Recently, we had the honor of interviewing Dean Yeagle, a dynamic artist whose work is so influential, you may not even realize all the ways you’ve been exposed to it. Spoiler alert: he designed the Cheerios Bee! Yeagle’s style is exceptionally animated with clients ranging from Disney, to Warner Bros., to Hanna-Barbara, and more. He’s probably best known on the convention circuit for his work with Playboy and his creator-owned character, Mandy. You can find Mr. Yeagle’s work at www.cagedbeagle.com, and here’s what he has to say about his work in his own words:
Q. When did you first realize that you wanted to dedicate your career to art?
I drew from the moment I could hold a pencil, but I think I made the final career decision when I was about 10, after giving up the idea of being a lion tamer.
Q. What artwork inspires you beyond comic books (movies, music, etc.)?
I’ve always been a huge fan of movies – not just animated ones, but movies in general. Particularly movies made before I was born – 30s and 40s. And especially, but not exclusively, comedies. W.C. Fields, Marx Bros., Buster Keaton, Laurel and Hardy…and somewhat later ones, from directors like Billy Wilder, Preston Sturges, Orson Welles, Alfred Hitchcock (see, not just comedies). Music, too, of all sorts. Sculptors – Rodin, Antoine Barye. Painters, playwrights (Shakespeare), writers (Mark Twain, S.J. Perelman, Flann O’Brien, Kurt Vonnegut, Ray Bradbury)…too much, too many to list. And travel. Pretty much anything I like, I consider to be inspiration, even if it has nothing to do with what I actually do.
Q. At what point did you feel you’d found your signature artistic style and how did you know that was the look you wanted to present?
I always was most inspired by Disney films, and my style, although made up of a lot of other styles, still shows that influence. When I worked for Playboy, Hefner said he liked the ‘Lady and the Tramp eyes’ on my characters. So somewhere along the line of developing a style, I hit what I thought (subconsiously) was the right amalgam of influences (stealing) but that kept the fluidity and gesture from animation. And then I got a job in animation.
Q. As someone whose art is used for both children’s books and more adult publications like Playboy, which audience do you enjoy working for the most?
I try to keep both in mind. My ‘Mandy’ books, started once I began to work for Playboy, have a sort of children’s book look to them, rather than a comic book style. I spent most of my career in animation, and doing the occasional children’s book and designs for children’s games and shirts and such. Very often cute animals. And then I took the leap from bunnies to Bunnies. All feels like the same career to me.
Q. Is there anything that you don’t enjoy drawing (subject matter, particular objects, textures, etc.)?
Oh, yes…I have no interest in drawing superheroes (although I once had to animate the X-men for a commercial, it was agony). And drawing buildings and furniture is a chore, although I have great respect (and envy) for those whose work includes beautiful backgrounds and intricate sets. Immense respect. Wish I was better at it. But I am best at organic shapes. Curves rather than angles.
Q. What are your favorite jobs to receive?
Well, these days I don’t so much ‘receive’ jobs as create them. I used to do a lot of design for corporate characters, and I did endless cereal commercials – I designed the Cheerios Bee and did the Cookie-Crisp commercials for eight years (great fun). But now I do pieces for galleries and collectors, and my own books. I’m still happy to get some design work from someone else, of course, and I’ve done comics for the Muppets and Dark Horse; but I mostly draw what I want. And sell it.
Q. What’s the craziest commission you’ve ever been requested to do by a fan?
Not crazy, but unusual…a recent commission was from someone whose favorite painting is a Tiepolo in the Norton Simon Museum, and he wanted a my version of it, with Mandy as the main focus. Great fun. And then there was the request for an illustration for an erotic short story about a beautiful redhead and Casanova, who has been reincarnated as a talking cockroach. Maybe ‘crazy’ fits that a bit.
Q. What’s the most amazing experience afforded to you by your career in art?
I’ve been able to meet a number of my heroes and work with some of them – animators from Disney, Warner Bros., MGM, and even animate some of the great characters – Mickey, Pinocchio, Bugs, Daffy, Elmer (so often the greats need only to be mentioned by their first name). And I’ve been able to become friends with a number of them. The animators, that is. The characters, they’ve ALWAYS been friends of mine.
And there was a double-header in 2004. I had a one-man show in Paris, and one of the visitors to the vernissage (opening night) turned out to be the President of the Museum National D’Histoire Naturelle of Paris. He’s a Mandy fan, and he invited my wife and I for a personal tour of that fantastic museum. A life experience.
Q. What are some tips you have for aspiring artists?
Develop your own style! Yes, you can start by copying the cartoons of others, but get to know a LOT of artists and their work. Then you can steal bits of all of them, merge them with your own personality, stir them around a bit, and end up with something that is yours. And when people can recognize a style as yours, it’s YOU they have to come to in order to get it. You won’t be one of a hundred artists with the same style. You’ll be YOU. Draw from life, concentrate on gesture, don’t use so many lines…simplify. Put in what’s needed, not everything that’s there. And keep an eye open for what’s about to happen to the field you want to be in, and be ready to jump. It’s going to change, whatever it is.
Q. Where can our readers find you and your work appearing next?
I’ll be at the biggie – the San Diego Comic Con, in July. I have a large booth there, and have since 2003. Then the LA Comic Con in October, and the CTN Animation Expo in Burbank (inside) in November.
Or if you want a commission, or a book or print, or news of the upcoming Mandy sculptures, email me: email@example.com. Thanks!
I was born at an early age. It didn’t last. I once was almost punched by one of Jackie Chan’s bodyguards – which probably means I wasn’t ready for the Final Boss. I was also an extra in two episodes of LOST. The catering was phenomenal.