Interview: Martin Young, Bible Cartoonist

 

1. How did you become a Bible Cartoon Artist?  Did you always know you wanted to be a Bible Cartoon Artist ?  How old were you when you became serious about your profession?

Answer: I have been a full-time Bible Cartoon Artist for nearly five years now. I was a Graphic Designer before that, but I was feeling unfulfilled because I wasn’t doing a job that connected my faith with my artistic skills and passion, which is drawing. I have always been artistic and creative. However, I didn’t really consider becoming a Bible Cartoonist until about six years ago.

 

2. What other jobs have you had?

Answer: I have had many jobs. I’ve worked on a turkey farm (getting pecked by the birds sitting on their eggs!), I’ve been a baker (getting up far too early in the morning!), sold books in a bookshop, been a waiter and finally landed a Graphic Designer’s job while I was at University, studying Earth Sciences. I was going to become a geologist, but I realized in my final year at university that art was my passion. I have retained an interest in Earth Science and sciences in general, though, which now helps in my work as a Bible Cartoonist.

3. How do you spend your days (or nights) at work?   What is your favorite part of your job?

Answer: Being a one-man band, I do everything connected with Bible Cartoons. I draw the cartoon illustrations in pencil, ink them, scan them into my PC and color them up.

Apart from the artistic work, I also produce most of the code that keeps my website (www.biblecartoons.co.uk) running, and that is hard technical work… lots of head scratching and wondering how to make an idea for a function actually work in practice.

Then, there is all the record keeping, filing, social media marketing, etc. necessary to keep my small business going. I like to be organized and know where everything is, and that is an asset when I am being pulled in so many different directions by all the various aspects of my job. There is definitely more work to be done than hours in the day.

The favorite part of my job is dreaming up the idea for a cartoon. Before I draw anything, that idea has infinite potential and is very exciting.

4. What kinds of materials or equipment are required for your job?  Any special training required to use the equipment?

Answer: I’m a bit old fashioned in that I use pencil and paper to draw my cartoon artwork. Then, I ink the drawing in with technical pens. Many people use a graphics tablet to draw directly into a computer, but I prefer to draw by hand on paper. I do use a Wacom graphics tablet and Corel PhotoPaint program to apply color to my drawings, so I’m not a complete Luddite!

In my previous job as a Graphic Designer, I was fortunate enough to be trained in the use of the computer programs I now use. When I look back, I can see the hand of the Lord gently guiding me and providing me with all the experience necessary for my current career as a Bible Cartoonist.

5. What’s your work schedule?  Do you also have a hobby outside of work?

Answer: My wife and I pray and read a devotional text each morning, as it always seems appropriate to lift our day to the Lord. We are often so busy that we couldn’t cope without God’s help.

I read the Bible as a matter of necessity. How else could I draw Bible Cartoons? Before I was a full-time Bible Cartoonist, I read the Bible because I thought I should, but it was a bit “dry” for my taste. I think the Lord knew that the only way I would really connect with the Bible was if I became a Bible Cartoonist. Now I have the best reason in the world for reading the Bible.

I usually start Bible Cartooning at 7:30 a.m. and work through to 6 p.m., Monday to Friday. If I am particularly busy (in the run up to Christmas, for instance), I may work extra hours in the evening or on Saturday. I do not work on Sunday, as I believe the Sabbath should be set aside for the Lord.

As for hobbies, my wife and I go for a run a few times a week. I read, but these days the books are business related, to try to help me promote and market my work.

6. How long does it take to draw a Bible Cartoon Illustration?

Answer: I often do lots of Biblical research in preparation for a Bible Cartoon, as I like to draw a scene which accurately reflects the Holy Bible. I will often look at geological maps of  a specific area in the Holy Lands, look at the vegetation and animals of that area and read the scriptures to gain as much knowledge as possible before I put pen to paper. This is where my interest in science comes in: I like to find out about the geography, geology, fauna and flora of the Holy Lands. I read about the ancient world, architecture, clothing and fashion, culture and lifestyle, etc. I wasn’t really interested in history before Bible Cartoons came along, but now it is fascinating. I produce notes on every cartoon I draw (see the Bible Cartoons website), which explains all about this research. My aim is to reflect the Bible passage as accurately as possible, while still producing a fun, colorful, entertaining illustration.

The process of research, drawing and coloring a single cartoon usually takes between two to three days, because my style is very detailed.

7.  What advice would you give a kid who is thinking about your profession?

Answer: 1) Practice. Draw all the time. Practice constantly. 2) Enjoy what you do. 3) Never, ever, give up on your particular dream. 4) Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do something. 5) Believe in God and yourself.

I began drawing when I was four years old and haven’t stopped since. One of my first pictures was a pencil drawing of Neil Armstrong walking on the moon in 1969. I used to draw spaceships and dragons and imaginative things all the time at school. My art teacher wanted me to draw the “real” world, advice which I resisted. He was trying to get me to understand that if I could accurately draw real world objects, then I would be more successful in drawing my imaginative objects as well. Only now, as I research the real world of the Bible and ancient civilizations, can I truly appreciate what my art teacher was trying to explain to me. So, I would also advise aspiring artists (even ones focused largely on imaginative work) to take an active interest in the “real” world, to inform and improve your artistic output.

8. Tell us your favorite experience as a Bible Cartoon Artist.

Answer: I love Monday mornings. Most people hate them, but I love them, because the week is just beginning and it is full of promise, potential and opportunity. I like the beginning of each day for the same reason. Sometimes I am disappointed at the end of the day by my artistic work, but the beginning of the day has endless potential and nothing has been defined yet. I love that.

I also love to find that a new person has decided to use one of my Bible Cartoons in church or in Sunday school, in school or on a mission trip. It is very rewarding to produce a piece of artwork and then have people use it to further the kingdom of God.

9. In what environment do you work best?

Answer: Although I sometimes listen to music and sermons, I often work in silence. I like to work alone. I draw in a small studio in my home, which has large maps of the Holy Lands on the wall, a book case, desk, computer and all the paraphernalia necessary to my work. I like to have time to think, to ponder and to draw and write ideas down.

10.  Are you a Christian and how does your Christianity blend into your work?  Any other interesting tidbits about your work or life you can share?

Answer: I am a Christian of about 30 years… has it really been that long? One of the great things about my work as a Bible Cartoonist is that I am able to unify my work, my interests (science, art, etc) and my faith, into one cohesive whole. In all previous employments I have not been able to do that. I became increasingly restless and unfulfilled in my previous job as a Graphic Designer. I realize now that what I really wanted was a career which would allow me to unify my Christian faith, my interests, my artistic and creative talents and my passions into a single whole lifestyle. Bible Cartoons provides that opportunity, which is why I love it so much.

11. Who do you wish to emulate?

Answer: I was always more interested in doing art than studying past artists, and for that reason I have not had many artist “heroes.” Having said that, I  have come to appreciate the work and skill of a number of artists. Chief amongst these are:

1) Vincent van Gogh – a deeply troubled man, with inner turmoil and prodigious artistic output.

2) John Martin –  an 18th Century Christian Romantic landscape painter. He painted vast oil canvases of apocalyptic scenes – very inspirational.

3) Josh Kirby (1928-2001) – a Fantasy illustrator, most famous for painting the brilliant cover illustrations of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels.

4) Rodney Matthews (1945 – present) – Christian Fantasy Artist who works in Acrylic Inks/Airbrush.

5) Arthur Rackham (1867-1939)  – a fabulous fantasy book illustrator.

There are many, many other artists who I now admire.

12. Do you read? Who are your favorite author(s), including both children and adult titles.

Answer: I like to read Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels, which I read while on holiday.  His humorous and imaginative writing is also a wonderful insight into the human condition.

Most of the rest of the time, I read practical books about marketing and business.

14. How do you relax, recharge, have fun?

Answer: We attend a church (Brixworth Christian Fellowship) and I run a Wednesday evening house group. These recharge my batteries, especially as I am in danger of spending too much time on my own and becoming a hermit.

I like to watch science fiction and fantasy films and TV series. My wife prefers romantic comedy and period dramas, which I am also happy to watch. We walk locally and go for a run several times a week. We love coastal walks by the sea… it’s a pity we live in the Midlands, about as far away from the sea as you can get here in the UK.

For me, creativity is fun and my work suits me so well that I seldom feel the need to recharge… going on holiday can be more stressful (taking me away from work) than staying put and continuing to draw Bible Cartoons!

 

 

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