Anton Emdin has spent his whole life as a working artist. Drawing constantly from the age of 2, by 15 he was selling out his own self-created comic book – ‘Dudeman’ – at high school!
Since then it could be said that Anton is living the dream life of any artist. Making enough money to exist on, and raise his family – Through a combination of personal projects and commissions. With Anton having worked with a huge array of companies. Such as Mad Magazine, GQ, The Spectator Australia, Archie Comics, DC Comics and Australian Penthouse; just to name a few.
Shining through in all of Anton’s creations are his perfect use of color, capacity to show movement and unique sense of humour. With his work perfectly combing the low brow, underground comic tradition; with the aesthetics of traditional animation and a commercial designer’s refined line.
Wanting to get to know him better, we sent Anton some questions to answer over email.
Take a peek into Anton’s world below….
Name + D.O.B?
Anton Emdin, 2nd April (“almost a fool”)
City, State and Country you currently call home?
Sydney, NSW, Australia
Please describe some memories – such as writing, art, music, relationships, adventures, study, romance, politics, work, crime, religion… anything really – from the stages of your life noted below:
* Age 5 – beginnings:
I don’t remember a lot about my childhood. It’s just fragments made up from splinters of memories fuelled by the odd photograph or family story.
(My memory even now is atrocious. I think I just remember what I want to remember – Or cat memes are taking up precious brain resources. I dunno.)
I do know that I drew a lot at this time.
I was filling up pages and pages, copying all my favourite comic book and cartoon characters; Smurfs, Mickey Mouse, Richie Rich, things from MAD magazine.
Speaking of which, I do have a vivid memory of being chased around the house after cutting up a good bunch of my dad’s MAD collection to make a collage. I hid in the bathroom and stared at the Salvador Dali print — “Dream Caused by the Flight of a Bee Around a Pomegranate a Second Before Awakening”, although I didn’t know the title then — just that it had a naked woman, tigers, and an elephant with really long legs.
* Age 10 – continuations:
I actually remember this year pretty well, or the summer at least.
I flew from Sydney to Cape Town to visit my dad, like I had done many times before. The only difference was that I found out during the trip that I’d be staying there to live.
I believe I was pretty bloody naughty as a kid, and I think my mum needed a break for a while.
But then at some point during the summer things changed, new decisions were made, and I went back home to Australia.
Again, my memory sucks, so I may have it all wrong.
But I remember it was a good time, even though I must have been a little nervous about starting a new life there. I’d become obsessed with Back to the Future (so much so that I forced myself to sleep in the same weird position that Marty McFly did), The Goonies, Ghostbusters and Knight Rider. I’d read MAD magazine, play Rygar and Ghosts ’n’ Goblins arcade machines down at the local grocery store, hang out with the local kids on the street, watch gory action movies with ninja stars slicing through eyeballs… regular 80’s kids stuff.
* Age 15 – teenage wasteland:
Around this time I made my first comic book, “Dudeman”, which I photocopied and sold at school. Actually made a profit, too, which surprised me.
Other than that I was obsessed with music, and had hopes of becoming a rock star in the vein of my idols Led Zep and Van Halen. Started drinking and smoking, playing music with friends… I’d say pretty standard teenage fare.
* Age 20 – young adult:
Went to art school and majored in drinking beer.
Honestly not sure how much artmaking skill I learned, but it was great to be immersed in the art culture and to finally be surrounded by like-minded people.
I had moved out of home at 17, and managed to live in quite a few great share households, surrounded by good people. We had house parties and were generally the sort of people I’d hate to live next door to now!
I was in a band called Strangely Brown, and at one stage we mostly all lived together, too. While world domination was something that would have been quite nice, most of the band members had other aspirations in other art fields (movie-making, animation, illustration) so eventually we called it quits to focus on our careers more.
* Age 25 – adult mode:
Met Ash, my wife-to-be, around this time.
We got serious quickly, moving in together in a cute little place where we’d mostly drink and smoke, order in pizza and watch The Sopranos.
We were both in that mid-20’s mindset where we didn’t need to be serious about life just yet.
Possibly the most unhealthy time of my life, but enjoyed nesting and not having flatmates for the first time in ages.
* Age 30 – meanderings:
None of our friends had children, so we were a little worried about it affecting our social lives. But one Sunday morning we looked at each other and both agreed it was time.
My son Miles was born soon after my 30th birthday, and three years later little April came along.
* Age 35 – fully formed:
Having kids kickstarted me.
Previously I’d probably coasted a bit with my art, but I think it was either perpetual lack of sleep or the realisation that I had to provide for my new family that made me strive to be better at it. ‘Now or never’ sorta thing.
* Age 40 – adult meanderings:
My 30’s and 40’s have been a blur of work and raising children.
I achieved a lot career-wise, but it was hard work: late nights working, up early with the kids, trying to be a good husband and father while retaining some sort of social life.
* Age 45 – middle age approaches:
Shit, dude. Way to make someone feel old!
Weirdly, I feel no different that I did when I was 20. It isn’t until I look in the mirror that I realise I’m not a youngster no more. Hair is falling out, wrinkles appearing.
Perhaps to combat this I have regressed a little and playing music a lot more, too… in a casual band, kicking around cover songs and jamming once a month. I love it. After drawing so many hours a day over so many years, I’m finding that I get more enjoyment kicking back playing music in my spare time.
Art-wise, I’m transitioning more towards art direction.
I’ve been doing a lot of kids books, and have art-directed a few projects working with other illustrators… I gotta say that I’m loving it. I’ve realised I have a lot of knowledge stored up after all these years of slogging in the cartooning mines, and it’s pretty exciting to help build something as part of a team.
Don’t know if I have one.
I do try to be a good person, generally. I’m sure I fail at it miserably, but I guess my motto would be: “Try not to be a dickhead” or something like that.
When and why did you first become interested in art and everything creative?
… and any pivotal creative moments / influences?
Apparently I was drawing at two years old, so I guess it was always there. I always knew I’d be a cartoonist: there was never a backup plan.
Please describe your usual creative process – From initial idea, to creation and eventual completion?
- Thumbnails / Ideas: I always start here.
In the beginning I’d go straight to sketch, but once I learned about the thumbnailing technique I realised that it greatly improves the finished product. More choices, composition is tighter, reads better. Also, it gives the client a chance to choose ’n’ change things before you spend too long on it.
- Rough: I trick my mind into believing that I’m doing a rough sketch before I do the ‘proper’ sketch. This way it stays loose and energetic.
Most often I send this onto the client, but sometimes they want something a bit more polished so I move onto the…
- Sketch: This would be one step more polished than the ‘rough’.
- Inks: If it’s a classic ‘line & colour’ piece, I’ll ink it. Usually in Photoshop using the Wacom Cintiq, or with a brush & ink if it needs to be original art (or I want to sell it later).
- Areas: In Photoshop I mask out the main areas (FG, MG, BG, main figures, etc.) to make it easily to select later as needed.
- Base Colours: Here I paint in everything flat.
I try to get it working pretty well here, and these are more detailed areas to select with the Magic Wand in PS.
- Shading, Finishing: Painting and detailing in Photoshop.
I try not to use too many layers, as to be honest, I get confused and end up painting on the wrong one… it ends up more stressful that way.
If there is ever a change from the client (which there rarely is after colour) I can easily just paint straight over the top. I do this rather than trying to preserve all the layers.
If people wanted to work with you or buy some of your art and wares – How should they get in touch and where should they visit?
Odds and Ends
Who are some of your favorite artists, musicians and writers?
…and what is it about their works that so inspire and move you?
I was raised on MAD magazine, and there’s a lot of the classic ‘usual gang of idiots’ in my DNA… Jack Davis, Bill Elder, Kurtzman.
I still love their work, as well as my 90’s influences like Kaz (Underworld), Clowes (Eightball) and Peter Bagge (Hate).
These days I’m constantly finding new (to me) artists that floor me. Brett Parson AKA Blitz Cadet never fails to impress.
Music-wise, I like a lot of genres, but I’m pretty obsessed with 70’s classic and glam rock, proto-punk stuff… Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust, The Sweet, Slade, Led Zep, Richard Hell, The Dictators… that sorta thing.
The music of the 70’s had shed the hippy love and peace stuff, but was still raw and powerful, and not as processed as the 80’s era that would follow. Bit of a goldilocks thing for me, I guess.
If you could live in any place, during any historical era – Where and when would that be?
…and why would you choose that time and place?
I would have liked to have seen the 60’s… it was a real transitional period for the modern western world.
What role did toys play in your childhood?
Always loved toys… my favourite was a little bendy Pink Panther (plastic with the wire in his arms & legs) and a plush Woody Woodpecker.
I still have the latter, but I think Pink Panther may have got flushed down a toilet, never to be seen again. Not sure who by, or why, but that’s my memory and I’m sticking to it.
Who was your 1st crush?
…and why were you so infatuated with them?
I had a girlfriend in the second grade.
I also remember being totally in love with a girl from that fabled 1985/6 South Africa trip. Her name was Griselda, and she lived up the road.
I cried on the plane on the way home! I wonder if she even knew that I liked her?
Does sex change everything?
Well, it does when a baby pops out nine months later.
What are the top 3 items you own?
Vintage Drink/Cocktail Mixer Girl — I found this in an op shop around 20 years ago. She looked a bit more fresh back then… a little more hair, bunny ears intact (but then again, I should be judged the same way!)
The idea with this little gadget is that you put a drink in her tray, press the button, and she shakes her hips, this mixing the drink. The kicker is that as she does this her top wriggles down, exposing her boobs.
She’s a bit ’Little Annie Fanny’, perhaps?
Guitars & Amp — (Ok to clump these in as one item?) They’re not too valuable, but I use them most days and would grab them in a fire, so I guess that makes them top 3.
Smoking Cat Vinyl Figurine — Like most of my toys, he’s not in showroom condition… but I love Kaz, and it’s a great object. He’s even got a weird hole in the back of his head that goes through to his mouth, which I assume is to blow real smoke through?
While I do have a soft spot for ol’ Ginge, I think he would be totally flummoxed by Da ’n’ Dill.
Please describe your last dream in detail…
The only dreams I remember are stupid stress dreams.
Like I’m trying to find my kids, knocking on doors in a city… I could almost see them, but when I turned around they weren’t there. It was a little like Inception.
I never remember the good ones, or maybe I never have them!
Of everything you have done, what would you most like to be remembered for?
Honestly, the older I get the less I care about leaving a legacy.
Unless you are huge star, the reality is that the only people that will remember you in years to come will be your family and friends, so in that light I just hope I’m remembered fondly.