Some cartoons make you smile, others reveal basic truths. Jeremy Vickneswaran’s The Ferret Side cartoons manage to do both. The Ferret Side single-panel cartoon has appeared in Ferrets magazine for many years, and it’s time get a glimpse into the creative genius behind the ferret hijinks. Luckily, artist Vickneswaran found time in his busy schedule to answer our interview questions.
FM: How did you get started drawing cartoons?
JV: I started drawing when I was young, 7 or 8, copying and tracing images from comic books and magazines. Gradually I started making my own superheroes and comics. I practiced drawing almost every day when I was young. In high school, I was asked to draw for the high school newspaper, but I turned it down because I did not think I was good enough. After I got my graphic art degree from college, I bought about five or six “How to draw cartoon books” to learn how to specifically draw cartoons for a comic strip. I then started working on comic strips to submit to cartoon syndicates around the country.
FM: Was The Ferret Side your first ferret cartoon? If not, what was and can you describe it?
JV: The Ferret Side was my first officially published ferret cartoon, yes. I actually created Ferret Tails first and submitted it to various cartoon syndicates but to no avail. I’m sure they are buried somewhere in some filing cabinet in those companies now. They believe ferrets are not popular enough for a regular audience. I intend to prove them wrong!
FM: Why did you choose to do a ferret cartoon?
JV: Several reasons. First, my college art professor used to say “Draw what you know!” Since I’ve had ferrets since 1998, I decided that was good advice.
Second, I discovered people have a misconception about ferrets. They think they’re just big rats or mice. As ferret owners can attest, ferret behavior is more like cats or dogs. So I’m hoping non-ferret owners who read the cartoons will laugh but also get a better understanding of ferrets.
Lastly, I do it as a way to keep all my ferrets, both past and present, alive by telling their daily antics and shenanigans. Ferrets don’t have a very long life span but by drawing these cartoons my memories of them will live on. These cartoons will circulate around the Internet regardless of whether they become mainstream or not. I’ve already found them on other websites like Pinterest as people pass on their favorite Ferret Side cartoons. In a way, my ferret’s cartoons will outlive me, which is my main goal for doing these cartoons.
FM: Where do you get your inspiration for the cartoons?
JV: As I mentioned above, the majority of my material comes from my fuzzies. I’m on number 11 to 15 right now when it comes to ferret ownership. I, of course, tend to exaggerate their antics for humor purposes. I’m never short of material because I can flip through the dozens of photographs I have of all of them or simply wake one up if I need fresh inspiration. Over the years, I have discovered they all have their own personality. No two ferrets are exactly alike in terms of behavior.
FM: In August 2012, you started the multi-panel comic strip Ferret Tails on its own website. It follows the adventures of two young ferrets named Bodi and Dayle. Can you talk about the inspiration for this cartoon?
JV: They are loosely based on my first two ferrets. One was a sable-colored ferret and the other was an albino ferret. One was extremely mischievous and smart, and the other was simple and loving and never really got into any trouble. I plan on introducing other ferrets into the comic strip as well. Just like my ferret family has grown, Ferret Tails will reflect that as well.
FM: Ferret Tails also has a Facebook page, and it seems that Bodi and Dayle might sometimes comment on it. Is that correct?
JV: Oh yes. I love interacting with other ferret owners and fans. I hope fans of either comic strip will comment and leave feedback as well as share their own stories on the page. And Bodi and Dayle will comment frequently on the page when they feel the need.
FM: How long does it take you to create a cartoon from concept to finished product? Which stage takes the longest?
JV: Depending on the length of the comic strip anywhere from one to two days. I normally do rough thumbnail drawings — 1 to 2 inches in size — of my idea trying to find the best angle to draw and tell the story. Then, once I narrow my choices down to one, I do a couple of rough drafts, half the size of the full scale drawing, just to work everything out and where to place stuff. Finally I draw the full-scale version and then scan them into the computer so they can be redrawn with crisper and smoother lines and then colored. The coloring stage takes the longest, as I’ve gotten pretty quick at drawing ferrets after all these years of doing it.
FM: Your Ferret Side cartoons originally appeared in the print format of Ferrets magazine, then transitioned to digital. Can you discuss the transition from print to digital: Was it easy, difficult? Do you prefer one over the other?
JV: I’m old-school, so I prefer to draw with pen and paper. That being said, digital has a lot of advantages especially when you have to draw something that’s already been drawn before. Since I went to college and got a computer graphics degree it was not hard to make the transition from print to digital, because I already knew how to use all the software involved.
With Ferret Tails more than with The Ferret Side, digital has saved me a ton of time, because I can reuse the same backgrounds in a multi-panel comic strip rather than having to retrace the same objects over and over if I were to do it in print format. Plus coloring is a whole lot easier if you use the right software.
FM: Do you have a favorite Ferret Side cartoon? A favorite Ferret Tails cartoon? If so, which ones?
JV: I have lots of favorite Ferret Side cartoons. The one where all the ferrets are piled in one hammock is one of my favorites. So is the one where the man is tripped up by the ferret and is blamed for it because as ferret owners know, ferrets always get under your feet when you are trying to walk.
My favorite Ferret Tails cartoon so far is where Bodi and Dayle are looking out the window and watching people drive off to work and they comment on how people do this and that to fulfill their roles in society. Then they go off to take a nap.
It’s a good reflection on how ferrets live for today and don’t worry about tomorrow, unlike us humans who tend to make life a little too complicated and get bogged down by the little details in life sometimes.
FM: Do you do cartoons on topics other than ferrets?
JV: Yes I have a trunk full of cartoon ideas. I plan on launching another website with a multitude of comic strip ideas. Just a basic hodgepodge of creative idea I have in my head. But the site won’t be up till the beginning of next year.
FM: Is drawing cartoons your full-time job?
JV: No. I am currently teaching computer graphic design at my local community college. That’s what pays the bills. Doing my ferret cartoons is a labor of love. I will always do them regardless of whether I get paid for them. I do plan on publishing Ferret Tails in book format and selling it on the website once I have a year’s worth of cartoons to put in the book.
FM: What are your artistic goals for the future?
JV: I always look to grow as an artist in other areas of illustration. Right now there are several things I can draw really well but others I struggle at illustrating. I plan on adding a human owner to interact with Bodi and Dayle in Ferret Tails but have decided it will be a female character since I already have a male character in The Ferret Side.
I actually struggle to draw females — they sometimes tend to look like a male wearing a wig — so I’m working on becoming better in that area by purchasing more illustration books on the subject and reference material so I can draw a good female cartoon character.
FM: Do you have any advice for aspiring cartoonists?
JV: Just continue to practice drawing every day and never give up on your dreams. It might take awhile to achieve, but if you stick with it, it will eventually come to fruition. There are so many more options today to get your work across to the masses as compared to years past, but you have to be vigilant and persistent in your goals.
See all of The Ferret Side cartoons posted on the digital version of Ferrets magazine, click here>>
See Critter Corner, Jeremy Vickneswaran’s comic strip featuring other small animal pets, click here>>