I was lucky to have a change to talk with one of my favorite artists in comics right now, Amy Mebberson! Amy’s work includes The Muppet Show, Finding Nemo and Monsters Inc for Boom Studios! As well as Divalicious from Tokyopop and maintained her own comic strip called Thorn that ended just shy of 300 strips!
Many artists started drawing and sketching at different ages, some in childhood, some never start till they’re adults! At what age did you first start to draw? Was it more of a hobby for you’re spare time or was it something that you were constantly doing?
I’ve been drawing as long as I’ve been able to hold a pencil. My mother has art I created before I was two. I never stopped and I was always Amy Who Draws to everyone I ever came into contact with.
What other artists or art styles would you say inspire or influence your work the most?
I go through phases in terms of what’s inspiring me at any one time. My main influences which have lingered to be intergral to my style are Disney and feature animation character design and mid-century graphic design. Breaking down an image to very simple forms is tricker than it sounds, so I love studying 50’s design and illustration to see how artists got that abstraction into their work but still kept a sense of fun.
For the past couple of years you’ve been working with Boom Studios on titles like Monsters Inc and various Muppet titles. When drawing characters who already exist, is it simple to adapt them to you’re style or have you ever come across a character you just couldn’t “get down right”?
It depends on the source. Muppets are very similar in design to animation characters, which I find very easy to draw, so adapting Pixar and Muppet characters to a comic was not a huge challenge for me. Doctor Who is a lot trickier, partly because the BBC are very fussy on how they allow him to be illustrated. It takes more skill to caricature an actor but still keep them ‘realistic’ enough and I’ve had a few headaches getting him just right for approvals.
You’ve also had you’re own web strip called Thorn that ran for two years online with almost 300 strips in the archives. Where did the inspiration for the characters come from?
The cast of Thorn are pretty much just all out of my own head. Unlike As If!(my other 80’s webcomic), where all the main cast were based on real people, Rosie and her gang were really just me having fun with made-up characters. I kind of wanted Rosie to be an inverted caricature of the sweet-as-pie little girl of the 50’s that ads always depicted.
Do you think you’ll ever go back to drawing more of Rosie and her family?
I may, although if I revived the strip, I’d like to have publisher backing some day I’d really like to expand Thorn out and develop it into maybe an animated series. But right now, I just don’t have time for personal projects.
While some artists seem to be able to adapt their style for different characters or stories, drawing for managa books can seem like quite a stretch in styles sometimes for most “mainstream” comic artists. Do you think there’s a big change between your work for Tokyopop and Boom Studios, or is it very similar?
Well, the original new manga that Tokyopop produced was never held to the same standards as the more stylistically-homogenous style most people think of as Manga. We were encouraged to use our own styles rather than ‘bend’ to any particular manga style. It’s just that most of us had some form of manga influence in our work at the time.
So the change from drawing manga-style graphic novels to licensed comics based on animation characters and Muppets wasn’t as huge a leap for me as you might think.
You worked for Disneytoons in Sydney for several years as an Assistant Animator. For someone who doesn’t know a thing about animation, what does an Assistant Animator do??
I was an Assistant Animator and Inbetweener, which are different roles in animation production. An assistant animator works alongside the animator, adding more rough drawings in between the animator’s roughs in order to complete the animation and give a thorough display of what the animator is trying to show.
An inbetweener’s role depends on the studio system, but at my studio, the Inbetweeners would add more drawings in between the animation drawings to fully smooth out and finish the animation, but after the drawings had been cleaned up. Hence the name Inbetweener – we add drawings in between others.
So the drawing you see on screen in an animation frame has been physically drawn by either an Inbetweener or a cleanup artist.
On your blog you have a lot of photos of sketches you’ve done from different conventions. Is there any character you enjoy to draw for fans more?
Often my favourite character and a fan favourite character don’t necessairily match up. Lots of fans adore Animal, but I find him a little tedious to draw. But everyone seems to agree that Kermit is awesome and I never ever get tired of drawing him 🙂
All images are copyrighted by Amy Mebberson.