How would you like a job where you can be creative, drink beer, acquire celebrity friends, and pick up girls effortlessly while you do it? No, I’m not talking about becoming a rock star – I’m referring to the coolest profession in the world: a comic book artist.
Are you lacking the superhuman drawing skills necessary to make it to the big leagues? No worries: even the artistically challenged can reap the benefits of comic book stardom – you can get started just by heading down to your local pub with a pad of paper and a handful of pencils. The movement is called Drink & Draw – a social club where professional artists, fans, and even celebrities gather to down a few pints and burn some lead.
To shed some light on the subject, Marvel and DC cover artist Dave Johnson (one of Drink & Draw’s founding fathers) talks to me about beer, girls, and the club that’s spreading around the world.
Blake Northcott: Thanks so much for taking the time to speak with me today.
Dave Johnson: No problem, Blake. It’s my pleasure.
Blake: So first off, let’s talk about Drink & Draw – when and where did it start, and how did the concept first come about?
Dave: It started back in 2005. I had been living in Los Angeles for a few years and discovered that Dan Panosian and Jeff Johnson also lived out here. Being in the comic book industry I’d known them both for years but wasn’t very close to them, so I made a plan to hang out with them because they seemed like really cool dudes.
But Dan was married and Jeff was practically married himself, so I knew if I tried to get them out to bars on a regular basis it might be a tough sell to their better halves. But I figured if they brought home drawings then how much trouble could they have gotten into?
Blake: Wow, so you’re like an evil genius?
Dave: Of course! My plan also involved the fact that if you’re drawing in a bar, women are sometimes curious about what you’re up to. Ice broken!
Blake: So this was not only a ploy to trick wives and girlfriends, but to lure in new women as well? You’re going to have millions of men wanting to learn how to draw now!
Dave: Yeah. It’s funny though – the first night the bar we picked to draw in was, unknown to us, having its ‘Gay Night’. So all night we were surrounded by dudes.
Blake: (laughs) So your plan backfired…or did it?
Blake: So then how did that evolve into the Drink & Draw concept, and when did it spread?
Dave: Well, after we settled into a regular bar, and started telling friends about it, it started to grow. It really took off when we started posting the art on social media. Then other people wanted to come, and people who lived out of state created their own chapters.
Blake: Nice! So when did you first become aware of other chapters?
Dave: After about a year or so. People Emailed and started asking us for our blessing. I mean, it’s not like we could stop them from going to a bar and drinking and drawing, but it’s nice that they asked.
Blake: That must have been gratifying to know that you started a movement. How many chapters do you estimate there are, and where are some of them located outside of the United States?
Dave: Honestly? I have no idea how many participants there are at the moment, but it’s truly international now. We’ve heard from chapters in England, Spain, Mexico, France, Canada and Italy. Maybe more, but I forget.
Blake: That is awesome. So tell me about the actual drinking and drawing; how much drinking do you usually do during a session, and how much is too much?
Dave: Well, it differs from night to night and person to person. But I tend to view it as drink and draw, not drunk and draw – so for me, between three to five beers throughout the night works just fine. Plus I can walk home from the pub we host it from.
Blake: I guess if you’re too drunk to draw then it’s not a very productive evening. Ever spilled a drink on someone’s drawing? Or had a drunk person spill on yours?
Dave: Close, but not yet.
Blake: Any other friends in the comic industry participate with you in LA, or out in other chapters?
Dave: Well yeah, we’ve had a lot of awesome people come by. Robert Crumb (Fritz the Cat) came to one, Mike Mignola (Hellboy), and Bob Layton of Iron Man fame is a regular.
Even some famous people outside of comic books; a few UFC stars as well as referee Herb Dean – there are a lot of MMA guys who like comics. Hell, one night Topher Grace came by.
Blake: Out of all the non-comic book drawing celebrities, who was the best artist? Did anyone surprise you?
Dave: Surprise? No, sorry to say, nobody surprised me. (laughs) I can’t remember…I was too busy drawing and drinking.
Blake: So how do you feel about the expanding popularity of Drink & Draw?
Dave: To be honest it’s getting too popular. And the main reason I started it – to hang out with Dan and Jeff – is getting harder and harder because the place is too busy and I can’t get a seat.
Blake: You can’t get a seat at your own Drink & Draw? That sounds like it’s turning into quite an exclusive club. So aside from drinking and drawing, what books are you working on? And is there anything on the horizon that you can talk about?
Dave: Mostly cover work for everybody it seems. The Fantastic Four, Shadowman for Valiant, Ultimate X-Men, a new Avengers book I can’t really talk about, Fury for Marvel, BPRD for Darkhorse and covers for Jimmy Palmiotti called Killshot.
I’m also working on three animated shorts of my own creation called Eyevis for MTV’s Liquid Television.
Blake: It sounds like you’re keeping busy. Have you had time to do anything outside of drawing covers and having the occasional pint and the bar – like read any good comics or see any good movies?
Dave: Hellboy and BPRD are always a good read. I do buy a lot of European comic albums; more for the art than the stories since I don’t speak French.
And I read the stuff Darwyn Cooke is doing with Richard Stark – he put me into the latest book (the Parker series).
Blake: You’re a character in the book?
Dave: Yeah. He told me I die in a pretty brutal way. I’m looking forward to it.
Blake: That is a must-read book for me now! Thank you for your time, and as always I can’t wait to see your next cover!
Dave: No, thank you.
Blake Northcott is an author, Twitter-er, and occasional Slayer of Vampires (only the ones that sparkle).You can follow her on Twitter, or pick up her best-selling Sci-Fi/Superhero books Vs. Realityand Relapse over at Amazon.com.
Check out Blake’s Sarcasm-Infused Review of The Dark Knight Rises. –>