By Jason Thibault
After going through Ming Doyle’s Live Journal page it occurred to me that she probably manages to create more artwork in between her pro assignments than I’ve pulled off all combined. Her passion is infectious and she’s a rising star in the new generation of illustrators. Her work is the perfect mesh of polished sheen colliding with raw textured inky badassery. The pieces leave her hands looking like timeless classics. At first glance I couldn’t tell what era they were created in.
First professional work (piece / year) and maybe a quick story behind it.
I was immensely lucky in that my first professional work in both comics and illustration basically fell into my lap. It was the winter of ’06, I’d just graduated from college a semester early and was pondering how to start a feasible career in art. After a lot of intense introspection I realized I hadn’t the faintest idea, so I decided to put off any kind of meaningful decision and sit at home drawing superhero fan art all day for Dean Trippe’s costume redesign site, Project: Rooftop (http://www.tencentticker.com/projectrooftop/).
A month or so later I got an e-mail from a very talented and generous guy named Tim Daniel who wondered if I’d be interested in doing the art for a short story of his called “Loner” in the second volume of Popgun, a variety anthology published by Image. Since I’d drawn about as many pictures of Batman and Wonder Woman as I wanted to for that year I said yes, and I’ve since done several other pieces for Image as well as BOOM! Studios and various indie trades.
I’ve also gotten a lot of editorial illustration work as a result of my exposure from Project: Rooftop, the first, best, and bulk of it from Benjamen Purvis, an amazing art director who at the time was working for the Las Vegas Weekly.
Self-taught or formally educated? (or mixture of both, mentors etcâ€¦)
I earned my BFA with a dual concentration in painting and drawing from Cornell University and I definitely benefited from the life drawing courses there, but it’s my friends and colleagues who’ve inspired me to stick with art. My good pals pop culture artist Brandon Bird, comics hero Dean Trippe and master illustrator Daniel Krall along with many others have taught me a lot through their tenacity and drive. Having friends in the same field can be especially invaluable when you’re living the fairly isolated life of a freelancer.
Tools of the trade: Taking a quick glance over at your pens, brushes etc…what tools have you mainly been using over the last few years?
Speedball’s “Sketching” and “Mapping” pen and nib sets, Royal Taklon’s variety brush packs, mechanical pencils and countless Wite-Out pens. I’ll use the occasional Micron for tighter work on facial features, but I don’t like to rely too much on them. I think a lot of times they can kill the kineticism and energy of a piece.
Favorite brand of ink:
Any kind of India ink will do, but I’ve found that Higgins Calligraphy Ink Black Waterproof has a really nice smooth consistency.
Type of paper:
Strathmore’s smooth finish Bristol board for commissions and their sketch paper for everything else. I like the tooth on a lot of cheaper drawing pads.
Which artists or creators do you return to for a quick boost of inspiration? Who are the masters of ink?
I admire Jason Shawn Alexander, Dustin Nguyen and Sean Gordon Murphy for their fluent, expressive line work and Jae Lee, Leinil Francis Yu and Hyung Min-woo for their deft precision. And I’m crazy for Mike Mignola, but who isn’t? Whenever I’m feeling really stuck though I like to go back and look at Aubrey Beardsley, Egon Schiele and Gustav Klimt. You can’t lose with those guys.
Once a client has handed off an illustration job to you, how do you first tackle the job. Could you provide us with a quick overview of your process?
Because a lot of my illustration work has a really fast turnaround, sometimes of only a couple days, I can’t always run sketches by the editor or art director. I’ll do a rough pencil layout at full-size and put the final inks right onto that with no in between stage, then just scan the line art and color it in Photoshop.
Comics have a bit more of a grace period to them, silly as that may sound considering their often cramped deadlines. Still, I’ll at least turn in a rough version of the fully thumbnailed script drawn straight into Photoshop so I can cleanly and easily implement any edits, then I’ll print out the approved layouts and light box the final inks over those. It’s either a strength or a weakness depending on how you look at it, but I’m really not much for refined pencils.
What’s currently sitting in your mp3 / CD player / turntable?
Frank Black in all his incarnations is always front and center along with Andrew Bird, Robert Johnson, Led Zeppelin, Madrugada and Shiina Ringo. And my boyfriend has a band called Lemon Demon, so of course I’ve been listening to a lot of them lately!
What’s hanging on your walls and what is your favorite piece of art that you own (not created by you)?
Brandon Bird gave me a really arresting ink drawing a few years ago that I’m pretty fond of. It’s a portrait of Vin Diesel with a huge black wolf in a majestic forest setting. Aside from that I mainly have handwritten reminders to myself and failed sketches hanging everywhere. My memory can be truly awful, and I like constantly having some of my worst work looming over me as incentive to do better.
Last novel you read and last movie that you saw (that you’d recommend)?
I like to read Seneca the Younger’s Trojan Women every couple of months, but that’s a play. The last novel I read was actually Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. I’m almost done with Goblet of Fire now. I’ve been busy?
The last movie I saw, and I can’t say that I recommend it, was Atom Age Vampire. The last thing I saw in theatres and genuinely enjoyed was The Dark Knight, oh shock of shocks!
Current and upcoming projects.
I’ve recently wrapped up art for several upcoming sequential projects, among them actress Keiko Agena’s story in the “Asian American Superhero Anthology” Secret Identities, Eric Calderon’s piece in an issue of BOOM!’s Zombie Tales, and Chad Kinkle’s yarn in Image’s Outlaw Territory. I also illustrated Rantz Hoseley’s tale in the recently released Tori Amos-inspired Comic Book Tattoo. Next up, I’m going to try developing some original story ideas.
What would you tell an aspiring artist who is working his ass off but still needs and wants to break through to the next level?
A lot of people have told me to never do anything for free, and I agree that’s a great philosophy to hold if you already enjoy a certain stature in the art community. However it’s a discouraging fact in this industry that sometimes you have to do a lot of work for no to little dough before anyone will give you the time of day. Try to pick or create projects that you know you’ll at least enjoy and think will offer you the greatest range of visibility as well as the most opportunity to improve your craft. That way when some really plum paying gig finally comes along you’ll be in a good position to knock it out of the park and impress, thereby landing more high profile work.
It’s a slow climb and I’m certainly not that far from the bottom rung myself but dedication and an almost fanatical work ethic count for a lot, and they’re the very least you need. The rest is just luck and good manners, so keep your fingers crossed and your socks clean.
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