Mike Dolan, A.K.A. “Electric Bugle” (English Illustrator)
Electric Bugle? Is this your company? Your artistic pen name? Why did you choose it and does it have any significance to you other than sounding cool?
Yes it’s kind of a mixture of both. I’m not totally thrilled about using my name on stuff and don’t really like the attention. So the name sprang into my head after attending a lecture on self promotion and I thought ‘oh jeez I guess I need to blow my own trumpet more in this vast digital realm that is the internet’. Hence Electric Bugle! I’m glad you think it sounds cool though.
Can you describe your process? Are you a pen and paper guy first or strictly a graphic illustrator? What programs do you use and why do you like them? Did it take a while to settle on a process that feels right?
Sure, my process is all digital these days. I work exclusively on a Wacom Cintiq and do all my drawing on it, from thumbnails to roughs to final ink. I must say it took a bit of getting used to when making the switch from paper and pencil but I really love it now.
The software I use is all run of the mill stuff, the adobe suite seems to be pretty ubiquitous these days. I like to try different software now and again as a way of freshening things up and finding new ways to doing things. I recently enjoyed tooling around with ArtRage but have yet to find a solid place for it in my working process.
I’m not really sure how to categorize your work.
That’s most definitely a good thing! (I think)
I definitely feel something looking at your illustrations, but I don’t know what you’re trying to say with some of these. Maybe I’m not supposed to know! Is there a motive or feeling that drives your work?
Each image can have a different force driving it I feel. Sometimes it can be a silly idea that I’ve stashed away and re- read later (I use the Evernote app a lot and it’s great for cataloging random ideas) or sometimes it’s an image that’s emerged from setting up a composition and then slotting various elements into it and seeing what works. I would definitely say I’m drawn to a more minimalist aesthetic and try very hard to get detail into the image without overloading it. I’m beginning to think that texture is the key to this.
What inspires you to create and what do you hope your work will inspire in others?
I love creating line drawings so I never really lack the spark to be working on these. I get inspired by various things, the Japanese woodblock prints of Hokusai and Kuniyoshi, the lithograph’s of Alphonse Muca, Paul Manship‘s bronze sculptures and the animation drawings of Marc Davis and Milt Kahl. Basically anything with striking staging and clean lines provides me with the necessary fire to reinterpret these principles in my own way.
Regarding inspiration in others, I, like a lot of other illustrators, love to listen to music as I draw so I guess it would be pretty neat if one of my images sparked a musical idea in someone.
What kind of art/music/film do you absorb in your personal life. Do you consider yourself a big consumer of art? Any recommendations or thoughts about taking from other artists in order to inspire what you do?
Yes I would say for me music is the bigger slice of the art/music/film pie. I’m not sure how much the music I listen to seeps into the work or whether I simply choose music to fit the current piece I’m working on, probably the latter.
The films I tend to watch are those with strong cinematographic direction, so obviously I’m a big fan of Wes Anderson and his flat straight on shots. I also enjoy the old Disney films of the 40′s and 50′s and admiring how they staged their shots, making the action clear to interpret and getting the characters to read against often complex backgrounds.
I try to go to art exhibitions as often as I can, but it’s mainly to see old masters work. I find that drawing ideas and thoughts from sources far removed from your own ‘style’ and methods is a great way to avoid feeling stale but more importantly you side step the temptation to lift the whole caboodle. You’re forced to analyse and strip things down in order for you to make it work for your own purpose. In that way I think you can legitimately claim something as coming from you and not being a shoddy imitation.
What has your journey as an artist looked like? Your online presence is professional and impressive. Do you do this for a living? Have you always done this? Where would you still like to go as an artist?
My journey has been pretty vanilla and a familiar story to many I’m sure. I loved to draw as a kid, drew and painted at school, went to Art College and got introduced to Macs and Photoshop and then went onto study Illustration at University. After graduating University in 2006 I was fortunate enough to be taken on by the good folks at Agency Rush who now represent me. I’ve been working as a freelance illustrator ever since.
I’m thrilled you think my online presence looks professional. If there’s one aspect I find very difficult as a freelance illustrator it’s maintaing a constant online persona and engaging with people via twitter, tumblr and your etsy store. Some people are great at it and and consistently churn out witty tweets and photos of their fancy lunch but I feel if it doesn’t come naturally then don’t enter the arena! It’s very easy to sound like a complete twat while promoting your own work, a difficult task that I’m still trying to figure out.
What should the young, aspiring artists in our community do to grow and contribute creatively to the world? Are there mistakes that you’ve made that you wish someone had warned you about? What have you learned that you can pass on to new creative generations?
Hmm, I’m not sure about how best to contribute creatively to the world. However there is one thing I wish someone had told me when I was at school, and that is to learn anatomy! Honestly I did this so late in the game and for a long time was satisfied with really wobbly mushy figures. I would say no matter what your style, learn some fundamentals and it’ll save you from so much headache later on!