Do you guys do art for a living?
Debbie: I do art for a living… a very weird, mixed-bag living. But it’s a living, nonetheless. I got started back in 2000, just after graduating from college. I was doing random freelance work around Columbus, from tattoo designs to show flyers. I was also writing and drawing for Tastes Like Chicken, an indie newspaper my friends and I made. Between TLC and my various freelance jobs, I ended up amassing a pretty large body of work. From that, I started getting bigger jobs. In 2001 or 2002, I landed this one-page comic about The Strokes in the back of Spin. That was also around the time that I got the regular gig doing illustrations for Venus Magazine. Everything just sorta blossomed out of those. Then came the gallery shows and award ceremonies. Oh, and the sex. Don’t forget the sex.
Crosland: I do art for a living, too. After school, I sat and plotted for about 3 weeks. Then, BAM, I got work! I did a couple of comic book jobs, tattoo designs, and flyers for my friends’ band. I was acquaintances with Derek Hess back then, so that led to my doing flyer art for The Euclid Tavern in Cleveland. Like Debster said, as you go along on this trip of being a working artist, you’re constantly building a body of work. It’s an insane amoeba that won’t stop growing. All my flyer art evolved into me getting a regular job with Drowning Creek Studios, this underground poster company in Georgia. That was in fall of 2001. I was with them for about one year, and did the artwork for 11 posters. Those guys would give the individual artist a third of the print run on their posters. The job left me with lots and LOTS of massive, silkscreened, limited-edition concert posters. I could use them as merchandise, promotional pieces, placemats… it was great. Of course, the whole time I was doing flyer and poster art, I was still making my own indie mini-comics and setting up at art sales and comic conventions. But now I had things on my table that made me stand out from my fellow nerds with their comic books. That all culminated in me getting the attention of John Layman, and we later collaborated on “Puffed,” a 4-issue miniseries for Image Comics. THAT all spilled out into me getting even more comic work. Then we moved to Los Angeles, and the animation work came.
Debbie: Wow. You just paraphrased your entire career.
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What influenced you guys growing up?
Crosland: Well, my dad’s a nerd and my mom loves action movies, so I was raised as this total pop-culture dweeb. I grew up on comic books, cartoons, action figures, sci-fi, and all that mess. I guess that makes my influences pretty standard with any other male artist in my age range. Another thing was that I was born and raised in Buffalo, NY. I grew up in a pseudo-ratty ghetto. Of course, as an adult, I can now see that Buffalo has an art and music scene. But growing up, it was just the ass-end of the galaxy to me. I just remember knowing that I didn’t want to stay there. I always figured my art and my creativity would be my ticket out of Buffalo, and it was.
Debbie: Well, my influences aren’t quite as Boyz In The Hood as Dave’s. Por supuesto, I was exposed to all sorts of animation and ’80s culture growing up. You couldn’t avoid that shit, man. But what really got me going down the art path was Catholic churches. I went to a Catholic grade school when I was a little boy and I just remember sitting in Mass every week staring at all the art. I don’t know if people realize this, but cathedrals are LOADED with unbelievable artwork from stained glass windows to relief sculptures. I would just sit there every Wednesday and soak it all up. I don’t know why, but that stuff really stuck with me. That’s one of my earliest recollections of first noticing art outside of a picture book. Even though my work isn’t overtly religious or anything, I think the creepier aspect of my work — that quiet, ill menace — is somewhat derived from all that eerie stuff I saw in those churches.
Were either of you formally trained?
Debbie: Yep. We both went to The Columbus College of Art and Design (Columbus, Ohio). That’s where we met. My major was Illustration, but I also tooled around in the photography and fine arts departments. I was all about printmaking and photography because there was so much of a process to them. Those majors demanded a level of thinking and creative consideration that I think my major was TOTALLY lacking.
Crosland: I was an illustration major, and by junior year, I just wanted to experience something different, so I went looking for it in the fine art department. That’s where I fell in love with silkscreening. Actually, when I was growing up, my dad would silkscreen shirts and banners for this kung-fu school he used to go to. Yes, it’s true. In the 70s and 80s, it was a very hip thing for a black man to be into kung-fu, karate, and all other forms of Asian whoopass. Anyway, I’m glad I got into silkscreening so early on, because now my girlfriend and I print on shirts and things together. You can see the beginnings of that stuff on www.deadbeatsister.com.
Do either of you have particular things about your art that you are especially anal about?
Crosland: I’m very anal about my hands and eyes, when I make art. Not MINE, but the subject matter’s hands and eyes. Duh. I just remember that while learning to draw, hands and eyes were the hardest things for me to lock down. That’s where I have my greatest expectations. I do get pretty anal about my special effects, too. Explosions, gaping wounds, breaking glass — I get very meticulous about drawing that stuff.
Debbie: I get very anal about… well, ANAL. Whenever I have to draw or paint a sodomy scene, I just have to get it right. That sweaty, curled lipped look of half-pain, half-pleasure on his or her face… that taboo plunge into something so forcefully tender… I dunno, I’m just very particular about how I pull off a scene like that.
What kind of music do you guys like to listen to, and how often does this play a role in art?
Crosland: Oh lordy. That’s the million dollar question, isn’t it? Music plays a TREMENDOUS role in our artwork. We can’t really work without it. Plus, I do comics that are direct translations of songs, lyric for lyric. I did one called “Cold Blows The Wind” that’s based on a Ween song. I also did one based on this M. Ward tune called “Sad, Sad Song.” That’s one of my favorite things to do with comics. I LOVE taking a song that just moves me and translating it into sequential form. I’m actually gonna get to do that this month. Image Comics is putting out an anthology of short comics based on the music of Belle & Sebastian. It’s sooo in production right now, so I’m not sure when it’ll be on newsstands. The song I’m doing is “Beautiful.”
Debbie: Yes. Music is about as necessary in making our art as the pens and paper we use. We’ve both got about the same eclectic taste in music — hip-hop, rock, folk, shitkicker country, blues, electro-80’s-clash, punk — we don’t discriminate.
Crosland: As far as particular bands or musicians go, on any given day, you can catch us listening to MF DOOM, Viktor Vaughn, The Rolling Stones, Sleater-Kinney, Deerhoof, Def Harmonic, Gillian Welch, PJ Harvey, Soul Coughing, Busdriver, The Blues Explosion, Themselves, Subtle, Why?, Aesop Rock, Cannibal Ox, Mr. Lif, Blueprint, At The Drive-In, Charley Pride, David Bowie — a LOT of different stuff. That’s not even an eighth of it.
Debbie: I think us talking about music would require an entirely different interview, dedicated just to that.
Crosland: Yeah. As a gauge of our music love, I’d just have to say, I live near Amoeba Records in LA (one of the greatest music stores in the history of mankind), and never before have I faced such a constant urge to spend money.
Dave did a lecture at the University of Arizona regarding “Surviving As A Freelance Illustrator.” is there any advice that either of you would give?
Crosland: Yeah, don’t get into art.
Debbie: Ha! Yes, steer clear of this bottomless pit of ego clashes, talentless hacks, and lacks of funding. The world needs more doctors and botonists, not hairless apes with paintbrushes. Heheh.
Crosland: Seriously, I’d give two bits of advice. As far as education goes, if you’re in art school, bust ass and get exposed to as many various forms of art as you can. Realize that there’s no one way to create. Likewise, don’t be afraid to learn different ways of approaching your own specialty. Just because you draw comics doesn’t mean you shouldn’t know how to paint or design something on the computer or write a novel. You’re not just a photographer or an illustrator or whatever. You’re a creator. And as long as the stuff you’re putting out is true to your personal aesthetic, then you’re doing your job. Never limit yourself. It can make you stagnant.
We have a color theme for every month, and the next one is orange. What does that color make you guys think of?
Crosland: Orange makes me think of my kitchen. It’s orange and yellow. Wait, is that a creative enough answer? I meant to say: Orange makes me think of melting Jell-O landscapes and flying raccoons, dogfighting in a flaming ozone like angry P-52’s in a World War II battle for air supremacy over the Pacific Isles.
Debbie: I’m colorblind. So mention of ANY color only reminds me of my horrible deformity. Thanks!