Travis Millard is an example of an artist whose success depends on him being himself. His cartoons have been featured in Spin Magazine, Transworld, and gracing the covers of numerous albums. He’s done a number of tour posters for bands like Primus as well as for the 2012 Fuck Yeah Fest. We met up with him in his home in Los Angeles, that he just so happens to share with one of our favorite artists Mel Kadel, to find out more about his style, inspirations and how he managed to launch his career as a cartoon illustrator.
“I’m not a traditional comic artist,” he explained, showing us a zine he had put together in his spare time. Millard had made the illustrations based on a story his mom had written when she was 8, and it was painted with a sentimentality that complimented the naïve simplicity of his mother’s words. He’d added a twist to the people his mother had described, adding gay and lesbian characters to the mix. After asking him if they were based on real people, he explained that he rarely relies on any one person to specifically base his characters but pulls from, “all the muppets I soak up from out there in life.” We asked him where he starts when coming up with new characters.
“When I start drawing a figure, I always start with the eye. It’s something I’ve always done. I didn’t even realize it until my dad pointed it out. I was sketching something back home on the kitchen table and he was like, ‘You still start with the eye, every time.’ I guess eyes are something I’ve always been into because they’re the windows into the person. Hands are also really important to me. They’re something I see a lot of people slide on because they’re so hard to draw.”
He had just completed the cover art for Dinosaur Jr.’s new album, and it was clear he was thrilled to have had the opportunity to work with them. “I’m really excited about that one,” he told us enthusiastically. “It’s a great record and I’ve been a fan of them for a long time.”
Millard has never been to a Comic Con, which seemed strange to Kalvin and I (even though neither of us had been to one either - however, we decided that if we were to go to a Comic Con, we’d go as Robin and Robin - yep, two Robin’s). Millard explained that he isn’t trying to avoid Comic Con, “It’s mostly because I never hear about them until they pass.” It stood to reason that Millard must have been a comic book fan, so we asked him if there were anything in particular he’d grown up geeking out on.
“Mostly Mad Magazine. It was funny with bit segments throughout the whole thing. I had a pretty big Mad collection. I was less into super hero comics. There was some stuff Frank Miller made for Dark Horse that I liked, Hardboiled, but they’re more like violent raw comics. One comic that I’ve really been into is Johnny Ryan’s Prison Pit series. It’s fucking awesome! Really violent, super funny, raw but with a level of simplicity.”
There are a million artists and comic fans that would love to get into illustration, but like most art forms, only a handful had the drive and ability to actually make it happen. When did Millard decide that this was going to be his job?
“I was very close to dropping out. I was doing illustration and graphic design, and was really bad at working on the computer. I was spending all my time just doing terrible design stuff and I wasn’t really drawing, but then I found printmaking and my teacher and friend Michael Kruger. I remember one time Michael was like, ‘I know you’re into your graphics and illustration, but have you ever thought about just being an artist?”
We asked him what that meant to him at the time.
“I had no idea what that meant. It was like, ‘What are you talking about?’ But I ended up dropping graphic design and started sinking into printmaking. Around that time I saw Joe Soreian speak, and he was fucking awesome! He was some total regular dude that I thought could be me in ten years. His work wasn’t exactly the kind of stuff that I would make but it looked like he was having a lot of fun doing it. It seemed like he was just doing what he does best, what is his natural thing. So I went up to talk to him afterwards, we ended up going and having a beer. After that, I decided I wanted to be an illustrator… whatever that meant.”
What was the next step?
“I was 23 or 24 at the time, sending stuff out around the time I was making zines and things, and suddenly the The Get Up Kids asked me to do their album cover. I then ended up doing a comic for this magazine called Bunny Hop. An editor at Spin saw that, got in touch and asked if I’d do the last page for them. After three issues in, I decided to move to New York because it was paying enough money that I could afford some sort of rent there. It all snowballed from there.”
What’s in a name? Since he’d decided to operate under the name Fudge Factory Comics, we decided to ask him where it came from.
“When I was living in Kansas, I was doing different comics for a free paper, and every time they were under a different title. One of them was called Good Gravy, and another one was called Fudge Factory. I started making zines under the name Fudge Factory because it seemed like a good one, like a factory where crazy shit was going on when really it was a vehicle to get my drawings out of my sketchbook and share them with people. And then my friend Brock was urging me to get a website and I looked up what was available on the Internet. I looked up Good Gravy and it was all food sites, and then I looked up Fudge Factory and it was all porn and candy. I figured, well, if I’m trying to do comics, I guess it’s somewhere between those two.”
Well, as much as that might not make any sense at all - maybe it does? We had to take Travis’ word for it. If we could say anything about Travis from the few hours we had with him, it would be that he is an artist who is built and inspired by the world around him. He takes the average day-in-the-life moments and makes them worth staring at for hours on end. Plus, to top it all off, Travis is just a cool dude — a really cool dude.
Photos By: Koury Angelo
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