Many thanks to CopicBrasil for kindly sharing this interview with talented DC Comics artistMahmud Asrar- enjoy!Hi Mahmud, how are you? Tell us a bit about yourself. Who is Mahmud Asrar?
Mahmud Asrar- Thanks! I’m doing great lately. I’m a half Austrian, half Pakistani artist based in Turkey. I am a professional comic book artist and I’m currently drawingSupergirl for DC Comics. I’ve always wanted to draw comics ever since I was small and started out with creating fanzines along with some friends. In time I started getting some paying work and got to do work for almost all of the bigger comic companies. Some of the work I’m more recognized for are Dynamo 5 with Jay Faerber for Image Comics, a bunch of Marvel Comics work including Shadowland: Power Man, andStar Wars Jedi – The Dark Side for Dark Horse Comics, among others.
What does your studio look like? How is it organized?
MA – My studio is currently a room in the house. Usually my studio is pretty organized. I’m not one of those messy artists. I like to find my pens where I put them so I try to be tidy. Right now it’s a little out of order as we’re on the verge of moving. I’ve got the drawing table, the computer and everything else I need with my work all set up in my room. Of course I have a TV in there for background noise when I’m not listening to music. Then there’s the light box, scanner, printer, reference books, art materials, framed artwork and of course some toys and figures.
How is your day divided? Tell us about your daily routine…
MA – I really don’t have a standard routine thanks to the nature of being a freelance artist. I work every day and I’m usually very busy but I don’t have any preferred hours. Depending on the day, I might start working early in the morning or sometimes I go out and start working late in the day. As long as I get the job done in time I don’t have any problems. When I work however, I usually sit down until the page, cover or whatever I’m working on is done. I do take some breaks now and then of course.
When did you know you wanted to become an illustrator and which steps have you taken to make that happen?
MA- I’ve enjoyed drawing ever since I could hold something that would leave a mark. People around me encouraged me in that too which helped as well. I was never told to do “something serious” instead of drawing so I was lucky in that sense. For a while in my youth I didn’t know what direction to take in my life but ended up deciding to get a university education on arts. I’ve studied graphic arts for two years then moved on to animation as I thought it’d be closer to what I want to do. At this point I was pretty certain I wanted to be a comic book artist. Didn’t know it would happen of course but I dedicated myself to it and in time it became a reality..
Where do you draw inspiration from? Do you have any favorite source? What are your favorite artists for the moment?
MA- Inspiration comes to me from a very broad range of things. Of course I’m inspired by the work of many masters and contemporary artists of the comics field. I enjoy art in all it’s forms so I can be inspired by a renaissance painting, an exceptional photograph, a movie I enjoy or even how a book makes me feel. It’s not only limited to these. Inspiration can come from just about anything in real life which is the source of everything we do.It’s difficult to name them all as there are so many but some artists who’ve inspired me the most are;John Byrne, John Buscema, Adam Hughes, Stuart Immonen, Bill Sienkiewicz, Olivier Coipel, Art Adams,Chris Sprouse, Mike Mignola, Egon Schiele, Alphonse Mucha.
When have you decided to work entirely on markers? Why did you choose Copics? What are the advantages and disadvantages of working with markers instead of 100% digital?
MA – I’ve used markers on my sketch work for years. A few years back I got introduced to Copic markers in the work of some of my favourite artists. The vibrancy and quality of their colours looked really great. So I thought I’d give them a shot with the original sketch card art I was doing at the time. I’ve really liked how they turned out and I’ve started to use them more widely. I’ve tried some other brands over the years and truthfully I didn’t get the same results. That was the first time I used them professionally after which I used them on my personal work and commissioned sketches. Especially the warm and cool greys which complemented each other nicely. Occasionally I’d do some full colour pieces which among which some are still my favourite pieces to date.
I used to work in the traditional manner for comics throughout my career, but I was asked to use my marker style on Supergirl, so this is the biggest project I’ve worked on with markers. I use them on the covers and interiors and fully render my pages with Copic markers now. Honestly, I couldn’t be happier. I am in so much control of my work now and the finished product is more like what I intend it to be.
Digital drawing/painting has it’s advantages, that is for sure. I have dabbled in it for a bit but never got really comfortable with it. I do use digital drawing for my sketches or layout work sometimes. It can be very helpful to my process in that sense. Working in traditional media is what comes more natural to me. The physical aspect of it and the probability of mistakes is what makes it more tangible and real to me. I feel working on paper encourages me to be a better artist.
What was your most challenging project so far?
MA - Every project has it’s own challenges. Recently Star Wars Jedi – The Dark Sidewas by far the most difficult project I’ve worked on. Despite Star Wars being something I love the fact that it’s so familiar yet it’s got so much undiscovered territory that comes with it made it a real challenge. I’ve had to create or design something in almost every page. They had to be new but also belong to the Star Wars world too. So it was pretty tough.That said working in markers on Supergirl is a different challenge on it’s own. More on the technique and art side though as it challenges me to solve problems and work out issues about my work in different ways. It makes it so much more fun!
What advice would you give to the young who want to follow your steps?
MA – There’s a lot I can say but what I’m certain that will help the most is; Work hard, draw all the time and be diligent. This line of work is not something you should do for the money or maybe fame but because you love to do it. So it requires a lot of self-sacrifice and dedication. An illustrator or comic artist needs to know how to draw anything and everything. So drawing from life becomes essential as much as it is important to draw from imagination. Learn from the masters but don’t copy them. Also it pays to be open minded. Don’t get stuck with doing the same thing over and over again. Try different mediums, methods and subjects.
What are your plans for the future? What sort of things would you be interested in doing?