With convention season in full swing and the year’s biggest event now in our rearview, news and information about our favorite topics and products has been flooding the interwebs. And while trailers and Q&As are the talk of the day, once upon a time comic-cons were about actual comics. Collecting them, getting autographs and tracking down your favorite artist for that prized print or commission.
So let’s take a closer look at a cornerstone of not only comic-con history, but the comic book industry: the artist. Up this month, comic veteran Tony Moy. Not afraid to embrace new techniques and always trying to improve, Tony produces some of the most vibrant and visually interesting work in Artists Alley. We had a chance to catch up with Tony in Chicago and talk shop while perusing his gorgeous illustrations. Here’s what the line-smith had to say:
onFiction: So Tony, when did you first know you wanted to be an artist, and who or what inspired your early efforts?
Tony Moy: Initially, I went to college studying pre-med biology. I had always thought that my drawing hobby would simply be something I did for amusement. Even though every kid entertains the idea that they could be a comic artist or a fireman or what not. I wanted to impact people’s lives in a positive way, and was convinced that becoming a doctor and saving lives was a great way to affect lives. However, I had an experience where I drew a power ranger for a young kid. I learned later, I learned that the young boy started drawing comics and asked his parents for a drawing table and art supplies. From that point I realized that my art could impact others more than I thought I could. I knew at that point that I could have the impact that I wanted to achieve, but instead of medicine, I could achieve the same with art.
oF: Tell us a little about your current style and the different media you use.
TM: It’s not about the media, but what the final result is. Whether its pencil, inks, watercolor with digital work, if the final piece tells the story. As I become more experienced with watercolor, I do intend to branch out to other media. The more tools at your disposal, the more options you have to direct your art.
oF: How did your style and technique evolve along the way?
TM: I started through a traditional path. Mostly pencil and inks. Slowly moving from inking with pens to brushes and crowquills. It was only recently in the past 2-3 years that I decide to challenge my own art skills by tackling watercolor. I wanted to choose something that was the opposite of the detailed and controlled style I had been cultivating with pen and ink. Watercolor seemed the exact juxtaposition I needed.
oF: What challenges did those changes present?
TM: I was an incredibly detailed illustrator. Armed with fine brushes and finer pens and readied with sharp pencils. I always leaned toward the school of more details the better. Eventually this came to a head and I wanted to challenge myself as an artist. What was the opposite of black india ink and intense detail? Apparently watercolor was. That switch wasn’t just picking up a new skill, but challenged me to change how I observed the world. What was once black and white, detailed lines, and spotting blacks became colors, blends and finding the color of light. Artistically speaking it was the most challenging transition for me to make as an artist.
oF: And how would you compare your work now to the early days?
TM: On a simple level, I’m more intuned with good lighting. As an artist starting out there’s a progression of learning what makes a piece of art more dynamic. When you start out in black and white, you learn about how poses or line weight, or backgrounds or a variety of other elements come together to make a piece more engaging. Over the past few years as I began using watercolors, I started to focus on lighting much more than I have in the past. My sketches used to be more line based, but have evolved to become more shape based as I outline ranges of colors, lights and shapes.
oF: What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned so far that you’d go back in time to tell the younger you? (doesn’t have to be art related) Take the blue pill?
TM: Being an artist is a business. You need to think about marketing, your products, your audience etc. Don’t fall into the trap of “if you draw it they will come”
oF: If you had it all to do over again…?
TM: I would do it twice.
oF: What’s kept you entertained along the way?
TM: I really enjoy going to conventions and some of the truest reactions to art is when you see little kids come up and watch me paint. Occasionally if they are really interested, I ask them to help me paint. I usually give them a broad section of background or something to color in with a brush.
I remember one time at a convention, parents can be a little over cautious, they told a young girl of 6 or so to be “very careful not to disturb the artist”. I immediately looked at her and asked her if she wanted to help me paint. Brought her around the table, and had her fill in and add texture to the background. It’s always great to make a kid smile and prove their parents wrong at the same time.
oF: What work by others gets your attention right now?
TM: Too much. I believe there is something you can learn from every artist out there. From just learning what works or what doesn’t work for you. There is a certain sense of admiration, but I’ve learned that if you put something too high up on a pedestal, it seems out of reach. In reality, I believe everything is in reach with enough practice and focus.
oF: When you’re not creating awesome art, what helps you unplug?
TM: I have a couple marathons under my belt, but I run less now with hectic convention seasons and traveling. I love my Chicago Bears & Bulls. I don’t have too much time for video games anymore, maybe in rare spurts. But often you can find my DVR filled with Walking Dead, Agents of Shield, Arrow, Forever, or a variety of other shows.
oF: What else should people know about your work and what you’ve learned?
TM: After a year of studying watercolors, quite a few people began telling me that watercolors were the most difficult medium to use. This astonished me. I really had no idea what people were referring to. After doing some research, I learned why people declare it as being so difficult. All the things that I had trouble with in the learning process, were issues that people listed. Difficult to erase, difficult to control, managing pigment and water, transparency issues, etc. If I had known all of these before I started, would I have continued? In this case, my naïveté and ignorance on the medium helped me plow through the difficult learning curve.Sometimes you can’t be bothered with all the reasons why you shouldn’t do something. If you are interested in something…just go for it.
oF: What’s next? Do you plan to explore new styles or techniques, or is refining your current work the focus?
TM: I think I have a bit further to go to refine my approach to the watercolor medium, but I do want to start delving in to acrylics and begin making truly mixed media work with inks, gauche, acrylics, pencils etc. Not sure where it will lead, but I’ll find out when I get there.
And join in the Con-versation at onFiction’s FB page.