Graphic Artist Q&A: Daniel Maw

So, how often do you draw, and who are you, really?

Honestly, I am not a chronic, compulsive drawer. I am, however, a chronic, compulsive worker, thinker, and doer (likely a result of my neurosis). Obviously, a lot of work besides drawing goes into art production so I keep myself busy with research, looking, and experiencing. Having said that, I draw in cars, on planes, at coffee shops, in class, while I teach, at work—I used to bring India ink, Dipping Pens, and Bristol Board into this manufacturing pharmaceutical facility I worked at for three years. I would be in scrubs and a bouffant cap making comics. As far as who I am, sheesh. I guess I would just have to say I am Daniel Maw: product of a traditional Midwestern upbringing, victim of Modern Life, friend to many, loved by few.

When did you first begin to draw comics?

My first true comic came in the form of my Eddie the Bucktoothed Egg strips circa 1st grade. My aspirations in this strip revolved around making Eddie as awesome as possible—he had a flattop, big muscles, sun glasses—whatever the situation called for. Ironically, however, I always found myself cutting him down as well. He would deal with fear, failure, and rejection—perhaps this was me inserting myself into the story. It was primarily a gag strip that ripped off a lot of Rocky and Bullwinkle and Abbot and Costello jokes (I can thank my father for that) but also took the form of a more narrative series in which Eddie grows up, gets a job, and has a family. Other notable strips included Docadoodoo the Caveman and Farmer Sydney.

What do you find appealing/fulfilling about this medium as opposed to the usual art-school options?

The greatest appeal for me is the accessibility of the medium. From my own experience engaging comics at a relatively early age, I can say that is true. Granted this trait also makes it easier to dismiss as amateur—as many comics out there should be. However, I can also say I have seen far more awful paintings, installations, performances, sound pieces, films, etc. than I have worthwhile ones. One just has to be choosy about what they are looking at—or not. I like looking at "bad stuff" as much as "good stuff." Comics have proven itself as viable a medium to speak about personal narrative, politics, satire, war, social issues, post-modern life as much as any other. It is a unique format that allows time and space to exist on a single page—primed for an artist's manipulation. Also, I just really like to draw word balloons, stink lines, and boxes around all of my pictures.

Do you find your work becoming more autobiographical or more fantastic?

As a general trend I would have to say my work is autobiographical. I am not always clever enough to make stuff up so I rely heavily on my own experience or the experiences of those around me. When I do create more fantastic comics I frequently beg, borrow, and steal from all of my favorite artists who do it much better than me. Even my comics that would likely be categorized as fantastical are heavily rooted in my own life. Perhaps I am a narcissist, but at least I'm a neurotic one at that—so that's better. I am a narcissist only to evaluate how I can relate to anyone or anything around me. I also think people respond more to art that seems real. What better way to do that than to write about what you have actually done?

There are elements of your characters that are, dare we say it, Smurf-like. Are Smurfs an influence?

I have never actually gotten that one before. I will say that, as a child, I was very much into all the cheaply and poorly animated cartoons being aired on network television (I still like them now too) including The Smurfs. I recall taping some holiday specials off the TV, buying their toys, wearing their pajamas, and eating their breakfast cereal. Later, I became aware of some of the great French/Belgian cartoonists, including Peyo who created, wrote, and drew The Smurfs comics. And I love other guys too like Andre Franquin, Moebius, Uderzo/Goscinny, Jacques Tardi, and Herge. Sitting here, responding to this, I see some Smurf toys sitting on one of my shelves—I guess I would have to say they have entered into the equation somewhere.

You also make toys and puzzles. Is having marketable art "products" a concern of yours?

On some level as an individual pursuing a lifestyle that is not exactly valued by society—at least not in a lucrative sense—I have to be cognizant of making my proverbial ends meet. That being said, I cannot say that if one were to amass all the money I have made off of sales, stuff them in bags with dollars signs, and put those bags in a pile, the pile of money bags with dollar signs representing monies I have spent on materials, supplies, space, books, etc. would certainly be much greater. But I keep making stuff for some reason—probably because I feel as though I have a lot in me that I would like to get out that I believe some people might be interested in seeing or experiencing. I enjoy making things people can respond to and interact with. It is amusing for me to sort of flesh out my franchise characters and develop their product lines—even though I know no one is really looking.