August 31, 2010

It's Time to Get Things Started

An interview with Illustrator Amy ‘Mimi’ Mebberson

Part 2 of 2 (link to Part 1)
Click on any image to biggerize

Amy, while we’re on the subject of your pin-up work, I really enjoyed your
Disney selection that also got a lot of attention on the Internet recently (see more below... oh Edna, you naughty little minx!).

Are all of these characters really Disney based (that is, did I see King Kong in there, too)?

Also, I hope you find this to be a compliment – which I mean it to be – but your Cinderella from this set reminded me so much of the sexy girl from Tex Avery’s Droopy!! Classic!
Yes, they're all Disney canon characters.
The girl in the gorilla hand is Jane Porter from Disney's 'Tarzan'. And yes, my Cinderella is a deliberate nod to Tex Avery's Red Hot Riding Hood.

You mention that you have an interest in ephemera, where you seem to not only collect images but often include such stylings into your own sketches of characters, including those of actors from days gone by. Why the fascination with these retro views of life and other artefacts from the past (I love old ads myself!!)?
I'm interested in ephemera as a mirror of everyday life in the past. I especially go after cheap, disposable stuff like flyers, pamphlets and periodicals.

Old magazines made a business of covering topics relevant to society at the time and it's really fascinating to see how things were back then. Yes, old print ads present a very sanitised view of past eras, but they were simply using the life people aspired to as an alluring selling point. That's ‘Advertising 101’ to this day. Even something like an old Women's Home Journal provides endless information on what life was like for the average woman, just by looking at the sort of products and services the ads offer.

I also collect current ephemera, like promotional postcards, gift cards and business cards, to chronicle how graphic design changes over the years. Maybe they'll fascinate someone else fifty years from now.

I also wanted to ask you about your rather, um, clear stance on using your images. Perhaps I’m a bit sensitised as well to this subject (I’m reading a Jack Kirby biography and we know how much it STILL means to his family), but what is it like as someone who makes their living from images and really must post them to get exposure to have to try and then protect them at the same time?
It's a bit of a win-lose situation. There is really nothing to stop people stealing work, except the knowledge that the law is on your side. I have to post stuff to promote it and the nature of the Internet means that yes, it risks being ripped off.

I just have to keep trying to get famous enough that people won't TRY to pass my work off as their own. And use lots of watermarks!

You’ve worked in various media obviously but have recently done some terrific sketches using brown paper and often white pen. What attracted you to this wonderful albeit often more expensive type of 'canvas'?
I love my brown paper sketchbooks, even though they're hard to find. And yeah, they’re often expensive as well. But I like the dual freedom of not only using conventional shading but being able to highlight as well.

I have tons of different types of sketchbooks and pads lying around, from smooth Bristol to heavy water-colour, tinted Canson, Sumi-e paper, photocopy paper, newsprint, craft cardstock in pretty patterns and regular old black-bound sketchbooks.

But I usually end up coming back to the brown paper. I don't know why. I guess I'm just comfortable with it. Plus, character designer Nico Marlet and the guys in the LA Drink and Draw Social Club – who are all huge inspirations to me – use similar paper in their work.

I’ve got to know: after having lived and/or worked in Switzerland for 20 years, what pray tell is a ‘Swiss Army animator’? (I’m going to feel stupid here aren’t I?)
Swiss Army Knife = lots of tools and functions. As an assistant animator/in-betweener at Disney, I did a bit of everything.

I did animation, I did assistant animation, I did cleanup... I did then as well what I call the in-betweening work, adding special effects and tones, and even what we called ‘take 2 fixes’...

Who’s the ‘11’ guy that keeps showing up here and there in your collection? I get a serious ‘Chris Isaak’ or even ‘David Byrne’ vibe, but that happens relatively frequently anyway...
That would be Matt Smith, the Eleventh Doctor in the iconic BBC series 'Doctor Who'. He is awesome.

Also, I go from one description you give in your
FAQ section (I read it, I promise!!) about essentially trying not to come across as a bitch and then I have this mental image of what I always envisioned as the very calming activity of knitting. Seriously, knitting? Or when no one is looking, are you really practising your nunchuk skills?
No, I really do knit. I like making socks, gloves and scarves and sock yarn is my crack cocaine. I also do cross-stitch and play a lot of
Rock Band.

Plus, the dog ate the nunchuks.

Almost finally, I’ve got to know: what’s your favourite kind of beer?
If I am in a brew-pub I've never been to before, I usually aim for the IPA (ZN: =
Indian Pale Ale... I think... either that or it has something to do with the International Phonetic Alphabet). That and my love of barley-wine ales means I'm obviously a bit of a hop-head.

It took me a while to get used to ales, coming from a predominantly lager-loving nation, but I was helpless in the face of Oregon's countless microbrews.

Finally, a couple of ‘what if’ questions:

If you could get a hold of any project you could imagine, what would it be and why?
I would like to story-board or concept-art at one of the big animation studios, that would be a dream for me.. even if only for a little while on one movie.

I just love animation concept art and collect ‘Art Of...’ books obsessively. Most of the artists currently working that I actively fangirl are the animation artists -
Chris Sanders, Nico Marlet, Nate Wragg, Lou Romano, Stephen Silver, Shane Prigmore, Joe Bluhm.

So I'm steadily honing my writing and storytelling skills with my comic work and I hope some day I might be able to use it in animation pre-production.

You’ve just won the Super California Lottery, and you’re richer than Bill Gates. What becomes of your illustration career and why?
I would dedicate my time to producing art-books and self-publishing, I think. I have a massive laundry list of all the art things I'd like to do but never have the time.
(ZN: shown here is Amy’s first published sketchbook ‘
On Air)

What is a super cool fact about yourself that you would like to (or can) share without getting arrested, beat up in a dark alley or even worse, being forced to vote for Sarah Palin in 2012?
I have perfect pitch, can cut keys and have an entire brain lobe dedicated to huge slabs of memorised British comedy.

However, in the interests of my own personal safety, I refrain from reciting Monty Python in public places.


As Amy recently pointed out on
her blog: ‘My artistic epiphany took place when I saw Belle dancing with the Beast in that ballroom. I'd always loved Disney, but THAT'S when I knew I wanted to be a Disney artist. Muppet Babies and Sailor Moon each inspired several years worth of artsy bollocking around in my younger years. I drew Jill Barklem-esque mice constantly when I was 11. I still have the sketchbooks (eek).’

Well, obviously she’s come a long way since then! A former animation artist for Disney and
LAIKA, she has also paid her artistic dues with 2 graphic novels for Tokyopop, not to mention her own list of releases, including the latest collection of her sketches, ‘Stacked’, which we can only assume is a set of pictures depicting books neatly piled on top of each other.

Amy was born as many Australians are that are from the same region in Sydney and currently resides in Portland, Oregon – or as she affectionately says the ‘Home of the Weird.’ Her work with
BOOM! Entertainment ranges from work in the present or the past on such titles as Monsters, Inc., The Muppet Show Comic Book and other BOOM! titles. She has also drawn, created/co-created and produced her own web-comics including Thorn (2007-2009) and As If! (2001-2004). To try and list a selection of her biggest fans ‘out there’ would take a while, but ZN can highly recommend these interviews, including one from a really true-blue Muppet fan found here as well as a good overview by Disney Comics Worldwide.

More of Amy’s fantastic plethora of art and words of whimsy can be found at her
website, her blog, and on both Twitter and Flickr. You can also check out many more of her illustrations at either her deviantART page or at the GirlsDrawinGirls site (updates pending) and much more!!


All pictures, videos and other media are used with written permission of Amy Mebberson or are available in the public domain (noting copyright and other restrictions, accordingly). No further reproduction or duplication is permitted without contacting the artist directly.

Some pictures have been modified slightly or combined only for the purpose of space limitations. And we’re serious about copying. She will find you and stab you repeatedly with her knitting needles if you mess around.

After all, one doesn’t draw Miss Piggy over the years without picking up a little attitude ... and quite possibly some kick-ass karate skills as well...

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