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Monday, December 23, 2013

Little Wolf & The Animal Battle: An Interview with Maryanna Hoggatt


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I first discovered Maryanna Hoggatt through her work on Animal Battle—a delightful series of animals dressed in elaborate forest garb and carrying wooden swords. They reminded me of all the fantasy books and stories I read as a child. I was immediately a fan, so I asked her to create a poster for WeMake Celebrates with the challenge of using just three colors (that we chose) to be silkscreened in collection with nine other participating artists. She didn't miss a beat and over the next few weeks we watched her process unfold through Instagram posts (see: LeetleWolf). For someone who had never silkscreened her art before, Maryanna created an awesome print. It was then that I wanted to know the story behind Little Wolf and her fantastical Animal Battle series. 

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Maryanna Hoggatt was born in the Philippines, raised in the dusty deserts of Arizona, and moved to the lush forests of Portland, Oregon in 2007. She created her own self-published comic mini-series, and regularly shows new work in galleries. Her clients include Willamette Week, Nike, Skullcandy, Microsoft, and Redbull, to name a few.
When we met for this interview, Maryanna was just back from Paris where she celebrated her honeymoon after eloping with her new husband Jake Hollomon, a designer at the agency Roundhouse.

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In Maryanna's Studio
YPE Lets talk about your series. Looking at your work, I am amazed by the level of detail and intricate scenarios woven into each of your characters. It seems that storytelling has been a huge part of it, starting with the Adult Babysitting comic series, and now with Animal Battle. Can you tell me how this latest series came about? 
MH When I started Adult Babysitting I was working as a bartender. The inspiration for the stories came from the bar's log book.

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Everybody has their stories and it was a release for me. A natural extension of what I was doing with my everyday life.
The funny thing was, when I quit bartending I kind of stopped cartooning. I think it was because I had more time to do my art. 
I had fun doing the comics. It was more of a labor of love for me, there wasn't a lot of money in it. Now I feel such a strong disconnect from that project because what I'm doing currently is so different. 
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Animal Battle
MH When I  got the idea for Animal Battle I was exhibiting Adult Babysitting at a comic convention. While sitting in my booth, I did a series of animal drawings that were all very violent—heads on spears and bloody axes, but in this cutesy cartoon style. 
At the time I really liked the concept, and decided to pursue it later in a different direction. Working within the themes of sex and violence is easy, but I wanted to challenge myself and do something that wasn't so automatically embraced. I wanted to think about the idea of Animal Battle a little longer, and make it more of a sophisticated concept, and I didn't want to do violent work.
A year later I quit my job and started working on the animals. I decided to paint them and then I set up a series of rules.
1. No violence.
2. All the materials had to be natural.
3. I had to have a reason for everything. Why are they fighting? Who are they fighting for? What are their army colors? Where do they live? What do their costumes look like and why are they like that?  

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I developed the narrative over two months because I had my first solo show as a member of the Pony Club Gallery. After producing the work, I started posting them on Instagram and the response was huge. When I had the opening, parents and kids approached me telling me how much they loved the series. I knew then I was doing something in the right direction.

YPE Is there one side against the other in this animal battle? What do the animals represent?
MH From the beginning I decided there was going to be two armies. One is the "Hearts and Stars" and they represent passion, courage and imagination. The other is the "Eyes and Hands" and they represent physical tools. The battle is actually in our minds. It's a symbolic battle of physical tools vs. mental tools. 
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The armies aren't actually fighting each other.  When they come together and collide they create the good guys, which are thoughts and ideas. They fight the real enemy—fear and doubt. It's an animal characterization of all the thoughts and ideas within our heads battling ourselves with our own fears and doubts. 
I'm still in the middle of developing Animal Battle. There is a whole world I have yet to explore. 

YPE So when is the children's book coming out? It sounds like a perfect platform.
MH That is a good question. I'm really good at visual storytelling, but not so great at writing a story. If it came out it would probably just be a picture book or a collection of the artwork. I would love to see it animated though.
Animal Battle Series Time Lapse to promote her solo show at The Pony Club Gallery.

YPE You mentioned that you really didn't sketch your thoughts out first, but obviously you had these ideas. You just jumped straight to paper?
MH Oh, there were a series of sketches that lead up to it. I actually don't do a lot of prep work when I set up to make a final piece. I usually have it so fully realized in my head, maybe I will do a quick sketch for composition reasons or to figure out the wardrobe sequence, then I'll just start on the final piece. I think if I work too much on the process leading up to it I get bored, or it loses some of the magic.
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Photo's of her XBox controller created for Microsoft
YPE Do you feel like this is your style now and something your sticking with?
MH Yeah, I have been working at this long enough where I have found myself artistically. I'm very comfortable working in this style. 
YPE So tell me about your sketchbook.
MH My sketchbook is a mix of company logos and process, lots of lettering and fuzzy animals. I use the big Canson sketchbooks. I like working big. 
YPE Your name on Instagram and Twitter is "Leetle Wolf." What does that stand for? Is it your spirit animal?

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MH It's a bit of my spirit animal. I've been using the nickname Little Wolf for about five years. It came about during my 20's. At the time, I had a whole lost period. I wasn't really creatively focused and made a lot of bad decisions. I had a bit of a reawakening and told myself to never forget the path I'm supposed to be on, which is this creative path. The wolf thing came out—the howl out the moon, independent streak thing. At the time I was also riding a little motorcycle and I had a girlfriend who wanted to start a gang—a wolf pack—so I was Little Wolf. As far as Instagram and Twitter, someone already took Little Wolf on everything I've signed up for, so yes it's "Leetle Wolf." 
I guess that's my story. Howl at the moon!  

If your in Portland, come kick off 2014 with some creative inspiration at our new headquarters. See you soon!
Date of the event: Friday, January 3, 2014
Time: 6:00 – 9:00pm
Check-in begins at 6:00pm. Doors close at 6:45pm.
Place: Tillamook Station, 665 N Tillamook Street, PDX 97227
Cost: Donation at signup
Registration Begins: Friday morning at 9am, December 27th
As always, space is limited. Be sure to register early!

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