Disclaimer: It’s amazing how I fell onto Sean’s work. It was in the midst of another unarmed Black person being shot down by police, and with the ignorant and uninformed reporters on the news and our social media feeds spewing incorrect statements and “reports,” insulting us with their below average journalism skills, along with the stress of enduring this ordeal all at once and not knowing how to overcome, Sean’s latest strip from his online comic series, “The Rev Times,” appeared on my Tumblr dashboard. And aside from the illustration being a drawing style I easily felt attracted to, the strip had humor within a sad realization while reflecting both our pain and even our helplessness at that current moment. Instantly, I looked through his tumblr, found many more comics, and knew for a fact that I wanted to feature Sean’s work. That comic did a lot to make me feel better, even if a smidge. And the thousands of notes that followed afterwards proved it wasn’t just my heart that was being clutched; many of us were hurting and thankful for the strip.
This year has been very heartbreaking for the Black community, and it’s imperative that we not only support the Black artists who continue to use their work to make their and our lives better, but who also want to contribute to the Resurgence of our community. Those who want to share light. Those who want to tell stories with their talent, to open the eyes of the masses.
So support we shall!
All sad reality aside, Sean’s work is so much fun. His portfolio isn’t stagnant, and there’s so many pieces to pick and choose from where no one would feel left out because nothing of his can relate to you. He’s among the many whose work I’d love to read in my hands as a comic, and I’m hoping you’ll feel the same when you read the interview and view his work 🙂
Name, Age, Hometown:
Sean Mack. 27. Saginaw, MI.
When did you start drawing (or when did you begin to take drawing more seriously), what made you start drawing, and why do you continue?
I’ve been drawing since I could pick up crayons, really. I’m not sure what started it really. I just loved to draw things as a kid. Ghostbusters. Ninja Turtles. I drew in notebooks, walls, all that. My folks told me they think I got the creative side from my grandmother because she was into arts and crafts so that may be where it stemmed from. I continued because it was something I loved to do. I wasn’t really into much anything else like sports and all that jazz. I just loved to draw.
How would you describe your main (if you have many) drawing style?
I’d say it’s a melting pot of a lot things that influenced me as I was growing up. Comics, animation – both American and Japanese, and life mostly. It’s not based on realism but I try to keep a feel of it at least in my art somewhere.
Do you practice discipline, where you draw even when you don’t feel like it, versus drawing when you want?
Yeah definitely. There’s plenty of times I’ve basically forced myself to draw when I didn’t have the energy to. I may not draw every day but it’ll be enough time for me to not get rusty and lazy with things.
What are some of your favorite pieces you’ve created? Your least favorite?
My favorite so has to be the work I did with C.J. Johnson on his graphic novel KOBK (Killed Or Be Killed). I think I love it because it was basically challenged me to get out of my comfort zone and because I never really did a full graphic novel before. My least favorite? I’d had to say one of the first freelance jobs I had. It was for the producer duo from England and it just didn’t go down great at all, haha.
What piece of illustration (whether it be a cartoon, a comic, an animated film, fanart, etc.) inspired you so much, your views on art took a turn for the better?
I always loved comics but animation was something that fueled me. Films like Akira and The Iron Giant showed me how much art can be used to in storytelling, something I never really saw as a kid.
Sites like Tumblr, Deviantart, and Instagram give artists a chance to share their art with a community of artists. Did your confidence shift when you were met with “competition” or artists who you felt drew better than you? If so, how do you stray from that mindset?
It shifted a bit when I first signed up on DeviantArt in high school. I thought, “oh man, I’m finally have a place to share my art and people are gonna love it.” Then I looked around and saw that EVERYONE was much better than me so I kind of wanted to just quit right then and there, maybe become a pro wrestler haha. But even now I know artists that are incredibly talented that I look at and wonder how I even have a chance. Focusing on your own craft, your own style, and not always comparing your work to others is how I stay from being discouraged. Everybody’s got their own level they’re working at. It’s not gonna always be the same for everyone else.
How has online distribution helped you and your art?
It has a bit I do believe. With sites like Society6 that help you create your own art prints or the idea of self-publishing sites, it’s a lot more easier to get your work out there for people to purchase I believe.
What is The Revolutionary Times, and triggered you to create it?
The Revolutionary Times is a comic started by Brandon Howard and myself about two guys (based on us) who deal with the goings on in the world when it comes to culture, world news, politics, and so on in their own unique way. Brandon was the one who first came to me with the idea of starting the comic and we’ve been running with it ever since. At the time the only real voice in comics people had heard was Aaron McGruder/The Boondocks so we wanted to create something new that reflected who were are as people.
What’s a regular day like for you?
Let’s see… waking up, laying in bed for a while wondering why I woke up, falling on my face while attempting to get out of bed. That goes on for a good couple of hours. Once I get some tea though it’s all uphill from there. The day usually consists of me working on my projects or the comics which is spent inside mostly since it’s all digital work. I do tend to escape near this local coffee shop I love to get some air and do some of my sketching there. Because, well, tea and coffee.
Are there People of Color who you thoroughly admire for their eccentricity and artistic style of being?
Definitely. I feel like this basically everyone’s answer but Kanye is definitely someone I admire as far as his artistic eye toward things. He brought a sense of design element to the art for his music that wasn’t really touched on prior and that’s what made him really stand out. Him being a reason Murakami was introduced to a broader world is definitely an example of that.
What message do you want your art to represent?
I think for the most part I’ve used my art to display my views on the world, a bit of my sense of humor, and my love for being inspired by a lot of things – women, music, anything really. I think it’s because I want to show a more lighthearted view of the world especially some very dark times. People need to see that side to know not everything in the world is terrible.
What struggles have you endured on your journey to becoming a better artist to your own standard?
The struggle has mostly been in trying to go from doing something to love to doing what you love and having it be the thing that helps sustain your life. It’s something I’ve been still trying to figure out even to this day. You want to be able to be this great artist but you also want to be able to pay rent.
What’s an opportunity that came your way through your art?
I think the best one recently definitely came from being able to illustrate for ESPN, Complex, and Grantland. Yeah. I gotta give all thanks to Shea Serrano for even thinking my art was good enough to have such opportunities in the first place because those gigs have definitely been a blessing.
What’s the BEST advice, from experience, you can give to an aspiring artist and/or fan?
There are really just two things I’ve learned so far and that’s keep drawing and have patience, especially if you’re striving to become an artist. The patience is the most important because there will definitely be times you want to give up whether it’s with the job search or with your skills. And that’s where “keep drawing” comes into play. Always draw. Every chance you get and everything you see. It keeps you up with your skills and betters you as an artist.
Where do you want to take your art, career wise (if it’s more than just a hobby for you)
It’s definitely more than a hobby. I want to be able to make it so this what I’m doing for my life, what funds my life, a future family, and all that. I would love to be able to illustrate for places like GQ, The New Yorker, and other magazines. Also I would love to able to somehow be involved in animation, whether it’s with character design or learning the animation craft itself.
Do you have any projects in the works that you’re okay with sharing?
Aside from The Revolutionary Times, I’ve been working on my own art book series since last year called RED that focuses on the beauty of the female body. The first book and two companion e-books are out right now and I’m going to start working on the second physical book (“Love + Lust”) soon (www.smackred.tumblr.com). And when the next NBA season starts off Shea and I will be starting our “I Can Hear Jimi” comics back up over at ESPN.
(He also recently created the cover for BLACK&SEXY TV’s movie version of their hit web show That Guy, and a Marvel-style intro to the beginning of the film, which can be seen here)