ECCC 2019: Devin Lawson Discusses How Retro Cartoons Are Making A Comeback

by Tito W. James

At Emerald City Comic Con I chatted with artist Devin Lawson about his art style and influences.

Tito W. James: Have you tabled ECCC before?

Devin Lawson: Yeah, this will be my third year doing the show. I love being a part of it. There’s so much talent in this room it’s insane.

TWJ: Your art style is very distinctive. I’ve noticed that there’s been this resurgence of retro cartoons coming back into pop culture. What are your thoughts on the subject?

DL: Yeah, it was a very popular style in the 20s and 30s before it fell to the wayside. I’m glad to see it coming back. Cuphead, I think, was a huge factor in bringing it back. A lot of artists are doing really interesting things with it. I’ve always been a fan of taking something old and remixing it into something new.

TWJ: Do you have any specific cartoon shorts which you reference?

DL: A lot of the Fleischer classics, all of the Halloween episodes, the Silly Symphonies, and the skeletons dancing. That kind of vibe invokes a little bit of spooky but also cartoony. That’s really my wheelhouse. I love that stuff!

TWJ: You have quite the stylistic range. You’re able to do pin-up girls and creepy monsters– all infused with a touch of humor. How are you able to synthesize everything.

DL: Whenever you paint or draw something you’re trying to create an emotion. I just like people smiling. That’s my favorite thing is to see someone pick up my art and chuckle to themselves.

I also mix a lot of really horrible gore with really silly cartoon stuff. If finding that weird niche who likes art that’s horrible and funny at the same time.

TWJ: I think there’s more of a market for the hardmix now that we’ve had comics like Chew, Farmhand, and I hate Fairyland.

DL: Yeah! I that all those guys are coming to the forefront. It’s not all just superheroes. Don’t get me wrong I love my Marvel and DC Comics. But I like that there’s a big reassurance in humor in indie stuff.

TWJ: Do you think the rise of cartoony art in comics is due in part because of the scarcity of hand drawn animation?

DL: Yeah definitely. Every artist here [at the con] is trying to evoke some kind of hand drawn or traditional feel. Just because there’s something about it that’s intangible that makes the art feel more valuable. Those guys who worked on the animation in the 20s and 30s were chained to desks for hours drawing and painting everything by hand. The amount of work that went into those cartoons shows.

TWJ: Do you have any advice to aspiring artists in regards to stylization?

DL: I worried for a long time as to what my style was going to be. What would define me as an artist. My advice would be not to worry about it. Draw constantly, learn constantly, and practice constantly. You will find something that you love and your style will gravitate towards it.

I’d like to thank Devin Lawson for taking the time to do this interview. You can see more of his work online @thespicydonut.

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