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Al Goodwyn is a part-time freelance gag and editorial cartoonist who recently moved to the area (although he had done some work in the past for The Washington Times). He’s now entered a nationwide cartoon contest for introducing a new comic strip. He describes his strip as “The cartoon is based on everyday life but slices out a few vital chromosomes of normality to allow for awkward variations in human nature. This gene manipulation results in unfortunate, dangerous and occasionally humorous situations for those trapped in Piece of Mind.”
Washington City Paper: What type of comic work or cartooning do you do?
Al Goodwyn: I got my start doing gag cartoons for a magazine called the Health Physics Society News. That was over 20 years ago. I’m still providing cartoons for them but branched out in the late ’90s with editorial cartoons starting with a local newspaper. I was fortunate to also provide a couple of cartoons a week for The Washington Times while I was on a temporary assignment in D.C. for my day job. I’m trying my hand at gag cartoons of interest to a broader audience. I’m currently in a cartoon competition online at The Cartoonist Studio. My strip is called Piece of Mind. Anyone can vote to help decide the winner (search “goodwyn” for Piece of Mind). There are some really talented cartoonists there that are worth checking out.
WCP: How do you do it? Traditional pen and ink, computer or a combination?
AG: I went through the my nibs and ink stage (and ink stains), but now I use various sizes of micron pens. After scanning, it’s time to add color with a tablet and Painter.
WCP: When (within a decade is fine) and where were you born?
AG: I was born in 1961 in Augusta, Ga., but spent most of my childhood in Illinois and my adult life in South Carolina. I just recently made a permanent move from South Carolina to the D.C. area.
WCP: Why are you in Washington now? What neighborhood or area do you live in?
AG: I moved up here because a year ago my wife told me that she’s moving to D.C. and she really hoped I’d join her. She’s a big city girl from Illinois and I dragged her away to the small town life 25 years ago. My day job was flexible enough to allow our recent move to happen and it was something that I was really looking forward to doing. So we loaded up the truck and headed to D.C. Actually our new home is in Herndon, Va.
WCP: What is your training and/or education in cartooning?
AG: Self-taught. I’ve had over 1,000 cartoons published (and no telling how many that never saw the light of day) so I suppose that that much practice has to eventually lead to improvement.
WCP: Who are your influences?
AG: Growing up it was Charles Schulz and Peanuts, and then when I was in college and beyond it was Breathed‘s Bloom County. Others include Gahan Wilson and Charles Addams for their dark views and great imaginations. For editorial cartoons, I really admire Michael Ramirez and Kevin ‘Kal, Kallaugher. There are really many more I could name that are phenomenal at combining humor and art.
WCP: If you could, what in your career would you do-over or change?
AG: Actually, I’m a physicist by career choice. After deciding my GPA wouldn’t survive further attempts at a degree in business, I changed to physics. If I could do anything different, it would be to have figured that out earlier. As far as cartooning, I don’t think I’d do anything different. When I started out writing and drawing an occasional gag cartoon, I didn’t think it could get any better than that (or didn’t think I could get any better than that). The love of producing cartoons that others could see was great motivation and that’s primarily what’s driven me.
WCP: What work are you best-known for?
AG: I’ve done far more editorial cartoons than anything. For years I provided around four cartoons a week to local South Carolina papers and won the 2002 South Carolina Press Association Award for humorous illustration. The biggest thrill for me will always be opening up the newspaper and seeing one of mine in print only days after drawing it. The second biggest thrill was seeing a letter to the editor about one of my cartoons. Those were rarely positive but always entertaining. By the way, while in the South avoid disparaging comments about the Confederate flag, Atlanta Falcons, or trailers (excuse me, I mean manufactured housing) unless you have thick skin.
WCP: What work are you most proud of?
AG: I provided illustrations for several books. One was a children’s book on seat belt use. It was an effort started by our local county coroner in South Carolina to increase seat belt use among children. That was a great project involving several dedicated people and organizations in the area.
WCP: What would you like to do or work on in the future?
AG: The gag cartooning process is a lot of fun. I’d love to be able to have a routine outlet for those beyond the freelance opportunities.
WCP: What do you do when you’re in a rut or have writer’s block?
AG: If ideas are coming along slowly, I find that by taking a walk, my mind can wander and the ideas start flowing. Of course if you ask my wife, I should be an exceptionally prolific cartoonist if all it takes is a wandering mind. Most of my ideas though come from just listening for laughter. If someone laughs, I’ll look for the cartoon and often buried in there somewhere is humor that can translate into a cartoon.
WCP: What do you think will be the future of your field?
AG: Newspapers are a tough business for cartoonists with all of the on-line information readily available. I’ve seen some great cartoonists get laid off such as Robert Ariail, formerly at the The State in Columbia, S.C. The good news is that the same thing that is killing print media and hence many print cartoon opportunities is also a powerful tool for marketing and promotions for cartoonists. I should take that advice myself and will as soon as I get over the expectation that website construction is as pleasant as a colonoscopy.
WCP: What’s your favorite thing about D.C.?
AG: I’m an avid reader and have really enjoyed the opportunity to hear directly from authors at book signings. Overall though it’s just that there are so many things to do and see (said the country mouse).
WCP: Least favorite?
AG: The Redskins record. I’m a lifelong fan (my family has southern roots and the Redskins were their team way back when), I spent years on the waiting list for season tickets, and have now suffered through the last two seasons as a bona fide season ticket holder. I have to admit though, there’s something about sitting with 80,000 other disappointed fans that makes it bearable. Misery loves company.
WCP: What monument or museum do you take most out-of-town guests to?
AG: The Lincoln Memorial has so far been a must see for visitors.
WCP: Do you have a website or blog?
AG: I have a variety of my cartoons at The Cartoonists Studio at thecartooniststudio.com/amateur.aspx?id=193
My thanks to previous interviewee David Hagen, who put me in touch with Goodwyn.