Tony Renouf explores some Treacle precursors in Egypt.
Part three of talking to cartoonist Tony Renouf about his work in the New Zealand comics scene during the nineties and what he's up to now.
Tony Renouf tumblr: boredtootone2.tumblr.com
Tony Renouf Blog Bored in a Record Shop
Matt Emery: Can you tell me about the follow up to the Treacle anthologies, Ummph?
Tony Renouf: Ummph was the A5 photocopied follow on from Treacle. Same core group of contributors...less running after not so keen folk...3 issues I think...really only put out because I wouldn't let the publishing go. Probably sold less than 25-30 copies of each issue. I really couldn't say any more unless I had them in front of me...had a bit of a poke around and can't find copies...so they'll remain bit of a mystery till one of us goes down and looks at the "Tony Renouf Collection" at the Hocken library (yep - got an archival collection named after me!)
Emery: I recall you mentioning traveling at some point after Treacle. Did you live abroad?
Renouf: Yes I lived abroad twice...once in Jersey, Channel Islands (my place of birth) for 8 months and this last time for about 2 and bit years In Dorset,U.K...(returned approx 5 years ago). First sojourn was during a "fallow" period but the time in Dorset got me going again.
Tony Renouf process drawings
Emery: You've written about losing interest in drawing in the 1990's, what brought you back to the drawing board?
Renouf: I looked in my "archive" and the last finished piece in there is a reprise of the comics comics comics thing you love so well dated 2000. Didn't have time to check but I think the very last pieces I did around then were a group of topical strips for a friend who was trying to rejuvenate a small town newspaper he was being the design guy for. His editor said no thank you, his readership couldn't handle a new crossword writer and a new comic strip all at the same time. I love tight deadlines and convinced myself that I couldn't create without a mad target to aim for. I couldn't afford to publish any more anthologies. I was too far away from the publishing houses to pick up any illustration work. (As if any of them would give me money for my "individual-style"....) No deadline, no venue, no money.... I got more involved in music stuff through my job at Echo Records...specifically spinning reggae tunes on big speakers....I just shrugged my shoulders and did other stuff....my good friend Dee did a single frame cartoon of my drawing board with words "Tony used to draw here" and attached it to said board.....
Several years passed and I found myself on the other side of the world, sitting at my cousin Phil's kitchen table with a travel journal in front of me. A travel journal that I'd been obsessively jotting down my days doings every day for 10 months...and it occurred to me that I could jam out a strip every day if I tried. It would only take 5 or ten minutes and I already had the habit of scrawling in the book.....Phil & family are a bunch of very artistic/intelligent/funny folk and general conversation always devolved into some form of word play or ridiculous logic.
At the same time I'd picked up a night shift job in a sheet metal factory and had been given a notebook to write machine settings in...which was eventually near full of Yoof & Arty and Mrs. Axelgrinder shenanigans. Pretty much a similar situation to the plastics factory I worked in at night in Hamilton in the early 80's. Nice repetitive work. You can let your mind wander but this time I knew what to do with the ideas...still have approx' 75 pages of that stuff to commit to paper but newer ideas keep getting in the way!!! All the UK drawn stuff can be seen in the "UK toons" category on the blog. There is nothing like process work to free the mind for aimless wandering. I returned to finished art work some time in 2008 and for the last 2 1/2 years- post cig' quitting - I've been producing at least 3 pages of finished stupidity a week. Writing shit loads as well and still trying to find time to plot & draw all the ideas in that factory notebook.... (cue link to blog).... I find myself just doing it to please me and some close associates, I'm back to practicing a hobby that has provided me with countless hours of not getting in to trouble. No pressure to perform or earn or organise others. It's my craft for me and if the general populace take any notice, it's a bonus.
If a cheque arrives it's a miracle....
Tony Renouf: "The window display for "Only Fool & 'Toonists" a workshop I organised for the Dunedin Fringe Festival...create a page in a day...26 participants including some of the Funtime crew from ChCh."
Emery: Do you have a favorite part of the comic making process? A least favorite part?
Renouf: A favourite part of the process...Hmmm...It's a toss up between the final dark line that goes on the page before I date it and spray it with fixative and pushing the "publish" button on my blog platform....(Have I gone on&on&on about how liberated I feel now that I have transcended the printed format??...Well, let me tell you...)...I'm still in love with the whole process I guess and now that I can publish in full colour without having to think twice about cost, I'm picking I shall be enamoured of it for quite some time to come Nothing I draw ever comes out the way I was picturing it in my mind and colour has so much to do with that. The finished article is always a pleasant surprise!!!
....And my least favourite gotta be "plotting". Taking the raw ideas, more often than not a barely legible scrawl as the idea spews forth, trying to get it down on paper before my good friend Dee says something and the idea is gone. Sometimes supported by some v. patchy illustrations...And organising them into a cohesive series of panels. What words are spoken where plus stage directions, then counting up the frames and deciding how many pages and how they'll be laid out. Fine once I've started doing it but a real heel-dragger for me.