Artist Interview: Michael Balistreri

Originally posted on

Michael Balistreri Self Portrait

Tell us about yourself and your art.:
I’ve been drawing all my life and self publishing comics since high school. I tend to lean towards a graphic style and like to incorporate dark humor.

What inspired you and your art style?
All the cartoons, comic strips and comic books I grew up with, and a love for showing the beauty of the mundane. I continue to be inspired daily by all the pop culture I absorb.

Do you have any unusual drawing habits?
I can draw in a variety of styles and regularly go back and forth between traditional and digital art.

What artists have influenced you?
Mike Mignola, Bill Watterson, Rob Schrab, Sam Kieth, Todd McFarlane, Dave Gibbons, Bob Camp, and Steve Ditko, amongst many.

Do you have any advice for new artists?
Draw a lot, and don’t get too hung up on what you’ve drawn. Just finish it and move on to the next one and you’ll keep getting better. Dwelling on past work leads to self doubt and artist block.

What do you think makes a good illustrator/designer?
Someone who has interesting way of looking at the world, and the ability to share that vision with others.

What is the best advice you have ever heard?
Force yourself to keep a schedule that keeps you drawing regularly without getting burnt out.

What are you reading now?
Dr. Sleep by Stephen King and rereading my Hellboy collection

What’s your biggest weakness?
Sometimes settings can be difficult when trying to create them from scratch. I work better with reference photos.

What is your favorite book of all time?
Probably my signed copy of Ultimate Watchmen. Watchmen is great on its own, but reading it in large print with hardback and bonus material is the way to go. Plus I got Dave Gibbons to sketch in it and sign it at a comic book show we both worked.

How well do you work under pressure?
Very well. Sometimes pressure is a great motivator.

Why did you become a graphic designer/illustrator?
Because I love it. It’s what I wanted to do when I was a little kid. I’d watch a cartoon or read a comic in the newspaper and think “I want to entertain people just like that.” Even though I’ve had a lot of other jobs throughout my life I’ve always returned to art.

What are you working on now?
I’m doing a 365 day challenge where I complete at least one drawing every day this year. I’m also working on the second issue of a comic book called Paranormal Pinkerton, drawing my webomic Optimistically Cynical, and working with a writer on revamping an old comic strip called I’m Famous! and a graphic novel sequel to Black Snow: Two Drink Minimum. Plus some commission work. So I’m keeping busy.

What is your method for promoting your work?
I’ve never been great at this. Mostly word of mouth. Sometimes participating in events and contests. And appearing at comic conventions.

What has been your most successful graphic design project? Why?
Probably my graphic novel Black Snow: Two Drink Minimum. It got some funding from Kickstarter and some publicity from the Washington Post. I put a lot of time and effort into it and it took a long time to complete, so it had some time to gain a following. And I made sure I regularly gave people updates on the progress. Then when it was done I sold it online and in person at conventions, and sent out a few review copies to help get the word out.

What’s next for you as an artist?
I’m always trying to improve. One of my next goals is to get a drawing tablet that will allow me to digitally draw on a screen. I’ve really been increasing my drawing output and taking on more commission projects, and I plan to keep that up. I also start appearing at conventions again soon, as I’ve taking a couple years off from that.