. But, my nagging self doubt told me, "if they didn't want the art, why would they want a book of it?" I remained positive enough to keep thinking about what to do with this art. Then it hit me... A COLLECTION OF STUFF THAT I WOULD NEVER PUT IN IT'S OWN BOOK. So I scanned all my art, un-inked comic pages, short strange webcomics, unfinished comic ideas and odd side projects and collected them as an example of my failures.
Tell us about your process of writing, thumb-nailing, penciling, and inking, etc.
I work with a standard newspaper comic strip size template (That I modified from Wes Molebash). That I print on 8 1/2 x 11 80# card stock at 10% Cyan. I do a process that I call Drawriting or Improve Comics. I have the idea of where I want to go with a story and just start drawriting it. Which usually involves rough thumbnails for less than half of the strips I draw. I basically thumbnail the strips that I think of when I am not sitting at a drawing board. But mostly, I sit down, look at the last couple strips I drew and think, "What next?" Then I take my non-photo blue pencil and start drawing. My template has two strips per page. But I always drawrite one, then ink it before moving on to the second strip on the page. Inking is done with a ZIG Writer. Man, I love that pen. and then an 01 tech pen for details and hatching. I rarely use photoshop. I then scan it all in, remove the cyan... and the magic is over.
What are your drawing habits or routines?
I have what I call a Mobile Studio. Which is a portable drawing board that I leave in my car. I also keep my pre-printed comic paper and pens in a Kokuyo Bizrack A4 Bag. I don't have a specific time that I work best. But, storywise I am always thinking about the story. Since I don't script, I am constantly thinking about possibilities and different directions to take the story.
What’s the premise of your upcoming comic Zero Adventure?
Zero is the youngest member of a family of adventurers. And he is chosen to make first contact with aliens. The actual story starts when he has already been established in a galactic alliance and is traveling planet to planet helping defeat evil aliens. The book is going to be set up like a collection of newspaper comics. With 6 daily black and white strips with a following full color double sized strip. I really want this to feel like a book you would pick up and think it was a long lost newspaper strip you had just never heard of.
Where are you at in that project?
Half way... I hope. My main problem is that when I started a year ago, I was drawing strips of all 5 members of the Adventure Family. And I got quite far before I realized I really only wanted to focus on Zero. I feel like there is always time to go back and work on the other family members' stories.
I know you had a table recently at a comic convention, do you do that a lot or was that new for you?
I've been to a few shows over the past 17 years. Mostly small press or regional. I've gone to Motor City Comic Con, Detroit Fanfare, Cincy Con, S.P.A.C.E, FLUKE and my hometown show Cherry Capital Comic Con. I love doing shows, but mostly I feel overlooked. And my sales are rarely enough to "make table" and the with my family size and financial situation (I'm poor) long trips to big shows just can't happen. The best thing about shows is the industry friends I have made. I am friends with some surprisingly big name artists. And even just a like from one of them can make my day. The last C4 (Cherry Capital Comic Convention) I went to was my best show yet. I was on my first panel (a live draw off) and I surprised the audience with my quick draw skills. I felt like a guest not just an exhibitor.
Are there any projects in the future that you’d like to do?
One that people actually see.
Is there any advice you would give to someone that would like to level up their art?
Draw everyday. And draw things that you don't draw well. You will never get better by only drawing the things you draw well. And if you want to draw comic books for a living.... Draw comics for fun, and show them to people.
What is your favorite reaction to one of your drawings?
I live in a tiny town Elk Rapids, MI (one stop light). Every summer they have a weekly street festival put on by the Chamber of Commerce with street food and a band and games for kids. For 5 years they hired me to sit in the street and draw anything a kid wanted for free. A lot of times that ended up being a caricature. I am not a caricaturist. But, I will draw people in a cartoon style, and they don't seem to mind that it's not a giant head on a tragically small body. Anyways... I had a group of girls around the age of 12 or 13 ask me to draw them. There were two of them that were very out going and talkative, the last one I drew was of the shy girl. I drew a really great likeness and handed it to her. She looked at it, went stone face, and looked at me and said words I will never forget. EVER. She smiled a little and said, "You made me look beautiful." I almost cried. I still almost cry thinking about this adorable 13 year old that doesn't feel pretty and I made her feel good about herself. I wonder if she still thinks about that drawing. If it still makes her feel good.
How can people find you?
Also you can read a webcomic that I drew for 3 years called Punching the Clock. Which did come in second place in a reader poll for Best Webcomic in the Comics Buyers Guide in 2013:
Punching The Clock – Volume 1: Training Daze | Digital Nerdage
also listen to me on a podcast where I drink to much milk and puke (spoilers):
T.I.P.S! 167 – Jeff Manley Barfs » The Ink Panthers Show!
Jeff also does commissions! Only $30 for him to draw anything on an 8x10. Just send a message through social media.