Eric Epote is a professional cartoonist who honed in skills in elementary school. Due to his parents he started traveling around the world very early in life. The young cartoonist is now based in Washington DC and took time to answer few questions for us!
How old were you when you knew you wanted to draw?
The first time I wanted to draw was around 7 or 8 years old. I saw The Mona Lisa somewhere and tried to redraw it… I failed miserably, but I swore I would one day be able to redraw it. That sparked some sort of life challenge within me. Then maybe around 9 years old, my big brother showed me a flipbook cartoon animation he made… His drawings were extremely cartoonish, but funny looking. I remember trying to emulate that, but that also that also failed. He lost interest in drawing… So, I would take some of his stuff to school and pass it as my own. Confession time! Lol, I loved how impressed people were. And yes, I was that rotten…
Until the day a bully asked me to draw something ON THE SPOT… I remember knowing I sucked but I was gonna do my best.
Not only did I not get beat up, the bully loved the drawing (of him as a boxer…) so much, He went on to praise my skills all over school. By the 5th drawing he “forced” me to draw for him, we were pretty much friends and drawing made me happy. The happiest.I have never known, until recently, WHAT I wanted to draw though. That is an endless journey.
When did you decide to take your passion to the next level and how did your parents react?
So many memories flood to mind… I would say my family moving from Cameroon made me feel like I was going to the Promised Land, so when that happened, I said to myself, the opportunity is here, let’s do it…
Near the end of high school I had lost interest in everything, but drawing. So around that time, I decided that I was going to draw for a living, whatever category of art I would find myself into.
My parents were not pleased. No parent would be pleased. I’m just glad that they were understanding and let me go through it all. It’s a hard, painful, heartbreaking, exhausting, sleep-depriving rocky road.
They tried to warn me, but I guess I was stubborn because here we are. Lol I like to believe that deep down they saw me at my happiest when I was drawing and supported my love and passion. Also it looked like I may go SOMEWHERE in life if I kept at it, rather than… whatever else I was doing at that time, which I know wasn’t too productive…
I thank them everyday for allowing me to pursue my passion.
Can you describe your drawing routine?
I don’t have a set routine, except for OswaldDoingThings… The completion of a page goes as follow:
- I sit down with a cup of coffee and bad trip about having no new idea whatsoever (every single time).
- Eventually, as I check emails etc, a page will appear in my mind or a clear idea. I do not sit down and think about what the story is gonna be about. I’ve always let my subconscious wander off and when a 6 sequence appears in mind, I run to a piece of paper to do some rough thumbnails of what’s gonna happen. That is the hardest and riskier part. Trusting that my brain will come up with a logical 6 frame story “on its own”. I often joke and say that Oswald writes his own adventures, I’m just the artist.
- I draw and clean keyframes and the background if there is one.
- I scan the keyframes and place them onto a blank page that has 6 frames pre-drawn on it, in Photoshop.
- I print my “blueprint” page.
- Using a light table, I redraw the page, using pencils only. Daphne in her Reaper form is the only character and element of OswaldDoingThings that is inked. I’ve used white crayons for snow and red ink for blood, but usually it’s all pencils.
- I shade and make sure all the drawings are “good-to-go”.
- I sign the page and write the title, after framing the 6 cases, all with a Sharpie pen.
- I scan the finished page, lower the Saturation and play around with Brightness,Contrast etc.
- I post the page to DeviantArt, Share the link on Twitter, post the page on the Facebook page, and finally on my Instagram page.
Depending on what the page looks like, this process takes 10 to 20 hours.
How would you call your style?
How did you come up with Oswald and for those who don’t know who is Oswald?
Oswald was my Animation School final short film (unfinished…) back in 2007. The story was that the character was getting chased by an eraser that would eventually, well, erase him. My teacher said the premise was too violent (no hard feelings…), so it became a live action animation, with an actual eraser chasing a character around, to clean pencil marks off him.
When it was time to design the character, I got chewed up in class… We had more or less roasting sessions where students presented their stuff, and the whole class would criticize it. I would get home very frustrated. There are a lot of sketches from that month in 2007…One day I’ll show people what the character looked like, when he still looked “human”!
After a late night of extensive character design revisions, I wrote a short story with the “Bart Simpson-looking” character on the Moon. His name was Oliver. It felt like I had a solid idea this time. I even had a name ! Oliver The Moonman getting chased by an eraser… on the Moon. I was pleased. I drew a pose of him in his spacecuit and signed his name next to it and crashed.
In the morning, I looked at the drawing, just to confirm that my idea from the night before wasn’t a fluke. As I stared at the drawing, I noticed I had written “Oswald” instead of “Oliver”… I went to erase the name, and before I wrote Oliver again I stared at The Moonman’s helmet… and erased his face. I didn’t like it, I figured it wasn’t necessary for that ONE drawing of him. And that is the magical moment I “saw” Oswald… an entire, way more awesome character with a lot more potential. I scratched the whole Moonman idea. It wasn’t “Oliver” anymore. Oswald was this non-entity, born out of weeks of brain-wrecking character designing. His plane of existence was the sheet of paper. Now it made sense that an eraser would wanna clean him, he looks unfinished. I was not only pleased, but proud and confident.
I drew A LOT of tiny Oswalds and went back to class, triumphant, answering questions such as:” Why doesn’t he have a face?” and “What’s his story ?” with answers such as “He doesn’t need one.” and “He exists and things happen to him, on this plane of existence, which is the piece of paper.”
I was cocky, I admit it. But, it’s only because I finally had a character no one could criticize and I could do WHATEVER I wanted with him.
Fast forward 7 years, I have drawn and painted a lot of different things, including Neechism, my first comic book based on Nietzsche, and I’ve actually redrawn The Mona Lisa, on a huge canvas,my way (ref. prev. question).
I am not satisfied with my art, even though I do appreciate the evolution of my skills. I had picked up an old skechbook some weeks before for nostalgia purposes so it was just laying there. As I pick it off the floor, it opens to a page full of Oswalds, my old friend, my old invincible, unbeatable, ready-for-whatever little dude. I start remembering how disciplined I was working on the short film, and it hits me. I need that rigid discipline within my own skills and to find a reason to my art. So I decide, screw it, since Oswald make me realize these things, I’m gonna bring Oswald back as a daily webcomic.
I pick the 6 case format because I love Joan Cornella’s paintings. Before I draw the first one, I name the comics “Oswald Doing Things”, because him doing things was the only thing I actually know is gonna happen in the book, and it is my way to officialize the project. Then I ask myself:” How do I keep interest in this guy’s life ?” and my inner voice answers:”Just kill him. That way he’ll never really die.” I draw a page in 2 hours… It’s terrible, but I will never forget the feeling of pride and accomplishment I had the whole day lol in my mind I was already gone, whatever that even really means… The day after I’m feeling ill, and almost do not draw a second page… I quit, then un-quit, at least 10 times each. Finally I force myself to do it, finish the second page, post it, toss it to the side, go to work a double-shift and crash late at night. I wake up in the morning feeling like a new man. The pain is gone and I really just wanna draw another page. Ain’t nothing to it but to do it, plus that particular day was a day off work (versus the feeling ill/doubleshift one). I scratched the very first Oswald page I drew, named “Oswald Works Out” the official first page and started working on another one. I did 100 pages in 4 months and released the first book on January 2015. I stopped doing them daily as the ideas started becoming more and more intricate and I didn’t want to rush and do crappy drawings just to deliver a new page.
I think that’s the sum of it !
I always wonder why Oswald doesn’t speak?
Because it’s a silent comic book, but most importantly, because he speaks the universal language of childish curiosity, I think lol I never once thought about what he would sound like… Whenever I do it sounds wrong… So I don’t.
What were some of the challenges you had when you were publishing Oswald?
I self-publish through Amazon, so none really. It was a long process, but not challenging. The biggest challenge is and will always be to keep going, NO MATTER WHAT.
How did your friends support you and react when they saw you published your first book?
Most of them bought one or multiple copies of the book. Whenever someone sent me a picture of the book, I would tear a little. I wish I couldve signed them all. I can’t explain it. But, I am grateful everyday and everyday remembering that pushes me to keep at it. There are some people who have been supporting my art for years. I don’t call them friends. We’re Nakama. Family.
Do you do commission work? whats the hardest piece you had to do?
I used to but I don’t anymore… It’s never been a great experience and I’m sure a lot of artists will relate.I recently worked for a week on a drawing. It’s a great piece, but again, I don’t care much for commissions anymore, unless the money is worth my time. I’d rather work on my book.
Whats next for Oswald and for you?
Dying. Over and over and over again.
What is the best advice that has been given to you?
“Change the way you think.”
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