(All images are used with permission of Mike Vosburg and belong to him. Don't even think of stealing them!)
In the Wilds of Southern California, a mere stone's throw away from Angeles National Forest, there lives an artist of such talent, that a statue came to live on his mantel. Or maybe it's in his closet by now. I'm not sure.
The statue is an Emmy award, given for his role as director of the HBO animated series, Spawn. "He" is Mike Vosburg, an artist whose work I have enjoyed for years. And you have, too, even though you may not realize it.
Mike has done storyboards for The Chronicles of Narnia, drawn an entire cover run for Tales From the Crypt, and produced artwork for the L.A. museum of Tolerance. He also continues to work on his own graphic novels, Lori Lovecraft and Retrowood.
Mike grew up in Pontiac, Michigan, with a crayon in one hand and a horror comic in the other. His parents were supportive of his interest in art from the beginning, always making sure he had a "healthy supply of materials to work with," as he puts it. He lives in Tujunga with his mild-mannered, jewelry designer wife (and sometimes model), Anna, and is also owned by several cats. He met Anna in 1976 and they married "much later." When you see the two of them together, working on their separate projects in their shared studio, you know this is a true partnership.
I was lucky enough to have Mike answer a few questions for me, so I could share with you.
ShellHawk: What first got you interested in comic art?
MV: As soon as I could hold a pencil, I was drawing. I always wanted to be a writer, and started adding pictures to spice up the stories. I found the drawing was a lot more fun than writing and made the switch.
SH: What do you like and dislike about current comic art?
MV: I love the comic book medium, but I am completely disinterested in the business and what they produce. Super hero comics bore me, and they dominate the industry today. I like a wide variety of styles as long as they use dynamic compositions and interesting drawing techniques. Again, the overly stylized rendering of the superhero genre generally leaves me cold.
SH: What's your favorite medium to work with?
MV: I like just pen and ink drawings for comics and storyboards. Painting for illustration is fun; I use acrylics and apply them like watercolor. I always use Photoshop to put tones/word balloons on my comic artwork. It's a very versatile tool.
SH: What was your first art-related job?
MV: I started out as a school teacher after I finished college. I left that after three years to pursue a comic book career. I did my first stories for underground comics... Not much pay and the stories were one step up from amateur.
SH: Who were your influences?
MV: N.C. Wyeth, Bob McGinnis and Bob Peak were the illustrators who inspired me when I was younger. As I've gotten older, the illustrator who is my biggest influence is Robert Fawcett. Joe Kubert, Wally Wood, Leonard Starr, Will Eisner and Alex Toth were the cartoonists who really inspired me.
SH: What gives you the inspiration for Lori Lovecraft, Retrowood, and your ReelArt series?
MV: While I originally created "Linda Lovecraft" back in the 70s as an alternative to drawing super heroes, when I reinvented her as Lori Lovecraft, the ideas generated more from working on Tales From the Crypt and using all my favorite black and white movie favorites for the story ideas. Retrowood is an extension of that as it is set in a Hollywood-like environment in a faux 1930s era, but without the restrictions of doing a straight period piece. ReelArt was an attempt to learn to paint portraits from the best reference material I had available: stills of my favorite movie art.
SH: What do you do to keep your "chops" up?
MV: I constantly doodle in my sketchbooks and try to do at least one life drawing workshop a week. And I try to continue working on my illustrations whenever I can.
Mike tells me he is starting a workshop on Telling Stories in the Pasadena area. Whenever he's not working for a client, he tends to either his Retrowood graphic novel or illustration projects.