If you've been following us on Instagram, you may be familiar with our cartoon series and the amazing illustrations of Maddy Price aka @coolfriendlyman. Get to know the artist behind the drawings and everything that inspires her work, from indie comics to Spongebob.
How did you first get into illustrating and art?
I loved to draw as a kid, and loved any kind of drawing that made me laugh and think—cartoons, comic strips, etc. I initially went to college for graphic design because it felt like the most practical path to choose if I was going to go to some big, expensive art school. As a freshman, I discovered indie comics—I got a copy of Ant Colony by Michael Deforge at a bookstore by campus, and it blew my mind. At the time I didn’t know that illustration and comics could be so cool, my only context for that stuff was the things I had loved as a kid. After a year of hating my graphic design classes, and only turning in drawings for my assignments, I transferred schools to study illustration.
How do you come up with the ideas for your comics? Do you ever have creative blocks and if so, how do you get over them?
If an idea makes me laugh and has some kind of emotional resonance, I know it’s worth a try. Some ideas are just bad, but I’ll occasionally still give those a shot and often they turn out better than I imagined them to be. I get creative blocks ALL the time, I think we all do. In those moments I try to keep drawing and writing, but sometimes a break is needed.
Walk us through your drawing routine and creative process!
I start with a scrap piece of paper and pencil, and depending on the project I’ll draw or write out all my ideas. I also keep a sketchbook that I’ll flip through if I feel stuck. From there I can start making more coherent sketches and outlines that I’ll eventually bring onto the computer to start working digitally. I use my Wacom pen display + Photoshop to make all of my finished work.
Has Covid/quarantine affected your work or process at all?
Before COVID, I worked out of a studio space in Brooklyn with two wonderful illustrators and friends, Derek Abella and Paige Mehrer. We ended the lease for obvious reasons, but I really miss it. Now I’m working out of the “tv room” in my parent’s house in Portland for the summer, which is nice, but I miss having a coffee maker and Derek mouthing all the words to SZA within five feet of me at all times.
Who/what are your biggest influences?
It’s a combination of things I loved as a kid (Spongebob, Sunday comics, Yellow Submarine, the Muppets), writers and comedians who make me laugh in smart, surprising ways (George Saunders, Roxane Gay, Miranda July, Patricia Lockwood, Patti Harrison, Julio Torres, John Early), and an endless list of cartoonists (Michael Deforge, Lisa Hanawalt, Lynda Barry, Aisha Franz, Sophia Foster-Dimino, Marc Bell, Jillian Tamaki).
What's one interesting thing in your workspace that you can not do without?
I have roughly 10-20 loose sheets of paper and sticky notes with illegible notes and drawings on them floating around my desk at all times. I guess that’s less interesting, and more a good example of my borderline-hoarder tendencies. Every time I do a project, I end up with a Pepe Silvia-style arrangement of notes to draw from.
What's your favorite cartoon/comic?
My favorite comic strips are Peanuts and Cul de Sac. My favorite comics/graphic novels are Leaving Richard’s Valley, Sex Fantasy, and anything by Lisa Hanawalt. My favorite cartoon is the Looney Tunes short Duck Amuck— which was the funniest thing my sister and I had ever seen when we first watched it as kids. I think about Daffy Duck in that little flower outfit at least twice a week and smile.
What's your biggest goal or dream?
I guess to be happy? Is that an annoying answer? On a base level I’d like to make a comfortable living working creatively, on projects that I care about and think are worthwhile. I’ve always said I would love to work on a cool animated kid’s show. I’ve been applying to jobs in animation that I’m not fully qualified for since I graduated, no luck yet!
I know that you're really engaged in activism in your everyday life. How does that manifest in your work, and what do you think art's role is in effecting social change?
I’m definitely not an activist, but I do try to use my frustrated feelings about the state of the world productively. I’m learning that I need to find ways to incorporate my convictions about social change into my work if I’m going to keep doing this the rest of my life. It’s not sustainable otherwise! What that will look like in the coming months and years, I don’t know, but I do know it will take regularly reevaluating the way I work and think, especially as a privileged white person. I think that when art comes from a place that isn’t predicated on white patriarchal power structures, it is beyond valuable. Now it’s a matter of finding more ways to break down those power structures, because they’re certainly still pervasive in this industry and it’s actively hurting creators who aren’t white, cis, wealthy, straight, male, etc.
Any advice you want to share with aspiring illustrators, cartoonists, or artists?
Keep a sketchbook, research artists you admire, make friends with other creative people, and take care of yourself. Also, remember that your worth is not based on your productivity! Your work and your mental health will suffer if you think that way–and believe me, society and Instagram will try to make you think that way (thanks, capitalism!!). So try to stay connected to why you like making things in the first place. That will be your lifeblood if you want to make a career out of this.