When you bring two talented illustrators together, like Dallas’ own Dyemond O’bryan and Lenworth ‘Joonbug’ McIntosh, you don’t have to do much but listen.
Dyemond’s introverted demeanor often keeps him inside creating (or skating if he gets a little cabin fever) and Joonbug’s charisma lightens up the room and the sketchbook. Their two worlds seem distant, but in a room together they connect like they have known each other forever. We got cozy in Dyemond’s art-filled home as the two talked about their outlook on creating, their favorite cartoons, being an Internet Age artist, branching out and the nifty tools they’ve gotten their hands on, all while doodling away.
When did you realize your style?
Joonbug: I realized it in high school. It was after I got my ass handed to me by this guy—we’ll call him Chance. Chance McGee. He was in a grade above me. You know after awhile you gain this air about you when you’re known as the kid who can draw, like oh you’re the art kid.
When I got to high school, I realized that people were a whole level above me as far as technical skill. I remember I came in 10th grade and had a math class with this guy, Chance McGee. His brother looked in my book and was like, “man you can draw, but you can’t draw better than my brother.”
His brother was like, “let’s see what you got man” and he looked at my book and said, “you’ve got some good stuff, but you can fix this here and polish this here.” And I’m sitting there thinking, “can I see your stuff?!” And when I saw the first page I was like…ok. *wide-eyed emoji* He was looking at my book while I was looking at his. He had used some markers. It was my first time seeing markers used in this type of format. He did some really left-field, abstract stuff. He had this whole page of notes surrounding the art. I was really taken by that, because while I was reading it I was able to see his process from beginning to end.
This was all with me just browsing his sketchbook. I asked him to see his finished work and he said, “man, your sketchbook will always be your best portfolio.” I think that’s why I took it so seriously after that. If you just look at the end piece of an artwork, you don’t really understand the process. So I always want people to understand the process, all the lines and ink on top. I want people to understand this isn’t something that’s easy to do. It’s not just something I did once or that just came to me. There’s a certain level of lines in paper and a thought process, but you never really get it right the first time.
Dyemond: I think I’m just now coming to grips with how I draw.
J:Is that why you deleted your first Instagram?
D: I got so bummed out because I was all over the place. I was doing the Blue Period stuff for a while; then I was trying to do this abstract stuff for awhile; then I was doing the single line contours, then realistic to something really loose. That’s like the number one thing I look for in an artist. I’m still struggling with the super realism shit. There is this perfect medium between cartooning and realism that just looks great. Sammy Harkham is a cartoonist and he’s got it down perfect.
J: I’ve seen a lot of styles where it’s super polished and the excess you’d think the artist needs could be putting one color here or line there; it creates itself with less detail. It just seems to create itself with the most minimal details. There’s an artist [whose] style used to be super detailed. It’s still detailed but with very little lines and I still don’t know how to do that. I’ll draw something minimal and then have an itch to add something because I feel like it’s too flat.
D: I think that’s just you though, you’re kind of like your own worst enemy. Your cartoon is perfect, that’s what cartoons are suppose to look like.
J: I definitely want more of this color phase I’m going through. I never relied on color, it was always lines, lines, lines. I love contrast; playing with contrast and lines. Plus, color is almost taking the same approach of being loose and unapologetic with lines, and then figuring out. If I put this color down and if I don’t like it, then what other color can I put on there instead and make it a different color, to make it work for whatever it is?
D: I’ve looked at your colors and you really knew what colors to pick, like it was a natural choice.
J: Same with you though. I was looking at your Blue Period stuff and it reminded me of the whole Picasso Blue Period. It was just focusing on a certain style and sticking to it before it became comfortable, and then when it became comfortable, it’s like you have that. It’s almost like you learn something and it’s with you for life, then you can implement it in different areas.
D: Do you feel that’s important? For an artist to branch out and not do the same thing?
J: I do, because when you’re complacent your style becomes boring, then you don’t really have anything to offer besides regular shit.
D: Yeah it’s like we already know what’s coming from you at that point.
J: Yeah and I think with the artist, just being an artist, people are almost dependent on you to kind of give them a refreshing way to look at life. So there’s a lot of pressure in a sense of creating something that wasn’t necessarily there before or that was there but creating a new life for it so people can see it in a new light. It’s almost like we exist to create a better world for everybody else.
D: I’m almost weirded out by that, because I don’t know. I feel like people don’t know what they want. I’ve drawn these little hot dog things and people love those things. That takes two seconds, that’s not something that I’m focused on but people get a fun feeling out of it.
J: No one knows what they want ’til they see it. The pressure is needed though, because sometimes as an artist you get lazy. Especially when you have a style that you can do easily. I’ve seen some artists that I follow and I loved when I first followed them. But they just get lazy and now it’s crap. But because they have this huge following, it’s almost like they don’t give a shit anymore. “Oh I know people will like this, I don’t care, I’m just gonna post this to get 1,000 likes.”
But because they have this huge following, it’s almost like they don’t give a shit anymore. “Oh I know people will like this, I don’t care, I’m just gonna post this to get 1,000 likes.”
D: Which is crazy to me. I love the Internet; we can get stuff out there easily. But this whole like game and following thing is ridiculous. It really kills an artist. I think it kills your drive and what you’re doing because you’re more focused on that end of the game. That is important, getting stuff out there and [getting] people to like it—if that’s what you’re trying to do, but that’s not even close to being everything.
J: Yeah it’s not the end all. Do you ever feel like there was a point in time when you just wanted to pick up something other than illustration? Like did you ever want to do sculpting or anything else?
D: *points to collage on wall behind them* Those little square collages are the closest thing to branching out. Sculpting would be awesome, but animation is the only thing I think about other than drawing. Just little crude ones that I’ve been trying to do now. When I see animators, they’re fully focused on animation. These guys put in hours and hours of doing it; it’s great, I love it but I just couldn’t see myself doing that. It seems tiring.
J: That’s how I feel too. It would be a fun idea to see something I drew move, but putting in the hours of going through the creating process and putting together a little short…I don’t feel like I would have a lot of fun. I low-key just want to draw something one time.
D: *cuts in agreeably laughing* I just want to draw this thing, put it on there and then just move it. Like a moving picture, if they did that then that would be perfect.
J: Some of the characters, I see them moving. Nobody else does but I always draw them with the intent of seeing them move. There was a show I used to watch when I first came to the States…it was called Pappyland. I think that show pushed me into this direction of fun, fun vibes. Just getting into the habit of drawing things…
D: TV was the spark of art for me. I remember drawing Rocko’s Modern Life characters, anything I could from the TV.
J: So you think Rocko was the one that gave you that kind of inspiration to draw?
D: I would say The Simpsons, though I really hate saying it, because that was like church to me as a kid. I was there, it didn’t matter what was going on, I had to be sitting in front of the TV. I drew that the most. We didn’t have cable for a while then we got it and I just watched every cartoon that I could. I didn’t even care if it wasn’t in English. That’s how I got into Dragon Ball [Z] and anime.
J: When I was younger, it was a little different. I was living in Jamaica at the time and we only had two channels. One channel was the news station and the other just social TV. So you had your Saturday morning cartoons, but they ended at 11 am so after that you just had to go fend for yourself. But my mother was living here in the States and she would always send me VHS tapes. My favorite ones were the old black and white, Technicolor, super cellophane Popeye. I remember watching those forever back to back, because it was all I had. Then there was the old Superman. I never really liked Superman but it was fun to watch because the art style was very vintage. Very minimal, still with the blue, red and yellow.
D: I wasn’t really a superhero fan, except for Batman animated series.
J: The first one?!
Both: Yeah that was the fucking best one!
J: All the stuff I grew up with, I never really paid attention to all of the creatives behind it. Those people made my childhood but at the same time I never really went back and researched them.
D: I don’t think people do that at all, ever. Do you draw everyday?
J: I do, I make it a point. Now it’s just second nature. When people say, “ah that’s impossible,” I think they think you’re doing this full illustration every single day. When really it’s just like anything that pops into my mind, I just draw it really quick just to keep skills sharp. I think it’s beneficial to draw everyday, if not for anybody, but for yourself. I know you draw everyday. I think you have more of a desire to draw than I do.
D: Do you ever feel like you’re missing something? Like when you’re hanging out, not wasting time but not being creative, and think, “I could be at my desk right now?”
J: Yeah I feel that way whenever I’m out. If I go somewhere and it’s nothing to do with art or networking to get more gigs for art, the whole time I’m thinking in my mind (it’s almost like I’m a ghost there): I could be at home in my sketchbook.
D: Yeah my wife knows. As soon as I get quiet it’s time to go.
J: It’s just something about creating man.
D: I just want to do it all the time.
J: It doesn’t even take anything for me to just draw something.
D: One little thing can turn into something else…like when you were drawing Bean Boy and now all the concepts around him. That didn’t start out as that.
J: He started in a Spanish class. Senior year of undergrad. I was actually taking Spanish class at another university across town in Abilene. I was learning about conjugation and I just drew down this chubby little guy, then I added goggles because I was watching Naurto; anime characters always had cool goggles. It made them automatically cool. I always like freckles on the cheeks—it’s something about that that makes you enjoy the character more: chubby cheeks with freckles, hair all over the place, goggles. Then having him be a superhero is a new thing for me. Most of my characters are just goofy or a weird angle; something elongated. Super long legs or short and stout. I wanted him to be this go-lucky guy I could latch on to. Then I thought about him finding a towel around the house and tying it around his neck, flying around pretending.
D: Childhood at its best. You know how many times I dressed up as Batman fighting whatever I could in the house. Mom taking me to the grocery store not even caring how I’m dressed.
J: So tell me about The Breaks man, how did you come up with that?
D: Well I always wanted to make comic books for some stupid reason and I just tried to come up with the name one day and I was listening to Kurtis Blow and just really jamming. It was so heavy and he just knew what he was talking about, so I said, “you know what, I’m just going to name it The Breaks.” Because to me it meant I could make the comics about anything, it didn’t matter. It didn’t pigeonhole me. It was just something that felt like it could go on forever.
J: The character, it doesn’t look like you. I thought you would create something that would resemble you in a certain way. Like the Life of Dyemond, but it’s not. It’s cool because it’s almost like you can make it anything.
D: I think it’s like your Bean Boy. You drew him and you liked it. Like this is the thing I want to draw. I remember drawing a bunch of characters and then I tried this exercise with three columns and six rows and for one minute you draw as many characters as you can. And that would get you not to think about it, because I would stress out about why his eye would look one way or whatever. So after awhile of doing that it came easy and I would pick out which ones I liked.
J: So that’s how you did the collage of faces?
D: Yeah you never know what you grab from. Just pencil it out and see what you come up with. I never like something unless I pencil it out first.
Do you ever get a creative block? Is there ever a time you can’t draw?
J: Kind of, I have moments. Like I had one yesterday at my mom’s house and I guess I just wasn’t suppose to be working on anything. So I just drew but it was because I wasn’t feeling anything. Like I had no feeling. But most of the time I’ll draw random lines ’til I see a face in there. Then I’ll just go with it and it turns into something else. But for the most part, there’s always some ideas floating around in my mind.
D: There’s always something to draw or to do. Whether I want to do a comic, a still life, doodle stuff out. Draw some plants or bones or hair. You kind of just have to do it. Do you mess around and try different tools at all?
J: No I want to, like this is amazing to me.
D: I think three years of my art was me just buying different stuff, pens and pencils, reading articles, trying whatever I could get my hands on, [figuring out] what are other people using. Like those. *points at more pens* I feel like I wouldn’t be too attached to those as I would a brush I bought. I’ll be rough with it, smash it, blend it, do whatever I need to do with it. I would only draw on 140 pound paper, I only use Pentel inks and pens and some people are like that’s a snoody thing to do but…
J: If you have a certain style, you have a certain style.
D: Yeah. You don’t want a faux Michael Jordan, you want THE MJ.