About Andy & Owly: Frequently Asked Questions
How did you come up with the idea for Owly?
I've always loved owls and drawing but Owly started out as a simple little doodle on a post-it note. When I was in college, I lived at home, and I would stay up really late working on design projects. I would leave little notes for my mom and let her know what time I went to bed, and it was always late, so she called me her little owl. She's always loved my cute little drawings - the cuter the better. So I drew this little owl on the notes to make her smile. But I drew him for years and after a while he sort of became my mascot. Years later when I was trying to come up with a comic book idea I tried everything, dragons, aliens, ninjas... nothing worked. Then one day I just looked at Owly and saw what I had. He had his own group of friends and I loved drawing him. It all just unfolded. He had been there all the time and I had missed him. After that I started writing Owly stories and everything just clicked.
Early Owly Sketches (click to enlarge)
What is your inspiration for Owly's character?
Owly's character is largely based on my mom. I've always aspired to be like her. Owly's way of solving problems, not with violence or anger, but with kindness and understanding is completely based on her. When I started writing Owly stories, I just based him on me and who I aspired to be--my mom, simple, gentle and full of love for even the smallest creatures.
Why is Owly awake during the day? Aren't owls nocturnal?
Owls are nocturnal, but because Owly is really just based on who I aspire to be, I wanted him to be able to interact with all of the birds and the surroundings that I experience. He gets up a little late and goes to bed a little late but, he's not really a normal owl. Most of the other animals are true to life, but Owly is definitely the exception. He has tiny wings, doesn't really fly, and he eats vegetables. He doesn't hunt or eat meat. He gardens, sleeps in a little bed in a tree house and spends the day looking for new friends. :)
Did you go to school to be an artist?
I've been drawing my entire life but I didn't goo to school to be an artist. I went to college at Georgia Tech and have a masters degree in Industrial Design (which covers everything from graphic design to product design). I certainly learned a lot there in terms of perspective, drawing, and design, but I'm pretty much self-taught when it comes to cartooning and storytelling.
What do you use to draw?
My Art Supplies (click to enlarge)
Well, let me first say that I spent a lot of my life looking for the "perfect" drawing tools, convinced that it was the key to drawing better. But honestly I have friends that can make a a simple ball-point pen or a huge marker perform like a musical instrument on paper. My point is to try not to worry about what tool s you use. Just draw with anything and everything. Practice is the key. Find what makes you happy. With that in mind here's what I use to create Owly.
Penciling: I start all of my work using a grubby little 2H pencil. The lead in these kinds of pencils is very hard and keeps it's point longer, also I tend to bear down hard and with this pencil I'm able to keep my lines light. Once everything is drawn I magnify my initial sketches in the computer ('cause I draw tiny) and use a light-box to pencil them onto bristol board using light blue pencil.
Inking:I don't want to use any animal-based products in my life or in my work. For that reason, I only use synthetic brushes. Unfortunately these brushes don't hold as much ink as traditional sable-hair brushes so I'm always searching or alternatives."The Way Home" was inked with a Hunt 108 crow-quill pen."The Bittersweet Summer" and "Just a Little Blue" were inked with a Raphael Kaërell #1 Synthetic brush."Flying Lessons" was inked with a Pentel Brush Pen that has a synthetic bristle tip and a constant flow of ink that helps me work a little faster. I've currently switched to a Kuretake brush pen because it's more comfy to hold. I refill the cartridges with my own ink. I've tried all kinds of inks, but my current favorite is Koh-I-Noor drawing ink. It's rich black and holds up to erasing.
Mistakes! I make TONS of mistakes. I use a soft Clic white eraser to erase pencil mistakes and use a cool little ink eraser to clean up little ink mistakes, but most importantly I use a lot of a product called Pro White. It's an opaque, water-based paint that perfectly matches the paper and can be inked over.
When the page is all inked I scan it and clean up what I need to in the computer. I have a Mac and use Adobe Photoshop and Corel Painter for all of my art needs. I use a Wacom Cintiq (which is an LCD with a touch screen on top so you can draw directly on the screen) for all of my digital paintings, touch-ups, and coloring. The one I use is a little 15 inch one that I got about 6 years ago. It's one of the best things I ever bought. :)
How long does it usually take to write your books and what's your writing process?
It takes me about 6 months to create a book from start to finish. The hardest part is coming up with a story and then developing all of the characters and the events that have to all work together. The story is the most important part. Without it, everything crumbles. I discuss the story heavily with mom and we work out all the details before I send the outline to my editors, and they take a look at it too. Once everyone has seen it and the basic concept of the story is finalized, I start sketching it out. I pencil out the whole book and work with my mom to make sure everything is clear. Then I show it to my editors and they read it through and ask me questions about it. If anything needs clarification, I rework pages and panels until we're all happy with it. After that, I start inking and ink the entire book at the rate of about 3 to 4 pages a day, and then, I show the book to everybody to get their feedback. I take all of their comments and suggestions into consideration, polish it up, write up the indicia, lay out the book, design the back cover and then the book is finally ready for press.
Why aren't there any words in Owly?
I don't consider myself a writer so when I tried to write dialogue it was always lacking. The first Owly
originally had words, but it just wasn't working and I decided to leave it off and use his eyes and body language to tell the story. That was okay with me because I always loved silent characters, and it made me work harder to make sure the story was clear. Snoopy and Woodstock, Looney Tunes, Dumbo, and Pete's Dragon were all silent characters and were a big part of my childhood so that's where most of the inspiration comes from. Besides, If I made Owly
talk... how would he speak? Would he have an accent? I decided... no... he won't talk. I would embrace the silence and convey everything with expressions. But then I ran into some difficulties. Some things are hard to say in just static pictures. I learned a lot from Kurt Wolfgang
, who used icons instead of dialogue, and even though I could never do what he does, reading his book Where Hats Go
gave me the courage to use icons to help with my storytelling. I used to design computer icons for a living. Good icons can convey complex ideas clearly. I brought that into my comics. It does make some things hard to say, but that's what makes comics so interesting for me. It's a challenge!
How many Owly books will there be?
Personally, working on Owly makes me the happiest I've ever been. I'm able to write about the things I want to write about and draw the things I want to draw. I mean, I get to draw all of these characters that I love... fulfilling doesn't even begin to describe it! Professionally, this work is the hardest thing I've ever done. That's what keeps me going. Every story is a new challenge. I love this world and all of the characters in it so I plan on writing and drawing Owly stories for a very long time. I don't plan on stopping! Owly still has lots of friends to make and lots of adventures to go on. :)
Can you send me Owly books or merchandise for free?
Despite the fact that I write and draw them, I don't get Owly
books or merchandise for free, so in order to send you something I'd have to buy it first... and in all honesty, I can barely keep seed in Owly's
cupboards. So if you like Owly
please support us by buying my books and merchandise from your local comic book store, book store, or directly from my publisher, Top Shelf.