Arts Desk

Meet a Local Cartoonist: A Chat With Josh Lyman

Josh Lyman was a guest artist at this month’s Capicons convention, and was taking commissions (by drawing on blank comic covers) and chatting, all this in spite of a case of food poisoning. Lyman most often draws characters in a cartoony, shortened style, first made popular 55 years ago with Little Archie, and recently used by superhero publishers for Mini Marvels and DC’s Tiny Titans. This type of cartooning can undoubtedly be seen in the "super-deformed" or Chibi style of Japanese manga. Lyman has two books of his "Mini" sketches—Pocket Book of Minis and Pocket Book of Minis 2: Video Game Heroes.

Washington City Paper: What type of comic work or cartooning do you do?

Josh Lyman: My major styles of artwork are considered cartoon "mini" style, and a comic style, but I'm a big fan of the believing that an artist shouldn't be confined to one set style. People come to me for minis, but they also come to me to do sequential page work from every genre I've ever seen. To simplify, the more you can do, the more people will want to come to you to do pieces for them.

WCP: How do you do it? Traditional pen and ink, computer, or a combination?

JL: My personal method involves a combination of both traditional and digital techniques. We live in such a technological world that you can do stuff a lot quicker and easier digitally sometimes than just using a pen or pencil. Personally I prefer to keep my drawing abilities toned in the standard pencil, pen and paper...but I have to admit it’s a lot easier to scan an image I've drawn pencils for and print off a digitally modified piece to ink. Saves me time, and, cliché as it is, time is money.

WCP: When (within a decade is fine) and where were you born?

JL: I'm a 1986 kid born in Omaha, Neb., but my parents were military my entire I've gotten to live in some amazing places before they retired, including England and Okinawa, Japan. I'll tell you it definitely alters your way of thinking.

WCP: Why are you in Washington now?  What neighborhood or area do you live in?

JL: I moved up to the D.C. area after I graduated college in 2008, and honestly for the same reason most people move up here—to seek employment in my industry. So far so good, although I'm living in Springfield, Va., right now..I have a feeling I'll be moving closer to the city toward the end of the year.

WCP: What is your training and/or education in cartooning?

JL: My training, aside from my own personal practice and research, includes my degree. I achieved a Bachelor of fine arts in animation from Regent University, with a key focus in 3D animation/modeling. It’s odd I know, but these days, 3D computer animation, traditional art, and graphics are so intertwined it’s scary.

WCP: Who are your influences?

JL: My influences I guess can trace to many different fields. When I was a kid I led a rather sheltered life, so a lot of my major influences were rather "G-rated," including Garfield by Jim Davis, some Marvel and D.C. comics here and there, and classic films/cartoons that were guaranteed OK by the parentals. Plus living in England I didn't get to see a lot of what was going on in the States for the key period of the '90s...a lot of catching up right when I started to draw from the U.S. "culture."

WCP: If you could, what in your career would you do-over or change?

JL: Right now, not much...there are a couple of things here and there with costs and partnerships that I wish I had planned better, but to be honest half of this industry is learning from your experiences

WCP: What work are you best-known for?

JL: My most well-known works right now are in professional artist sketchcard series. I've done about five or six different series for 5finity Productions and Breygent Marketing, and they've all been a blast. Coming up with anywhere between 25-200 cards that are all original is a little tough, but it’s a challenge in itself.

WCP: What work are you most proud of?

JL: Hmm... my work that I'm most proud of? That's a tough one. I'd probably have to go with my first set of sketch cards I did... Voltron. It was a classic show from growing up, and I got it out of the blue. In a sense I'd have to say it was first paid 'comic' work published excluding independent commissions that I've never seen much from.

WCP: Can you explain why Marvel publishes comic books with no art on the cover, but just a plain white space with a logo? Traditionally, exciting cover art was supposed to sell the comic book to casual viewers so this seems counter-productive.

JL: An excellent question. A couple of years ago Marvel and DC came out with blank covers and the main appeal was that you could have an artist draw on the cover for you, and literally draw whatever you want. The great thing is that you can get some amazing art and preserve it, while making a "one-of-a-kind' collector’s item to preserve, but it also creates a good market for the comic rating guilds, the artists, and naturally some amazing gifts and pieces can evolve. I can see where you would think it would detrimental, but in a sense they limit it to certain issues, and they make sure they don't overdo it.

WCP: What would you like to do or work on in the future?

JL: I'd love to be working on a full run series for be honest there is a particular series I am in love with for the writing an unique style called Mice Templar by Image Comics. I have a piece which I've worked on for quite some time, and I'm currently doing everything in my power to work on it. I'll even work on it for free, it's that good. But other than that I think I wouldn't mind working on something for Marvel or DC should it ever arise.

WCP: What do you do when you're in a rut or have writer's block?

JL: My writers/artist block? I'll be happens when I least expect it, so the first thing I do is review what I was supposed to be working on, and then do some roughs. I may not get what I wanted done but sometimes a switch in what I'm working on is just what I need to get out of my rut. When that doesn't work, a good book and a cup of coffee will get me going from there.

WCP: What do you think will be the future of your field?

JL: I think that the future of my field will continue to expand to include all sorts of media markets. There are a lot of people who think that you can just learn one thing and be really good at it, but in truth you have to keep adding stuff to your arsenal of skills. If you aren't prepared, then it will hit you faster than you expect.

WCP: What's your most favorite thing about DC?

JL: My favorite thing about DC is that I can, at the drop of the hat, find all sorts of reference. Washington DC aside from being a historical city with all those pillars, statues, and monuments, is a cultural melting pot. I can take the red line to Chinatown on my way to the Smithsonian art galleries, snap a few pics or just observe. I love that I can actually just sit down and watch a group of people act one way in a corner in the city, and then take a couple stops over and it’s like I'm in a new world. Honestly my ideal day is sitting with a sketchbook at a local bookstore, or restaurant on a nice day, and just watch what happens with my thoughts to keep me company.

Now when I get my family or friends in town, it's an entirely different story. *chuckle*

WCP: What's your least favorite thing about D.C.?

JL: Traffic....completely traffic....on the highway, on the subway, everywhere.

WCP: What monument or museum do you take most out-of-town guests to?

JL: The Freer Gallery of Art. I love the collections of the different art styles and eras. Always fun...and less crowded.

WCP: Do you have a website or blog?

JL: I do have a couple of sites, and of course my Facebook group, which I am currently updating as much as possible. The Art Sites of Josh C. Lyman: and

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