An Interview With Artist Mike Maihack!
One of the aspects of Goblins Drool, Fairies Rule! that we are most proud of, and one that has been universally loved by everyone who has seen the game, is the artwork. Mike Maihack is the talented artist behind that artwork, applying his signature style to the game’s cast of adorable fairies and devious goblins. Recently, David had the opportunity to interview Mike about his work on GDFR!, and his own creative projects:
David: Welcome, Mike! Let’s begin… Your illustrating style is very unique, and a joy to look at. How did you develop this style?
Mike: Well thanks! That’s a tough question to answer though. I suppose my style is really just a mesh of a bunch of other styles that I’ve enjoyed or have been invested in over the years. And from there it’s kind of evolved depending on the various subject matters I’ve needed/wanted to draw over the years. In fact, I can no longer look at a drawing or a painting or whatever without studying it to some various degree. And then I use what limited knowledge my memory was actually able to retain and toss that into the rest of my drawing pallete. So I guess you could say my style is the way it is because of all those who came before me. Well, wait… that’s not entirely true. Also a lot of the artists who have come after me. No one is safe from being an influence.
David: When did you decide that you wanted to create art professionally, and how did you go about making that happen?
Mike: When I realized I didn’t want to spend the bulk of my efforts doing anything else. And that was at a young age. Probably 2nd grade or something. Haha. And then I just kept drawing a lot working to improve upon my little dot-eyed crayon characters. I used that practice to get into an art college. I took note of what other successful artists were doing (even if I didn’t necessarily follow those notes). Eventually people got some silly notion in their heads that my art was worth spending some money on, and I’ve been taking advantage of that notion ever since. And I never stopped drawing dot-eyes.
David: Tell us a little about your experience at the Columbus College of Art and Design. In what ways do you feel that that education has benefited you?
Mike: Well, I met my wife there, so that was a plus. Actually, I met a lot of my friends there. This was at a time when the internet was just on the verge of being this incredible artistic community. There were forums, but they were just forming. Social networking hadn’t arrived yet. So the people at CCAD were my art community and we all influenced and criticized and critiqued and played off each other’s work the same way I think a lot of artists younger than me do now on the internet. But it’s more personal at an art college—a directness. The kind of interacting you don’t get off a faceless internet. And I think that was a huge benefit from being there.
CCAD also helped to define my work ethic. It was tough school. Especially that first year. Thirty hours of classes. Another thirty (or more) on art assignments. There wasn’t a whole lot of time to do much else than learn and create. By the time I graduated, I had been programmed to stay busy all the time. If I’m not creating something every day, I feel incredibly guilty. Like I’m wasting my time or missing some important opportunity. They Clockwork Oranged me.
David: I know the feeling! You have illustrated a number of “fan fiction” comics, as well as your own creations. Tell us about some of your original projects.
Mike: I was about to say, “Wait. Only those Batgirl/Supergirl one-pagers!” But then I realized I have done quite a few others than that! Which is interesting, because I really do have more interest in creating my own comics. But let’s see, I guess really the first big concept I came up with was this comic called Seed about—well as you have it—two faeries. I had this whole sprawling epic in mind for them at the time where they go on this Lord of the Rings styled adventure and encounter pirates and monsters and all sorts of stuff I simply wanted to read in a comic. But I was in over my head with that and looking back there’s no way I ever would have finished their poor abandoned story. So I shifted gears and attempted to draw short one-page gags instead and that’s how my webcomic Cow & Buffalo came about. I tend to describe that comic as conversations I would have in my head personified by bovines. C&B eventually graduated into these long year-long story arcs so in some ways I failed at that experiment. But that was a fun six-year period of my life. And hopefully I’ll be able to tell more stories with them one day. I kinda left them floating in space which I feel kinda bad about.
David: That’s an excellent segue for… Your current sci-fi epic, Cleopatra in Space, is a fun space odyssey with a strong female lead. How did the idea come about?
Mike: I never intended it to be a comic. I was part of an art-topic group a few years ago and one of the subjects was “Cleopatra.” Without much thought (maybe I was listening to Spiritualized at the time) I drew her in a retro-styled spacesuit floating in space next to an also-spacesuit-wearing cat and the title “Cleopatra in Spaaace!” hovering above them. There were demands—I’m not exaggerating this—demands to make it a real comic. It was super easy to give in to these. Of course, now I’m stuck with her. Haha.
David: Female characters feature prominently in your artwork. What draws you to this subject?
Mike: That’s a good question. I don’t think it’s a conscience decision. Or even a compulsory one based on what I think is a real need for some strong female lead comics out there (in America at least). But certainly I think my family played a big part in it. I grew up with two sisters a couple years younger than me. My mom’s side of the family (who we visited a lot growing up) is majority female. My very first best friend was a girl who lived a few houses down. So I think a lot of those early relationships influenced the characters I tend to create. I certainly enjoy drawing females over males. The curvature of their design appeals to specific artistic interests I have in movement and nature. Or maybe it’s just that females are more mysterious to me so I find them more interesting to write about. Who knows.
David: Think fast - Team Fairy or Team Goblin?
Mike: Oh Team Fairy. Why would anyone want to be on a goblin team? They are mean and they stink.
David: How different is illustrating for a game, in comparison to doing comics? Have you done artwork for games before?
Mike: Nope! This is my first. And it’s different from drawing comics only in that a lot of those rules don’t exist. It’s not sequential for one thing. In fact, that was one of the hurdles I had to jump early on. The first few fairies I drew—specifically when the wings were involved—I was like, “Wait, is that an effective design to draw over and over?” And then I’m brought back to my senses and remember I’m only drawing this character once, for this one card, so the skies the limit. Still, I think a lot of that character design thought process worked its way into the illustrations. I couldn’t help it.
But other than that it was like creating any other illustration, finding the best way to interpret the information I was given. Although there were instances were a color scheme needed to be changed or the positioning of something needed shifting because of the conventions of the game. That was frustrating at times since I felt like I was hurting the “Feng Shui” of an illustration. So I had to do my best to visualize the larger mechanics at play.
David: What do you like most about the artwork you have created for Goblins Drool, Fairies Rule? Any favorites among the characters you’ve drawn so far?
Mike: I’d say I like at least 50% of them. Which is actually a really good number for me! I was really happy with Kokepelli. She spun out pretty easily and there’s a lot of personality in that piece. The ice cream aficionado in me has a soft spot for Vanilla Scoop, possibly why I gave that one a softer feel. I like the way Poppy Smock and Morning Dew turned out. Really happy with the expression and body language on Hula Hoop.
As for goblins, Cuckoo Clock is still my favorite with Dusty Dour a close second. Both are so unconventional compared to the rest and I wasn’t sure if I would even get away with them. So happy to see them both in the set. I like Full Moon Moo for obvious bovine reasons. I think I managed some good posturing with Cringe & Cower. The colors on Salamander Snoop turned out nice.
David: Yes they did. What tools, both physical and digital, do you use to create the artwork?
Mike: I still do all my drawing traditionally. In this case I used this blue, almost waxy, refillable lead that has become a close personal friend of mine. The initial sketch is drawn lightly at first and then drawn over with a heavier weight of the same blue lead once I’m happy with what’s on paper. The drawback to this is that the lead is, for the most part, non-eraseable, so edits can be a bit of a pain. Often the need of a lightbox and some fancy Photoshop work comes into play with those. And then all the coloring is also done in Photoshop. For this game I mostly used this one custom brush I created a few years ago. A rough bristled one that I manipulated the flow and opacity of as I went. Typically I alternate between about a half-dozen or so different brushes though.
David: What are three important things that an aspiring artist should focus on?
Mike: Drawing, observation, and social networking.
David: What are three pitfalls that an aspiring artist should avoid like the plague?
Mike: Ego, complacency, and social networking.
David: Last question, where can all of your new fans interact with you and see more of your work?
Mike: I’m on the Twitter. Also on the Facebook, G+ and deviantART. But mostly on the Twitter. I have a blog too. And there’s big things in store for Cleopatra in Space this year so that’s good place to keep up with me as well.
Okay everyone, if you like the work that Mike has done on GDFR!, go check out his links! Also, if you want to get an original sketch of his from the game, there’s still a few more days to pledge at the Dewdrop Shower level. Thank you for your support!
And here are some more Mike Maihack treats: