Interview with Artist and Illustrator Adam S. Doyle

CM: What is your background/education in art?

AD: I went to art school. I went to the Rhode Island School of Design in the mid to late 90s, then went out in the world and worked in L.A. for a while. Eventually I felt like I was getting distant from illustration, which is what I went to school for and what I love doing the most. So I went to grad school and went to New York and the School of Visual of Arts and got my master’s there. At both schools I had a really good time and learned a lot. So that was my formal education.

When I was a teenager I did some summer art classes at the local school, the Art Institute of Boston. My high school had a solid art program, which was Brooklyn High School. But even as a little kid it was always something that I did and was encouraged to do. I had a lot of support from my folks and friends, and it was the way I related to the world and learned about myself and my own thoughts and connected with people early on.

Lupus Liberalitas by Adam S. Doyle

CM: How did you get into illustration?

AD: There’s a couple ways of answering that, the technical side and the interest side. I’d begin by just saying that illustration was the thing I identified with, loving books, book covers, picture books, and reading. I read a lot, so that’s how illustration became the art that was a means to directly connect to people. But also it felt relevant because it addresses specific ideas. As wonderful and open ended as art can be, culturally speaking and emotionally and personal and all of that, illustration, for me, has a quality I identify with specific to fulfilling objectives—communicating a specific idea. In the case of books it’s communicating the essence of a story in one dimension. I like that. There’s a very tight framework, and within that there’s plenty of room to explore.

But on a technical side, it’s a long, slow process. When I got out of school I was sending out postcards to publishers and researching, going to libraries and bookstores and looking at magazines and books and who published that, and that looks cool, that looks like maybe they’ll like my stuff, and tracking down art directors. It takes a long time, and that slowly evolved with email. For me, that was the late nineties and early 2000s, and it became prevalent to have websites up and direct people towards that. Now everyone does that, and it’s a lot easier to shoot an image over to art directors and hope they’ll check it out. And that’s basically the common thing I had to do, annually, bi-annually sending out email cards and inviting people to check out my work.

These past couple of years I’ve sort of stopped reaching out because I was getting overwhelmed with work. That ebbs and flows, and it when gets quieter and I’ll poke back up. Because that’s the thing specifically about illustration as a career: there’s no security. You never know. You can get it into your head that this is it, I’ve really made it, and you’ll find out the next year that it’s not quite as busy. All that very familiar, at least for me, feeling of ‘will I be able to pull this off for another year?’

But you just stick with it if it’s your thing. That concern of making a living is significant, but it’s one of those things you have to decide and then go with. The time I made that decision ultimately was going from high school to college. This is something I really enjoy, it’s really important to me, but does it make sense to do this as a career? It seems like years and years of jobs—temping and art department work in the film industry, and all different kinds of jobs in the time you’re on your own and having to make ends meet. At some point I was able to stop doing that and focus on making images and paintings for illustration and galleries.

raven king
The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater, cover art by Adam S. Doyle

CM: When you’re illustrating for books and designing book covers, how much do you know about the story before you try to make these images that are going to represent the story?

AD: There are a couple of answers to that, too. The short answer is yes, that’s definitely what I prefer. Every time I get offered a job to do a book, one of the first questions I ask is can I read it. Sometimes that’s super easy, which is the best, when the art director says yes, I’ll send it to you. I read the whole thing and take notes and that’s when I am in the most grounded place.

Because here’s what happens sometimes as well: either it’s a brand new book or it’s still being written, so you can’t read it. Things come up where you can’t always read it and that makes things a little shakier. The art director will sometimes say this is what the story is about, or get you some kind of summary, which is okay. If that’s what you have to work with, you work with what you’ve got.

I’ve had the whole spectrum of experiences, where I’ve been able to read it and be grounded in knowing it. I’ve had times where the art director hasn’t read it, for one reason or another. Either they’re lazy—I’m not going to say that’s the case, maybe they can’t because they have too many projects—but then it’s a somewhat tricky situation. When you’re in different places where the author clearly knows what they’ve done, the illustrator has read the book so they know what’s going on, and the art director has a pretty good idea but just not too specific. So the best situation is when everyone is on the same page. The art director has read the book, the illustrator has read the book, everyone has read the book so they’re working from the same place. But it’ll happen when there’s a mix there, where not everyone is as informed as would be ideal, but often times there are good reasons where it’s a business and people are busy. That’s the long answer.

It’s really important if people are interested in doing books and book covers, you have to love books. You can’t just be a person who likes making pictures. The story is so important, so being familiar and understanding what the characters are about and the language is important. It’s not just knowing what it’s about, but it’s important to know how it’s written and the tone and the subtext and that stuff that’s in the words themselves. It’s all important. If you’re getting it right you’re being true to the characters and the story.

raven boys.jpg
The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater, cover art by Adam S. Doyle

CM: Do you have any favorite projects that you’ve illustrated?

AD: I’ve had so many that have been great. The Raven Boys series I’ve been involved on, that’s been pretty terrific. [Maggie Stiefvater] is a really great writer, and it’s fun to be involved with something that’s so popular. And the characters are really solid, so I’ve enjoyed that a lot.

The Netrunner cards that I’ve been working on for a number of years now, that’s also been fun. It’s been a really interesting mix. That’s one of the things that’s fun about being an artist/illustrator is having access to so many different worlds. While The Raven Boys takes place in more or less the real world, though there’s a kind of magical quality to it, The Netrunner world is in cyber space. So that’s always fun to go from one world to another, to go into this dark, cyber digital battlefield. I like that place too.

guns of ivrea.jpg
The Guns of Ivrea by Clifford Beal, cover art by Adam S. Doyle

There’s a cover I’m working on now that has been really challenging. It’s a sequel to a cover of a book, which I think is coming out next month. It’s called The Guns of Ivrea, which is a really fun, hard fantasy novel. It has magic and some old-timey monsters in it. The first cover I did I’m happy with, another great project where I was given full access to the story right as it came off the writer’s computer. And now I’m working on the sequel to it, and it’s totally my idea. It’s really tough, there’s a big battle scene in it, and I’ve been going through the text to find really specific details about armor and weapons and the emblems of the different armies—all the stuff I want to make sure I get right. Because while you can tweak stuff up later on, I want to get it as accurate as I can. I don’t really do a lot of big, complicated ensemble group images, so I’m feeling a little overwhelmed, but trying to take it one step at a time. There are so many facets to this, and right now I’m focusing on trying to orchestrate a big battle. It’s great. I always like a challenge and not always doing the same thing, so any chance I get to do something a little different I definitely enjoy learning new things and trying to solve a new problem. But it’s also tough.

One other project is the branding of Mexi Kai. I moved out to New Zealand back in 2011 and was invited to create the imagery for a Pacific/Mexican food trucks company. I had a really short period of time to conceive of and craft the look of the company and template the art for the truck as it was being built. It was all new and challenging in scope, timeframe, and the stakes were high, but a rewarding experience.

Illustrating Fat & Bones and Other Stories was another enriching yearlong venture. I was hired to draw about 10 or so images and ended up doing many dozens. The art director gave me free reign with the artwork and once I figured out how to capture the creepy, gritty look and feel of the story, there were so many characters and moments I wanted to depict. It was fun to just run with it.

CM: What do you think is the hardest thing about illustrating a story? 

AD: I think it depends on the story. There isn’t one answer to that question. I think my experience has been that the hardest thing is being true to that particular story that you’re working on. There’s always balance between doing your own work that feels personal and distinctive, what’s generally referred to as style, but that’s a word I don’t really like using it at all. But doing what is really your own, and then fulfilling the needs of the story—that particular story and the voice of that author and that world. And finding the place where those two meet. If you can do both at the same time, then that’s the successful piece.

But we’re speaking entirely about the story and the illustration, and not at this moment the business stuff, because there’s all kinds of challenges that can come with that, with all these other people involved—marketing departments and all the money, deadlines, all that stuff. So we’ll put all that other stuff aside and talk about the story and addressing the story and making a compelling and very true image for it.

One of the things I notice that I do, if I can, is put everything on the cover if I can distill it down to an image that really captures it all. Then maybe touching on secondary themes on the back of the cover. With everything going more and more digital you see this a bit less, but when you hold the book in your hand you can see the back. We’re seeing less and less of that, but regardless, if I can, I cram in a second note on the back to give a fuller presentation.

So there’s distilling it all down to one image on the cover and then saying there’s another aspect or quality or detail and letting the back being the place where you continue that a bit more. I find that rewarding, if only for myself, even if it’s the sort of thing that doesn’t get seen much.

Solace Meadow by Adam S. Doyle

CM: Are there any books that are special to you or that you would love the chance to illustrate?

AD: Oh, totally. A book that has been something I’ve wanted to do, and I know where it belongs—it’s a Penguin book so I couldn’t just do my own version—is The NeverEnding Story. It would be really fun to do. I read it years ago, but I reread it recently and realized that it’s a book which is mostly known because of the movie, which was terrific—fun and visually imaginative—but that doesn’t really do anything for the book. And for a person who is a real devotee of literature, I would love to visualize that book because there are so many differences that really deserve to be realized from the text and not as comparisons to the movie, which is at this point thirty years old. I’ve done some sketches to kind of fantasize a little bit about it, so maybe sometime I’ll get a call to work on that, that’d be terrific.

One thing that’s been happening that I’ve noticed more is all these public domain books that have been published and are classics and have been out for a while. There’s places like Creative Action Network that do covers for these books, which is totally cool and legal, so I’ve been doing a little of that. This is just covers, not interiors, because there’s a bunch I would love to do interiors for as well, but it’s been nice to revisit some of my favorites and play around with what the covers would look like.

I just finished reading and doing a cover for Darwin’s On the Origin of Species. With stuff like that, it feels kind of like a piggy back to make an image for something that’s already so substantial, but it feels good. I enjoy it.

There’s a lot more I’m not thinking of, like A Wrinkle in Time, Narnia. Narnia would be amazing. These are the kinds of books that really got me into reading and are so close to my heart, like the literary equivalent of Star Wars. They defined my childhood. Stuff like that would be really terrific to spend the time on.

There’s always the balance between doing projects for work because you need the money and it’s your career, and then there’s the stuff you want to do for yourself in terms of exploring as an artist and doodling to see what it might look like. There’s always a balance there. I have a handful of pet projects that probably won’t go anywhere and are things I’ll just put time into when I’m a little less busy, and then I’m busy I push them aside.

There’s a lot of stories out there that would be great to dedicate time to and realize in my own world.

wolf 2
Pharus Spectrum

CM: A lot of your fine art features animals, and many feature certain animals predominantly than others—like foxes, wolves, ravens. Are there reasons why animals, or those animals, feature so strongly? 

AD: One of the reasons I really connect to illustration is because there’s a framework to respond to, and I like that. I’m not spinning in my own juices or my own tiny world. It forces me to adapt and address ideas outside of my own head. So when it comes to my fine art world, in a way this becomes a lot less explainable because so much of it is coming from a more emotional and comfortable place.

In terms of the animals, I really don’t know the answer besides that I’m a big animal lover and have always been more comfortable painting a fox than a person. It’s as simple as that.

Extrapolating from that, there’s the initial connection of us and animals as living beings. I really, as a human being, connect easily with them, both as pets and going out and traveling and seeing animals in the country or watching nature programs. Those are some of my favorite things.

So it’s a simple human connection, but if we want to get a little more exploratory about it, I could say that the draw is a way to explore what I think are meaningful symbols and symbolism. There’s a whole language that we as humans ascribe to forms, where animals anthropomorphize and take on so much rich meaning for us. That’s something that I really identify with as well. Birds are a big part of that. Lately it’s been foxes and wolves. I go through cycles. I don’t think I’ve had a year where I do one animal and move on and never do that animal again.

So there are animals as animals and animals as symbols. I really enjoy how a depiction of a bird flying can denote so much—specific and open ended—quality, like freedom and aspiration. In the U.S. bald eagles are the symbol of freedom. In other cultures, birds are prominent as symbols of messengers, emblems of a greater aspiration, like Icarus flying towards the sun.

So that’s the kind of language I really gravitate towards and find meaning in. I’m motivated to use this language as meaningful symbols because I find it’s richer and deeper than if I were doing imagery that had very specific iconography. I have done it, but I don’t connect with it so much because I feel very aware of time and permanence and how in a couple of years the cell phone we use now will look outdated. I don’t like getting hung up on specifics that will date anything or be a means to separate a person from the imagery, so I tend to gravitate towards things that by and large have a timeless quality.

So that if you have a piece on your wall that had some meaning for you, that in five, ten, fifteen years, that painting would still serve you in some way. I’d like to think that if you’re in a great mood there’s something there, and if you’re depressed that this piece on your wall can be there for you and be supportive through those up and downs that come with life.

Jacket art for Miriam Black novels by Chuck Wendig, by Adam S. Doyle.

The other thing I find is that animals, animal forms, are much more varied than human beings. There’s so much variety, everything from claws and horns to wings and scales to fur. There’s so much variety and opportunity for dynamic forms and shapes and textures. I really enjoy all of that and getting lost in it. And even at times pushing even further into fantastical and monstrous, that’s always fun to push beyond and not feel beholden to what exists as we know it. Obviously you can tell that within the subject of the form, there’s a whole other space, and that’s this abstract world. The animal form is in many ways allows me a recognizable window, a relatable form, so that once I have that there’s a chance for me ostensibly to take your hand and go into a whole other open ended place that’s not defined, but seems to be a realm of emotion and meaning and exploration and the unknown.

So that’s a thing to identify with. Oh, that’s a bird, and you can freely float into it and through it and whatever you can find in that space is there for you. I don’t do much in the way of total abstraction, which is totally legitimate, but I find personally I like to trend between both worlds—between the real world and the totally open world of abstraction. That’s the space I like to be in, a little bit of that trickster, messenger, architect is the one I really identify with.

CM: What artists have influenced you or that you have enjoyed and learned from?

AD: There are so many. I used to do this thing where I would write the name of the artist, a painter or a writer or a director or a musician, and put them on my wall, and the wall would be covered with this post card of names because I always felt this need to not have these names deep in the recesses of my brain but to be out and visible, something of an acknowlegment. So there are a lot.

A lot of them, I’d say the really formative ones when I growing up, were illustrators, which should not be a surprise. That’s where I found myself. A lot of painters and a handful of contemporary artists, but I’ve noticed that as I’ve gotten older I’ve been seeking out less the work of others and trying to hone my own. So most of the names are a bit older, at least for me. They were more significant when I was younger.

M.C. Escher, even though he’s pop-y and a college poster kind of guy. That thing where I was talking about going between worlds, I think he was on a whole other level of being able to do that, to create imagery that is occupying multiple worlds at the same time and was really brain-opening work. Escher was a big one.

Klimt as well, another popular college poster, but just so gorgeous and visual. And the way that he introduced abstract shapes in what became his very own language. He was very terrific too.

When I was a little kid what blew my little brains was my introduction to the Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual. That’s not one artist, but probably half a dozen or so illustrators doing that, but these really wonderful black and white, somewhat graphic—in terms of black and white, not violence—of all these images of griffins and creatures. That’s something I’d love to do one day. That’s always been a pet project, to do my own monster manual.

wolf and raven
Epistle Pass by Adam S. Doyle

I have to mention Joseph Campbell. I feel like his name has come up recently because Star Wars is out again. His work, which I was introduced to as a little kid through Star Wars but then got to understand how significant his work was, the sort of stories that are universal. That was always so significant when I was younger and has always stuck with me ever since.

Another guy who I keep going back to do is Andrew Wyeth. It’s so interesting how narrative his work is without there being much of an explicit story—so small and delicate and of one small area. There’s layers and layers, and for me a sense of story there. There’s such incredible skill in a way that doesn’t feel like it’s too caught up in itself. His work feels really raw.

Winsor McCay was a big one, who did Little Nemo, and Bill Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes, which I grew up with too. I’d say Calvin is living in me, like he’s living in a lot of us—a spastic little kid with this tiger. I always loved the quality, the juxtaposition of simple, playful, genuinely cartoony imagery with content that was surprisingly thoughtful.

So those are some that have stuck with me. For reference and for those who’d like to learn more, I keep an ever growing list of artwork by fantastic artists here –

CM: What advice do you have for aspiring artists and illustrators?

AD: First and foremost, and stuff like this is what everyone hears and goes without saying, but at the same time when you’re asked this questions you have to say it, which is you really have to love it because it doesn’t pay well and it’s regularly terrifying whether or not you’ll be able to make enough money to support yourself. It requires love, and that means the dedication of time. It can be challenging to not go out and do stuff with your friends and not get caught up in distractions, and we all know there’s plenty of those today.

It takes going through the arduous process of learning all the fundamentals, technically, which means stuff like still lifes and figure drawing, learning light and shadows and from there developing an understanding for capturing narrative and story, and all that preliminary stuff to get to the place where you can let go of it. There’s not a way of skipping around it, and one of the great things about going through art school is they put you through that gauntlet.

Netrunner by Adam S. Doyle

As for making it as an illustrator, sometimes I don’t even know what it takes because it sort of feels like it’s a different time now then when I started. When I was younger, it was getting work in the hands of art directors, but I was coming up at the tail end of the time when illustrators would sit down in meetings and talk about portfolios and meet art directors. I did that, but it wasn’t like my teachers would say that was all they did. These days that’s very rare. There’s, in a way, no need. Everything you need is online with your own site, with your own work, and that’s what art directors will respond to.

So it’s a mix of things, which means it used to be a challenge to get stuff seen and be met with, and now the challenge is getting people to really pay attention to work because there’s so much. Now a new illustrator and me and someone who is way more successful than me are all in competition with each other and with the rest of the world. There are no borders. That’s both fundamentally wonderful because it means the bar is higher and higher because any art director can work with anyone they want from around the world, but it can also be overwhelmingly challenging because how can you possibly compete when there’s so much phenomenal work out there?

All you can really do is focus on what is meaningful to you and put the time in to understanding the fundamentals of crafting a compelling picture, and familiarizing yourself with the companies—publishers, games, books, cards, whatever it might be—with those that you respond to because there’s a much greater chance that they’ll respond to your work and reach out.

So much of the work that I have had over years has been something that crossed my path, and I thought that looks really cool, like the Netrunner project I’ve been working on. I’ve been working with them for a number of years. I just saw it and I thought it looked really neat, I wonder if they’re hiring. I emailed the art director and she got right back to me and we’ve been working together ever since.

Just be prepared for a challenge. It’s very hard to get work. On top of that it’s very hard to make a good image. There are multiple layers of challenge, but it’s rewarding when you get these little successes along the way because you’re fulfilling the need of a career and a fulfillment of your creativity.

The Swallow of Paracelsus

There’s nothing better than working on a project in front of me at my desk and then going to doing something else and still working on it in my head. I enjoy how it can be both an external, physical craft that I’m doing with my hands and my eyes, and that also occupies my inner world, solving problems and composition and figures at the same time. If that’s the kind of thing that the person reading this gets excited about, then this is definitely a great field to be in.

Just know that you’re going to get an enormous amount of input that says you shouldn’t be doing this. That is to say, people in your life might say to be more realistic, or when you are presenting your stuff you’ll get an enormous amount of that. And I get that all the time too. Everyone who’s in a creative world where you’re trying to put yourself out there, gatekeepers will say it’s not working. You have to deal with that all the time and build up a thick skin, and at the same time have a super thin skin because the work requires that degree of investment and sensitivity. You really can’t be a totally detached, unemotional artist. It just doesn’t work. You have to be able to handle both of those things, both of those areas of experience—the harshness of it, and the open, loving, sensitive side of it.

If you’re aspiring to be an illustrator, I believe strongly in knowing the source material. I mentioned already that I always read, whenever possible, the books I’m illustrating. If you’re depicting Frankenstein’s monster, for example, there is so much imagery already out there. Ignore all of it. Reading the original text, not just a summary either, brings an intimacy unlike anything else. That is essential for the work we do. Be true to the story. Be true to the characters.

Additionally, I highly recommend traveling or better yet living abroad. One of the perks of being an illustrator is that as long as you have access to the Internet you can email files from anywhere. Experiencing other cultures, cities, and landscapes first hand will live with you and inspire you for the rest of your life. If you can manage it, buy a plane ticket and go.

adamsdoyleAdam S. Doyle’s paintings exhibit in New York City, Los Angeles, Hong Kong, and in Europe. A lifelong reader, Adam loves illustrating books and book covers. Additionally, he enjoys crafting images for card games, greeting cards, album covers, theater and concert posters, package design, and dreamscapes.


Follow Adam:



Interview with Artist Melissa Pagluica

CM: What is your background/education in art?

MP: BFA in intermedia studio with an emphasis in electronic arts at CSU Chico.

CM: When did you decide you wanted to be a professional artist?

MP: I knew in college that I wanted to do something with my art professionally. But I had no idea how. So I just kept following this need to create art (giving myself art projects. I guess art for art sake then?). It wasn’t until after college that I attempted conventions. Looking back, I wish I had spent my college summers being involved in the convention scene but I wasn’t aware of them yet. Today, there are conventions everywhere. They are so accessible it’s amazing! But back then, there were only a handful (mostly far away) and it didn’t help that I was shy.

With the help of my friend Allie, she tabled with me at a local anime convention in Sacramento. It was my very first one as an artist and I loved it! It just clicked for me and I thought “I need to do this. A lot”.

image03By then, I had my day job so I was only doing a few conventions here and there. But the response I was getting was amazing so when when I went from full time to project base (this is when the recession hit) I took it as an opportunity to really push myself with my art.

When I went from full time to project base I started to really leap into the convention scene. They acted as a deadline to get more work done and I kept adding new shows to my schedule. Being surrounded by other artist striving to do their thing was a huge inspiration. Suddenly, I wasn’t a casual exhibitor doing art on the was a real direction I wanted to go in as a career. But I realized that I couldn’t make the full leap yet. There was still a lot more to learn and I was still exploring what exactly I wanted to do WITH my art. And HOW it would sustain me. The day job gave me the ability to figure this out.

For a while, it became two jobs on the plate. One was safe and reliable; the other was still unknown but filled me with purpose. I knew no matter what it took I had to push this second job.

CM: Recently you made the transition to being a full time artist. Prior to becoming a full time artist, how did you balance a “day job” and your artwork?

MP: When you take on art as a career, you need to be ready to sacrifice your time and understand how much energy it will take. The weekday schedule became day job work first followed by art work projects. The concept of weekends held no meaning for me other then I was free to do my one job instead of two. And for awhile…there were no vacations.

I was able to keep this up for a while, but the stress of two jobs did take a toll on me. So this is my advice for balancing two jobs:

  • Your health is important. No matter what, you need to build up your endurance to sustain this workload. Which include eating right and working out. Can not stress this enough! I started to work out and I notice crazy huge benefits immediately.
  • Understand how to say NO to things. I like to make people happy, including my coworkers. But it got to a point that I needed to push back or else I’d being doing things that cut into my art work time.
  • This is a random one but for my own sake: I cut out all video games that have no ending. I can get obsessive so I really had to think about how my time was being spent. Video games are fun but when I look back in 20 years I’d like to see my goals produce results like a completed comic book ..not “oh yeah, back then it was great spending hours on that one game…”

What is crazy about this line of work is understanding that at certain times…you’re not going to find balance until you find a way to start slowing minimizing the day job. My goal was having my day job be the opposite of helpful/paying bills, to having it be in the way. It’s what gives you the signal “hey, perhaps it’s time to make that last final leap!”

CM: What are some challenges you’ve faced as you worked towards becoming a full time artist? What are the lessons you learned from them?

  1. Your health is important. Make sure to carve out time for yourself (both for mind and body).
  2. Reach out to the people around you. I have a hard time doing this, but the people you start to network with in your art community will be like a second family. They look out for you, encourage you, and since we are all learning together we are all eager to share what we learn so that the next artist who joins the journey may, hopefully, not make the same mistakes we did.
  3. Don’t give yourself a mountain you can’t leap in one jump. I believe in setting yourself up to succeed. When starting my comic I had to learn this the hard way. My first story idea was too epic for me to take on so I didn’t want to start it. ATC (Above the Clouds) was simple and had clarity. My goal was the learn and when I saw manageable workloads for me to take on it became easier to do the work!

image07CM: Now that you are a full time artist, what are you most looking forward to?

CM: TIME! Oh my god all the time I will have at last. It’s hard to work on a project and have to stop your groove for something that is not related. Or the days when “time is not your own” and you can’t get any drawing in. Those days were so painful. Now, I get to focus on developing my vision and I know the hours I put in go towards work for myself and not someone else.

I have all these ideas I want to start putting into motion as well. I can have side projects to my main project! I can really focus on developing my career as a comic book artist.

CM: Do you prefer traditional or digital art? Why?

MP: I always said that digital art and I were meant to be. When I was in high school, in my least favorite class (science)…I met a boy who had a copy of photoshop. We luckily sat next to each other and he offered me a copy. This changed my whole world. From that day on I tried to learn as much as I could! And since I’m an introvert, I welcomed the online community that was also excited to explore this new medium.

That being said, as someone who got their BFA in intermedia studio (which meant I got to dabble in all areas!) I started to value the importance of exploring other mediums. Traditional art (painting, sculpting, drawing) informs my digital art. Working in one medium really helps to see another in a new light. It gives you new perspective so I would really advocate not limiting yourself to one.

image01CM: Can you tell us about your comic Above The Clouds?

MP: Above the Clouds is a story about a young girl name Eily who is given a book about a hero who must go on a journey to save a great world tree from dying. Totally in love with story, she is heartbroken to find out the story isn’t done and must go on her own quest to convince an author, who doesn’t believe himself, to complete the tale.

I gave myself a fun rule that anything outside the book would be silent. To help push myself as a visual story teller, Eily and the other characters must rely on facial expression and body posture while anything written down or in the story that Eily is reading will have words and dialogue. To really help make the story come to life.

CM: What was harder, writing the comic or illustrating it?

MP: Writing by far! Taking on all the hats of a comic book creator, I am slowly trying to learn and understand the craft of writing. It is very difficult but also rewarding.

CM: Why did you decide to create a comic?

MP: Growing up, I was obsessed with stories. I loved them so much. In kindergarten I remember memorizing the books we read to share with my dad. In middle school I made a journal of all the books I checked out and wanted to read. And in high school, it got so bad my dad had to limit how many books I was allowed to buy each week. I really, really want to be a story teller. My illustrations reflected the need to convey a story or a moment in time. So it was naturally the next step to become a comic book artist that blends both these elements to together (art and story!).

image04CM: Where did you find the inspiration for the story?

MP: I had another story idea I was working on for a year, but it wasn’t moving forward as a project. And it was largely inspired by the Norse mythology I was reading. When I put this story on hold, I think many of these ideas transferred over into ATC, but with more clarity and direction.

CM: What is something you’ve learned about art writing or illustrating this comic?

MP: A blank page can be scary. Sometimes you have no idea what lines should go down on the page. But I’ve learned to let that feeling go. Just start in one place…just put one line down and the rest will follow. 

CM: Can you tell us about some of the main characters?

MP: I will say that each character represents an aspect of “hiding one’s self” or not fitting the role they are placed in.

Two of the main ones:

Eily, who who is suppose to be a lady and please her mum, can’t seem to live up to this role.

Cian, who has always lived by the sword, is also unfilled with his role and secretly wants to live by the pen but is afraid, not only to try, but to share this aspect of himself with people.

image11The side characters also play on this aspect. One that is a wallflower (the psychical aspect of hiding onself) and one who is good at their role but finds that it may mean limiting other aspects of their happiness.

And of course the book hero, whose world is being consumed by darkness and must go on a journey to stop it. The book hero, or the caretaker, was always very happy with their role until one day it wasn’t enough. What is fun about the Caretaker is that I give this character no face. Not only to contrast Eily’s world that must rely on facial expressions, but also I like the idea that when one reads a story they like to see themselves a the hero.

CM: What is something new you’d like to learn or get better at as an artist?

MP: Gah! Perspective. If I were to give advice to any artist….don’t let this one slip by. I know it’s painful but very necessary.

CM: What advice do you have for artists striving to achieve that full-time status?

MP: It’s a process. There is going to be a transitional period. It could take 1 year or maybe 5. During this time, really hone your craft. Take business classes and seek out professionals who are doing what you want to do. Do the numbers and track your progress before making the leap. Also, save money aside for that rainy day. It’s going to be really hard. Accept this aspect and roll with it. I promise you that it will all be worth it. If your going to spend hours of your life doing something it might as well be for your dream!

image02Creator of the comic Above the Clouds, Melissa Pagluica has been traveling around California to different comic book conventions selling her illustrations and comic. She has been featured in Monster & Dames and has enjoyed working with Boom Studios, Committed Comics, and various other studios as a variant cover artist. Melissa is also a tea freak and is owned by a cat name Lui.

Interview with Artist Miranda Yeo About Her Lord of the Rings Series

CM: What prompted you to draw all of the main Lord of the Rings characters?

MY: I was rewatching the movies and slowly realizing I had never drawn the characters before! For the past few days, I had been thinking of projects to draw that would make me practice drawing men – since I mainly draw ladies when I am drawing on my own. Drawing the characters from the series seemed like a great idea! Since LOTR is my favourite movie I figured it would be a fun way to get myself to practice drawing different characters who are all connected in one world/style. Sauroman was the character I started with. He was fairly easy to draw and had a basic triangular shape. After completing his design I had the confidence and motivation to do them all! I was very inspired by Peter Jackson’s films. All the characters are based on the actors and costume designs from the films, with a couple of my own changes. While watching the movies the costumes have always stood out to me and I wanted to capture the film character’s personalities and designs in my own drawings.

CM: Can you describe your process for drawing the characters from the first sketch to the final product?

MY: I would quickly sketch out the character trying to focus on overall shape/silhouette. I’d purposely use a rough brush so that the final sketch wouldn’t look too finished. Sometimes if the drawing is too “complete” the line art ends up seeming very stiff.  I would then draw the lines on a new layer on top of the sketch. Since I wanted to give the drawings a style I went with the idea of having both sides of the characters being identical. This way, I would line one half of the body and then mirror it to the other side. The patterns and designs on their clothing was done much same way! I wanted to give certain characters lots of little details within their clothing to accentuate their position – Arwen, Denethor, Theoden, etc. Others I wanted to keep simple. Then I would block in the basic colours of their costume on another layer, followed by the shadows on another layer. Finally, I coloured the lines that are inside the silhouette just to give a bit more colour to the art!


CM: Who was your favorite character to draw?

MY: This is a hard one! I really enjoyed drawing all of them! I really enjoyed drawing Denethor – his design just came easy. In the movies he has such a distinct look. Arwen was another fun one to draw. I played around with the idea of drawing her from other views as well. I was considering drawing some of the characters from different angles and with multiple outfits. The costume designs in the movies are so great. I also really enjoyed drawing Frodo. I had the idea of all the characters being upright with their hands at the side except for Gollum and Frodo – Gollum begging for the Ring and Frodo holding the Ring.


CM: Who was the most difficult to draw?

MY: Aragorn was the hardest character for me to draw. He ended up being the last one I drew of the series as well.  I had a very difficult time sketching him out and getting a likeness to the actor. His design ended up slowly coming together when I was doing the linear. None of the sketches were working but something sort of clicked when I started drawing out the details.

CM: What are the challenges of drawing characters people are so familiar with?

MY: Everyone has their own attachments to the characters. I was worried about not doing them justice. I tried to keep them very close to the original designs but also put a little bit of what I wanted to see into them.

CM: How does the character’s backstory affect how you draw them?

MY: I tried to keep the character’s stories in mind while drawing them. Faramir is a good example – I made his expression pretty concerned. He has been seen as not good enough and is pretty down about it. But his outfit has a large White Tree on the front showcasing his connection with Gondor and how important it is.


CM: Who is your favorite character overall?

MY: Ah, the hardest question. All of the characters have traits that make me love them. But my favourite character would have to be Aragorn. I like that he is so reluctant about his position at first but then rises to the occasion and does what he has to do. I think his journey is really interesting and enjoyable to watch. I really love him as Strider!

CM: What did you learn from this experience?

MY: In terms of drawing, this project gave me a lot more confidence with drawing male characters, which as my original goal. It gave me lots of practice with lineart and small patterns and details. It was also great to see how many people responded to the characters and really got into the series! It was incredibly fun and I’d love to try to do more with it in the future.


Miranda Yeo is a recent graduate of Sheridan’s B.A Animation program. She is a character designer currently residing in beautiful British Columbia.


Read Miranda’s interview about her personal artwork here.

Interview with Artist Andy (the Lemon)

Rapunzel by AndytheLemon
Rapunzel by AndytheLemon

CM: What is one of your earliest experiences with art that you remember?

AL: I’ve pretty much drawn ever since I could hold a crayon! I remember getting through a staggering amount of paper as a kid. I loved bright colours and producing rather hilarious looking renditions of butterflies and flowers as a 3-4 year old.

CM: When did you first start taking real art classes?

AL: It was always part of the school curriculum, but when I got to about 12-13 I was so convinced I wanted to work for Disney/Pixar that I decided it wasn’t going to be enough, so at 14 I started painting and life drawing classes outside school. They were run by this super eccentric lady at her home studio in one of the posh areas of London. She was such an odd character but she taught me a great deal so I’m very grateful for that.

As I got older and took my A-Levels, I also got to do life drawing at school after my usual class hours. That’s about it, really. I’ve never taken a digital art class or learned how to draw cartoons formally.

CM: Where do you attend school and what are you studying?

AL: I’m just finishing my 1st year of my undergraduate degree at university! I’m studying somewhere in rural north England but I’m doing an Economics degree, so nothing art related. I am a member of the Art Society so I try to attend the weekly life drawing sessions as much as I can to keep the practice up, but it’s hard when my schedule’s so jam-packed!

CM: What is your favourite medium to use?

AL: I don’t have one; I think it’s nice to switch it up to stop myself getting bored! Personally I prefer digital for bigger polished drawings and traditional materials like pencils for sketches.

CM: How does drawing digitally compare to drawing traditionally to you?

Queens Borte and Marie Antoinette in a modern high school au by AndytheLemon.
Queens Borte and Marie Antoinette in a modern high school au by AndytheLemon.

AL: Digital is fun for working with colour and big compositions because it’s easy to cut/paste/edit things, but sometimes it can get stressful or eye-straining. I prefer doodling traditionally when working on rough character designs or just doing something to relax myself. I don’t post a lot of my traditional stuff online because they’re just messy doodles, ha ha ha…

CM: What are some of your favourite things to draw?

AL: Faces and eyes! Hair too, though it can be a real pain to colour. The fun bit is adding the finishing touches at the end of a drawing.

CM: What are some of your favourite fandoms to draw?

AL: Fandoms tend to come and go, but Disney is by far the one I draw most of. It’s always been in my life and it’s something that really sparked my love for art and animation. I can’t really think of any other fandom I’ve drawn nearly as consistently – there will always be Disney in my art tag, regardless of whatever I happen to be currently into at the moment.

I feel like I should mention though – artists can be strange. Just because we love something to bits doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll draw it a lot, and just because we draw something loads doesn’t mean we’re die-hard fans, you know? There are plenty of things I love to death but never draw.

CM: Why do you enjoy drawing fanart?

AL: To connect with other fans and share my own take on existing characters. I absolutely love seeing an artist’s take on a character’s design, particularly if said artist has a very unique and quirky style. I have a style inspiration tag on my blog specifically for that. I can only hope that I’d maybe be that person for somebody else.

That, and it’s nice to feel part of a community and contribute to it. And I’m just very bad at coming up with my own original character designs, ha ha… *hides away*

CM: How has drawing fanart helped your original art?

Al: Well any drawing is good practice for me, and it’s nice to find inspiration from other characters’ designs, see what works well and what doesn’t, etc. I don’t make enough original work to be honest, that’s something I want to work on in future.

CM: What are some of the challenges you’ve faced?

By AndytheLemon
By AndytheLemon

AL: Everything! I find anatomy hard. I still struggle a great deal with same-face syndrome, dynamics, and portraying interaction. Backgrounds, colours (I have a terrible eye for colour, honestly)… the list goes on. It’s daunting but exciting at the same time – I have so much more to learn! I really want to work more on environments and pushing character designs because I still feel I’m quite limited and I worry my work is still too similar to a lot of other people’s. I can be quite self-critical, but I feel it’s a good thing because it makes me want to keep improving. I also want to get better at traditional media and other forms of art aside from the stuff on my blog. I wish I were better at graphic design/realism/conceptual painting. I have a friend on my corridor who’s ridiculously good at drawing maps, and he’s inspired me to try and do it too.

In terms of day-to-day stuff, I guess just finding the motivation and time can be difficult. This year has been really rough. My schedule’s been a bit crazy and I’ve had to adjust to living away from home whilst juggling class in a super competitive environment as well as make a whole new bunch of friends, but it’s alright. I’m sad I haven’t had as much time to draw as I used to, but that’s life. Hopefully next year I’ll be able to plan my time better, but you never know with student life.

It also annoys me that inspiration comes like waves – one week you’ll churn out a million sketches and then produce nothing for the next three. It’s frustrating, but then I think that’s the case for 99.9% of artists.

CM: The Internet’s changed the art community in a lot of ways. How has the ability to share your work widely affected your art and you as an artist?

AL: Oh my gosh, so many ways! I feel like the Internet is one of the main reasons why I’m the way I am today art-wise. It’s allowed me to get critique, feedback and encouragement from so many random people and thrown me into the anime trash bin, amongst other things. Had I not been able to get into new fandoms, I would definitely not have become the artist I am today! It’s also meant that I can get paid for my work and join awesome projects/collaborations, which is fantastic and something I’m ridiculously thankful for.

CM: What is something you’ve learned from another artist that helped you a lot?

Art by AndytheLemon
Art by AndytheLemon

AL: Wow… what a question. I think the most important thing is to be nice. I know that sounds arbitrary and not very art related, but it’s so important! To build contacts and get involved in collaborative projects, nobody likes someone who is self-centred and all-righteous. Being encouraging to other fellow learning artists, I’m so glad that amongst my art friends we’re all really kind to each other rather than constantly trying to tear each other down or be competitive 24/7. I really am very lucky to know them and for us to have watched each other grow over the last few years.

Also, diversity and representation matters so much. When I first saw a fanart of Harry Potter with olive skin, I feel head over heels in love with it and realised why the common mindset of defaulting everyone to straight/white, etc., is so terrible and just ugh, which I have definitely been guilty of despite being a PoC (Person of Colour) myself. Now I love being more diverse with my character designs and headcanons, and it’s made me a much better person overall, I think.

Also… once you become anime trash you never go back. Unfortunately. Thanks Angela.

CM: What advice do you have for aspiring artists?

AL: Be open minded, be kind, do things at your own pace, practice, and be patient. That’s all you need in a nutshell. I could go on forever, but everyone is different and as long as art is making you happy, that’s great. Success and improvement doesn’t come overnight, but it will if you throw yourself out there and get involved.

Andy is a student who likes to draw in her spare time. She’s a notorious fandom hopper and loves anything and everything to do with animation.

You can find Andy here:
Twitter: @AndreaL08
Instagram: @AndyL08