Sunday, January 18, 2004

Adis says:Today's Quicksketch Spotlight is on Geek Salad by Warwick Rendell. My drawing portrays the very popular coffee machine. But who is Warwick and what is his comic about, you ask? Read on!

Geek Salad. If I go read it, what will I find?
A classic tale of betrayal, love lost and found, murder, intrigue, and plenty of confused people. Or not.
On the other hand Geek Salad might be about four geeks who live together and work together. Although not adequately explained in the strip, Dave is an independently wealthy geek. He runs an IT business for the fun of it, and Adam, Cassie and Cam "work" for him. Also sharing the premises are Daveís technophobe dad, and two sentient (and as yet, unnamed) coffee machines.

Back when you started, did you know that was going to be the premise?
Yes and no. The basic premise of the computer geeks was roughly in place when I started the strip. The classic adage for writers, is write what you know. So I did. The characters started out as amalgams of other people I know. The setting took a little more work. Daveís dadís arrival was just one of those things.
The coffee machines, on the other hand...
The first coffee machine was a short-term visitor. A storyline, and that was it. Heís still around. The second coffee machine was really only intended as a one-shot joke. Heís still around too. They seem to actually be among the most popular characters in the strip. When Iíve met fans in real life (and you have no idea how surprising I find it to have "fans"), they have, without fail, nominated the coffee machines as their favourites.

What made you want to start your own webcomic?
Get comfortable, this will be a long answer.
You can largely place the blame directly on two people; Illiad, author of User Friendly, and Greg Dean, author of Real Life. I had been a fan of User Friendly for several years, and stumbled across Real Life one night.
The actual event was following the Herculean task of reading the Real Life archives in one sitting. I got to the end, and thought to myself "I could do a webcomic"... Iíve always had a somewhat twisted sense of humour, and skewed view on life, and have always enjoyed making people laugh. I even did a mildly successful stand-up comedy routine. Once. I also write. I thought I might be able to translate that to a webcomic.
Drawing was a bit more of a problem. The first strip was only half a joke. I knew how to draw cartoon eyes and noses, and had been annoying my teachers with them for years when I was at high school, but never seemed to be able to add a head without making it look like a five year old had drawn it. I bought a sketchbook and some mechanical pencils, and started sketching like crazy. Two days later I worked out what I was doing wrong, corrected it, and the characters started coming to life.
Now, I started mid-July, 2002. I got a short-term contract with a government department in August. Within a couple of weeks, the job had ground me into a paste, and I felt like, as Jen from Catharsis once phrased it, "Iíd lost the funneh". I couldnít write or draw the strip, because I wasnít happy. When I finished the contract in December, I really didnít care about the strip anymore.
I made a conscious decision to give it away. About two days later I got an email from a cartoonist who I consider to be one of my heroes, asking me what had happened to the strip, because he really enjoyed it. I fired back an email telling him "Very funny. As if a cartoonist of that calibre would read my strip." He very quickly returned an email with a slight rebuke, and proving that he was who he said he was. I apologised for my lack of faith, and newly inspired by this exchange, I returned to Geek Salad energised and ready to give it another shot.

So, are you a "geek"?
Long term, hard-core, technical variant. Iím 29, and have been around computers since the age of 5. A small sampling of computers Iíve used in my early life that most people have never heard of would be the Hitachi Peach, Burroughs L34, Kaypro II. I owned a Morrow Designs Micro Decision, and an NCR Decision Mate V and could easily navigate around in CP/M at the age of 10.
I now have my own IT business, my house is networked and I draw a webcomic. Iíll leave it up to the reader to decide.
However, my personal definition of geek is "a nerd with social skills"...

Seriously, are you a PC or a Mac man?
Seriously, are you trying to start a Jihad?
Let the record show I use a PC, largely because of the investment I have in software and hardware, and skills. If money were no object, then my main business PC would likely be a G5 PowerMac, and my main personal/gaming PC would be a high-end Windows XP PC, that I built myself. My best friend just bought himself a dual 1.42Ghz G4. Iím jealous. I was also an Apple reseller for a while, so Iíd like to think that Iím truly cross-platform compatible.

What's the geek landscape like down under in Australia?
I live in a small country town 120km (65 miles) south of Canberra, Australiaís national capital. I have geek friends in both Sydney and Canberra but I could only really speak for the town I live in. Going on memory, Australia has one of the highest per-capita uptakes of new technology in the world.
Even though I live in a small country town, I have a 512k ADSL connection, and can get you anything you want in terms of PC hardware within one to two days.

You know, I like the Dixie Chicks. (Yes, that's a question.)
No, thatís a statement of an affliction. There is professional help available, you do realise this?

You make your comics in Illustrator, would you mind telling us about your process for creating each strip?
Ahhh, Illustrator. Where would I be without you?
My technique has changed somewhat since I began. Iím not terribly good at drawing by hand. It took me many attempts to come up with each of the characters for the strip, and with the first versions of Adam, Cassie, Dave and Cam, I drew each of them by hand, scanned them in, and traced them. Around January 2002, I redeveloped the first four characters completely digitally, since the constant use of Illustrator had sharpened my skills. All characters since then have been developed digitally, although I still occasionally do conceptual sketches with pencil and paper.
In terms of the actual per strip process, I normally sit down with a scripted concept or even just a punchline in mind. Some of the best strips (in terms of reader response) have been the ones that came to me in the moment of desperation staring at a blank screen. Generally though, I have a concept in mind, and then massage it to fit into three frames.
My dirty little secret is that I use a lot of cut and paste. I have a large library of poses and backgrounds that Iíve created over the past 18 months, that I can utilise in the creation of a strip. Since I have a rather busy life (three kids, one only 4 weeks old, and my own business), I try not to spend too much time in front of the PC working on the strip. It can take several hours to develop a new location and new props, so I tend to utilise existing props where I can.
Once Iíve collected the artwork for that particular strip, Iíll then start to massage it into shape. I used to think of this as a horrible limitation, and dog myself on it, but discussion with other artists, and some of the fans indicates that the strip has its own unique style, and they donít want me to mess with that too much. I still plan to experiment and develop new concepts, but over time...

What's that symbol on Dave's t-shirt?
Depends which T-shirt heís wearing. Dave has a large collection of T-shirts all with the Quake symbol, with the word "Forever" underneath. Recently heís purchased some shirts with the Apple logo on them, and insisted that I allow him to wear them as well. After he threatened to quit, I relented and he now wears the Apple shirts from time to time.

Have you noticed the absence of computers from the world of CYS?
Indeed, and thatís not a bad thing. I love the fact. Even I get sick of computers everywhere.
Although I suspect that Ship might have a PDA secreted around his person somewhere to keep track of his appointments...

Thanks to Warwick for his time; hopefully he and all of you enjoy my take on the unnamed coffee machine, and I'll see you all tomorrow!
Now go to bed!

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