Sean Dove is a freelance illustrator working out of Chicago, IL. Born in Hawaii and raised in Ann Arbor, MI, his retro-inspired work lead to working with J. Torres, writer for Teen Titans Go!, to bring Brobots and the Kaiju Kerfuffle to life.
What’s your personal background and what drove you to become a professional artist?
I grew up reading comics; my parents would buy them for me a gas stations and stuff. Then in elementary school, a local comic book store came to our library and did a presentation about comics and showed us how to set up subscriptions with them– it was evil and kinda genius. After that my Mom would take me in to buy comics and I was pretty hooked.
I always like drawing and taking photos. My dad is a painter and a lot of my family members are interested in art, so it was around a lot growing up. It was also something my parents really encouraged. After high school, I ended up coming to Chicago and attending the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
After college, I found a job working for a comic book company here in Chicago called Devil’s Due Publishing. I started as a graphic designer and then eventually became the art director. It was mostly design work, but I would end up laying out a lot of cover ideas.
I really wanted to draw comics, but I knew I was slow and also kinda scared. So after I left Devil’s Due, I mainly did freelance design; designing packaging for Hasbro and lots of other random stuff.
The last couple years though I realized I really wanted to be drawing, so I’ve been slowly moving over. Around 2010, I did a 24 hour comic day, and it made me realize that maybe I could do comics. It helped to make me realize that I could be a little less precious and it was more important to have a finished thing then never make something.
When the opportunity to work wth J. Torres on Brobots came up, I jumped at it. Since then I’ve been doing a lot more freelance comic work and illustration. It’s been super great.
Did you grow up watching any kind of tokusatsu shows or movies?
Growing up in the 80s, it could be hard at times to find that stuff, we would watch Godzilla films and other random kaiju stuff you could find at rental stores. By the late 80’s-early 90s, I was mainly into anime and watched as much of it as I could find.
I had a friend who lived down the street from me and his family was from Japan. In elementary school, he went to visit relatives and came back with all these books and crazy pencil cases. We didn’t have any idea who the characters were, but we loved how they looked.
Years later when Power Rangers showed up in the US, it all clicked. I had seen all the characters before. Unfortunately when Power Rangers started here, I was around 14 and felt a little too old for it.
Over the last couple years though I’ve really been digging in to a lot of older Sentai stuff, particularly Maskman. I also like the Toei Spider-Man, early Kamen Rider, and Super Robot Red Baron.
What was the most rewarding experience about going through a formal fine arts program? Would it be path you’d recommend to aspiring artists?
I really liked going to art school. Getting to try a bunch of different things gave me a chance to try film making, fashion illustration, sound, just a lot of stuff that I’m not sure I would have gotten to do if I hadn’t gone. Also, I wasn’t super focused then, so it was a good time to explore.
I’m not sure going to art school is for everyone, especially with how expensive school is. I do really value the people I meet and became friends with in school. I think it can be really hard also if you don’t live in or near a big city to find the opportunities to meet and work from other people.
Beside school, apprenticeships/mentors have been just as- or more- important than school. I’ve been really lucky. I’ve had a couple over the last 10 years who really helped me out; particularly Mike Norton and Evan Sult taught me a ton.
If you live in a town that has someone doing a field that you are interested in, write them and see if they would consider letting you shadow them. Building that kind of relationship is really important and can really help you advance in to whatever field you are interested in.
What was it about Brobots that appealed to you and got you to be part of the project?
J and I had been trying to find a good project for us to work on together for awhile. So when he came up with the name “Brobots” and brought it to me it seemed like the perfect fit.
Brobots also combines stuff that J and I have a mutual appreciation for, like 80s cartoons and fairy tales. I was also super excited to get to work with Oni Press, I’ve been a big fan of theirs for a long time and I’ve always wanted to do something with them.
In your blog, you wrote that you worked on Brobots both digitally and manually. Was that a unique process for you? Do you have a favorite medium you like working with?
At this point I don’t see a ton of difference between hand drawing and digital, they are both just tools. I do think I have a level of control on paper that I haven’t quite mastered on the computer, so doing a mix on some projects has been really helpful.
In terms of medium, I mainly use paper and ink and or Photoshop. I’m not really a painter, but I do like digitally painting in Photoshop. Kyle T. Webster makes these brushes for Photoshop that have really changed my approach and let me experiment a lot more. In terms of tools, I really like red col-erase pencils, and Zebra Disposable Brush Pens.
What influences your specific art style?
I mainly grew up on super hero books. In the 90s, I was very in to Chris Bachalo, Mike Mignola, Joe Quesada, [and] Jim Lee, but occasionally, I would come across random stuff that would really influence my style. Early on, it was Katsuhiro Otomo’s Akira, or Moebius doing Silver Surfer with Stan Lee.
The last couple years though I found my stuff getting simpler and more cartoon-y, so people like Osamu Tezuka and Rumiko Takahashi and shows like Flapjack, Adventure Time and Over the Garden Wall. I’m also a huge Genndy Tartakovsky fan, all of his shows like Sym-Bionic Titan, Samurai Jack and his Star Wars series.
Outside of comics and cartoons, I really enjoy the work of Ryohei Yanagihara, Herve Morvan, Mary Blair, Edmond Kiraz, and Saul Bass. [Also] filmmakers like François Truffaut, Chris Nolan, Wes Anderson, and Terrence Malick.
What’s the most rewarding and most challenging experience for you working as a freelance illustrator?
Most rewarding is the number of different types of projects I get to work on, it’s never boring. The most challenging part is not always getting paid great and the hustle of trying to find the next job. Half if not more of your job as a freelancer is finding work and doing paper work. That stuff can be a real drag.
Can you tell us the story behind the name of your studio, “And Thank You For Flying”?
After I graduated from college, I moved in with a good friend of mine and [while] sitting around we would come up with dumb names for bands and stuff.
“And Thank You For Flying” was an idea for a band name he came up with. I looked it up and the URL was available, so I grabbed it. I sat on the URL for awhile and when I started working on freelance, it seemed like a cool name for my site. It invokes a fun image in peoples heads.
Any upcoming projects you’d like to share?
J and I are currently working on ideas for the next Brobots.
I also have a backup story and cover in the next issue of Madballs and a cover for another book at Oni Press.
I’ve also been working on a couple other projects but they are mostly in the beginning stages, one is a Super Sentai thing called, Super Science Scouts: Awesome Force that I’m hoping to do at some point.