John Mike Lu is a freelance illustrator and keeps a day job in their family business. Some of his works include Super Devos under OMF Literature and Cadre Classified by Polyhedron Comics. You can visit his Deviant Art page here for inquiries, rates and commissioned work.
1. Do you have any special techniques or unique habits as an illustrator?
I often draw my pieces, especially color pin-ups, in vector form—with an animation coloring style, using the least amount of line as possible. Also when drawing line art, I prefer to put details and textures on the backgrounds. And when drawing clothes, I always put the seam lines or any little details needed because I don’t want to make the clothes look flat for some reason.
2. Most of your illustrations are women and drawn in manga-style. Is there a particular reason for this?
I guess the reason why I mostly draw women is that I like to draw cute and beautiful subjects compared to strong manly testosterone type of characters. Though I still draw men sometimes but not always. I started drawing in ‘Manga’ style since Voltes V, then Dragon Ball Z and when a lot of anime came out. I guess I got attracted to their art because the comic books and cartoons from the East express emotion and action more clearly and more exciting than their Western counterpart.
In the past, the only artists I knew were Jim Lee, Todd Mcfarlane and Rob Liefeld. I wasn’t that knowledgable with other great artists until college. But recently American cartoon and comic styles are now evolving and more art styles are coming out which is very refreshing. So right now, I’m trying to mix both East and West to define my own art style.
3. Describe your experience in illustrating/coloring Cadre for Polyhedron Comics.
Cadre is created by Emil Flores and mainly drawn by Ron Escultura. I did a short story in their book titled ‘Cadre Classified’. I just sometimes help with some minor stuff like inking or putting tones. Cadre is an espionage story of an NBI agent named Ganigan set in the Philippines. The experience in making a comic book as a beginner is scary and exciting at the same time. Exciting because it’s your first book and people are going to see your work. Scary because of a deadline looming over you and people might not like the end result.
Soon, I’m planning to have my own book called ‘Dr. Sally Grimmore’. I’m writing the story now and hopefully I’ll have it finished before the end of the year.
4. Let’s talk about apps and gadgets. Can you give us a rundown of your artistic tools and how you use them?
In my computer, I use Adobe Photoshop 4 for coloring. I still do my vector works using a mouse. Right now, I started practicing using a pen tablet and still can’t get the hang of it. Aside from the PC, I use my clutch pencil for sketching and a mechanical pencil (0.5 B) to add some detail and finalize my pencil art. I can use any brand of drawing pens (often use Uni Brand pen) especially 0.1, 0.3 and 0.5 tips for inking. I sometimes use colored pencils and markers for sketching or if I’m in the mood to color them manually.
Sketching and conceptualization
Coloring and finalization in Photoshop
5. What is your favorite food when working?
Before when I was burning midnight oil, I’d often eat Pringles or Ruffles Potato Chips Natural Flavor to keep things moving and keep me awake. But since I’ve changed to a healthy lifestyle, I just drink a cup of dark chocolate and eat some crackers or nuts.
6. Who are your Top 3 artists/influences and why do you admire them?
This is hard. There are so many artists that I admire and influence my style. I’ll give you my Top 3 from the West and Top 3 from the East then.
Kosuke Fujishima – For his grace and beauty art style and he draw detailed clothes, motorcycles and other machineries.
Range Murata – For his energetic and cute characters and his clothes and gear designs.
Takehito Harada – Cute and dynamic characters and I love the way he uses pastel colors.
Artworks of Fujishima, Murata and Harada
Arthur Adams – I recently started loving this artist for how he draws details and texture.
Humberto Ramos – A good example of mixing Eastern and Western style. I love the cartoony style of his work.
Mike Mignola – Inspired by his creature designs and how he uses shadows.
Artwork of Adams, Ramos and Mignola
7. What advice can you give to an artist who’s starting out?
Well, I also see myself as an artist who’s starting out because I don’t have much of what you call ‘artistic accomplishment’. But I can advice them to never stop drawing. And listen to critics—but you don’t have to follow every suggestion. Just pick the ones you think will help improve you as an artist. And expose yourself to a lot of other styles, both West and East. Don’t stick to a one-track style, there’s always room for your work to evolve. And don’t forget that no matter what style or form you’re drawing, as long as you can make your characters and their surroundings ‘alive’, that’s the important thing.