Dennis Tzannatos, Creating Joy in Pencil & Ink
Popular caricaturist Dennis Tzannatos was born in Toronto, Canada to Greek parents. At the young of age of only 3, he asked his mother for a pencil and paper… and so began his career!
It really all began at the age of 3? Where you immediately drawn to sketching life forms?
Yes, it all started with that piece of paper my mother gave me. It was as simple as that. She gave me what I asked her just to get me busy. I started drawing a few sketches! Human figures in simple lines. My mom wearing a hat. And some more images too. They looked like “relatives” of the little man stick figure from The Saint (Simon Templar). That type… but I hadn’t even seen the series! The first cartoon I ever saw was Felix the Cat!
Do you have a “drawing routine”? How often do you draw, how many hours per day?
It depends on what I’m working on. I usually work during late night hours. It depends on the thing you have to do… The writing and thinking can take longer some times.
When you are creating pieces, do you revise and edit much as you go along?
I change a fair amount before I ink them. I rarely go with my first idea without having changed it. It all depends on what the caricatures are about. Are they with words or without?
Tell us a bit about the overall process. Is there a script? Or does the dialogue come about as you are drawing? What comes first, the image or the words?
I start with a rough idea of scenes I want to draw and make notes for how any pages I think it will take. What I want in the scene. Ideas for panels and text. But I leave it pretty open. Then, when I get to the scene I do lots of layouts to tighten up the idea before I draw it.
But the words and the images, they come almost at the same time. It’s not a chicken or egg thing. I start with words, but while I’m thinking words I’m progressing the drawing already.
Do you pencil out comics and then ink or pencil? What is your preferred medium?
Pencils, ink pens (Rotring), fibre pens, Ecoline colours (Talens) and whatever else might be needed each time. I don’t hesitate to use new things… But if I’m going to print it, I usually pencil stuff first.
Do you enjoy reading comics?
I am really into reading comics, it’s a lot of fun. This is what I really want to do with my work. Making people smile and even think a little more.
Where do you find your inspiration? Do you draw from life?
Every form of art can give you ideas. I listen to music. I watch movies. I go to the theater. I love watching comedians from all over the world… with subtitles if it’s a difficult foreign language!
Be it good or bad or even just mediocre, it can inspire. You can either get an interesting idea or avoid something that’s not so good…
I like to go outside and draw, I draw people around me a lot. But I’ve never gone to any sitting of a nude model, life drawing. I use my imagination most of times.
What artwork (or artists) do you feel kinship with? Are there older comic artists you feel connected to?
I feel connected to many of my contemporaries. I feel like I can identify with anyone who is just trying hard to create fun and personal work.
There are a lot of older artists I looked up to and tried to learn from. People like Archelaos, Bostantzoglou (Bost), Christodoulou whose work was and still is full of inspiration and who I have always admired. I was lucky and honored to meet and get advice from them, which I have tried to follow… They were like teachers.
I also like the work of Al Hirschfeld, Robert Crubb, Mordillo, Jean Mulatier, Loriot and so many others… from all over the world! I respect every older and contemporary Greek caricaturist.
Drawing – would you call it a pleasure or a pain? Ever feel the impulse to not draw comics?
It’s my favorite thing but I do find it difficult and frustrating sometimes. But I guess that’s what makes it so fascinating and worth it.
I’ve wanted to make comics as long as I can remember. It’s a huge pleasure and my art therapy and entertainment.
What is more important – style or idea?
I’m a fan of brilliant and original ideas. I don’t copy and paste!!!
To see Dennis’s work, visit: