Mike Lowery teaches at the Savannah College of Art and Design in Atlanta. He has shown his paintings everywhere from Florida to Beijing, and recently, a lovely German girl agreed to marry him.
We caught up with Mike after his summer vacation with said German girl to Turkey and Greece.
THE OA: What comics did you read as a kid? Which ones do you read now?
ML: Comic strips: I liked “Calvin and Hobbes” and “The Far Side.” Of course.
Now I read most of the stuff from Drawn and Quarterly (currently reading: Guy Delisle’s Jerusalem. I’m a huge fan of his work), Picturebox is great (I usually pick up anything from C.F., and their Gary Panter books are pretty genius), and sometimes Fantagraphics.
THE OA: All-time favorite cartoonist?
ML: All-time favorite? Like, all-time all-time? Jeff Smith, probably. I got into Bone around the time issue three came out, and was gently led by the hand away from super hero comics because of Smith. His line work is beautiful, his characters are lovable and fun...he’s great. I’m sure that if you asked me this same question in forty-five minutes I would think of someone else (like Quentin Blake, Mike Allred, Chris Ware, or a dozen others), but right now, this second, I’m going with Jeff Smith.
THE OA: Did you ever consciously decide to be a cartoonist? Or were you always doodling and drawing all your life, and then one day someone paid you for your art?
ML: I’ve always worked towards the goal of doing illustration or comics or fine art...anything art related for work. There wasn’t any question that I would shoot for anything else.
THE OA: Have you ever had any formal art training?
ML: My degree in undergrad was art, with an emphasis in painting and drawing, and my MFA was in painting. I mostly went for the MFA so I could teach (which I do now, at the Savannah College of Art and Design in Atlanta), but I really liked the experience.
THE OA: Recommend to us a cool cartoonist/graphic novel/whatever that we’ve never heard of. Bonus points if it’s Southern!
ML: How about Southern Hamburg? Does that count? I really like Baby’s in Black by Arne Bellstorf, a German illustrator. Have you heard of that? I think it just came out in English in the States.
THE OA: What’s your stance on superhero comics—love ’em, hate ’em, totally apathetic?
ML: Honestly, I tried to get back into at least some of them a few years ago (Does Mike Allreds “Madman” count?), but just found it impossible. Every comic seemed to be in the middle of some major plot cycle, and I just felt totally lost. In general, I’m just not able to get enthusiastic about them, but I definitely wouldn’t say I hate them.
THE OA: Do you practice any other forms of visual art? Like graffiti, murals, photography, painting, sculpting, etc.?
ML: I do some “painting-ish” work. Large drawings in pencil and watercolor.
THE OA: What’s the best compliment you’ve ever received about your work?
ML: About my work: I’m an avid list-maker, and I am constantly making lists of clients I’d love to work with some day. Having had the chance to work with many of those names over the past few years (from publishers and magazines to greeting card companies, etc.) has been the most flattering compliment anyone could have given me about my work.
Best compliment ever: Recently a beautiful German girl agreed to marry me.
THE OA: What’s the most disparaging remark you’ve ever gotten about your work?
ML: Once when I was in high school, a friend and I decided to start a band. After our first performance, my brother said, “Maybe you guys shouldn’t sing.” That was almost two decades ago and I remember two things: A) That was super rude; and B) Our singing was really, really bad.
THE OA: What’s the most inadvertently insulting things anyone has said about your work?
ML: Another illustrator told me one time that he should change his style so he could churn things out like I do.
THE OA: What inspires your work?
ML: I’m always inspired when I travel, so I try and do it as often as possible. The German girl and I just got back from Turkey and Greece. I did a lot of journal drawings and got a little burned on my neck.
THE OA: What do you hope to make your readers feel or think about when they see your work? Or is that not something you consider as you draw?
ML: I do consider that. I don’t make it my main focus, but my work is always geared towards a client or an audience (outside of my sketchbooks at least). I generally just want people to feel a little lighter, or happy, I guess. My work is usually humorous or at least sweet, and I think folks that know me well would say that’s a pretty clear reflection of my personality. Maybe.