Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Alex Kotzky...In His Own Words

It seems that as as far back as I can remember I have always been drawing. It was, then, a natural conclusion for me to earn my living in some art endeavour. However, before Apartment 3-G was released as a syndicated strip, I had traveled a circuitous route in the free-lance art field. I was born in the Bronx, New York in 1923. I attended the Music and Art High School, Pratt Institute, and the Art Student's League. During the war I served in the 4th Division, and I toured the scenic spots of the European continent amidst a restless native element. With the conclusion of the war, I plunged back in to the real war...free-lancing in New York...and I was wounded severely many times. I did advertising art and illustration. I also received good comic strip experience by ghosting several of them.

In May 1961, Apartment 3-G was released. The immediate problem that Apartment 3-G posed was to depict three good-looking, shapely career girls living together in an apartment. Each girl had to have an identity of her own, not only professionally and as a personality, but each had to be recognized physically as an individual. I tried to solve this problem by thinking of Lu Ann Wright as the smallest of the three, with a blonde pony-tail and a rounded face. Tommie Thompson is a red-head, medium in stature, and with a square face. Margo Magee is the tall brunette you usually see in the offices of many large advertising agencies, high cheek-boned and long-legged. It is very useful to have clear-cut personalities established because it seems that after a while dictate their individual mannerisms. This does much to help animate a particular strip which is necessarily devoted to discussion and conversation.

Perhaps the most important element in drawing a strip is to establish its personality. You should decide what you want to say pictorially, and then concentrate all your efforts on that theme. Everything in the strip should be positively stated. Space in a strip is at such a premium that no opportunity should be wasted to keep punching the story across. I use a 2-ply kid-finish board. I use the smooth side because it seems to provide a better surface for pen work on small drawings of heads. I generally use a #3 sable brush for figure work. The brush gives the figure more zip and vitality. I use a #290 point for heads. This is a flexible point, and I can get a thin and thick quality of line. For backgrounds and mechanical items I use a #659 pen. The point is more rigid, and enables me to get a firm, consistent line.

Try to get your art work reproduced. You can them check ways to get better reproduction. You will also see your work in a reduced size, and you can determine ways to improve it. Most often you will find that you can greatly simplify your art. Best of luck to aspiring young cartoonists. In my own case a patient and understanding wife, Emma, has been my most important asset, without her cooperation, my weekly deadlines would be sorely tried.


Paul Chadwick said...

Was this a personal letter to an aspiring artist?

Great craftsman. I have a big stack of 3-G I occasionally do studies from. Too seldom, really.

Michael Fraley said...

I've always loved 3-G, and when I was growing up I felt like a bit of an oddball because of it. "Look at that line! The mannerisms he gives those characters! See, the girls aren't all the same with just different hair colours!" There was a true joy of life to his work, along with the skills of a great draftsman. I wrote to Kotzky in the early 1980's, asking about a minor character he'd used back in 1977, and he responded with an original strip that featured her, as well as telling me that she was based on Olivia Newton John - something I never would have guessed!

Dave Karlen said...

Michael, thanks for your comment, that's a great Kotzky story.