Aspiring-Artist.com_Interview_MikeDebalfo Squirrelshaver_Cover_Image
Mike Debalfo, aka. Squirrelshaver, known for his juicy squirrels!

Artist: Mike DeBalfo


You found a lottery ticket some millions of worth!

I would buy a bunch of puppies, a Lamborghini and Kung Fu lessons for a chimpanzee.

Might buy a Snickers bar if there’s anything left over. With my luck I’d probably get mugged immediately after finding it the lotto ticket and I’d just go home and be sad.

Teach me something I don’t know in the next five minutes!

To clean your sinks’ garbage disposal, put a couple handfuls of ice inside of it and run the disposal for a few seconds without any water. That’s will the disposal clean and clear up any unpleasant smells that coming from it.

You woke up and find 2000 unread mails and you can only answer 100!

I’d base my choices on who has the most attractive names.

What do you think about when you're alone in your car?

How cool it would be if I found a million dollars and bought a Lamborghini to be driving in, instead of the SUV that I currently have.

What is your artist background?

It’s something that was sort of planned but I wasn’t always certain about what I wanted to do.

I always knew that I could draw, and as a young kid I loved cartoons more than most kids I knew and aspired to be an animator for a long time.

In my teenage years I remember each student in my class visiting with the high school’s guidance counselors about plans for college and to discuss things that we could do at that time to condition ourselves for our future career goals. Other kids were saying things like, “I want to be a lawyer” or “I want to be a teacher” and “I want to be a pharmacist”. The counselors would almost effortlessly give useful advise on classes these students could pursue and other things those students take into account to prepare themselves for those career options.

I told the counselor that I wanted to be an animator, and I remember that there was this long pause of silence as she looked at me not knowing the first thing to suggest as preparation for such a career.
She was a very nice lady, and I didn’t mean to throw her through a loop, but I learned that day that I wasn’t on a conventional path. This was before the Internet is what it is these days, so I struck out on my own after that learned what I could through word of mouth.

After graduation I attended a vocational school for a year where I learned computer animation because that was the animation wave of the future, but it didn’t like it all that much. I felt a large disconnect from traditional hand-drawn art to the digital platform. It’s around that time that I decided to give comic book illustration a solid shot and a few months later enrolled at The Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art where I studied illustration for two years.

What are you known for?

Drawing really nice boobs probably. Lol. Drawing girls in general, but I get a lot of compliments on how I draw girls’ faces.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

First I’d tall myself to learn how to read.

Art-wise, I’d tell myself to stop referencing human anatomy from comic book art.

I struggled with anatomy for a long time because I would rely on comic book art to learn how to draw it. That created a lot of bad habits for myself that had to be unlearned. I’d tell myself to learn how to draw more from reality.

What inspires you? What are your biggest influences?

For a long time it’s been music that I listen to more than visual arts.
Inspiration used to often come from movies, and I still pull influence from illustrators, but not the same way that I do music.

The right song or album can really have a strong influence on my performance as an illustrator while I’m working.
There is still a sense of escapism for me when I’m drawing, and there’s always at least a small degree of emotional investment applied to my art, so if I find myself getting emotionally invested in a good good album, and I’m rocking out to it, I can find myself channeling some of that energy onto paper.

I feel like it’s a more honest method of creation for myself rather than trying to emulate someone else’s work.

What is your way to start an artists day?

On a perfect day I like to be awake by 6:30am.

Then I start pounding cups of coffee. Lol!

I used to sleep in late because I’ve never been a morning person, but I like getting more hours out of my day now so I wake up earlier than I really have to.

I work from my home so after I drop my kids off at school I come home and spend maybe an hour on correspondence before getting to the drawing board.

Getting to the desk is sometimes the hardest task though so a daily routine is imperative. I always listen to music when I draw. The type of music depends on my mood, but generally it’s rock music and even more generally it’s heavy metal. I like the fast rhythms and it seems to ground me and help me focus. Apparently I’m an angry person. Lol.

What elements of art are you enjoying the most? And why?

I’ve always liked pencil and paper the most. I’ve experimented with so many types of mediums that I can’t even count how many there have been but traditional drawing is satisfying to me like nothing else. I think that I like the challenge of it.

It can be difficult imagining up rendering techniques or even line structure in simple black line work that represent full color three-dimensional objects effectively. I enjoy that process of creation. Characterturizing everything from people to foliage.

How do you know when a work is finished?

(I’ve heard that almost no artist is 100% satisfied with his artwork at the end. But where is the point when you say: “OK, it’s enough, I’ll pass it on!”)

I believe that’s true. No artist is ever satisfied with their work.

What are the 5 most important things for an aspiring artist?

  • Never give up even when the process becomes frustrating.
  • Hold yourself to high and aspirations but try not to compare your work to your idols.
  • Every professional artist sucked at drawing at some point in their lives. You’ll get better but only if you practice.
  • Practice more often than you do.
  • Get your sisters into reading American comics because the industry it’s a total sausage fest.

No pain no gain. Studying and taking art seriously can be painful and frustrating and even dull at times. I’ve wanted to quit a million times before I even made it anywhere.

It’s important to know that if you you really want it you have to work for it and the pain is just making you a stronger artist.

What kind of pencils (wooden, mechanical, etc.), Paper or other tools are you using?

I use a little of each.
A lot of which one I use depends on how I feel at the time.
I find that you can never go wrong with a classic though; a wooden pencil works well for every task.

I do use French curves, yes. Normally my line work is digitally colored right over traditional pencils so getting and keeping the line as clean and clear as possible can benefits the clarity of the finished pencils as well as helps the colorist quite a bit in their process.

Erasers. I have a ton of different types of erasers. Block erasers, kneaded erasers, stick erasers. I even have this little knitted sack-thing that’s full of eraser shavings that I can scrub my paper with to lighten, but not completely erase, large areas of positive space in my drawings.
Sometimes it feels like I spend more time erasing than actually drawing. Lol.

Shape templates. Various sizes of ellipses mostly. Again, to help keep the line work clean and to help in clarifying visual information to my colorist. Shapes matter!

Are there any artistical books you can suggest to learn how to draw?

I’m a fan of any type of class available that teaches drawing.
Whether online or in person.

Anatomy books. There are some good anatomy tutorials online but I still prefer physical books. Plus it’s cool to have a boss looking library. Lol

I believe that having your work open to advise and critique is hugely beneficial. For how-to books, I really like;
Framed Ink by Marcos Mateu-Mestre.
Vanishing Point by Cheesman & Meyer.
The Human Figure by David K. Rubins.


Follow Mike DeBalfo!

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P.S.: Artwork was colored by Nei Ruffino aka. Toolkitten

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