Photos courtesy of Paige Pumphrey
Posted Aug 03, 2009
What is your background in art, and how did you get to where you are today?
Growing up in a suburb 10 minutes south of Baltimore, I've been drawing for as long as I can remember. Wanted to be a Disney animator til about sixth grade when I discovered my brother's issue of Uncanny X-Men #236. That's the one from the ‘80s where it opens up with Wolverine and Rogue fighting in Genosha against tons of armed guards -- completely naked. Then I had no idea what I was reading, it was a terrible jumping-on point. But it was so exciting and sexy and dramatic and it was like a big budget movie being played out right in my hands. That issue inspired me to delve further into comics, starting with X-Men and other comic series and eventually I started drawing my own from 7th grade on.
A year after high school I attended the Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Arts, which is a three year technical school for budding comic books artists. The place is rough; it's frequently referred to as comic book boot camp. You draw all day and all night. I found myself crying over Green Lantern pages at 4am on more than one occasion. I was also one of the six female students among 200 male students, so it definitely toughened me up a bit.
I only went for two years and then I went back home to Maryland to reorganize myself. For a few years I just messed around with markers and Photoshop, redefining my style and taking all the concentrated knowledge I had gotten at Kubert and trying to make sense of it all. I also took an intensive semester of computer graphics classes over at Johns Hopkins that really helped to support what I had learned at Kubert.
It wasn't until 2007 when I moved up to New York City to live with my boyfriend, fellow Kubert school alumni Phil 'Ballsy' Balsman, that I truly came into my own and started really pursuing art as a career. I've never happier and more in tune with who I am than I have been living here. It's been nuts going out to different events and meeting tons of people and seeing and learning all kinds of new amazing stuff. Like, to live here you really need to accept the fact, especially as a 'settler' here, that this city is huge, living and will never truly be yours. The best you can hope is to grab hold and ride as long as you can. This city is so much bigger than me. It continually blows my mind that I walk down the same streets Mick Jagger sings about and go to work at my day job everyday two mere blocks from Times Square, where countless movies and TV shows have taken place. It's surreal.
How would you describe your style?
Kind of a mish-mash of classic American animation, good girl pinup, tattoo flash, graffiti and superhero comic books.
What is your source of inspiration?
First and foremost is the movie Rock & Rule. It's this animated movie that came out of Canada in 1983. I saw it when I was a little kid on Super TV and it haunted me until I was 12, when I found it for rent and finally saw it again at an age I could truly appreciate it for the awesome that it is. Rock & Rule is the end all, be all artistic greatness that I aspire to become. Artistically speaking, this movie is why I get up every morning. It is, in my opinion, the pinnacle of greatness that all else in compared to. I cannot suggest watching this enough. It's actually a rite of passage for many of my friends to sit and watch this movie with me. I'm completely obsessed with that movie.
Other that, I also love the old Looney Tunes and MGM stuff: Tex Avery, Chuck Jones, Robert McKimson. All those old Termite Terrace guys. Your inspiration should come from all over, there's always something to learn. Other fave artists of mine include J.C. Leyendecker, Ernesto Cabral, Rockin' Jellybean, Drew Struzan, J. Scott Campbell, Jamie Hernandez, Adam Warren, Adam Hughes, Sam McKenzie, Junko Mizuno, Coop, Big Daddy Roth, Jamie Hewlett, Don Bluth, Sailor Jerry... and the list goes on and on...
Any advice for budding artists?
At least for a little while, when you're still young and allowed to screw up, like right out of school or whatever, take a sales job. You will learn how to enthusiastically talk to complete strangers and how to work a pitch into a conversation. I did nine months as a commission-based high-end TV and stereo salesperson; which was awful at the time, but I retained a lot of those people skills and they definitely pay off in networking. A lot of artists, especially comic artists, aren't social creatures. We spend hours upon hours hunched over desks creating, and when you get thrown into a hyper-social situation like a convention or an art show, a lot of us can clam up. I've learned to see those situations as just another sales floor, except now instead of selling $3000 stereo receivers I couldn't give two craps about, I'm selling myself and my art, something I do care very much about. Plus it gives you something to fall back on and an ultimatum of 'I'd better succeed, cause I don't wanna go back to stereos again.'
How did you start doing roller derby bout posters?
It was around 2006 when Charm City Roller Girls were getting together for their first season. I had heard about roller derby a little bit; they had that reality show awhile back. Went to their first bout and was inspired, started emailing them, offering my artistic services and would show up for practices for impromptu life drawing. I started doing portraits of all the first season lineups, which got me some recognition in the Baltimore art scene and the beginnings of my portrait commission business. I owe a lot to them for helping me launch my artistic career.
What’s your favorite part about roller derby?
I love the names and personas those involved all have. I insist on calling them by their derby names, mostly because they're easier to remember, but also cuz it's so damn cool. It's like knowing a superhero.
Can you skate?
A little. I can go forward, and I can turn some. Stopping escapes me. I just run into the wall.
Ever thought about becoming a rollergirl?
I've entertained the thought, but being the reclusive artsy-type in my formative years denied me the whole 'team player in competitive sports' mentality. I love watching it, though. That and I'm already married to my art, and she gets jealous very easily.
What do you like to do outside of the art world?
Going to roller derby bouts, burlesque shows, bars with my friends. Being able to show a friend something new and exciting. I love taking friends out to something that they've never been to before and see their face light up once it's started. Restaurants are always good too, I love going out with my foodie friends and having them pick out new and yummy stuff for me to try. And being in New York there's always some craziness going on. I also love hanging out in my jammies and watching movies/TV shows on the couch with my sweetie and our baby angel kitty.
What’s your guilty pleasure?
I looove to sleep. If I could, I'd take a 2-3 hour nap every day.
Any future plans or goals?
I'd love to do more panel-to-panel narrative work. I have my magnum opus comic on my mental backburner, but I'm not ready to unleash that upon the world quite yet. But any comic writers who think my style would work their story, I'd love to hear from them. I also would like to start going to more comic conventions as an exhibitor for Artist Alley. I've been only going to New York and Baltimore Comic Con the last couple years but I'd like to branch out. Also I would always love to do more posters for roller derby bouts, burlesque shows, concerts and any other organized mayhem that needs an illustration to advertise itself.
Firstly, thanks so much for having me on here, Fracture. And thank you, gentle reader, for taking the time to read my random ramblings! If you like my artwork, by all means swing by my Facebook, my MySpace, and my blog. Follow me on Twitter. Buy my merch from my store. I'm always adding new stuff like prints and I just recently started delving into making my own jewelry. You can also always get a full color, full body commission portrait of yourself, someone special or your favorite character. Take care and I hope to hear from you soon!