Interview w/ Ming Doyle: A Miasma of Paint, Pencil and Ink

ming-bioOne of the greatest thrills I get being both an artist and an art lover is discovering something new or, at the very least, getting to see an up-and-coming artist come into their own within the art world. In that regard it has been my pleasure to see how much our guest today has come in only two short years, though her personal journey has been much longer than that. I was first lucky enough to first stumble upon Ming’s work in 2008 thanks to Dean Trippe Project: Rooftop series of superhero makeovers and have since been enamored with her unique painterly style and eye for design. Allow me to introduce you to: Ming Doyle.

Visit Ming’s Portfolio |   Follow Ming on Twitter

Noble Beast

Noble Beast

Artwork copyright © All rights reserved by Ming Doyle

You are the daughter of an Irish American and a Chinese Canadian… that’s quite an impressive mix of cultures. Does the artistic heritage of any one culture inform/inspire your work or is it more of a miasma of influences?

There’s definitely a good, solid miasma of influences at play in my work, but my earliest interest in art was sparked by my decidedly Western surroundings. I drew what I knew at the beginning, and that was predominantly copies of paintings from dusty old “Masters of the Renaissance” coffee table books or panels from the latest issue of X-Force. I even spent the summer after fourth grade making charcoal and watercolor pieces inspired by the artwork and decorations in the Old Ordinary, an historical “house museum” from the sixteen hundreds in my New England hometown.

It wasn’t really until I spent my junior year of high school in Beijing that I started to explicitly explore and incorporate Asian themes and techniques into my own work. I took a few Chinese landscape painting classes and studied traditional calligraphy. I still use some of the tools and methods I learned in China in my current illustration and sequential work!

What tools do you typically use to create your artwork?

For my sequential work, I rely on Bristol board, India ink, dip pens, brushes, and always, always, always Wite-Out. Sometimes it feels like I use at least as much correction fluid as ink on my pages. Not only is it the ultimate bungle-forgiver, it also produces some pretty neat textural effects that I even rely on from time to time.

steph19

Stephanie Brown, the third Robin

Artwork copyright © All rights reserved by Ming Doyle

I first became aware of your work through your Project: Rooftop Superman redesign though, since then, you’ve contributed quite a few more pieces to the project. Can you tell us how you got involved with that circle of artists?

It’s probably not an understatement to say that I owe my start in comics to Dean Trippe, an inspirationally multi-talented creator as well as the founder and main proprietor of Project: Rooftop, and it couldn’t have been a more serendipitous or fun way to get into the industry.

I had just graduated from art school and was spending some nebulous amount of time regrouping and recuperating at my childhood home before approaching the vastly daunting issue of procuring a career. I decided to combat the feeling of incipient doom by escaping into marathon viewings of Batman: The Animated Series and drawing my own free form interpretations of the characters. I posted a take on Stephanie Brown, the third Robin (see above), to one of my blogs, and through sheer chance Dean happened to stumble across it right as P:R was gearing up to do a special on the Girl Wonder. He encouraged me to submit my drawing, and before I knew it I was redesigning superheroes with an exciting, supportive group of established illustrators and fellow prospective up-and-comers.

My first published jobs were all a result of writers and editors seeing something they liked in my P:R redesigns and writing to offer me spots in comic book anthologies like Popgun, Outlaw Territory, and Comic Book Tattoo. I was fortunate enough to fall into a career by doing like Joseph Campbell said and following my bliss. Not a job goes by that I don’t appreciate it.

What is it about comic books that inspires you- the characters, storylines, superpowers?

The superpowers are very compelling and I’ve never complained about a punch-’em-up raygun battle in outer space, but it is the unabashed soap opera that first drew me into comics and continues to keep me there. I love the quiet character moments before the explosive back story storms and the sprawling decades of history that can be crunched into a single, meaningful “Meanwhile…”

I love the anything goes expansiveness, the opportunity to play with form and presentation within an established medium, and the chorus of archetypes ready to tell the same old tale in millions of different ways. There’s nothing that isn’t inspiring about comic books aside from a narrow view of their purpose or possibility.

Bird Goddess

Bird Goddess

Artwork copyright © All rights reserved by Ming Doyle

What were some of your favorite comics to read growing up?

As a child of the 90s, I was exposed to the great, holographic foil covered “Liefeldian” renaissance of comics, where the pockets, pouches and thigh holsters were as limitless as imagination’s most radical boundaries. As I moved into my slightly more sophisticated preteen years, I couldn’t get enough of anything with direly gothic overtones. Sandman, Hellboy, Batman stories, Blade of the Immortal and all the other big name dark masterpieces were staples on my bookshelves.

If given the choice to re:invent any mainstream superhero book you wanted for real, which one would you choose and why?

Ooh, now this is truly tough to narrow down, but probably Aquaman. He has dark, murky depths of unexplored creepiness that bear exploring. Plus, the ocean is like outer space. It’s so unexplored, mysterious, alluring and unknown. Think of all the adventures and dangers down there! There could so easily be so much more to Aquaman than courtly Atlantean intrigue and one note land-based jokes.

House of El

House of El

Artwork copyright © All rights reserved by Ming Doyle

You and writer, Kevin Church, currently have a weekly webcomic entitled The Loneliest Astronauts. Can you tell us a breif description of what the concept is about and how you got involved?

I’ll take this opportunity to quote Kevin, brilliant writer of comic misanthropy that he is:

“Astronauts Dan and Steve are stuck in a distant alien solar system, the last survivors of a mission that went horribly wrong and left the rest of their ten-strong crew dead. They’re light years from home on an airless moon, living on carefully-rationed supplies, and unable to contact Earth. The worst part of all this? They hate each other’s guts.”

And a tagline that I like to append is, “Anti-camaraderie in anti-gravity!”

Kevin and I met when he commissioned me to do a piece for his collection of J. Jonah Jameson drawings. Our friendship began when he invited me and my boyfriend to attend a screening of RoboCop that he and one of his friends had organized at a local cinema. Our working relationship began after he sent me an e-mail telling me that if I liked this genius idea he had for a webcomic, I’d get to draw creepy aliens and intricate inky spacesuits for free. He had me at creepy aliens.

You’re also working on Tantalize: Kieren’s Story, a graphic novel adaptation of Cynthia Leitich Smith’s 2007 book about werewolves and vampires. What makes this story different than, let’s say, the ever-popular Twilight series?

The main standout has to be the characters. Tantalize is set in sunny Texas, and it’s… well, peopled, by all sorts of fantastical creatures that are outside the norm of your run of the mill vampire romance story, such as werepossums, werearmadillos, and working moms. Kieren, the main character, may be a teenage werewolf, but he’s somewhat reluctant to face his hairy destiny and he’s wary of the dangers associated with the paranormal. He’s almost a detective before anything else, and though he’s a creature of the night, he kind of views the improbable predicaments surrounding him as X-Files. He’s just as skeptical of it all as anybody else would be.

Batman and Robin

Batman and Robin

Artwork copyright © All rights reserved by Ming Doyle

Are you working from a standard comic script or is this a literal, page-by-page adaptation?

It’s interesting, because Cynthia adapted the comic script herself from her own book, and she did a wonderful job of shifting the perspective to Kieren (in order to make it his story, instead of just Tantalize, which is told from the point of view of his love interest, Quincie) and focusing in and expanding on his experience of the events. But she wrote the comic script as a screenplay, with chunks of dialogue broken up by stage directions. When I got that script, it was up to me break it down into 186 sequential pages, so I got to choose how many panels there were per page, where to place the text, et cetera.

It was completely atypical of a standard comic script, and I felt like I was directing a movie, in a way. I had an amazing time with it, and I can only hope the result of my efforts lives up to the caliber of the source material. The longest comic I’ve drawn before this was only 19 pages, so this book is a drastic departure for me in terms of both format and length, but I’m exceedingly grateful for the chance to try my hand at such a unique project.

In a one word, What “fuels your illustration?”

INK!

Rondal Scott III is an illustrator and graphic designer who tackles each day with Red Bull-induced enthusiasm and is a self-professed Twitter addict. He’s illustrated several independent children’s books and in 2009 his obsession with horror movies and pop culture inspired him to establish the Strange Kids Club, a virtual clubhouse for geeky, pop culture nostalgia.

 

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