JUST THE FACTS
Born: Hamilton, Ont.
Currently lives in: Amsterdam
First thing he ever drew: Little yellow ducks
First job: Drawing cover pages for classmates in school
Favourite artist: Ralph Steadman, Picasso, Milton Glaser, Joe Morse, Michelangelo, many, many more
If he wasn’t an illustrator he would be: Possibly a chemist?
JUST THE ANSWERS
FEATHERTALE: How would you describe an illustrator?
DM: Good question . . . an artist who’ll play the game – a visual storyteller and an expert at informational condensation.
FT: What’s an illustrator’s most important asset?
DM: A business sense.
FT: Given that magazines and newspapers are, well, dying, does that make illustration a dying trade?
DM: Perhaps in the ‘traditional sense’ – whatever that is. Print has been declared dead too many times to take it seriously. Until screens can stop raping our eyes with electrons and passively reflect light, print will hang around for a bit. To be fair, the term ‘illustrator’ is changing too, as is ‘graphic designer’ and many other professions (that’s right profession, not trade). They’re opening up to be much more inclusive. Perhaps ‘graphic communicator’ or some other extended and pedantic term should be coined.
FT: Right. So, how did you get your start in drawing?
DM: Well, first I took some sort of mark-making implement . . . There’s no how, I just did.
FT: And now you live in Amsterdam, but work mostly with North American newspapers/magazines. How do you do it?
DM: This is true. I do it because we all have access to tools that negate time and geography. Email, phone, video-conferencing. Communication’s the only key really. I’m lucky enough to have a job that allows me to be where I want and still do what I love and in a time that gives me the tools to do so.
FT: How have you had to mold your style to magazine/newspaper formats?
DM: I haven’t. If anything, over the years I’ve learned some of the finer aspects of printing/file prep that can just make the image appear a little nicer. Molding to people’s fear of ideas can be a totally different matter, mind you.
FT: To rep or not rep. What are some of the pros and cons of visual artists hiring a representative?
DM: Very personal decision. It all very much depends on your personal experience, patience, business sense, organizational skills, etc. Pros: Less worry over the business end, shown with other great people, ideally a business partner that both helps, listens and guides you into/through the industry. Cons: Less control, can be grouped with artists you don’t like, pushy/inconsiderate business relationship, not 100 per cent of the billing comes home, can be pressure to do jobs you’re not willing to do (and can also have poor negotiation results if the representative is looking out for themselves . . . ) To each their own.
FT: What is Repless Abandon? Why did you create it?
DM: Repless Abandon is an illustration collective. We created it for two reasons: 1)We loved the work and people that we’d gone to school with; and (in all honesty) 2) Promos are damn expensive. It was a great way to keep our community together and get advice and support. Power in numbers and all that.
FT: What advice would you give to young artists humming and hawing over whether or not to get representation?
DM: I suppose all I can say is to tread carefully. I’ve heard plenty of good and plenty of bad. Talk to as many people (illustrators and reps) as possible to get a feel for who suits your needs and goals. If I were looking I’d be sure to speak to the illustrators on the roster AND particularly the artists that have left.
FT: Is there a spot in Amsterdam where you like to work other than your home/office?
DM: Not really. A friend (Dav Bordeleau… a co-conspirator in Repless Abandon and great illustrator) and I just found a great café (not the same as a coffee shop) to draw at that has plenty of turnovers of customers (or ‘victims’ as I sometimes prefer). Their coffee was so-so.
FT: How would you describe your personal art style?
DM: Oh boy. Ugly. But not ugly enough, in my opinion. It’s Hamilton (Ontario) in a nutshell. I’m very individual based and singular thought/concept-based. Not a ton of narrative. But perhaps someone else should answer this question.
FT: Humour plays a big part in a lot of your art, whether it is satirical or just plays on words. Why use humour to get your message across?
DM: Likely because I’m somewhat of a goof. Everyone likes to laugh and it’s one of the best ways to get a message across. Like sugar with your medicine. Although, I’d say I’m epically poor at humor compared to many others, Graham Romieu for starters. Besides, there’s no point in taking yourself too seriously. Christ, I draw for a living! How awesome is that?
FT: Professionally speaking, what would you like to do that you haven’t done yet?
DM: I’d like to get into some more variable work. I adore working for editorial clients, but something more extensive would be nice. I’ve got some ideas for some books (written and illustrated by moi) that could use a good run at. One in particular would have to be done whilst I’m here in Amsterdam. Hopefully I don’t get my hands too dirty.
FT: Describe the constant battle between inky hands and cleanliness?
DM: [laughs] That problem’s slowly, and perhaps sadly, disappeared. I actually use Pilot writing pens now. Ye olde dip pen has been cooped up for sometime. Although, the urge to splatter and rip my way around a page, ruining all my clothes and pissing off anyone within a 10ft. radius has been bubbling up for sometime now. True Story.
FT: Can you finish this sentence for us? “Batman and Dick Cheney walk into a bar . . .”
DM: “. . . and the bartender says: ‘I’ve seen heroes, but who’s the war criminal?’”
FT: Nicely done.