Dean Yeagle

by horrorsleazetrash on April 28, 2011

HST: All flattery aside, you are one of the bigger names in Pin up art, and have racked up an impressive resume. Your style however remains individual and unique. Do you imagine style as something you are born with or something you developed over time and repetition – like personality?

DY: Oh, feel free to flatter, I don’t mind. As to style, you’re certainly not born with it, but you are born with your personality very much in place, I think…and that personality, with your likes and dislikes and interests, plays a great part in how your style develops over time. An individual artist’s style is an amalgam of all those interests – things taken, consciously or not, from the styles of the artists you admire, along with whatever training you get, filtered through your personality. You may not always realize what you’re getting from where, and the  influences are sometimes more easily seen by a perceptive viewer. But the artists I’ve admired most usually had something to do with animation. Most of my career has been in animation, and I’ve had my own animation company since 1986. I find that my pinup stuff, Mandy in particular, is most popular with animation artists rather than comic book artists; that is no doubt because they see the animation influences. My style would not be at all what it is if I hadn’t been an animator. I think that gives me a concern with personality and expression and movement in a character like Mandy, and that’s what people respond to in what I do.In developing a style, it’s important not to ape someone else’s style – at least not for long. I started by doing Disney characters as a kid, and that influence is certainly still there. But over the years I took bits and pieces of other artists’ styles and combined them, not just from animation but from comics and comic strips (Walt Kelly in particular) and fine artists and sculptors and illustrators and puppeteers and who knows what else, and it developed into a style that’s recognizable as mine. And I think that’s how everyone’s style develops. But I find today that many cartoonists, some of them terrific draftsmen (draftspersons?), will lock into the currently fashionable style, and then their style is not recognizably individual. And if you want your work to be known as YOURS, it’s a bad way to go. There’s a sort of ‘house style’ in animation, and particularly in comic books, that entraps some very fine artists, and part of that is because of the way the industries work and what they demand. But theideal is to develop a style that is instantly recognizable as your own. If twenty people draw just like you, a client will just take the cheapest one

HST: Do you believe you can see a persons character through his art, or the way he interperates certain things. Would it be fair to say that in regards to your own interpretation of woman and situations you illustrate.

DY: Yes, I’m sure that’s true. Of course, you can’t take that assumption too far, or you’d have to assume there are a lot of potential serial killers out there drawing comics. If you like drawing spurting blood and violent scenes in general, it doesn’t mean that’s what you’d like your own life to be like. But it must say something about you, that perhaps you’re tapping into the darker side of your nature. Which is fine – life ain’t all kitties and bunnies. Or beer  and skittles. When I write, I can easily veer into a view of life as ‘a darkling plain where ignorant armies clash by night’ (Matthew Arnold). But the characters I like to depict are essentially good-natured types, and even the villains have a human side to them. And humor. That’s most important, because life is often just absurd. And that’s funny, and dealing with it with equanimity and amusement is what saves us from the Darkness. Oooh, profundity! As for my depiction of women, as represented by Mandy – well, there’s certainly the typical male obsessions there. But basically I hope what she represents is a very good-hearted side of all of us. The ‘better angels of our nature’. Intelligence, too – I have no wish for her to be a ‘dumb blonde’. She’s an innocent, though, and so there’s a fine line there. She has to be wise and knowledgeable enough to protect herself and know what’s going on, but innocent enough to keep an optimism about it all. And I hope she shows my very real respect and admiration for women. As well as my admiration for a well-formed…ummm, let’s say ‘ankle’. After all, what’s more life-affirming than Beauty?

HST: I couldn’t agree more mate.  You have a new iphone app out which is a collection of your works, you also have a huge fan base on line. How much does social media and the new trends of technology influence, not only your work, but how you represent yourself.

DY: Well, my years as an animator did not get me a fan base…in animation you don’t get to sign things, and if your name is in the credits, few people are paying attention. But when I started with Playboy, and signed my cartoons, it was amazing how fast people came to know who I was. I wouldn’t have thought many people, except other cartoonists, would pay attention to who drew the cartoons, but they do. And the Internet has been a huge part of getting my work, and name, known all across the world. Mandy was even used in a news item on the Today Show in Australia. Long story, another time. And a coffee company in Russia wanted to use her image on their packages. I’ve also been doing cartoons for a Russian ‘life-styles’ magazine, and I’ve had a one-man show at a gallery in Paris, as well as books published there. All that can be traced back to the Internet. Now, if you put my name in Google, you get 165,000 results…! It’s changed my career entirely- but it started with Playboy.

HST: Ahh Playboy, what a ground shaker.  You regularly have work in print, esspecially, I am a personal subscriber and avid reader. How has that been? Any stories from playboy parties you can recall, or am I just being nosey, haha?

DY: Playboy has been just great to work for. I decide what I want to do, do a sketch of it, send it in, and they either buy it or not. No constant changing and redoing and the usual client interference. And they pay well, and quickly. No great stories, though…I used to go to the cartoonist Christmas parties they threw in NYC. The first one I hoped would be filled with Playmates, of course. But my wife looked around and said ‘this party is all pasty-faced cartoonists who haven’t been out of the house in years!’ True. But what cartoonists! Great ones, not only from Playboy but from the New Yorker. And the occasional other celebrity…I had a nice long talk with Roger Corman at one of the parties. Told me how to make a fortune in the movie biz.

HST: Haha your wife sounds like my girlfriend! Man, I’m in Awe.  Your images are extremely enticing, sexy and innocent, but stray away from what i would call pornography. There isnt a collection of more “hard core images” you have stowed away. I remember Crumb to say he would
masturbate over his comics. Is it more the art aside the sensuality of the image?

DY: No, no secret porno cartoons. I find drawing beautiful women who happen to be nude is sensual enough. Never quite got the idea of nastiness being pleasant. Art itself has a sensuality to it, and when you’re delineating the curves of a pretty girl, and you do it well enough, you can ‘feel’ the line.

HST: Is Mandy based on any one physically, a muse perhaps. Or someone from your past? Or is she the ideal representation of the perfect woman, because for me, she is pretty damn close.

DY: Mandy contains elements of various women, probably ones that have been in my head since I was a kid. Marilyn Monroe, Bridgette Bardot…up to various current models and actresses, particularly certain open-faced ones like Rachel McAdams and Anne Hathaway. But she wasn’t really based on any of them. I needed an innocent type for a cartoon in Playboy, and the pigtails say Innocence, as do large eyes and the types of poses and expressions she has. And yes, she’s as ideal as I can make her. After all, to go back to the comic book reference again, does anyone’s idea of the ideal woman have a bloody knife in her teeth, a Glock in her hand, a sneer on her face and a desire to kick you in the groin with those pointy-toed boots?

HST: I think i might know a few people who would disagree with you there, haha. Is art cathartic for you? Or are you more of a “tortured artist”. Whats your thoughts on that idea one way or another?

DY: Well, I’m hardly a ‘tortured artist’. I get to make a living doing my own work, pretty much whatever I want to do. If I said it was agony I’d deserve a good whack in the mouth. Cathartic – sure, creative work is cathartic in that it gets on paper what you HAVE to do, what you are
drawn to draw. It’s a release. It’s also work, no mistake, but it’s work you need to do, from deep inside. That may be a bit much…I’m a cartoonist, not Rembrandt. But the impulse is the same.

HST: Inspiration obviously comes in many different forms, what is your biggest drive to create?

DY: The daily need to eat. Okay, and the pure love of drawing itself.

HST: Are you afraid of anything Dean?

DY: Yes, the poverty that could come to me if I don’t stop typing and do some paying work. And these cockroaches they have here in California, the size of Volkswagens. Eeesh!

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