CARTOONS WITH NOTHING TO HIDE
In recent years I’ve been turned on to Dave Carlson’s NUDELS and Ron Coleman’s GIT NEKKID so I thought I’d reach out to both nudist cartoonists for some insight into them: Who they are? What inspires them? What does the future hold? First, I sat down with Ron.
Who is Ron Coleman? The early beginnings?
My earliest memory of the comics was as a toddler when my mother would read Superman comics to me and explain how a man could fly, be invulnerable to bullets, etc. I used to copy drawings of The Little King from the comic pages, also at an early age. When I was in junior high school I read an ad in one of my grandfather’s magazines, which read, “Make Big Money Drawing Simple Cartoons.” I sent for the booklet and wound up signing up for a correspondence course in cartooning from Cartoonists’ Exchange. Later on I learned the money in cartooning isn’t all that big and drawing the cartoons is not all that simple. I sold my first magazine cartoon while in the seventh grade to Optical Journal & Review of Optometry for $5.
When did you find that you had the skill and knack for cartooning?
First let me say we all have that skill. Anyone can learn to draw. Like riding a bicycle it seems impossible at first but with practice it becomes more automatic. Every child is basically an artist, but where we go with it depends on our interest. I first became interested when I signed up for the correspondence course I took from Cartoonists’ Exchange. I couldn’t draw very well when I finished the course, but over time with practice I improved. It took me a full year of submitting my work to make my first sale.
What kind of schooling or training do you have or are you self taught?
I started with the correspondence course I took from Cartoonists’ Exchange. Largely since then I taught myself the skills I needed to improve. I had an early interest in animation and when the Flash program came out I bought it and taught myself animation. I also attended a few animation classes at the Screen Cartoonists’ Guild in North Hollywood, California and I took a couple of life drawing classes at a community college. Other than that I had no formal art school education.
What is the biggest end goal of your art, more books? Major newspaper gig? Hit website?
Good question. Initially I guess I wanted to become another Walt Disney. As I grew up my goals became more realistic. I always had to work a day job to make a living so magazine cartooning was mostly a way to make a bit of additional spending money. I often thought about creating a comic strip but never got around to doing it. After I learned to do animation I became more interested in creating funny short animated cartoons and I have done a few. Now that I’m 79 years old I am slowing down on creating cartoons of my own but working to help other younger artists to achieve some success. Someday I would like to produce a full-length animated cartoon feature.
Where do you get ideas for the cartoons?
I have used gag writers on occasion and the typical deal is if I sell a cartoon from one of their gags I keep 75 percent of the check and pay them the other 25 percent. But probably over 90 percent of the cartoons I sell come from my own ideas. Gag writing, like any other skill, develops with practice. In the beginning I had a hard time thinking of gag ideas but now they pop into my head without any effort on my part. I actually have more gag ideas written down than I would ever have time to draw.
What are your influences? Inspirations?
I think Chic Young’s “Blondie” was an early influence for me. I also really liked Al Capp’s “Li’l Abner”, although he was such a fantastic artist I couldn’t hope to draw as well as he did. Walt Kelly’s “Pogo” was another favorite of mine, more for the writing than for the drawing (which was also great). I was influenced a lot by the drawings of George Crenshaw, creator of “Belvedere”, and in fact George and I became good friends for the last five years of his life. I now do some ghost cartooning of “Belvedere” for the current owner of the series.
How long have you been a naturist? Nudist?
As a cartoonist one learns to slant their drawings and gags to the market they are targeting. Over the years I’ve drawn a few cartoons on topics like golf, construction, water well drilling, and other specialized topics, even though I have never worked in any of those fields. I’ve sold a lot of religious cartoons but I consider myself to be either an atheist or an agnostic. Still I was raised in a Catholic household and understand religious thinking even if I don’t agree with it. The nudist cartoons I created have probably had the strongest following of anything I’ve done and most of my readers just naturally assumed I am a practicing nudist. Actually I’m not. I have had two experiences with public nudity. In the first instance I was a single young man and attended a singles group, trying to find a girlfriend. Our group was invited to a singles party which was clothing optional. At first I rejected the idea and then, mostly out of curiosity, decided to give it a try. I didn’t know anyone when I got there and didn’t find it to be particularly comfortable, so I didn’t stay long. A little later I learned of a nudist resort located not far from where I lived. I went there, again mostly out of curiosity. I stayed a bit longer but still didn’t find it to be exactly my cup of tea. Nudists, for the most part, are very social people and have a strong interest in outdoor activities and sports. I am more introverted and spend more time indoors pursuing things like writing and cartooning. All this being said I have nothing against the nudist lifestyle, in fact I like the idea of the freedom it provides for those pursuing it. I don’t see anything wrong at all with public nudity. It’s more natural, really, than wearing clothes.
Have you read Loxie and Zoot? That was my introduction to nudist cartoons.
I think I saw it a couple of times after I had been doing my own nudist cartoons. I got started doing my nudist cartoons almost by accident. Jan Crimmings, the owner of the NetNude website, saw my work on the internet and asked me if I would be interested in doing a weekly cartoon for her website. We negotiated a deal and I started to produce these. This series ran for 14 years and several of the cartoons were re-published in nudist magazines, books, and other nudist websites. I only gave up producing the cartoons because after 14 years I ran dry on ideas. Nudist cartoons have easily been the most profitable cartoons I’ve ever produced.
Tips and advice for a beginner getting started?
The same tips I received when I started. Don’t take rejection personally because 90 percent of your work will get rejected. Be persistent and in time it will pay off. Always work to improve both your drawing and your ideas. Don’t expect to get rich cartooning (although some have) but do it because it’s something you love to do.
Are you on any kind of a schedule? One a week?
No, not now at least. I’m 79 years old and don’t draw a lot of cartoons anymore. When I was young I could turn out 8 or 10 cartoons a day but the quality of the drawings was not what it is today. Generally I would only draw when an idea came to me that inspired me. If I really needed the money I might do a little more, but that didn’t generally produce much in the way of results. There have been long periods of time when I gave up on cartooning, but eventually an idea would pop into my head that I felt was too good to waste and then I’d be right back into the game.
Have you ever been to a Comic Con? If so, how was it?
I often thought about going to the one in San Diego but really never got around to it. For one thing those conventions, I believe, are more for comic book artists and this isn’t what I do.
Does success scare you at all?
I guess I’ve never had enough success to experience any fear from it, but really I don’t see why it should scare anyone. It seems to me that anybody in business should fear failure more than success. Unlike being a movie star or pop singer, most cartoonists don’t really have that much fame. People remember the cartoon characters more than the artists who created them. And with magazine cartoons, when somebody reads what they consider a hilarious cartoon, probably 90 percent of them couldn’t even tell you the name of the artist who drew it. But they can remember the gag.
How can our readers follow your artwork? Website? Social media?
Most of my cartoons which are online are posted at cartoonstock.com. This is a cartoonists’ agency, located in the U.K. (and they now have a branch in the U.S. as well.) My nudist cartoons are currently posted at netnude.com.
Thank you for talking with us!!!
Now I move on to Dave, let us discover all about him!!
WHO IS DAVE CARLSON – THE EARLY BEGINNINGS?
It was a cold and rainy November night… Ok, seriously, I was born in Jacksonville, Florida sometime just after the extinction of the dinosaurs. I was the middle child and the only male. That means I got blamed for everything. It’s also how I justify all my neuroses. My father was a short-haul truck driver and my Mom stayed at home and did everything else. We were your classic, middle-class, blue-collar family who never lacked the necessities but never had a lot of the material things my friends had. Still, all told, it was a great way to grow up in the age of “Leave it to Beaver”. I went to public schools and was an above average student. I went into college to become an engineer, mostly because my high school guidance counselors told me since I was good in math and liked drawing, that’s what I should do. Boy were they wrong. Once I got into the core engineering curriculum I figured out I was a fish out of water. But it took me a couple of frustrating years to realize it. I dropped out for a while and finished up in a local community college with a drafting degree so I could get a marketable skill and a job. Ironically, most of my early jobs were in engineering. I can’t believe how boring all this sounds. Unfortunately, it doesn’t get any more exciting after that, so maybe we should move on.
WHEN DID YOU FIND THAT YOU HAD A SKILL AND KNACK FOR CARTOONING?
As a kid in church, my mom would give me a piece of paper and a pencil to keep me occupied. She was smart, though. You know how kids will scrawl one mark across a page and want another piece of paper? So like in five minutes, they’ve destroyed a whole ream of paper! Well, mom would fold the paper a few times to make 12 little squares (six on each side). Then she would draw a random mark on each square, fold it back up and give it to me. The challenge was to make a drawing starting with her random mark. Then I could move to the next square, and so on. Eventually, she gave me kids magazine and I would copy drawings out of it. Probably my favorite thing (at church) was to make flip-book animations by drawing little stick figures on the page corners in the hymnals. My best bud and I got in a little trouble over that one.
WHAT KIND OF SCHOOLING AND TRAINING DO YOU HAVE OR ARE YOU SELF TAUGHT?
Sometime around eight or nine years old, I got a set of charcoal sticks, a kneaded eraser, a sketch pad, and a couple of basic drawing instruction books from an uncle. I spent a lot of time copying comics out of the newspaper, library books, almost anything I could get my hands on. In high school I took oil painting lessons from a local instructor but that didn’t really go anywhere. Then, in college I took a very basic still life drawing class and crushed it. I remember each three hour class felt like ten minutes I was so engrossed. That’s the closest to any formal training I ever had.
WHAT IS THE BIGGEST END GOAL OF YOUR ART, BOOK? MAJOR NEWSPAPER GIG? HIT WEBSITE?
This sounds really un-ambitious, but I don’t really have a huge end goal, per se. After working in graphic design, advertising, and marketing for 30 years, I’m tired (laughing). The impetus for Nudels was simply to create something enjoyable that might promote the message of Tampa Bay Free Beaches. We’re trying to re-establish a clothing-optional beach in the Tampa Bay Area. I’ve tried to give Nudels cartoons away to the two major American naturist organization’s publications, but they haven’t shown any interest. So, for now, anyway, they are only seen on the TBFB Facebook page (I have to keep them pretty visually tame). It might be fun to write an illustrated children’s book combined with limericks. That’s one tough market to penetrate, though. Everybody thinks they can write a children’s book, right?
WHERE DO YOU GET IDEAS FOR THE CARTOONS?
I had a high school chemistry teacher who would write a personalized limerick in his student’s yearbooks if they wanted one. That was where my love of limericks started. When I got the idea for Nudels, I decided combining a visual with a limerick, instead of a typical caption, would make them a little more interesting. Now I’m starting to wonder about that strategy, (laughing). So far, the subject matter has either centered on a message related to the benefits of creating a clothing-optional beach in the Tampa area or related to something humorous about being a naturist.
DO YOU THINK THE NEW NATURIST COMEDY “THE NUDELS OF NUDELAND” WILL BRING MORE ATTENTION TO YOUR CARTOON?
Actually, I’m pretty sure my cartoon is going to put your movie on the map (hahahaha, I crack me up!). Truthfully, I don’t know a ton about the project, so I’m not sure. I think the premise is terrific and it looks like it’s going to be just awesome. I’m really looking forward to seeing it. In the case of “The Nudels of Nudeland”, it’s pretty interesting how you guys also came up with the idea of calling the people “Nudels” too. When I created the first Nudels cartoon back in August of 2019, I tried to get the dot com URL but it was already taken by a squatter. I guess it goes to show you nothing is ever truly original. Generally speaking, I think the naturist movement is in dire need of more professionally produced art, whether it’s fine art or promotional media. Most of what I see created within the movement ranges from amateurish to just plain awful. Those on the outside of the movement tend to use nudism as a setting for titillations or, worse, perpetuate the myth that we’re all borderline perverts. With the increasing numbers in the younger demographic, I think they have an opportunity to apply their visions and talents in a unique and practically untapped segment of the marketplace and really improve the current visual mediocrity.
I’VE SEEN GLIMPSES OF “THE FAR SIDE” IN YOUR WORK- WHAT ARE YOUR INFLUENCES? INSPIRATIONS?
Wow, I’m flattered, thank you. Larsen is an absolute genius and a huge influence. Bill Watterson (Calvin & Hobbes) and Berkley Breathed (Bloom County) are also at the top of my list as far as humor and art go. And, of course, I grew up reading Mad Magazine during the epic era of Drucker, Jaffee, Martin, Davis, et.al. At one point, there was a similar magazine for the Christian market that I enjoyed. It started as the “Whittenburg Door” and later became known as just “The Door”. What I loved about them was how they just skewered all the sacred cows of Christianity and the Church. That’s something near and dear to my heart. I need to look them up and see whatever became of them.
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A NATURIST? NUDIST?
Well, not to be a smart ass, but I was pretty much born that way. My family moved out to the country in my early teens. We had five, heavily-wooded acres where I could wander around at will. I got into the habit of stripping out of my clothes as often as I could, partly because it was miserably hot and humid and partly just to enjoy the feeling of freedom and the natural elements. Then there was a long stretch when not much happened in that category. Several years ago, I got the notion to go skinny-dipping on my honeymoon. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen because of the weather and the resort lights which stayed on 24-hours a day. But later, I did end up taking my wife up to a naturist resort in north Georgia to scope out the possibility of going camping there. We went into the pool area and I went inside the clubhouse for something or other. When I came back out, lo and behold, my wife was lying on one of the chaise loungers in her birthday suit. She actually beat me to it! We’ve visited a handful of the resorts in Central Florida, Haulover Beach in Miami, and Blind Creek Beach in Ft. Pierce. Our favorite place, by far, is Paya Bay Resort in Roatan, Honduras.
TIPS AND ADVICE FOR A NUDIST BEGINNER?
Numero uno is always sit on a towel, right? Second, I guess, is relax and enjoy the experience. Being naked with other naked people is really no big deal after the first two minutes. You quickly realize you’re no better or worse looking than all the other bodies there. Remember, no one is there for your visual pleasure and you aren’t there for theirs. Finally, above all, understand most social nudity is distinctly separate from sexuality. Of course, there are those places that intentionally combine them. If that’s where you go and what you want, I can’t be of any help. But if you’re in a family-friendly environment, the fastest way to ruin your experience and that of those around you is to do or say something inappropriate. What’s inappropriate? If you wouldn’t say or do it to (or in front of) your grandmother, that’s your clue. It’s really as simple as being respectful of others. I highly recommend naturism as a means to strip away all the nonsense and prudery associated with the human body. I sincerely believe we are all the pinnacle of creation, literally the Imago Dei.
I UNDERSTAND YOU ARE 25 COMICS IN THUS FAR, ARE YOU ON ANY KIND OF SCHEDULE? ONE A WEEK?
I’ve been doing about one a month for the last two years. It takes me a while to refine the limerick and then figure out how best to support it visually in one panel. My (extremely smart) wife is my first level of critique and very often sends me back to the drawing board. I’m prone to getting way too deep in my forest and losing sight of what I was originally trying to say. As I said before, I’m not particularly driven to become rich or famous. That ship sailed without me long ago. I suppose if an opportunity presented itself, it might motivate me to increase “production”. Then again, that might take the fun out of it. And if it isn’t fun, what’s the point, really?
HAVE YOU EVER BEEN TO A COMIC CON? IF SO – HOW WAS IT?
The whole Comic Con scene is not one in which I’ve ever been involved.
I’VE SPOKEN TO THE EDITOR AT CLOTHESFREE.com and THIS VERY WEBSITE ABOUT YOU – DOES SUCCESS SCARE YOU AT ALL?
If by success, you mean notoriety, it terrifies me to some degree. These days, everyone is spring-loaded, just waiting to crucify you if you stir your coffee counter-clockwise or whatever. I think that’s really unfortunate because there is so much that’s beautiful and amazing in the world. Most people are missing out on it because we’re all too busy yelling at each other. So, for that reason, I’m not sure how far I want to venture into the public sphere.
HOW CAN OUR READERS FOLLOW YOUR ARTWORK? WEBSITE / SOCIAL MEDIA?
I shut down all my social media accounts and even my previous career websites several months ago. I know if can be useful for self-promotion, but for me, social media is a waste of time, for the most part. It’s like it’s become a substitute for genuine human interaction. I’d rather have three deep, meaningful relationships with actual people than 5,000 so called “friends” or followers. That said, I may create a website at some point to share Nudels cartoons. I’ve learned to never say never. For now, (shameless plug alert!) you’ll have to check them out on the TBFB Facebook page (facebook.com/TampaBayFreeBeaches).
THANX FOR TALKING WITH US!!!