Carl Barks: - I liked the meeting with the Dutch artists, because I have been following their art for many years and wondered who they were and how they managed to get where they are.
What about the Rijksmuseum - did you dream about Rembrandt afterwards?
- I haven't had time to digest all the things I saw there, but it certainly was a marvellous experience to go there and see the paintings that I have seen only in reproductions. To see the magnificent size and the techniques that was used in them. I would have liked to have more time to just stand alone in front of those paintings with a piece of notepaper making some notes about how Rembrandt must have made those things. It looked like magical tricks.
There were many people in the Rijksmuseum. You are too famous!
- Yes, there was so many people around me that I felt a little selfconscious.
You like to be alone?
- When I am thinking or trying to get an idea in my head or remember things, I like to be alone. I like to look at things in my own time without people telling me what to be looking at.
Most of your life you worked alone.
- Very much of my life. I didn't amount to anything as long as I was working with other people. After I began woking alone on the comic-books I began to develop a confidence in my own ideas and began producing things that apparently have been well received by people for three generations now. I come here to Europe and find out that people have been reading those stories with great seriousness for 40 or 50 years. That's a great pleasure to see that.
They were made seriously as well.
- Yes they were. They were ridiculously funny and had a childish kind of humour in them, but they were seriously thought out. They were hard work in a way.
You made about five pages a week.
- That sounds correct. I took very few vacations and I worked seven days a week. I was selfemployed and I didn't give myself any days off.
- Well, I guess it was just in my nature to get as much out of a poor old workman as you possibly can!
Was that something you learned from your father?
- Maybe I did. I know he used to be angry whenever I quit ten minutes early or came in from the field rather than go one more trip around the field.
When did you start working?
- I was working on the farm since I was ten years old.
Did you have paper and pencil for drawing?
- From the time I can remember I was trying to draw. First I would draw with some charcoal and write on the walls in the little shack we lived in. As soon as I began understanding what papers and pencils were for I began using those things. I loved to draw and I had quite a talent for it, I guess. When I look at it now, it is marvellous what I was able to do at a very early age.
Your parents were quite poor?
Oh, my father did had an income from farming, but he wasn't a poor man. He had a lot of things he wanted to do with his money; buy better machines and eventually hope to get away from farming and get into some other business. He didn't have any money to spend on toys and books. He bought my brother and I each a bicycle when we were about ten years old. Bicycles were quite new in those days, they came disassemled in a box and had to be put together. My father was a black smith by trade so he knew how to do it.
When did you see your first automobile?
- I guess it was 1908. We were on a trip to California, my parents and I. My dad had worked in California previously and he knew people down there. One of them was a real estate man and he brought us on a trip in his new automobile. That was the most marvellous experience in my life!
There were not many people around where you lived?
- There were very few around. My brother and I had a very quiet childhood. There was no company to speak of. Except during the nine months of the school year there was a few kids of our own age we could play with at school. It was a little one room school with 12 kids in all ages together.
Then you came to the big city.
- We had a short peiod when I was about 10-12 years old, were we lived in Santa Rosa, California. My father wanted to get away from farming. So my brother and I went to a city school for two years. We had a lot of kids we could play with, we saw our first movies there and got a taste of the citylife. After that we had to go back to the old ranch again.
Hard work again?
- By that time my brother and I had to be real fieldhands. We had to harnest the mules, plant green, harvest green; we had to do a man's work. At the age of nearly 18, World War 1 had just come to an end. I had gotten enough money saved up and my father let me go to San Fransisco to see if I could learn something about cartooning or maybe get a job on a newspaper at cartooning.
That was my second experience of city life and I loved it! That was great. I lived in a little hotel, ate my meals at a restaurant. I got 13 dollars a week for being an errand boy at a little printing house. I was at that job for almost two years and loved every moment of it. I could live on that kind of money and go to the movies, clothe myself. I was a guy who liked to dress in the latest fashion and I was able to do it with that kind of money. It is peanuts now!
After I had been there a couple of years my dad needed my help too much back on the ranch, so I went back. From then on I had to work. Outdoors on the ranch and in logging camps and things like that. I finally broke in to free-lance cartooning when I was very close to 30 years old. A long hard life.
You look a chance doing free-lance work.
- I did freelance cartooning for Jug Magazine back in 1928-29. When I got to where I could sell enough jokes to make a living on it I quit the hard work. I just made the wild gamble that I could live on what I could make from living on my wits. And I managed to make it.
Donald Duck is an immigrant to the city like yourself
- I never thought of that, ha ha! He is just a fantasy creature. Something that was invented at the Disney Studio. Naturally he had to come from rural circumstances because they introduced him in a short called "The Wise Little Hen". We have very little information on his earlier stages of life.
You made so many stories from far away countries.
- I always felt that people would like to read about other places in the world, to read about adventures in far away places. So I would think about what I would like to draw. When I had thought of something I began thinking about how to come to the place and the story could develop from that. That is a source of many of my stories. Once I had thought of a good story I would go to the library if I didn't have enough research material at home. I had "Encyclopedia Britannica" and hundreds of "National Geographic". I could find information on any place without leaving the home.
You never had much money?
- During all the years I worked on the comic books I made about as much as a carpenter make. I was just like an ordinary working man except that I had an easier job.
You're not recentful?
- No! Compared to the early jobs I had as a farmboy and later labourer in riverting gangs and such things, I had an wonderful easy job at cartooning. That was half my wages.
What do you think of people who pay enormous amounts of money for your
- I think of them as being angels with golden wings! They are the greatest people on Earth. I wish there were more of them!
You said that it has gotten difficult to write new stories, because
you're too famous.
- Yes, I have become very self-conscious because I know people will be pecking at it and comparing it with what I did in the past. And I know I can't produce stuff as good now as I did then.
But once in a while an idea pops up?
- Yes once in a while, but I try to avoid it! I try to find other things to occupy my mind with rather than thinkng about ducks.
In your stories you showed that life can be tough. Today everything in
the USA has to be political correct.
- Oh, I know. It's almost impossible to write about anybody today without insulting somebody's feelings. Everybody has a chip on their shoulders. I would find it very difficult to write today. I guess if I did write it would be about the evils of some particular thing, like smoking. I would get preaching. And as soon as a story gets preaching it's not funny.