Mike Lowery

I’ve worked on just about everything from greeting cards for Hallmark to Filipino food trucks. I live in Atlanta with my amazing wife and genius daughter.

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Where do you live?
I’ve lived in Atlanta for a few years now.

Where have you lived?
TN, MD, back to TN, back to MD, VA, and then now Atlanta.

What medium do you use?
I mostly use pencil, print gocco, and photoshop.

How do you stay inspired?
My two biggest sources are illustration blogs and thrift stores. I am constantly making trips to thrift stores looking for old children’s books, and books with illustrations. I also really like books that have old scientific diagrams and educational images. My genius daughter, Allister, likes to go with me.

Where do you buy your art supplies?
Sam Flax in Atlanta and Haushalts-Fundgrube Neek in Bennigsen (though Neek is basically only good for pencil lead and ink!).

Do you work traditionally or digitally?
Both. I always work in two stages. The first stage is always traditional, either in a (moleskine) journal or on bristol, and the second stage is cleaning it up and coloring it in the computer. I rarely make a completed work without first starting out with a manual drawing.

What color combination are you most excited about right now?
Actually, I’m a big fan of a site called “colourlovers.com” and I get color combination ideas from there a lot. But, my go-to colors are grayish blue and brown on off white paper.

What blog(s) do you read?
drawn.ca, book by its cover, design sponge, swedesplease (scandinavian music blog), and illustrationmundo, and where the lovely things are.

If you weren’t an illustrator, what would you be?
a musician. Though, if I wanted to actually pay the bills I’d be a Dentist. I think I’d be good at that. More specifically, I’d be an ER dentist. “We need films of that crown on number 13 STAT!”

What illustration job would you love to get (your dream job)?
It would be great to see my characters turned into a cartoon someday.

Name something you do in your spare time.
Draw. I’m not kidding. I do that a lot. I also like to travel whenever I get breaks from teaching (I teach at the Savannah College of Art and Design in Atlanta). I’m currently using Rosetta Stone to learn German (because I spend the Summers working on my freelance projects there), but I’m still terrible at it, though! Entschuldigung! Wo ist der Flughafen? Ich muss eine Katze auf dem Markt kaufen.

What’s the strangest work experience you’ve ever had?
In 2006 I was invited to be in a gallery show in Beijing. I was the first non-Chinese person to show at this very prestigious gallery so I jumped at the chance, even though shipping was astronomical. Two weeks before the show went up, Chinese customs informed me that they were holding all of my art until I paid a (no joke) $40,000 (I forget what that equates to in RMB) fee. Needless to say, I just had them send it back. In the meantime, I rushed out to the embassy in DC and paid for an expedited visa and a week later I was on a plane.

What are you reading now?
I recently finished Hunger Games and City of Thieves and am currently ready Little Bee.

What recent book do you recommend for a good read?
Pyongyang by Guy Delisle is one of the best graphic novels I’ve ever read. The humor and style are perfect, and it offers a great glimpse into North Korea. I also recommend Dad Says he Saw you at the Mall by Ken Sparling.

Where would you like to travel to next?
My girlfriend and I have been hoping to go to Iceland at some point. Is it still super cheap over there after the big economic collapse? We’ve also been wanting to go to India and she’s never seen the Western coast of the US of A, so that’s on the list for sure.

What’s your favorite TV show?
My top shows of all time are: BBC’s The Office, 30 Rock, and Arrested Development. I just finished season 2 of Extras and liked it a lot.

What’s your favorite NPR show?
Culturetopia! It’s a podcast, not a show, but I’m hooked. I also listen to Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me.

What movie have you seen several times?
Rushmore, Bottle Rocket, Empire of the Sun, and D.A.R.Y.L.

What is your favorite cheese?
Monterey Jack cheese. No joke, every time I smell it my mustache explodes at the ends.

Do you wear shoes when you do art?
House shoes because it’s usually pretty cold in my studio.

What do you listen to while you work?
Mostly NPR podcasts, but lately I’ll have DVDs playing while I work.

What’s your middle name?
Michael (my first name is actually Thomas)

What do you wish your middle name was?
“Michael” I just think that would be cool.

If you could eat only one food, what would it be?
I would die. I’m not very picky about food, in fact I’m fairly adventurous, but I can’t eat the same dish back to back often. Though, okay, if it was ONE food I would say Indian food. It’s great. I also love frühstück mit brötchen which is a breakfast plate with bread and a variety of cheeses, meat, veggies, etc.

How do you stay in shape?
Not well.

How don’t you stay in shape?
Very well.

What is your current favorite font?
Hand draaaawn fonts.

How do you take your coffee?
Black. I use Trader Joe’s ethiopian or bolivian blend in a french press.

Whom would you like to meet?
The only person I’ve ever been starstruck over when I met him was Stefan Sagmeister. I ran into him at B&H in NYC. He gave a lecture in 98 or 99 in Chattanooga, TN about Design that I still think about all the time. Years later, when I ran into him he was very nice and actually carried the conversation, asking me about myself.

What recent illustration job have you enjoyed doing?
I recently did some drawing for a chinese crafts book. The company who put the book out did an interview with me that was translated into Chinese and then (for some reason) back into English from the Chinese translation. There were some great quotes. Here’s one of my favorites: Foodoll: “I like all food from different places, but my mood affect my taste.”
Mike: “Oh, I’m a hungry man, if no food, I have no idea.” (http://www.affalog.com/2006/12/483)

What was your favorite illustration assignment?
I’ve been incredibly lucky to work on several really great projects. I did two sets of bilingual books (spanish/english) for a company out of Madrid, and I’ve just finished up a few children’s books that I’m really excited about.

Workman Publishing
Simon and Schuster
Bilingual Readers (Madrid)
Random House
Walker books for young readers
Nick Jr magazine
GP Putnam and Sons book for young readers
American Greetings
Kids Can Press
*He has been featured/interviewed in the Washington Post and the Washington City Paper and a few years back he showed 16 of his tiny drawings in a show in Beijing.

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