Dawn McTeigue sits sketching at her booth in Artist Alley at the 2014 New York Comic Con clad in black and red and smiling every time someone inquires about her work. Around her hangs beautiful, gorgeously detailed prints of her art spanning the various comic realms and all filled with a highly illustrative and colorful vibe. It’s hard to believe that McTeigue has only been in the industry for just under four years with such extensive talent and a portfolio that ranges from work with Aspen to Zenescope to Eternity comics.
You’ve only been a comic book artist for a few years. What got you into the industry?
McTeigue: JP Roth. She’s a very good friend of mine, we knew each other as kids. She’s a writer, an author, actually. She had a few books that she was going to turn into comic books so she wrote me and said, “Hey would you consider doing [the art]?” and I was like No, I’m not really good enough, I can’t do comics. I had never done comics before, but she knew it was my dream so she didn’t let me give her “no.” She would not take “no” for an answer and the rest is history.
What have you worked on with JP Roth?
McTeigue: I worked with her on Ancient Dreams, and I also draw the interiors for Southern Nightgown and REM 8.
You draw both interiors and cover art for comics. Is there a difference in how you approach those two forms?
McTeigue: There is. I work very closely with JP Roth, so usually she has an idea in her mind when she’s writing as to [how to portray] which scene. In comic books there’s a lot happening in them, and sometimes it’s done in panels, and other times it���s a full page where it’s a scene that you’re drawing. JP prefers the fuller page images and so we work together [coordinating those]. Sometimes we’ll do panels and sometimes we don’t. But most of the time I’ll call her on the phone and be like for X page, what were you thinking? What did you have in mind? And she’ll describe it to me and I’ll take notes and lay out the pages.
You’ve also worked with Zenescope on their Alice in Wonderland inspired series. What led you to want to work with them?
Well JP did an authoring of that particular one [Return to Wonderland 2012 Annual]. So we worked together the way that we would normally. But there’s one character that we drew that now Zenescope has actually made into a character in the series [Violet Liddle, from Zenescope’s Wonderland and Wonderland Asylum series] with this particular outfit that we designed, which I’m really excited about! Claim to fame! [McTeigue pulls out the print of the original character design] And I put all 52 cards in the background because I’m crazy like that. [Laughs]
That’s great that you go into so much detail. What really made you want to become an artist to begin with?
I always drew as a kid. As a child that’s what I gravitated to. That’s what I did for fun; that’s where I had my alone moments. It was just doodles, the typical girly doodles. I drew a lot of teddy bears; I drew a lot of eyes; I drew a lot of princesses; and then I started getting into coloring pages for all of my girl friends. I was nine years old and my girl friends would be like “I want to be a rose petal princess.” So I’d make them a rose petal princess, fairy or whatever, and that would be their own personal commission. So I guess I started doing commissions when I was nine. I’ve always done that when they needed something; I’ve made a lot of Christmas cards and stuff like that. So that’s how I started, and ever since then I’ve always drawn.
Earlier you mentioned that you’ve always wanted to be a comic book artist. What first got you into the comic book world?
J. Scott Campbell. I got a hold of a Gen¹³ comic and it was love at first sight! I love his work so much. Then from J. Scott Campbell I became familiar with Aspen Comics and Michael Turner, again über fan! I went to San Diego [Comic Con] and stood in J. Scott Campbell’s line for a fair few hours, so I’ve done my time. Just seeing his work, the way that it pulls you into a fantasy land and the way that it’s colored, it is so gorgeous and I just want to live in that world. If all of us could be reborn as J. Scott Campbell characters I’d be so happy. [Laughs]
You have a tendency to draw really beautiful, powerful women. What led you in that direction?
That’s probably also from childhood when I always drew princesses and fairies. Then as I grew up and became more of a woman I drew more of the sexy side of it as opposed to the stuff that I did as a child. I love drawing fairies; I love drawing princesses and I would totally go the girly route as well, so for me it’s really fun to do any of them. I do want to draw more male characters because, for the most part, I’m new. I haven’t been drawing for very long and my confidence is not exactly fantastic, so it’s a confidence thing more than anything else. I’m trying to grow into it, like here I’m working on a dragon, so I’m trying to push myself right into other things, but it takes time. People will come up to me and be like You only draw women. Why are you only drawing women? It’s not something I’m intentionally doing; I guess it’s something I continue to grow in. I’m basically growing as an artist on stage, which is hard. I’m not experienced, I haven’t been doing this for very long, but I’m going to start drawing male characters and make some male prints. Also I’m a mom of three kids, so I don’t have much time, so I create prints that are covers or commissions, most of which are women, so that’s kind of what led to it all.
Do you have a favorite character to draw?
Harley Quinn…and Lady Death. I mean, I really love drawing Lady Death, and working for Brian [Pulido] has just been an experience better than anything. He’s an amazing editor and he really lets the artist do what they are inspired to do. He gives me direction, but he really let’s me go with things like drawing new outfits. I’ll just invent a new outfit every couple of minutes and he’s like That’s fine. Have fun. Scratch your personal itch. Oh and to go back on Harley, I love drawing Harley. I get asked to draw Harley all the time; it’s my favorite. One of these days I really hope I can actually draw a Harley cover, which would just be like heaven.
Do you have a favorite Harley costume that you like to work with?
To be honest, my favorite one right now is the Revenge Harley. It’s from [the video game Batman] Arkham City, and it’s in the game pack [Harley Quinn’s Revenge]. The story takes place after Joker dies and Harley goes into mourning. She’s in the same Arkham City outfit, but it’s all black and red, but very dark and her hair is black. And then she has a veil! I really want to cosplay that at some point once I get in shape. [Laughs]
Speaking of costumes, there’s a lot of people who have cosplayed or gotten tattoos of the characters and outfits you’ve designed. How do you feel about seeing your work in other places?
I love it. For me if someone’s going to take the work that I do and turn it into a piece of artwork on their body, it’s the hugest honor. It’s amazing; I’m almost thinking that I’d like to create a spot on my Deviant Art where I can put my high res pencils so that people can actually download them for the tattoo artist so it’s easier to start with line work because they can put in the shading themselves. So I’d like to do that to kind of help, because I’ve had people write me and say, “Oh would you mind if I made Harley [into a tattoo]?” For me it’s the biggest honor.
Clearly you really love the comic book characters you work with. What would you say is your favorite comic book to read?
I have one right now that I’m reading that I really enjoy called Blacksad. It’s all animals and it’s done by Darkhorse. I really enjoy that one. I also very much enjoy the Batman series. For now those are probably my two favorites. And then, of course, Danger Girl. Always Danger Girl. I know that book so well!
If you could collaborate with anyone on anything comic related, who would it be and what would you like to collaborate on?
Well, I’m very blessed because the two artists that I would give as my answer, I have already collaborated with. Of course, I’d love to be able to collaborate with them on more, but J. Scott Campbell and EBAS [Eric Basaldua] are my mentors, my favorite artists, and I’ve already been able to do connecting covers with them. So for me that’s just the greatest gift that they would draw with me. I’m a newbie, totally a newbie, especially compared to them, I’m way down there, and so that they would work with me is a huge honor.
Do you have any upcoming projects your fans should be on the look out for?
I’m working on my first art book, Womanly Wiles! It’s on its way to print right now. It’s a hardcover, 48-page book with a collection of covers and commissions that I’ve done over the past few years. I’m so excited! I really love tattoo style with a mixture of Victorian Gothic scripting, so when I commissioned this title from the amazing Peter Steigerwald of Aspen Comics to create this for me, I asked him to “think tattoo” and he made me this beautiful title. I’m very excited about this book!