Dragon Con 2019: Illustrator Michael Blank Discusses Letting His Dark Side Out
by Tito W. James
Tito W. James: So you have a lot of beautiful nightmare imagery. Is there something that scared you as a child?
Michael Blank: Yeah, absolutely. As a kid I had nightmares is as many kids do, and I don’t think, when it happened, I could have described them. It was just this overwhelming feeling of something absolutely terrifying and gigantic. When you get older these nightmares come back but they take on a different form of fears that you face doing during your whole life. And so I try to channel my inner child and but represent the fear is that I personally experienced and try to challenge it.
TWJ: Well, that’s very interesting. So would you say that the monsters you depict are metaphorical in some sense?
TWJ: Can you give like a specific example is like the the bird creature was like facing the boy. What does that represent?
MB: I try to keep it open for people to have their own interpretation. But to me, it’s a representation of loneliness and death.
TWJ: Well, that’s broad and open enough for interpretation. You have a recurring theme of red string in your work.So when did that start and where does it end?
MB: So in this particular story of the midnight encounter and the boy facing the monster; the red yarn represents a string for the boy to keep to be connected to the real world. So he doesn’t get lost in the nightmares.
And in another piece called Awakening, where the boy’s unraveling a labyrinth almost and wakes the demon, it could represent something that’s awful like you’re unraveling a monster that’s inside you. You’re letting it out of hand but you’re also letting some power out that you’ve been keeping inside you this whole time. So if there’s a darkness and there’s a there’s also a power to that’s very interesting.
TWJ: So it’s kind of like the myth of Theseus and how he would have he worked his way through the Labyrinth and then he’s able to find his way out after defeating the Minotaur by following like the ball of yarn or the string.
MB: That’s exactly right. Yeah, so I definitely got inspired by the and the ball of yarn the red string but I try to connect it to my own experience and in a way. I feel that all my art links back to creativity and when I create and all the fears that I faced when I paint. Whether it’s finding my own voice or worrying what will other people think of me. For example in the piece called the Gamayun the boy’s trying to reach for that fortune for that goal in mind but completely becoming blind to everything around them. And so it all connects back to me drawing. it’s very personal.
TWJ: That’s very fascinating, because I think sometimes in a lot of young artists and creators, there’s so much focus on whatever the shiny object is; whether it’s working for a particular company or getting an award or whatever it is that is defines success for them that moment.
MB: With that piece I’m trying to convey that hunger for the fortune. For that thing that you feel like to need to have. While it blinds you to the things that you are already fortunate enough to have.
TWJ: Do you have any advice to aspiring artists or people going though nightmares?
MB: For artists I’d say, keep on drawing. Keep on painting. Stick to it and something will come of it. For people who are facing nightmares, I would say, try to remember what they are and draw them or right about them. That will make you strong enough not to fear them anymore.
I’d like to thank Michael Blank for taking this time to do this interview. you can find more of his work on his website.