The following interview with artist Ian Kennedy was made in september-october 2004. I sent a series of questions over to George Low (editor in chief of Commando in the UK) and he printed them out and gave them to Ian on one of their weekly meetings. Ian then took time out to write his answers down on paper, which was handed over to George, who then e-mailed me the complete interview having taken out the time required himself to get this done. This wonderful attitude towards the fans of their collective body of work is something that I wish to give a big thumbs up – I think you will all agree that this positive behaviour can only be in place because these people are genuinly goodhearted folks and that the passion that has been present for this artform for decades is something that is still very much alive. The interview was published in my publication SLICE 2005 which sported (with kind permission!) a classic Kennedy Commando artwork on the cover. Enjoy. MIKE
You were a young boy during the second world war and I understand that you had several airfields nearby. What type of aircraft could you see and did you ever see any airbattles from the ground.
– For an aeroplane mad youngster like myself, there was always one type of aircraft or other to be seen in the skies over the East of Scotland during World War 2-Spitfires, Hurricanes, Lysanders, Hudsons, Mosquitoes, Harvards, Fireflies, Walrus etc. As for air battles, nothing took place in the area. The Luftwaffe obviously didn’t think us important enough!
Could you comprehend how serious the whole thing was or did you have a more innocent outlook on it at the time?
– At the age of ten, I had no conception of how serious the situation really was.
You were drawing by then, can I assume that your schoolbooks was full of aeroplanes and the like?
– I loved drawing from a very early age and, of course, aircraft featured greatly… but not in my school books. Try that in those days and the teacher would come down on you like a ton of bricks.
Can you remember one or two comics that you were reading as a lad?
– I read them all, starting with the Dandy and the Beano, going on to the likes of The Wizard, Rover, Adventure etc. The Champion became a firm favourite.
Do you still have drawings from your early childhood tucked away in the basement?
– I am afraid not. They did not seem all that important at the time.
After school your career took off fairly quickly it would seem. But all artists struggle to make ends meet, so I wonder how long your time in the wilderness (so to speak) was in your opinion?
– As you say, my career took off quickly. On leaving school, I immediatly entered the art department of DC Thomson & Co Ltd, Dundee, learning my tade surrounded by some of the most competent artists it has been my pleasure and privilige to know. No wilderness there!
I know that you were drawing western adventures etc, but then the war comics scene came along. Can you recall just how this happened in Britain at the time?
– Not really. I think the war comics were just an evolutionary step along the way from the previous adventure publications.
Did your workload increase at this time or was it just the genre that changed?
– Any increase in my workload was probably down to growth in demand and my ability to cope due to more experience.
Your covers and your comics must have been on display in the local newsstands all the time, that must have been a boost in itself?
– Yes, it was a lot of fun but job satisfaction was always more important.
I understand that you love aeroplanes and I wonder if you enjoy the last models of today as much as the classic types of yesterday?
– Aeroplanes will always be of interest to me, but certain types, both vintage and modern, take centre stage.
Speaking of aeroplanes, how involved were you in the Battler Britton series, and how do you look back on those works today?
– I really cannot recall the extent of my involvement in Battler Britton, so find it difficult to come to any conclusions so many years later. I can only hope that the readers were happy with the results.
Do you keep track on how many covers that you have had in print over the years and have you got a personal collection of them around the house?
– It is very difficult to keep track of all the covers, but I do have a fair collection.
Tiger McTaggart is another classic, I have seen the fantastic album published by Korkeajännitys in Finland in 2003, what can you tell us about that series?
– Sorry, I am unaware of its existence.
It seems to have been drawn for a bigger format than the classic Commando sized magazines?
– Sorry, I am unaware of its existence.
Has there been similar prints like the finnish album of your work in the UK?
– Not to my knowledge.
If somebody came up to you and offered you a book in which you and your career in art could be presented in detail, would you be keen to do it?
– Such a project would be extremely difficult; to carry out simply due to my notoriously bad recall of the sort of detail which would be essential.
Have you ever thought about publishing something yourself on your career and on the business that you know so well?
– It has never occurred to me that my career would be so interesting to others.
How many covers do you still produce for Commando annually?
– My output last year amounted to about 20 covers. I think this is about average.
We are fortunate to have been granted to use the original artwork for Commando issue 3747, “Owl Patrol”, as the cover art for this annual issue of SLICE. To me that art is like a photograph, only more beautiful because of the amazing use of colours. How long would a work like this take?
– Thank you for the favourable comment. This particular cover probably took about two to three days to complete.
Can you describe in your own words how this artwork came about, from the size of it to what type of pens, brushes and colours that you have used.
– The idea and layout would be finalised by editor and artist, then painted using sable brushes and acrylic colours. The finished original measures 280mm x 270mm.
I know that you are a perfectionist but of course time is a factor. How is your own verdict on this particular work when you look back on it now?
– This is one of the very few pieces of work I can look back on, feeling pretty well satisfied with the result.
Commando editor George Low has described you as a local talent. Do you actually drop by the office with your new art? What has it meant to you to have had this publishing house so close to your home?
– I visit Commando fairly regularly to discuss or deliver work. While not necessarily the highlight of my week, it is always an enjoyable occasion.
You must have known George since the early sixties. How do you look back on your long collaboration with Commando now and how long do you think it will go on?
– As you say, Commando and I go back quite a long way and I can honestly say that my association with previous editors Charlie Checkley, Ian Forbes … and now George … has been of continuing interest and enjoyment. Long may it last!
Have you considered to sell autographed prints through a personal homepage?
– I am afraid that it has never crossed my mind. I have been too busy elsewhere.
Have you ever been to Sweden and would you like to say something to your admirers here?
– I am sorry to say that I have never visited Sweden, although I did work for Fantomen some years back. It is good to know that I have some fans out there and you can be certain that I intend as far as possible to continue drawing for your enjoyment … and mine!
Michael Eriksson (Copyrights)
(No part of this interview may be quoted without permission)