An Interview with Andries Maritz
How many years have you spent perfecting your art?
(and/or do you think you've perfected it yet?)
I have always drawn. So really, it’s taken all my life to develop to this point… which raises the disconcerting thought that I should be much better at what I do by now!
As for ‘style’, it is pretty subjective. I just draw and paint the way I do. I don’t copy other artists or try to even look at too many other people’s work; it interferes with my own style. If there is a style that evolves out of how my brain talks to my hand and how my hand gets the pencil to move and how I interact with the medium, be it paint or stylus, then that is my style.
Sometimes I like the way I draw, other times I think it’s terrible and I get bored with it. So I am not ever really satisfied with what I do. But isn’t that the case with most artists? If you look at something you did some time ago and still love it, I think you are pretty much dead in the water.
How did your style evolve?
When I was an animator at Disney I got really frustrated having to draw in the Disney style, it is very limiting. So in order to keep my ‘sanity’ I started drawing commuters on my train ride to work and a caricature a day. Just open the newspaper pick a face and do caricature, 10 or 20 minutes at the most. That allowed me to still draw in my own style. It was sort of stream of consciousness drawing. There was very little interference or ‘editing’ in trying to draw a certain way … it just happens. What goes on the paper is what goes on the paper.
Photoshop has become very important to my work and has pushed my style into a more digital arena. It’s opened new ways of approaching projects and enabled me to do things a lot faster than with traditional techniques. Generally, I want to see results very quickly or I get bored, Photoshop makes that happen a lot faster, you can see if you are heading in the right direction pretty quickly.
I still draw all on paper then scan the work and do most of the colour/paint work digitally. It saves time. And of course there is the ‘undo’ function that is probably the best thing in Photoshop. Overall, I’d say I like to try different types of projects and that’s led to me having several styles. I am not always to sure if it’s a good or bad thing. But it helps to keep the business side of things going… I do work for different clients and uses; my advertising work looks different to my film concept stuff, which is different from my caricature and editorial work, some of that has to do with deadlines and client expectations. To be a professional artist these days you have to be versatile!
As influences I’d have to mention Uderzo, Al Hirshfield, Ronald Searle, Mort Drucker, Robert McGinnis, Norman Rockwell, Jack Davis, Paul Coker, Ralph Steadman, Gerald Scarfe - all the big names - and the great South African artist Fred Mouton. All incredible draughtsmen. And going back further, I love the drawings of … Degas, and Da Vinci.
How do you see the significance of the artist in today's world?
Sadly, we are pretty much at the beg and call of whoever wants to give us money for what we do. Be it advertising or newspapers or film companies. It all boils down to how eager you are to make a living out of what you do. There is ample opportunity to make a living as an artist, but I feel very, very few artists have anything significant to say as social commentary. Art has become a very insular world. It seems society in general has been put off by all the posing and nonsense movements that have become so much a part of ‘art’.
Take the field of Caricature for instance, it seems only caricaturists are interested in caricatures. It’s a very compartmentalized. It’s a little like preaching to the choir.
Ultimately art has always commented on the world after the fact, and no drawing has ever changed anything.
What made you decide to turn your art into a profession?
As a kid our neighbour told me I should go work for Disney someday, and I ended up doing that. I seem do what I am told … so that might have something to do with it.
But seriously, I always thought I’d draw pictures for a living. There was never really a choice for me, it always seemed obvious that that would be the way to go. I was born in a little steel factory town and I sure as hell didn’t want to work in the mill, so it was drawing and pursuing that avenue that was the way to go. Admittedly I didn’t know how or with what I was going to do it, but opportunities came along and I tried to make the most of all of them.
In what ways have you found becoming an established artist to be a challenge?
It is very tricky to find a market for what you do, that is the toughest thing. One way around that is to be versatile and do different kinds of jobs, and in different disciplines. And like I said earlier, it also enables you to keep getting jobs, if you are too locked into one style, you limit your chances of getting work.
You have to set up an infrastructure around you to survive. You need to position yourself in a way where you can grab hold of any chances or opportunities that come along. It also helps to live in the right place. If you are in the general area where art ‘happens’, you vastly increase your chances of establishing yourself. That was half the reason I moved to Australia.
Is there any advice you would offer to aspiring cartoon and caricature artists?
Keep drawing, and draw the way YOU draw, don’t copy other artists. That is the one way that you might become a ‘name’ and have a bigger impact. Also, don’t ever think you will make a living out of just being a caricaturist or cartoonist alone. Or if you do, be prepared to live very modestly. Be versatile and open to jump on different kinds of projects. Actually scratch all that … go do something else! There are too many of us already! [Editor nods quietly]
How significant do you feel it is to have "a good education" when aspiring to be a professional artist?
Frankly, if you don’t have the inborn ability to draw well, even a ‘great education’ will not ensure success as a professional artist. I think natural ability is essential, all the rest can be figured out along the way. It’s a little like being an athlete, you either have some genetic make-up that makes you good at physical things or you don’t.
I certainly didn’t have a ‘great’ education. And in my school and town the idea of being a professional artist was a laughably rarefied ambition. But anybody who wants to be a professional artist needs to be ‘self-educated’ to some degree. If you don’t actively pursue and find out more about art you like, no-one will do it for you. But as always, having a good education helps, but it is not essential.
Are there any personal traits or abilities that you feel help you in creating your art?
In caricature a sense of humour is vital. A good work ethic is important, but even more so is the ability to manage your time. You have to be able to deliver under pressure, if you can’t juggle a few different jobs at once then you are probably not cut out to be a professional artist.
I really need a deadline to get me going - not a good thing. But when I do get cracking, I can become the Energizer Bunny. I can keep going and going - a very good thing.
Also, a thick skin helps. Don’t take criticism too much to heart, the same goes for praise, it rarely has any real value. You have to learn who to listen to and when.
How do you get most of your work?
Most of my biggest and well paid jobs come through word of mouth, but I have several agents around the world who bring in a lot of advertising work. I am not very good at self-promotion and could never really get the hang of it, so I need people out there who can bring in work for me. But ultimately your work needs to be able to stand for itself and make people want to hire you. And of course today, you have to have a web presence. It certainly helps to raise your profile.
If you had the opportunity to start over, would you do anything differently?
A tricky question. I think there where some terrible mistakes along the way, but you never know you are making them at the time … but I don’t know what I’d change because some horrible projects have led to better ones.
Actually, one thing I would definitely change is that I would not work on the projects that I ended up getting stumped on the payment. I really hate that!
In what ways do you think the "Digital Age" has made life easier and/or harder for artists?
I have already mentioned the advantages of Photoshop. The ability to work digitally has enabled me to make changes to already finished work that would have been heart stopping if I had worked traditionally. Photoshop has gotten me out of some very tight corners!
The Internet is a blessing, really. And I am not religious, so that says a lot! It enables you to expand your market around the world. You can literally have an ‘empire on which the sun never sets’, and run it all from your bedroom ... if you were so inclined. I guess the only bad thing is that there are not really strict ‘office hours’ anymore, you have to be available pretty much all the time. But that isn’t just an issue for artists, everyone has to deal with that these days.
Do you think that artists are all essentially "crazy"? (... and why or why not?)
I have spells of clarity, when reason reclaims her throne and I am as sane as nobody’s business.
No, artists are not crazy. I think we just tend to view the world in a slightly more subjective way and that might sometimes appear to be a little ‘off’. Rather, non-artists display more meaningful and deeply concerning signs of craziness, just look at the way the media process our information for us! It’s like we are all seven years old and pretty dumb to top it off. But because society seems to like it that way, it’s fine.
I think the whole ‘Crazy Artist’ thing can be laid at the feet of Van Gogh and all that ear-cutting unpleasantness. He pretty much set the stereotype …
What things in life matter most to you?
Family. House. Our cats Jasper and Miss Lucy … the good stuff. Oh, and saving the planet from possible alien invasion ...
Do you think the world "as we know it" will survive into the future, and why or why not?
I certainly hope not. I hope things get better. Hopefully the hold religion - all religion - has on so many people will continue to decline. We will never be really rid of religion, I guess, but we can do with a lot less of it.
Things change. Always have. We just like to think things will settle down and stay the same because our lives are so astoundingly short and we seem to want to think that all the big important things have already happened. Probably because we don’t want to feel like we will miss out. Things that happened when I was a kid, that I considered were fundamental and unalterable form that time onwards, are now positively obsolete. There was a time when Fax machines where really cool!
Where would you like to be ... in say, five or ten years from now?
Hopefully still alive … and happy. Living in my mansion next to the ocean, with the horse-stables in the back and the mountains rolling away into the hazy distance.
… or maybe I’ll kick the illustration business and in five years I’ll be rolling through the outback in my rig with my talking wombat, solving crimes as we go.
Do you have a parting message for readers?
No pay, no play. Don’t do jobs on spec or for free. The only way to get people to value what you do is to make them pay you to do it.
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