John Malloy is a commercial illustrator, fine artist, apparel designer, and comics artist/writer. Born in rural Pennsylvania to a cemetary caretaker and a coal-miner’s daughter, he began drawing cartoons and rock stars at around age 6. He later earned a background in painting with a highly skilled trompe l’oeil artist, and began a short-lived, albeit mildly successful career as an illustrator at 19 – working for alternative newspapers and Magic: The Gathering. In his early twenties, he authored and illustrated his very first graphic novel, “Amnesia”, which combined pen & ink, digital, and painted media. Shortly after its release, Malloy felt his work was too derivative of his influences at the time, and nearly gave up illustration and comics altogether. He worked as a graphic designer for Advertising Agencies, and spent a year as an art handler/truck driver, all the while painting and writing in his free time. In 2006 he came back to illustration by default, after starting work on a new graphic novel, “Channel One”, and a series of personal works as a means of pursuing a truly unique and personal style. Since 2007, his work has appeared in a variety of publications, including Business Week, Dazed & Confused, Faesthetic, Paste, and the award-winning hyper-culture magazine, Lemon. Preview pages from “Channel One” are on display at his website, http://www.johnmalloy.net, and he is currently seeking a publisher.
When did you first decide to become an illustrator? Was there a pivotal moment?
There have actually been a few pivotal moments for me. The first time was when I first got turned onto DC Vertigo comics and illustrator Dave McKean back in the 90’s, when I was a teenager. The big trend back then was heavily digital with a lot of Photoshop morphing and collage, and that kind of work was spilling over to editorial and advertising. It was really inspirational, but ultimately the heavy digital left me bored and unsatisfied. I wanted to do more work with a fine art aesthetic… something more personal and tangible, but still have my work be seen. Years later (2005-2006), I noticed a change in what could be done in the field in terms of detail, media, and the kind of gigs one could get as an illustrator. The line between fine art and illustration was blurring too. It hit me then that illustration could give me the best of all worlds in terms of opportunities to try new things, be creatively challenged, get exposure, and get paid.
Who or what inspires you?
For the most part everything, but more specifically my wife Amy, my Chihuahua Lucita, new music, comics, visits to the Whitney Museum in NY, and film.
Where does your training come from? Self-taught? College/Art School?
I went to a community college in PA where I had incredible teachers. One was a trompe l’oeil [super-realism] painter who taught me the basics of old master’s style painting, another was an art director for TV Guide back in the 60’s who gave me a great foundation in the ins and outs of what commercial illustrators do, from concept sketching to incorporating great design. Since then I’ve been self-taught via experimentation (and studying work) in painting, pen & ink, graphic design, and comics.
How do you keep "fresh" within your industry?I think staying aware of what’s going on as much as possible is crucial for me, as well as staying on top of the infinite possibilities that lie ahead – and the limitless things I still want to try and do.
What are some of your current projects?
I’m currently working on 3 projects… the first is an album cover for the band, These United States. It’s the most detail I’ve ever put into anything commercial, and involves throngs of people in Chinatown hurling themselves into each other. Another is an editorial illustration for Paste Magazine about Booker T’s new album with Neil Young and The Drive By Truckers., whereI’m turning all of them into potatoes. I was also recently invited to do a piece as a reaction to an Asian artist’s work for Tiger Beer’s Tiger Translate Campaign and exhibition (http://www.tigertranslate.com).
Which of your projects are you the most proud of? And why?
I think for the most part I’m proud of everything I’ve done in the past 2 years.
Are there any areas, techniques, mediums, projects in your field that you have yet to try?
I’d really like to incorporate more graphite and pencil, and try to get many of the effects I can pull off in Photoshop by hand instead.
Any advice to the novice illustrator?
Well if there’s one thing I’ve learned so far it’s that there is no one-way, how-to guide to getting the kind of work you love. Trust your instincts!
What makes an illustration successful?
In general I think if it conveys the right message, makes a certain logical sense to the viewer, utilizes metaphors well without being clichéd, and is both challenging and inspirational it’s good to go.
What do you do to keep yourself motivated and avoid burn-out?
Hiking/being around nature and visiting contemporary galleries and art magazine/indie comics stores.
Finish this sentence. "If I weren't an illustrator I would have been a..."
Graphic designer, oil painter, or if I stayed in the family business, a cemetery worker.
And finally, what is the best thing on prime-time TV right now?
Ooohh, that’s a tossup for me… Lost and the Colbert Report!
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