art / artist / sacramento

Eric Decetis – The Man, The Myth, The Legend

Not too long ago on a hot August evening, I found myself pouring beer at a local event in Midtown. In between explaining the difference between an IPA and a porter and enjoying the jazzy live band something (or should I say someone) caught my eye. Walking up to my booth with the swiftness of a jungle cat and a smile that would make a wolverine purr was a man (who prior to this moment) I believed to be a myth. There in front of me was none other than Eric Decetis. If at this moment you are asking yourself, who is Eric Decetis, then you should be ashamed of yourself! Eric is a world-renowned cartoonist, creator of all things awesome and a Sacramento native. Some may know him as the best selling greeting card artist in the world, others as the winner of the Seventh Annual Greeting Card Association’s Award for his “Lost Puppy” cartoon, but I got to know him for myself.

Eric for those people who may not know, who are you?

I’m an artist who was blessed with a gift and talent I doubt that I really deserved nor to which I was entitled, but nonetheless managed to parlay it into a career as a self taught cartoonist who has unwittingly had his work viewed by people worldwide. Wait. I believe I just went from speaking of myself in first to third person. What the hell. Is it too late to change my answer…

 What was it that made you realize art was something you were interested in?

There is rumor to this day at Sutter General Hospital that I propelled from my dear mother’s womb with pencil in hand. One of those green old school #2 pencils roughly the size of a jumbo ballpark frank. It was a difficult birth, they say. I started drawing old Warner Brothers and Disney cartoons when I was four or five. I gradually evolved to drawings of pin-up style scantily clad women arching their backs and pointing their toes, reminiscent of the tawdry vixens with censorship black bars across their eyes in magazines like True Men and Girl Watcher. This was around age 12 or so. My fascination with art and compulsion to draw never dissipated from that point forward.

Where do you find inspiration for your work?

The Old Testament and the New Testacles

Describe your drawing process.

The initial concept starts with writing the joke. Whether it be a sight gag or one with a cut line. It’s extremely rare that I have any idea where the art will migrate from that point as in life, most of the time I have no idea what I am doing. The basic image as I visualize it is then laid out in tight pencil format of D’Arches hot press 50/100 lb water color paper with the letters TYJ lightly sketched in the upper right corner (it’s a vestige of a Catholic reference not germane to the finished art). I am incapable of producing a ‘rough’ sketch and admire with great respect those artists who have that talent. Once penciled, I hand ink all holding lines with Rotring and Rapidograph pens. The next steps involve masking fluid, an electric eraser, Dr. Martin’s Dyes, Prismacolor pencils, an electric eraser, drafting arm and triangle, hand held hair dryer and an electric eraser. No computers are used or destroyed during the process.

Besides drawing, what other hobbies do you have?

Naked Twister

(Eric is a Christian Brothers alumni and graduated from UC Davis with a degree in biological sciences). At one time you were a respiratory therapist and a cartoonist. How did you end up in two occupations that couldn’t be more opposite?

Actually they are quite clearly connected as both involve the collection of sputum.

 You have appeared in LA Magazine, The National Lampoon and many other major publications out there. What would you consider to be your greatest accomplishment?

Mastering timetables prior to graduation from high school.

How did you make the transition from cartoonist to greeting card creator?

 During my tenure as one of the lead cartoonists for Penthouse/Omni Magazines (General Media, 1985-2005) I was contacted in 1993 by the publisher for an international greeting card company who had seen my work in the publication. I initially licensed 8 images. To date I have licensed out well over 600 different images for greeting cards alone.

For aspiring cartoonists, what advice would you offer?

Never, under any circumstances, give up. Comedy on paper, cartooning, is a very subjective and competitive career. You may not be a great artist. You may not be a great writer. You may not be an art school graduate (my degree is in biology/medical). If I had a penny for every time someone rejected or criticized my art or content I’d have…a lot of pennies. I’m talking very many pennies. Always be true to your instincts in the jokes you write and how you want to draw. It may take years, but you will never look back with regret if you are fortunate enough to break into the industry.

It is not too often you come across some one as remarkable as Eric. To take a look at all of the products he offers visit ericdecetis.net and for original art and prints go to littlerelics.com. As far as cartoons and art go, Eric is as good as it gets. As he says, “ My personal expectations are simple: to wake up each morning and still have the ability to be able to continue writing gags and drawing cartoons until they pry that big-ass old #2 green pencil from my cold dead bony fingers”.

Words Rica Douglas

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