By Marty Mulrooney
Following on from AMO’s recent review of Mad Men: The Illustrated World, we caught up with illustrator and comedienne Dyna Moe to discuss the book and all things Mad Men in an exclusive interview!
Hello Dyna Moe! Thank you for your time and welcome to AMO. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself please?
I am 5’6 and I live in New York City.
How did you originally get involved with creating Mad Men illustrations?
I know Rich Sommer (“Harry Crane”) from the improv comedy scene around the UCB Theatre in New York. He was cast on the show and moved to Los Angeles. I was working a very dull freelance job in, ironically, an advertising agency and I wrote him an email telling him how much I enjoyed the show (then in its first season) and he asked me to help him put together a Christmas card to his cast mates. I was very underused at this job with nothing but Photoshop and Illustrator on my work computer, so I spent three months on it.
You were later hired by AMC to design madmenyourself.com. Can you tell us more about the website and how you approached it?
Matt Weiner, creator of Mad Men, enjoyed the Christmas card and the other illustrations I had put online very much. He told AMC he wanted me involved in the promotions for the third season. AMC’s web agency wanted to do a version of what had been done to promote the Simpsons Movie the summer before. I was brought in, shown a PowerPoint, and told to send in a couple hundred face-parts and clothes for them to put together. They were figuring it out as they went along.
What appeals to you about the show?
The aesthetic of the era is appealing… to everyone, it seems. Also, Rich Sommer is on it.
How would you describe the art style used for your Mad Men illustrations?
The reference point I was starting from was advertising art from the mid 50’s up until the early 60’s. It also shows up in children’s books as well. Minimal, flattened and angular with textured washes of colour rather than an attempt at making it dimensional. I’m inspired by and poorly emulating illustrators Aurelius Battaglia, Alice & Martin Provensen, Art Seiden and J. P. Miller (among others).
Are your illustrations done by hand or digitally?
Digitally, but until computers are able to be operated entirely by mind sensors, my hand is moving the mouse.
Who inspires you creatively?
My landlord and his constant demands for rent. It really pushes me to get creative with finding employment.
You also make comedic Internet videos! Can you tell us more about these?
I’ve been a regular performer and teacher at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre for a dozen years, doing comedy in all variety of media. When Internet videos became “the thing,” I started putting together series and then opportunist companies licensed them or hired me to make more. All of those companies have folded now, but one series I created (with Mitch Magee) was on HBO this year. With the exception of the HBO ones, you can watch them on my website.
Your book, Man Men: The Illustrated World was recently released. Can you tell us more about this?
It’s around 100 pages: full colour pictures, activities to cut out, recipes, and half-true information about the history and culture of the Mad Men era. It came out in October 2010 in the states and Christmas time in the UK, Canada and Australia. It was a very popular gift, as it was designed to be, and got into the Amazon top 10 for TV books. The German edition is coming out shortly.
Does the book use a lot of your online drawings or is it mostly new material?
I would have been greatly relieved if they wanted to collect existing drawings, but it’s mostly new. 85% new, I will state entirely based on no evidence. It also has words in it that I wrote.
What can fans of the show expect from the book?
It doesn’t weigh very much, but it is about 9″ x 12″ so make sure you have a bag that size or larger to carry it around in.
How much research was involved?
The whole book had to be done in two and a half months, so research was limited to what was easy and handy. I wouldn’t recommend basing a PhD on it. All of the recipes were pulled from primary period resources by a former history PhD candidate who was assisting me. They are frighteningly authentic in their inedibility.
Do you plan to do any drawings for Season 4, or future seasons?
Season 4 started airing the US the same time I was in the later stages of drawing the book, so there was no way I had the focus to watch the season much less draw it… At the end of last year, Matt Weiner asked me to illustrate his annual holiday gift to the cast and crew – a calendar with scenes from that season for every month. So, in two weeks I very quickly watched the entire season and drew 14 scenes from the show for him, which are currently on my Flickr. Beyond that, I’m at the disposal of the show if they want to employ me.
Which Mad Men character is your favourite to draw and why?
I used to say Paul Kinsey, but he got axed. I should keep my mouth shut on any other characters I like lest they also find themselves out of work.
Would you ever consider doing something similar for a different TV show?
Considering how litigious and unpleasant most TV production company lawyers are, I’d wait for a cast member to send me a gilded invitation before trying it.
Do you have a favourite Mad Men episode?
I like the first season episode where Paul shows Peggy around the office while giving a rattling self-important monologue and then tries to screw her on his desk.
What is next for you Dyna?
I have a new site which is just experiencing the lull that comes after a boom of viral attention: http://hipster-animals.tumblr.com/
Thank you for your time! I thoroughly enjoyed Mad Men: The Illustrated World and it has been a pleasure speaking with you!