Orlando artist Kieran Castano puts pen to paper for historic comic ‘Ripley’s Believe It or Not’ | Art Stories + Interviews | Orlando
The “Believe it or not from Ripley!” The comic strip has been a staple of the fun pages of newspapers across the country since 1918. And, “believe it or not” (see what we did there?), the new artist behind this august institution is no other than Orlando artist Kieran Castaño. Castaño is known in these parts for his poignant and often political paintings, but his style of pen and ink illustration is perfectly suited to bringing Ripley’s esoteric facts to life. Orlando Weekly is proud to publish these tapes in our print edition starting with this issue, and you can certainly believe it.
Were you a comic book fan growing up?
I was! In fact, my introduction to illustrations and all things weird was Ripley’s. When I was a child, my parents were the housekeeper and gardener for many wealthy people in Westchester, New York. For a few years of my life, we lived in one of these mansions. One day I went looking in the library, hoping to find anything with pictures, and lo and behold, I found the first edition of Ripley’s book. I will forever remember opening the yellow book with the Chinese men walking across the cover, and sitting there for hours reading the incredible.
Tell me about the discipline you’ve developed for doing this on such a regular and repetitive basis,
So, it’s 22 drawings per week that I have to divide into six dailies (three per board) and one Sunday (four per board). My deadline for the week is Thursday, so I can’t just draw one a day and submit it. I think it would be harder than the way I do it now. Here’s what my week looks like: On Monday, I’m looking at the Comedy Facts spreadsheet where Ripley’s wonderful editors have posted about 22 or more facts. I spend the day diving into each fact and thinking about which three would go well together on a panel and which four I want to color on a Sunday. On Tuesday, I start looking for reference images and start drawing my panels. Wednesday is for inking, just like Thursday’s top half. I got a lot faster with the editing part, so I usually spend a few hours on Thursday night Photoshopping before submitting. Boom, that’s it and I have my weekend!
When I started I was struggling to follow my routine and thought I was going to burn out in about two months, but something clicked and now I don’t even feel like I’m pulling out a drawing animated every day of the week.
What tools do you use to create a typical tape?
The tools I use are simple: dotted paper and a collection of black pens of various sizes. I’ve used Microns and fountain pens, but lately I’ve really been using Fudenosuke brush pens (by Tombow) because of the range of line weights I get with a simple pen without having to switch to another. It gets old to have to stop every two seconds! After the physical supplies, I also have to use Photoshop to clean up my panels. But yes, we keep the comic as close to the original as possible, and that includes not going digital!
What’s one of your favorite topics covered in the tape so far?
So many good choices. I kind of became that guy who tells you a random fact about anything when you weren’t even asking for a fun fact, but hey, someone has to. Otherwise, how are we going to win the trivia night? I think my favorite will have to be animal facts, especially bat facts. I love bats, so I’ve had the chance to draw them about three or four times this year. Did you know French-kiss bats? Or that the smallest, cutest thing you’ll see is the bumblebee bat? Well, now you do.
Which press cartoonists have influenced you?
To be honest, I can’t say a particular newspaper comic comes to mind other than “Peanuts” and “Garfield”. My influences come more from independent magazines and comics. Art Spiegelman’s work for Wacky Packages and Garbage Pail Kids. Binky Brown by Justin Green. The very detailed portraits of Robert Crumb. Any Daniel Clowes work. The many contributors to mad magazine. Vintage horror movie posters…oh, and I should probably say Robert Ripley!