An Artist in Bloom: Interview with Ansley McDaniel

GameStop, Inc.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIf you head into Artist Alley at an comic convention, your eyes meet a lot of art!  At a recent convention, I walked into a huge room filled with artists trying to capture my attention.  The room was so large it stretched for two football fields and I got lost.  For two hours I looked around for an exit, but couldn’t find it though the reams of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic fanart and Disney Princess zombies.  It was so jarring I fell into a corner and collapsed.  Wondering what to do with the comatose body by her booth, Ansley McDaniel fanned me with one of her drawings until I recovered.  Upon opening my eyes, I saw a beautiful piece of art and sat up.  After making sure I was all right, Ansley helped me up and she  told me about her art.

Whitney Grace (WG):  Explain a little bit about who you are and what makes you an artist.

Ansley McDaniel (AM): My name is Ansley McDaniel, 25 years old, and I’ve pretty much been dabbling in art all my life. I started out doodling dinosaurs as a child, expanded to different mediums and subjects in my teens, and started pursuing it professionally in my early twenties.

WG: Tell me about how you became an artist and some of your accolades.

AM: I suppose I’ve always considered myself an artist (at least an amateur up until just a few years ago). Throughout middle and high school, I entered in various contests, such as those hosted by the Lion’s Club, the Kentucky Women’s Festival and the Scholastic’s Art Contest. Several years after high school I entered in a local Duncan Hine’s Art Festival, which inspired me to pursue my work professionally.

  – Lion’s Club: 1st place for an acrylic painting in 2000
                        2nd place for an acrylic painting in 2002
  – Kentucky Women’s Festival: 2nd place for a watercolor painting in 2004(?)
  – Scholastic’s Art Contest: Silver Key Award for a scratchboard piece in 2005
– Duncan Hine’s: 2nd place for an acrylic painting in 2011
                              1st place for a watercolor painting in 2012

WG: What are your favorite mediums to use and subjects to draw?

AM: I can’t really say that I have a favorite medium. It really just depends on my mood at the time. I like to keep myself pretty varied, so I dabble in traditional mediums (acrylic, pen and ink, watercolor, etc.), digital (Photoshop and pen tablet), sculpting, and everything in between. My work, however, tends to stay within the fantasy genre. Dragons, elves and demons are frequent subjects.

WG:  Was it difficult making a name for yourself?  Do you freelance all of the time?

AM: At this point in my artistic career, I still feel as if I’m building a name for myself. But I have earned a following, however small, over the last few years. That is only because I finally decided to put myself out there. After my last art award in 2012, I decided to start exhibiting my work at conventions.

  – Lexington Comic and Toy Con
  – Tri-State Comic Con
  – Nashville Comic and Horror Con
  – Derby City Comic Con
  – Scarefest
  – Fandomfest
  – Geek Media Expo

It’s often pricey, but I’ve found that going to cons will most certainly help an artist to build a reputation and gain the attention they need. I ended up being discovered by several people looking to hire artists for various jobs, and I was able to network with other exhibitors and learn more about the art industry. I did poster work for Bryan Sanders, producer/director of the indie film Papercut 2, and was found by Broken Icon Comics, who will be releasing the work I did for their title Stuck here in the next month or so.   Stuck was written by Jordan Lowe. Prior to all of that, I did commission work here and there for private clients.

WG: What are your thoughts of people solely drawing fanart, but never doing anything original?

AM:  If the artist is happy doing fan art, then I can’t really fault them for it. However, I do feel that if they have an honest talent, then they should express it through original work. I feel that artists who only do fan work aren’t really being true to themselves, and are probably only feeding into a very limited audience. There are TONS of people in the market who appreciate originality.

WG: Is the demand higher for fan art over original work?  What factors contribute to it?

AM: From experience, I have seen that fan art often does sell over original work. I myself tend to steer clear of fan art, and will only rarely do work featuring characters or scenes from shows or games that I personally enjoy. But because I entered the field initially showcasing my original work, my reputation as an original artist was already established. Other artists I spoke to gave me advice to do the exact opposite. I felt that if my audiences wouldn’t appreciate my own ideas, then I certainly didn’t want to be apart of a ‘fan-based’ crowd. So far, I’ve been successful at just about every show I’ve gone to.

WG: What do you enjoy about drawing comics?

AM: Comic art is still something I’m relatively new to. The only fully-fledged comic I’ve done so far is Stuck for Broken Icon Comics, and it was definitely a learning experience. I’d have to say that drawing dynamic action scenes are my favorite.WG: Is you eventual goal to be comic artist or will that only be one part of your career?

AM: I think that comic work will only be one aspect. I tend to jump around so much with different mediums that there’s no way I could limit myself to just one field.

WG: What are you personally a fan of, comic, cartoon, or whatever?

AM: I’m a huge fan of The Crow by James O’Barr. I had the privilege of meeting him at Fandomfest and we swapped drawings. I’m also a big fan of Frank Cho, another comic artist, and Allen Williams, who has done concept work for movies such as Pacific Rim. I also enjoy the Regular Show.

WG: What projects are you working on that we should be excited about?

AM:  Currently, I don’t have any major projects underway, outside of my art dolls (photos on my Instagram @mcdansley). But my comic work with Broken Icon Comics’ Stuck would have to be a major highlight, because it’s a new artistic outlet for me and took nearly a year to complete. Here’s a link to BIC’s titles: http://www.brokeniconcomics.com/comics-2/

WG: Where do you see your art going at this point in your life?

AM: At this point in my life, I’d like to see my artistic reputation continue to grow. Eventually, I would love to work for myself doing client work and selling my original work.

WG: Any advice to people trying to be artists?

AM: y advice to growing artists: Put yourself out there and don’t give up! You never know who will notice you, and you’ll never know if you’ll be successful if you don’t try! If you stick with it and put your best work forward, you WILL be recognized.

WG: Lastly, do you have anything to declare?

AM: Don’t give up on your dreams, and never settle for anything that doesn’t make you happy!

 

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