Interview: Artist Erin Lefler Talks Animation, Inspiration and Love of Comic Books
If you haven’t seen Erin Lefler’s art, then you are truly missing out. She is an incredibly talented fan artist who has brought her art to many fan conventions and will be at ACE Comic Con Midwest in Chicago this October 11-13. I had the pleasure of speaking with Erin on the phone about her art, her inspirations, and what she gets nerdy about.
Nerds and Beyond: Can you introduce yourself and your art to our website?
Erin Lefler: Absolutely. My name is Erin Lefler. I am a character designer, concept artist, and illustrator from New York. I work for Lucasfilms right now doing merchandise art, and I also work for Netflix doing merchandise art.
Nerds and Beyond: Where and how did you get your start?
Erin Lefler: My start actually happened when I was very, very young. I had a great influence growing up with artistic friends and family who really put that love of art in me. I think the earliest I can recall ever saying I want to be an artist was when I was 11-years-old. I met an artist in Epcot at Disney World, where he just kinda told me “You have this gift. You should totally go for it, because you could end up doing what I’m doing now,” and I guess that was the moment where I was like, “This is where I gotta go. This is what I’ve got to do.”
Nerds and Beyond: Who or what inspires your work? Any artist inspirations or just in general what inspires you?
Erin Lefler: I have so many things that inspire me. I always tell people I get inspired by everything I ever see, the people that I meet. There’s so many artists that I love, especially on social media. There’s so many artists that aren’t on social media that I love. I grew up a huge fan of Mary Blair and her work, and use of color and of shades, and the retro kind of look to her style has just always been something that captured my imagination. As soon as I saw it, I wanted to try to do something like her when I grew up. And I absolutely love the sketch and fluidity of Glen Keane’s style. His style is absolutely incredible. All of his concept work was something that I would always study, because I wanted to do something like him when I got to the point where I was going to do it professionally. And there’s just so many people. Now I’ve made a lot of contacts on social media and fellow artists that I’ve become friends with and I’m like, “I wish I could be like all you guys, because you guys are just so cool!”
Nerds and Beyond: Are there any other mediums of art that you would like to try that you haven’t already?
Erin Lefler: You know what, that’s a good one, because there are a lot of mediums that I see people do that I would love to one day eventually try. I tried dipping myself into paper cutting one time, and quite frankly, it was terrifying. I ended up burning my finger and getting so many paper cuts, but I’d love to try it again eventually. But for right now, the whole ink, paint, and digital thing is more my speed.
Nerds and Beyond: Do you have any suggestions for artists who are struggling through creative blocks?
Erin Lefler: I always tell people I end up going through that a lot when I am being pushed on a deadline, or when I have multiple projects happening at a time. I think the best advice I can give is to take it at your own pace, because if you try to continually push your brain, that’s when you’re going to hit a creative block, and you’re not going to want to do it. So the whole thing is to pace yourself and go with what you feel at the moment. If you don’t feel it’s coming out, take a break, take a walk, just get a change of scenery, or do something different, so that way you’re not constantly trying to hit it and winding up making an art block.
Nerds and Beyond: The majority of your art is Disney and Marvel inspired. Are there any other movie or television projects you are interested in drawing?
Erin Lefler: I am a huge fan of comic books. I really loved the movie Shazam when it came out, so I love working with the characters from that. And I absolutely love these random fairy tale kind of movies, like Ella Enchanted. I loved that movie. I love working with stuff like that. I love things that have fantasy elements and everything, like Doctor Who has a lot of fantasy and sci-fi elements. I love working with the characters and the creatures on that show, because there are a lot, and they’re very expressive and a lot of fun to work with. I like working with things that seem larger than life.
Nerds and Beyond: What would your dream art project be of any medium, if you had unlimited time to focus on it?
Erin Lefler: If I had unlimited time in any medium, I think my dream project would be getting to character design an animated show about superheroes. If I got to do something with Marvel, or even do like an animated show like Shazam, that would be the dream project for me.
Nerds and Beyond: Do you have a different process when drawing original characters or people versus already established characters?
Erin Lefler:Yeah, because I tend to find that with characters that are already established and everything, that I know well from pop culture, I’m able to just get into it, and I can bang out a sketch within a couple seconds. When it comes to characters that I’m doing originally, or just even random sketches, I tend to take a lot more time with them, because I’m doing a lot of research with color schemes and everything, because it’s something where the creative process takes a longer time. It’s easier to draw things that already are there for us, and we already have references for. When you’re coming up with a character of your own, you kinda have to just let your imagination loose on it, and sometimes that imagination takes awhile to come up with something.
Nerds and Beyond: Of everything you have drawn and accomplished, which is your favorite character or person to draw?
Erin Lefler: I’d have to say it’s a bit of a tie between Captain Marvel and Rapunzel, because I love both of the characters very much, and I absolutely loved Brie Larson’s portrayal of Captain Marvel, so I adore getting to draw her character when I can. Rapunzel is my absolute favorite Disney character, and [Tangled] is my favorite movie, so I have so much fun drawing her when I’m able. As for people that I draw, I’d say my favorite to draw would have to be Zachary Levi and Pom Klementieff, because the two of them are absolutely just hilarious in some of the things that they do, and they’re very expressive people, so getting to draw those expressions really helped me improve my work, and I get a lot of enjoyment out of that.
Nerds and Beyond: Do you like to listen to music while you draw, and if so, what do you listen to?
Erin Lefler: I love listening to music when I draw. I actually make several playlists. Depending on what I am working on at that moment in time, I will make up a playlist specifically for it. So if I’m working on my licensed Lucasfilms work, I will listen to a playlist that Disney put out for Galaxy’s Edge, or I’ll listen to the instrumentals from the movie, and I try to come up with something that fits the mood of what I’m working with. So if I’m working with Marvel, I try to find songs that they use in the movies and listen to those. It really helps me get in the mindset of what I’m working with.
Nerds and Beyond: Do you have a favorite artist: a traditional artist or a famous artist?
Erin Lefler: Favorite artist I would have to say would be Ralph Kent. He was known as ‘The Keeper of the Mouse,” because for years he worked with the incoming artists at Disney Studios. He was Walt’s personal friend who taught everyone how to draw Mickey Mouse, and was actually the creator of the very first Mickey Mouse watch. I always found that incredible, and getting to talk to him and know the stuff about it was just absolutely, insanely awesome.
Nerds and Beyond: You will be at ACE Comic Con in Chicago in October. What do you like most about the comic conventions?
Erin Lefler: What I love most about the comic conventions, besides getting to meet those who are apart of these amazing movies and cinematic universes, is getting to see all the people there that either have followed along with my work or are seeing it for the first time. I love getting to see the reactions on people’s faces. I try to put an emotional element where you can really grab on and attach to the image that I’m creating, so getting to see those reactions in real time and seeing it on these people’s faces is absolutely one of the most rewarding things for me.
Nerds and Beyond: Do you have any specific favorite memory from a past convention that you would like to share?
Erin Lefler: It’s a bit of a tie, because at the last ACE Comic Con, I had my very first panel that I’ve ever done, and I was so nervous that I ended up tripping going onto the stage. But it ended up going very well besides the trip. I always tell everyone I’m a very clumsy person, so I was counting on doing something like that. But I got to know the two girls that I was up on stage with very well, and they were both so sweet and so supportive. I wasn’t the only one, fortunately. One of the other artists I was with, it was her first time as well, so it was really nice not being alone in that aspect of it, and getting to know them as well, because they’re both incredible artists. And then my other one would have to be when I gave Elizabeth Olsen one of my limited Marvel bags. It’s probably one of my most popular pieces at this point, and she got so excited that she goes, “Can I take a picture with it?” and I was like, “Okay, sure!”
Nerds and Beyond: Since this is a nerd website, what do you nerd out about?
Erin Lefler: Oh that’s a hard one. I always tell everyone that I’m like kind of like this weird mix that half the time I’m superhero crazed, and the other half of the time, I’m totally Disney obsessed, so it depends on what mood you get me in. But anything that has to do with comic books and superheroes and the movies that they come out with based on them, I can go off on tangents telling you where they did and didn’t incorporate things from the comic books to movies, because I love comic books so much. So anything comic book related, or Disney related, or anything related to animation I’m always going to nerd out about, and I could talk about for ages.
Nerds and Beyond: Who is your favorite superhero?
Erin Lefler: Captain Marvel by far.
Nerds and Beyond: And do you have any favorite television shows right now?
Erin Lefler: I’d have to say I very much like the reboot of DuckTales. I grew up watching the original DuckTales, and so I wasn’t sure if I was going to like it, but I actually ended up loving it so much. You can’t go wrong with David Tennant as Scrooge McDuck. I love Doctor Who, especially the past season with Jodie Whittaker as the Doctor. She has done an absolutely incredible job, and has brought life back into Doctor Who. I was surprised that I loved it so much when I saw it. Other than that, not really any other TV shows. I’m more of a movie person myself.
If you are coming to ACE Comic Con Midwest in October, be sure to check out Erin’s panel and her booth! You won’t be disappointed.