Bakers Journal

Question and Answer: Bakers Journal interviewed with Brian Fray

May 14, 2020
By Bakers Journal Staff

Brian Fray

Bakers Journal interviewed with Brian Fray, the cartoonist who creates the lively cartoon character who has appeared in Bakers Journal over the last forty years. Jake the Baker was such a fixture in the magazine, that a commemorative 80th Anniversary Edition without Jake would be unthinkable. He remains the iconic face of the Jake The Baker Contest.

Bakers Journal: When was the first Jake the Baker cartoon published?

Brian Fray: I believe the first Jake cartoon appeared around 1980, although I’m not sure of the exact date. So, about 40 years ago.

BJ: When did you first start drawing?

BF: I have been drawing ever since I could hold a pencil. I just picked it up and started scribbling.

Bakers Journal approached me, first. I was doing a trade show to promote another character that I was doing, Le Grand Chef Pierre, and the publisher at the time, Ernest Naef approached me and asked if I’d be interested in doing some cartoons for his magazine, Bakers Journal.

BJ: What (or who) was the inspiration for Jake? Is he modelled on anyone you know? (If he is, do they ever complain about showing up in your cartoons?)

BF: The publisher, Ernest Naef, gave me some back issues of Bakers Journal to look at as reference material. Jake is a compilation of some of the bakers I saw in the magazines back then. And, no, I’ve never had any complaints from them.

I suppose my favourite is always the last one I’ve done because it means I’ve got it finished and haven’t missed a deadline in forty years.

Through the many iterations of Jake the Baker over the years, readers can see Jake’s eyes slowly emerge from under his toque. Here’s his gradual evolution over the years to today’s version.

BJ: Did you ever get complaints about any one of your cartoons?

BF: I have never once had a complaint about a Jake cartoon. It’s always been very positive. I was also the editorial cartoonist for the Guelph Tribune. In one editorial I referred to the city council as a bunch of clowns. I actually got a complaint — from a professional clown. That’s a true story.

BF: Share your creative process with your readers. How do you start on your cartoons?

BF: This is my job, so I treat it like one. I keep regular work hours and don’t wait for a divine spark of creative inspiration. I sit down at my drawing board and read over any reference material that I have available on a particular subject about which I’m cartooning. In the case of Jake, it’s Bakers Journal. Then, I start doodling ideas on a blank piece of paper until something takes hold. Sometimes ideas pop into my mind quickly, other times it’s a hard grind. But I never wait for for “inspiration” to come to me, I track it down.

BJ: What do you do to keep inspired?

BF: It’s easy to stay inspired when you love what you do. I still get a kick out of developing an idea from a doodle, coming up with a funny gag and seeing it come to life on paper. And knowing that people enjoy my work is always a bonus.

BJ: How do you deal with Writer’s Block, or “Cartoonist’s Block?”

BF: After over forty years as a cartoonist, I rarely get “Cartoonist’s Block”. My mind is always working away at something. And if I do have a bit of a creative lull at times, I sit down at my drawing board and keep working until I come up with an idea that I’m happy with.

BJ: Bakers Journal readers want to know – what is your favourite baked good?

BF: Probably chocolate brownies. Or pretty much anything with chocolate in it.

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