I went to art school for one year and then got a summer job in a small animation studio in Philadelphia, where I lived. I decided to stay on since I was learning about animation, doing a little bit of everything. Animation, storyboarding, inking and painting, backgrounds, design...since it was such a small place, I could jump around like that. So my official art schooling was ended, and whatever I do now is a result of practice, practice, practice. A career in animation forces you to draw all the time, too. I still go to drawing sessions every week to draw from a model, and I hope I'm still learning from that.
Since I wanted to work for Disney from the age of 7 or so, the animators and designers there have to be counted as the longest-term influence, as well as the Warners, MGM and Fleischer crews. My favorite cartoonist of all time, if I had to choose, is Walt Kelly (POGO), and other artist influences of all sorts would include T.S. Sullivant, Ronald Searle, Al Capp, a lot of New Yorker cartoonists: Doug Sneyd, Dink Siegel, Gil Elvgren, George Herriman, Antoine Barye, Rodin, Gustave Dore, Franquin...okay, just too many, and I know I've already left out some important ones. The thing is, the influence may not always be obvious, but something is learned studying the work of artists of all kinds. What you learn gets incorporated into your work even if you're not aware of it yourself. And I'd be a lot better if I'd stolen more effectively!
Since I've been in animation for most of my career, I didn't really have much call for sexy female characters. I animated cute animals more often than not. But I did like to draw pretty girls for fun. Ten years ago, I got into Playboy and that started a whole new career - from bunnies to Bunnies.
In 2000, Playboy sent a poster to animation companies all over the US soliciting entries for an animation contest for their website. Animation, done well, is expensive and time consuming, and so I decided that if I sent a couple of finished-looking gag cartoons, of the sort they use in the magazine, at least they'd see them, even though it wasn't what they were looking for. As it turned out, I got a call from Michelle Urry, Playboy's cartoon editor, and she said simply: "Where have you been?" So I've been with them ever since. I won an honorable mention in the contest, for the attached cartoon. (below)
Haven't met Hef, but we correspond from time to time about the cartoons. He sends me gag ideas now and then, which I can either accept or reject - very nice people to work for.
Mandy, in slightly different form, appeared in one of my Playboy cartoons. When I needed a character for an online 'workshop', I took her from the cartoon, changed her a bit, and named her Mandy. People seemed to like her a lot, and I just developed her from there, eventually putting out books of her adventures and dreams. She's a good-hearted, sweet-natured young woman of 22, unaware of her sexual attributes and thus modest and innocent and a bit naive. She is emphatically NOT a 'dumb blonde', as she's interested in most everything, well read, with a sense of wonder. Although she often appears in the nude, it's never on purpose - just accidental, or a dream. Well, okay, she takes a shower, or sometimes in just a hot day - but never in public. Nudity just suits her very well, as she was told by a dinosaur in one of her books..."Simple, uncluttered...modern, yet classic, you know? Timeless!" And then, it just makes things easier, since I have no fashion sense whatsoever.
As for picking out poses - it's important, just like in animation, to know the character you're drawing. Some poses will be appropriate for that personality, and some won't. For Mandy, she is an innocent, so although she hits sexy poses, they should look natural, and not like 'poses' at all. The secret to a sexy pose is to be aware of the grace of the line so that even if she's in an awkward pose, because Mandy tends to be a bit clumsy at times, it still looks 'gracefully awkward', if that makes sense. It can be funny, but still keep that naive sexiness.
Mandy's appeal is dependent on her innocence, and so her nudity is always demure and natural. I've turned down jobs for porn sites and such...the people asking for that do not understand what I do, somehow. That's not me, and it's not Mandy. I walk a fine line in my Playboy cartoons, too. There is a difference between nudity and pornography, something a couple of Attorneys General have failed to understand (remember the blue curtain in front of the topless statue of Justice in the Capitol?) If there isn't a difference, what're all those nudes doing on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel?
One of my best-ever backhanded compliments came from a teenage boy at a convention. He looked at the drawings, looked up at me, looked down at the drawings...finally asked if I was the artist. When I said I was, he said "Huh." with a puzzled expression. I asked why the 'huh', and he said: "I just didn't think anybody so old could draw like this." I'm afraid he was embarrassed by the gales of laughter.
Actually, though, I find that in addition to men and (I assume) teenage boys, I get a lot of fan mail from women. They always understand what I'm trying to do, and appreciate her character - that she can be pretty and sexy but not a slut. So she appeals across the gender gap, I'm happy to say. And I do find that animators tend to buy my books - not so much comic book fans, perhaps.
I've done a number of books so far - SCRIBBLINGS 1, 2, and 3, which are sketchbooks of all sorts of characters (I'm working on SCRIBBLINGS 4 now, for the San Diego Comic Con); ONE MANDY MORNING, which was Mandy's first full-length book (the one with the shower scene); MANDY'S SHORTS (with the dinosaur), and MANDY GODIVA. I also did one with drawings of Mandy by 30 other cartoonist and illustrator friends, called The MANDY PORTRAIT GALLERY, but that is out of print. I've had two books published in France - MÉLANGE, by Akileos, 128 pages, an overview of my career including a good selection of my Playboy cartoons; and just this past year SKETCHBOOK YEAGLE, by Attakus/Comix Buro - one of a series of sketchbooks they put out in Paris. And they have also produced a sculpture of the cover girl from that book, 'Suzette'. As I type this, they're in transit to the US. They'll also be producing another sculpture. And Electric Tiki has produced one Mandy sculpture (below, sold out) and is working on another, which will be out later this year.
And I sell sketches, from the books and from my Playboy cartoons, as well as large color originals, which I first did for a gallery show of my work at the Galerie Arludik in Paris in 2008. Those larger pieces have become an ongoing thing, and I sell them at the conventions. My drawings are also in three Paris galleries at the moment.
And there may or may not, depending on my time, be a Mandy calendar, using reproductions of those large gallery pieces, for 2011, available (maybe) at the San Diego Con this July.
I think that's it.
Images for this article are the property of Dean Yeagle