• Artist Interviews: dm29

    Hello again, good mares and gentlecolts! I apologize for my long pause in posting these interviews, for which I have no good reason. However, they are still very much a thing!

    Today we are having a good chat about art and ponies with dm29. You likely know him from the comics he makes, as well as from the fairly distinct vector artstyle he has and for the fact that his ponies normally end up sillycute and adorable as all get-out. I had many things I wanted to ask him about, and he has graciously answered my questions. Look below the break to see what he has to say about doodling habits, facial features, ships and prestige classes!

    For starters, how did you get into making artwork to begin with, and how has it been going for you since?

    I got my first tablet over a decade ago, before I knew about vector art. I'm a doodler, especially in school, so it was a bad habit. Then I made the habit into something useful and only on my free time. I used to pen a webcomic, but that has been on hold for the longest time. Vector art is just so much cleaner than lining on Photoshop, which is also partially due to my inability to actually draw well.

    I've been into little drawings and then fanart before I discovered vector art. I only picked that up in design school. Before ponies, I was into Sonic the Hedgehog and the Powerpuff Girls. MLP artwork became an outlet of expression, more commonly for putting the characters in situations impossible for the show's young audience (not that kind of situations!).

    I don't remember how it caught on, but eventually I guess people saw my work. I think it was "Internet is Traumatic" that fired it off. It had a message, an impossible situation and humour. I'm still amazed I'm actually here where I am today. I was never expecting much of my art when I began.

    How did you discover and get into ponydom? What are the things that made you like pony and even make fanart of it?

    I got into MLP: FIM discovering it on YouTube by chance, back in May 2011. You don't commonly see full episodes of protected shows on there, so its availability there helped the fan numbers grow. I've always enjoyed Flash animation for its sharp lines, the same ones in vector graphics, so it clicked. But I didn't start art until December that year.

    The second thing was Twilight Sparkle on the first episode. A voice like that would be Tara Strong. And then the opening credits dropped Lauren Faust's name, whom I know did stuff with her spouse Craig McCracken, and I was immediately pulled in. The messages and the characters came later, after a few episodes, and I decided this show wasn't bad compared to its other generations. And I went on from there.

    Do you have any artists or artstyles you consider an inspiration for yourself? If yes, can you name any?

    Well, there's just so many I enjoy but I cannot specifically name because I don't really reach out. But the bigger names like Pixelkitties in the same medium as me is a must to shoutout. I admire the complexity she puts in her stuff. Other people include those responsible for my favourite characters in art, like Sketchit26's Teen Cadance and Shining Armor over on tumblr.

    Otherwise, my artstyle tends to stick to near show-accuracy, so I guess it was the episodes that did it. I've been told I deviated from this "style" that I've somehow made my own personal style.

    I do like the works as shown on the IDW comics, though. Andy Price's stuff is killer. Outside of writing, Katie Cook has some extremely adorable artwork and styles, too.

    What are the works that you are most proud of, so far?

    Two Equestria Girls-related pieces with the Main Six. The original Life in Canterlot High pony companion one, and the Slumber Party one celebrating Rainbow Rocks.

    There's also that phony "
    Season 5" wedding vector thanks in part to M.A. Larson and his April Fool's tweet this year. And the 18-page short story, "My Fair Cadance", which is Shining Armor x Cadance shipping material.

    Gathering all the characters in my repertoire for a Holiday compilation is also fun to do, like last year's 
    The Yuletide Season.

    What do you like the most about drawing ponies?

    The ability to put ponies together however I want, away with the consequences. Self-expression. A distraction. Cute, amorous, adorable, heartwarming and humourous situations. The temperature dips and rises so quickly when ideas come in.

    Adding to that, I like the audience I get with my comics, which brings back the joy of being able to spread around humour like when I did with my non-pony webcomic.

    You have a special style that is somehow unmistakable due to your specific take on features, above all your trademark “small mouths” but also the proportions and the posing of limbs and heads. From looking at your past works, it seems to have evolved directly from the point where you started. How did you come to develop this style to begin with, and what influences how it evolves?

    I gotta say that referencing the ponies on the show, the way they are animated and coloured was how I began. I did models out of the characters, and layered the hooves, face, mane and body as I'd imagine they would rendered in Flash. Specifically with Twilight Sparkle first. I created the first wonky-looking model and released it as an Illustrator test.

    As for the small mouths thing, it has been completely involuntary. I've had small mouths for the longest time. My webcomic characters had that.

    And I think I left it in future ponies because... anime, I guess. Big eyes, small mouths. I also keep it that way to portray the level of expression, like happiness, disappointment, anger or sadness.

    You have a selection of characters that you tend to draw the most, such as Cadance, Shining, Twilight and Flash Sentry, as well as Rainbow Dash and Soarin'. For all intents and purposes, I consider them your favourite characters to depict. How did you come to like them the most as subjects of your artwork? Which of them do you like to draw the most of all, and why?

    Probably because I like Twilight Sparkle and the immediate ponies around her, which for some reason isn't the rest of the Mane Six. I actually had just enough time to vector the Mane Six before The Canterlot Wedding, when Shining Armor came along.

    I love the Shining Armor character because he was portrayed as an endearing bigger brother. Without any real friends, Twilight Sparkle's days in Canterlot was probably only fun with Shining Armor, and Princess Cadance as the foalsitter. 

    The same thing happened with Twilight and Flash. Studious as she is, I wanted a time to come where she had a stallion in her life. Unfortunately, canon Flash, pony and human, was no more than the castle pillar he was and a clich├ęd tap-water hero. So I know what people are talking about when they treat Flash badly.

    It's probably the thing with canon ships and pairings. With some exceptions, like FlutterMac and Spike X Sweetie Belle.

    One of the most frequent themes of your works is shipping, particularly two specific pairs: Cadance and Shining Armor and Twilight and Flash Sentry, as well as the occasional RD and Soarin'. Now, shipping can be a divisive thing, and people tend to have different takes on it, so I want to take the opportunity and ask you – what’s your take on shipping in general?

    If you like a particular ship, canon or not, it's yours to enjoy. Ships and pairings are about love and friendship. I haven't drew as much flack having Flash and Twilight as I did for Cadance and Shining Armor. I don't ship the pair to annoy, I do it because I see potential in the two.

    Now, the more specific questions – what are your views on Cadance and Shining Armor as characters, as well as their relationship? What inspires you to dedicate so much of your art to the two?

    Shining Armor is a loving stallion who watches out for Twilight and Cadance. He puts himself on the frontlines in the eye of fear, worthy of his position as Captain. Princess Cadance has gotten more screen time than Shining Armor so I stick to her canonical character, adding a more powerful groove towards the part of her that lives on the power of love. But these are just the way I see the two.

    The pair got their love story told in comic form. And I loved that to bits. I'm currently planning a second illustrated short story involving the two and I like coming up with new ideas for the royal couple loving antics.

    The other ship you often draw that I would like to hear your take on is the one between Flash Sentry and Twilight Sparkle. With how acutely some seemed to react to it in the past (and even now), it’d be especially interesting to hear your reasoning as to what drove you to adopt it as one of your most frequently seen ones. Could you share it with us?

    Flash and Twilight was to me the same effect Shining Armor had on her. Like a brother, a proper love interest was the other thing I wanted to see the character grow into.

    But like I mentioned, canonically, Flash Sentry isn't all that interesting. So I decided to make him my own character instead of moping about how bland he was.

    Most of this was before EQG:RR, and I was more into Pony Flash than Human Flash as he was less established. You can probably say I'm trying to give Hasbro ideas.

    My brand of Flash Sentry and Twilight has drawn praise and people come to me with mindsets changed or saying "I don't like this ship, but this is pretty cute".

    Anything you wish to mention about other ships you’ve depicted? Something that drew you to them in particular?
    I've dabbled with a bit of Sweetie Belle and Spike. I'm not quite the fan of "Sparity" and I think the filly and dragon go well together. The age thing.

    Rainbow Dash and Soarin'... They're so cute together.

    As a person who actively makes both “normal” artwork and comics, could you tell us more about how the two compare to one another? What are the relative difficulties and easy sides of normal standalone pictures and comics? Do your approaches to making them differ or are they the same?

    My work is mainly segregated into quick-ones, background-ones and comic blocks. With the occasional (poorly-done) animation.

    I jot down ideas in keywords on my phone when an idea comes in. Sometimes, it's called "emergency art" when I want to frantically push out an idea for my audience after a new episode, which airs at 11.30pm in Singapore, before I sleep. New episodes also help in the ideas department. It can get a little dry on hiatus.

    The ideas I keep gets made into art with or without a background. Sometimes, it's just because I want something depicted so I get it out of my system, like Shining Armor and Twily sharing cookies. Those don't take too long to come together. The more complicated art is usually reserved for release on the weekend.

    Comics are just art with backgrounds to tell a story, which I pen and script the dialogue before I go into the art so they tend to take more time.

    Another thing you do quite frequently is depicting the Equestria Girls forms/counterparts of pony characters. How does it compare to making their pony forms? What’s easier and what’s harder about them?

    I was more reluctant to vector their humanoid forms, until I did the series with human models with those wee little foals in one picture. Then the rest of the Main Six followed, and then some. The humanoid models definitely were more complicated than the ponies, due in part to their clothes and my lack of ability to create human forms well. Fingers are hard.

    Do you have any plans for humanizing Cadance and Shining Armor, or humanizing other pony-world characters not yet seen in Equestria Girls?

    Oh, I actually have done Cadance and Shining Armor after I was disappointed to not find their counterparts in Equestria Girls. But besides them, the show and other fans have characters like Chrysalis down pretty well. Were the Wonderbolts present in the humanoid world? Perhaps them. They'd make a good soccer team.

    You’re one of the most productive pony vector artists around. Do you have any important advice from your own personal experience with vector-making? Any recommendations for those seeking to start out in or improve on their vector art skills?

    Unless you decide to make ponies a full-time profession, watch how much time it can take or being absorbed in it can take a lot out of you, like any other hobby.

    For those who wish to start out vectoring, I can personally say there is no shame in referencing and tracing things from the show when you're starting out. Once you get the hang of it, develop your own style or tone. Respect the wishes of artists who don't want their work copied out of. It's always better to ask than be branded a thief later, however unintentional.

    What is Shining Armor’s paladin’s prestige class/archetype/whatever it is called in the current Oubliettes and Ogres edition?

    Wifethrower Valiant.

    Thank you very much for agreeing to this interview, dm29! It’s a pleasure to be able to learn more about your work directly from you. Any closing words for our audience?

    Thanks to all my fans and followers so much, for without whom I will not be where I am as an MLP Fanartist today.