Welcome to a new Featured Artist Friday! Today we’re looking at the work of Andrew Lytle, a game artist and the artist behind the comic “Tokai.”

I first met him at Swarm Con back in April this year, and I finally got the chance to ask him some questions…

tokai comic by andrew lytle
Page 16 of “Tokai.” (click to enlarge)

I saw that you are former military, and that there are some military themes in Tokai, your comic. Did your time in the military influence your art? In what ways?

Very much so, I was born into a military family. In addition to myself, my father and my sister are all war veterans. So the American military was a major facet in my life growing up. My earliest memories as a child include wearing my father’s uniform complete with loadbearing equipment and his oversized helmet. Though I was fascinated by the military life that I was brought up in, I never had a burning desire to become a solider like my father. I probably would have never gone to the army in the first place if wasn’t for the events of 9-11, As for many people nothing would be same after that day, and I felt an obligation, to at the very least join the National Guard to serve my country in its time of need.

I actually started drawing late in life around age 15, mostly on inspiration from cartoon network and anime. For a while I ruminated over the idea of becoming an animator, however September 11, a poor showing at an art school portfolio review and pressure to pursue a well-paying job nixed those early dreams. Regrettably I even abandoned drawing for brief time as I pursued a military career, going through basic training, and attending ROTC in college. I gradually got reacquainted with drawing through art electives at school and made the determination to further my education by attending the Savannah College of Art and Design by pursuing masters. While I’m proud of my service, I consider the military a chapter in my life that is closed. I consider my art as a completely different branch from my experience with my work on “Tokai” being a bit of an exception. Tokai, is in part, a parody of my own life, set in the fictitious world rife with modern socio-political troubles, the story of a misfit navigating through life and trying to make a troubled world a better place.

page 9 tokai comic by andrew lytle
Page 9 of “Tokai” (click to enlarge).

There are also some really cool cultural nods and influences in your comic characters. What cultures interest you and make you want to draw them?

The War on Terror and the recent history in the Middle East provide important source material from which I build the world of “Tokai” around. I use a mixture of both western and eastern cultures to inform my characters, names, and costumes to help create a fantasy world from real world origins. My aim is to show that culture is often misunderstood, and that it does not define who individuals truly are. I believe that people are much more than their background or way of life suggests. The history of cultures is what fascinates me the most and how groups evolve and adapt overtime also serves as inspiration for Tokai. I see my drawing more as a conduit for my stories and ideas rather than an on-point rendering of the physical world.

andrew lytle art
“Oh Deer God.” (click to enlarge)

Do you draw exclusively anthropomorphic characters, or do you draw other subjects? Which ones hold your interest more?

Admittedly I have a deep-seated passion for anthropomorphic characters; I grew up with many beautifully animated movies and television programs notably produced by the likes of the Disney Corporation and Don Bluth who often used anthropomorphic characters so I’ll blame them for polluting my mind with talking animals and objects. My current sampling of my inspirations for anthropomorphic art are Amblin Entertainment’s “Balto”, Art Speigelman’s “Maus” books, Herman Von Veen’s “Alfred J Kwek”, Jaun Diaz Canale and Juanjo Guarnido’s “Black Sad” series, Suiho Tagawa’s “Norakuro” , and Mitsuyo Seo’s propaganda film “ Momotaro’s Divine Sea Warriors”. These works really inspired the coupling of real world/ historical fiction with anthropomorphic characters. It’s a goal of mine to portray an engaging narrative using anthropomorphic characters as metaphors for the human condition. I feel these types of characters urge readers to find the human qualities within the narrative; allowing readers to step back from preconceptions of what it means to be human regardless of ones abilities, upbringing, creed or race. For me anthropomorphic characters offer a neutral platform from which one can explore, in an artistic sense, the sum of our experiences and trials that give shape to our individuality.

andrew lytle art

Do you have any other projects in the works right now? And are you able to talk about them a little bit?

In addition to my comic work I am working as an 2D Artist for Forever Interactive’s Visions of Zosimos an online MMORPG that I’m excited to say will be released this Summer and will be free to play. You can visit the site here. I’ve worked on props, card artwork, and tutorial pages for the game.

visions of zosimos art by andrew lytle
Art from “Visions of Zosimos.”

And just for fun, what are your favorite comics/webcomics?

I have a list that keeps on growing, Jeff Smith’s “Bone”, Action Lab’s “ Hero Cats of Stellar City”, Jen Lee’s “ThunderPaw”, Tracy Butler’s “Lackidaisy Cats”, Keenan Marshall and Tom Neely’s “The Human’s”, Chris Schweitzer’s Coragan Series, Ngozi Ukazu “Check Please”, Gale Williams “Patbird and Galesaur”, Collin Bryd’s “The Crimson Fly” , and many, many others.

Thank you Andrew for your answers!

To check out more of Andrew Lytle’s work, or read “Tokai,” go to his website. He’s also on Tumblr and Twitter.

Thank you for reading!

You. Are. Awesome.