A Rare Interview with Bill Watterson of “Calvin and Hobbes”

Posted on March 20, 2015 at 3:27 pm

I am a huge fan of Bill Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes comic strip and it was a thrill to see so many of the original drawings in the superbly curated show at the Billy Ireland Museum last year.  Now that show’s catalogue, Exploring Calvin and Hobbes: An Exhibition Catalogue, has been published and it is a treasure. Watterson does not do interviews, preferring to let the work speak for itself. But he did agree to an interview with the curator who organized the show, and it is, as expected, wise, witty, and insightful. A portion of the interview ran in Michael Cavna’s Washington Post column. Here’s an excerpt of the excerpt.

As Calvin and Hobbes went on, the writing pushed the drawings into greater complexity. One of the jokes I really like is that the fantasies are drawn more realistically than reality, since that says a lot about what’s going on in Calvin’s head. So that, and my interest in creating a lively sense of animation, forced me to push the flatter, more cartoony and loose designs I started with into a more three-dimensional conception of form and space. If I wanted to draw Calvin from some odd camera angle, I had to visualize him sort of sculpturally, so I could draw it. That’s when you discover that the zigzag shorthand for his hair doesn’t work in perspective very well. Or you find that his tiny little legs are hard to make run, because he hardly has knees. You invent solutions to these sorts of problems, and that gradually changes the appearance of the strip.

Another factor was simply that I got better at drawing as I went along, so I wanted to throw in whatever I was capable of doing. I kept trying to push the art as far as I could, because drawing was the fun part. I was eager to keep raising the bar and discover what else I might be able to do with the strip. By the end, I had a sort of calligraphic brush line I liked and I was very happy with the look of the strip. It looked like what I had in my head.

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