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Continuing from part 1, ToonariPost goes further into the life of David White, mecha illustrator. David offers more insight into his career as well his thoughts and feelings of the current status of Mecha in the media. Additionally, he has words of encouragement and advice for fans of Mecha hoping to break into the Mecha world as a career.
TP: More specifically, did you champion any unfavorable elements for those games despite popular fan opinion?
DW: Interesting questions. I think 3 mechs come to mind above all the others. The Black Knight, Flea, and Hellhound. I drastically changed the appearance of those three mechs and that caused a fuss with a lot of old-school fans. Some of the changes were necessary to make the mechs fit in with the updated visual style.
Anything that looked anime, like the old Hellhound, had to be changed to look more “army”. I have read some speculative forum posts over on the MWO page about why I changed these mechs so much. The short answer is… I really disliked the way they looked. Everything went through the Fasa art director so the original Battletech team approved it all. There were many revision passes, many of which can be seen in my deviantART.com portfolio.
TP: How did you get chosen as lead artist for MechWarrior 4?
DW: I was the only guy in the office that liked to draw robots! I was also one of the regular art leads so that made it a pretty obvious choice.
TP: What is your proudest career moment thus far?
DW: The MechWarrior games are high points for sure. The concept art that I did for War for Cybertron (2009) is another. I also illustrate a lot of children’s books for Scholastic and it is always fun to get a new book released. I am very proud that the Hot Wheels readers I illustrate are now up to volume 17! I think another high point was when I got to write and illustrate issue 29 of The Tales of the TMNT for Mirage Studios. I was always a big fan of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles!
TP: Similarly, what has been a career low point for you?
DW: I have had a few low points here and there. It was pretty bad for a while when I was making PC games and 3 projects in a row got cancelled. I just about quit making art after that. It was also tough when the game company I had been working for, Cyberlore Studio, went out of business.
I was there for over 9 years and it was tough to see that family disbanded. Things slowly got better for a while, but the recent economic instability really hit me hard. I work way too much now and get paid less than I used to. I think the soul crushing fatigue of being a freelancer has worn me down over the years!
TP: How did you break away from that rough spot?
DW: They say that time heals all wounds. I guess the memories and pain start to fade a bit after a while. I’m also too stubborn to quit
TP: What drives your fascination with Mecha? What is it exactly that draws you to Mecha? No pun intended.
DW: This is impossible to answer =) I just LOVE them. I have loved giant robots ever since I saw the Shogun Warriors cartoons when I was a kid. Something about the mix of detail, shape, and color, just synergizes with me on every level.
TP: Is there a specific technique or style that is unique to you?
DW: My trademark style is detailed and meticulous pen and ink. I don’t think very it’s unique, but it’s what I like to do.
TP: You’ve made mention of a book project, what do you have going on right now that readers and fans will want to know about?
DW: I have been fortunate enough to publish 2 personal art books. The books are called Mecha Zone 1 and 2. I am always thinking about new projects and ways to make them happen. Money is always a concern, but time is the more precious resource. I seem to have so little time.
I was really blessed by my friends and fans with their support for my most recent book, a second edition of Mecha Zone 1. They helped me fund a successful Kickstarter campaign to cover the printing costs of the book. I would like to do another Kickstarter campaign at some point. I just need to find the right project.
DW: I sell the books from my online store and through Amazon. Here’s a link to my book trailer from Mecha Zone 1 and 2…
TP: Was it difficult getting Mecha art published? They seem to be in limited quantity compared to the masses of ‘draw manga’ books sitting in store shelves.
DW: I didn’t even try to approach a publisher. I was too busy with my other illustration work to conform to anyone’s schedule and I didn’t want to give up the rights to my designs so I self published my books. It was VERY expensive, but it was totally worth it. I put a great deal of effort into finding an American printer that was affordable while still offering a high quality product.
Many printers wouldn’t work with me because of the low number of books that I wanted. I sell the books online and I also attend comic and anime conventions where I sell the books from a table in artist alley. I like this a lot because it lets me connect directly with other mecha fans! Anime Boston invited me to be a guest this year, which was great because I live in Massachusetts.
TP: What advice can you give to budding artists who have a similar and evolving passion for Mecha?
DW: My advice is to be original. Develop your own style and refine it. I also advise all artists to get a well-rounded classical education so you can draw anything. It’s not easy to make a living drawing just mechs so you’ll need to take other jobs to support you financially.
Image Courtesy of Mecha Zone