Interviewed in April of 2014
ANDREW R. MACLEAN
Hometown: Athol, MA
Current town: Salem, MA
Website: Click Here
Email: Click Here
1.) Andrew, tell us a little bit about where you grew up, and how you ended up a comic book illustrator living smack in the middle of Salem, MA?
I grew up in a small central Massachusetts town called Athol. It’s small, its poor, it’s not much to brag about, but its home. I ended up in Salem because my wife and I basically just follow the work. We’ve moved several times since college for jobs. Most recently, it brought us to the North Shore, and ultimately, Salem.
2.) Are there any specific locations here in New England that has had a profound meaning to you and your art? i.e: Any place of major inspiration or childhood memory?
We’ve learned we love living in cities where things happen. I find that really inspiring. But beyond that I grew up loving the forest. My brother and I would explore the woods endlessly. It is a real highlight of my childhood. And now I love drawing wildlife and pine trees.
3.) When did you get into comics both personally and professionally? Were you hooked from a very young age or was it something you discovered later?
I didn’t have many comics as a child, just a small handful that I read again and again. I don’t even know where I got them. We didn’t have a comic shop anywhere close by. Later on I would buy comics at grocery stores or pharmacies but they never carried any storylines through to their end. It was like they chose which comics to carry totally randomly month to month, but I loved the art and bought them anyway.
Through high school I wanted to draw comics professionally. But then I found music, which was creatively fulfilling but also something I could do with friends, and so music was a much greater focus for a few years. It wasn’t until after college that I really got the urge to actually give comics a shot.
4.) After high school you studied songwriting at Berklee College of Music. Can you tell us a little about that experience? Did you transition from music right into illustration without any formal training in art? (Please don't say you're self-taught because that wouldn't be fair!)
I loved my time at Berklee. I loved learning about music and I met so many amazing people there. Even if I’m not making music at the moment, I wouldn’t change a thing. It was such a great experience.
I did kind of transition directly into illustration, well, sort of. I worked as a graphic artist for a Whole Foods right after college and started drawing comics for myself in my spare time. Then my wife got a new job in and NYC so we headed down there for a bit. But I couldn’t find a new job and so started taking freelance art gigs. I was mostly doing graphic design stuff, but I would do my best to get the illustration gigs. Slowly I shifted focus so I was doing only comics work.
But yeah, I’m self-taught. I’ve been drawing since I was very young. So I started working on those 10,000 hours (or whatever that saying is) very early.
5.) You have a very identifiable style. By that I mean... I can easily recognize your work no matter what the subject matter. Do you think having a strong identifiable style can help or hurt artists upon looking for work professionally?
I think it can be both. Unique styles can inspire really intense love and also really intense hate. The benefit to having an identifiable style is if someone wants what you do they can only get it in that one place. BUT, it might take you longer than others to earn an acceptance. It’s a double-edged sword. But hey, just draw the way you want. Don’t think too hard about what it means, you’re work will be better for it.
6.) Outside of conventional American comics, is there anything else art-wise that has had a major influence on you? i.e: anime, fine art, film…
Film. I’m a HUGE Quentin Tarantino fan. I feel his influence regularly in both my art and my writing. I am also really inspired by Stanley Kubrick. The composition of his shots is something I think a lot about when designing panels in a comic. More recently a select few animes have become an inspiration, namely Akira and Tekkonkinkreet. I love everything about Tekkonkinkreet.
7.) Head Lopper is your creator owned comic that you single handedly write, illustrate, letter, self-publish, promote and deliver on. With the first issue behind you and fans already clamoring for issue #2, how does a project like this get off the ground? What was the game plan to make what every illustrator dreams of become a reality?
First, if I can do it, anyone can. All it takes is to decide to do it and take yourself seriously. In the case of Head Lopper, I had drawn a couple comics written by others and while that is really great and fun it wasn’t REALLY scratching that itch. I had a couple stories I wanted to tell on my own and eventually the time came when an unexpected gap in my schedule presented itself and I just seized it. I decided to self-publish it before I even got started just because I really wanted something available that I had both written and drawn within that year. I knew if I pitched it to publishers it would take longer than I wanted it to… IF they were interested at all. Which after what seemed like dozens of rejections, seemed pretty unlikely.
8.) I have to imagine that you're cranking music while you work... What's the soundtrack when you're drawing Head Lopper? What are you diggin' on?
Hahaha. Head Lopper is pretty metal. I love film-scores too so sometimes that comes into play, but mostly metal for Head Lopper. Having just recently finished Head Lopper 2, I can tell you I was listening to Mastodon, Blind Guardian, Strapping Young Lad, and Symphony X, certainly not exclusively, but pretty heavily.
9.) You're also the founder and creator of Brand New Nostalgia, a comic book/illustration based collective. Tell our readers, who are all 'art lovers', what they can expect to find within this similar group of amazing talent at www.brandnewnostalgia.com?
Brand New Nostalgia was an artist collective I formed where we would do themed illustrations on a weekly basis. We each took turns choosing themes. Themes could be anything, vague or specific, it didn’t matter. Whatever we wanted. Eventually we put a book together, which was/is a lot of work and everyone got busy and as a result we fell off on the weekly pieces but we still get together every once in a while.
10.) You're now a battle-tested veteran at the comic convention scene. How important are cons for networking and establishing your name/brand out there? And how awesome is it that your wife is so supportive and has your back at all these cons? Let's face it, most of us nerds are not so lucky.
I think it’s important to get out there, rub elbows, talk to “fans” and all that, but really I just think conventions are fun. So much of making a comic is in solitude, its great to make them a big party.
My wife is fucking awesome. I know I’m lucky. We do a lot of shows together. She’s taken a huge invested interest in my career both at shows and at home. She is a real “Type A” personality and it’s a huge help in keeping everything together, particularly Kickstarter related things and shipping and all the less-than-fun business things. She’s great.
11.) Your workplace or studio; “complete and total disaster” or “super organized?"
Generally it’s a complete and total disaster. I don’t think its too bad but my wife insists that it is.
12.) What if any part of your workflow is digital these days? Are you on the computer much art-wise? MAC or PC?
Coloring is digital, and recently lettering became digital. I liked lettering by hand for a while but it took much too long. Computers are fine and good but there is something romantic about traditional art.
I use a Mac. It’s got to be a Mac.
13.) What’s been the most challenging part of building a career as an artist? i.e: family, $$$, time, inspiration, networking, etc…
The money. I made much more when I was doing graphic design type stuff. If my wife wasn’t so organized with our money it would be real tough to make it work.
14.) Can you give us a couple of artists you think are absolutely going to blow up? Who should we get in on the ground floor with?
I have no idea what makes someone blow up. BUT a few somewhat- under-the-radar artists that I’ve really been enjoying lately:
Matt Smith, Matteo Berton, Stephane Fert, Jake Wyatt, and Loïc Locatelli Kournwsky (I know, it’s a mouthful but his work is AMAZING).
15.) Issue #2 of Head Lopper just came out, (we publish after the book ships) but tell our readers what’s next for you? Any projects behind the velvet rope or shrouded in secrecy that we should be on the look out for?
Yeah, I have a few things “shrouded in secrecy,” still too secret to mention by name unfortunately. But I can say that I’m working on a graphic novel, which is basically my apocalyptic-tale.
16.) One last question? I just recently discovered that there is a Dwayne McDuffie, Denys Cowan, Kent Williams, and Brian Bolland comic about Prince. If you could write and draw a comic about musician who would it be?
Oh man, I don’t know. Probably Devin Townsend. There might be better stories out there, but he is probably my favorite musician overall. I know he’s had drug issues and I believe he is bipolar – or at least seems to be – but he’s also a genius and I probably “get” his music more than any other musician. And he does crazy shit that would probably be fun to draw.**