When you get down to it, any drawing is really about making sure you get all the lines in the right places.
While that may sound like an oversimplification of the art of illustration and comics and caricature drawing, it is a basic tenet with which Noam Nadav fully identifies.
Nadav is the honoree of the 14th annual Animix International Animation, Comics & Caricature Festival, which will take place at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque from August 6 to 9.
It is a well-earned tribute. Over the last three-plus decades, the 57-year-old Jerusalemite has enhanced the aesthetics of a wide range of publications, including his Hashadot satirical slot in the now defunct Hadashot daily newspaper, a couple of comics series in Ma’ariv and his enduringly popular Panda Man comic strip for the Einayim children’s magazine. He is also doing his best to churn out more generations of fellow professionals as a senior lecturer in the Screen- Based Arts Department of the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design.
In genetic terms at least, Nadav appears to have come from good creative stock. His great-uncle was celebrated Romanian-born Israeli painter Reuven Rubin.
“I suppose there is some sort of connection on that level,” Nadav observes, although he wouldn’t want anyone to read too much into the familial artistic link. “He was a painter and I’m an illustrator. This is what I do,” says Nadav, showing me a delightful caricature he drew while awaiting my arrival at the café where we chatted.
Nadav is naturally delighted at the Animix kudos, although he says he has his work cut out for him in the run-up to the festival.
“I have to devise a program for the festival event, and I am producing a booklet of some of my work. But that’s OK. That gives me an opportunity to take care of myself and my work a bit. Anyway, I am an artist and I am a Jewish artist, so I have to suffer twice as much,” he adds with a wry smile.
Preparatory work notwithstanding, the honoree is looking forward to the major annual event for himself and his professional cohorts.
“It will be nice to meet up with the others in a sort of intimate environment, although it is not as intimate as it used to be,” notes Nadav.
The less cozy ambience he refers to is the result of the welcome popularity and growth of Animix over the last 14 years.
“In the past, the Israeli comics and animation field was a very family-like community. The field has really taken off over the years and, of course, losing that sense of intimacy is a price I am happy to pay,” he says.
Nadav’s love of comics started when he was a small lad.
“I used to go the original branch of Steimatzky, which was in Zion Square, where they had practically every magazine you could imagine,” he recalls. “The store had a wonderful smell of books and magazines. When we children stayed with our grandparents in Bnei Brak, I’d beg my father to bring me some comics from Steimatzky. There was Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck and all the Disney stuff. I didn’t really care which one exactly he brought, as long as he brought some comics.”
Mind you, Nadav didn’t really follow the written narrative of the comics he so treasured, but that didn’t bother him.
“I didn’t know English as a very young child, but it was the visual that grabbed me. Later, when I was 11 or 12, I learned a lot of English from The Beatles’ songs – a relative from America brought us the Sgt. Pepper [1967 Beatles] album,” he recounts.
In fact, Nadav had taken his first tentative creative steps long before he stepped into Steimatzky for the first time.
“I started drawing at the age of three,” he says. “I drew anything and everything – stuff I saw in comics and encyclopedias, like animals, soldiers, cars, knights, pilots, but there wasn’t really a narrative that went with the drawings. I don’t think I needed a written story to go with them. I am not really a storyteller per se. I am good at illustrating written stories but, unfortunately, I am not good at telling a story in writing. I need someone else to do that for me, and I do the illustrations.”
That gift made him something of a star at school.
“I was always in charge of doing drawings for the class and for all sorts of school events. That made me a bit popular with the others, but not too much,” he says.
It took a while until Nadav felt he could handle illustrating someone else’s texts.
“I think it was when I began studying at Bezalel that I first illustrated stories,” he recalls. “But things were very orthodox and rigid at Bezalel when I started there. It was very much based on the Swiss style, which was very clean and you weren’t allowed to use too many visuals, just a few photographs and illustrations, although things started opening up a bit when I was a student there. Now things are much more open. I really started creating comics at Bezalel.”
Nadav admits to having an oldschool approach to his craft.
“I worked as an animator in Jerusalem for three years – all hand drawn stuff. We had a special camera, an enormous beast, which took pictures of the drawings. This was around 1982 when there was almost no computer graphics software,” he says.
It was a gradual and painstaking creative process. “I was enamored with the step-by-step work,” he notes. “I think if you are not fascinated by the process, you shouldn’t be in this line of work. There is no instantaneous gratification.”
Nadav has certainly paid his dues over the years, and his tribute slot at Animix should be an enlightening and fun affair.
As part of the Animix festival there is an exhibition of Caricatures dedicated to newly inaugurated president Reuven Rivlin.
For tickets and more information about the Animix International Animation, Comics & Caricature Festival: (03) 606-0800 and www.animixfest.co.il