Laura Allred is a skilled colorist, best known for the bulk of her work with her husband Mike Allred. Her unique style adds quality and intensity to their comics, and all of the artists’ work she collaborates on. You can see examples of Laura and Mike’s work on their website.
Sonia Harris: Thank you for agreeing to this interview. I’ve been very curious about your work process and career and had a hard time finding information about it, so I’m very excited about being able to ask you a few questions.
Laura Allred: More than happy to answer any questions. I’m not hiding from the spotlight. Both Mike and I prefer the work to get all the attention.
SH: What comic of Mike’s did you first color?
LA: It was Grafik Muzik no.1. It was Mike’s first shot at a full-color book that involved a horrible process where I water colored pages with grey-lined line work printed on it that puckered from the process throwing the registration off.
SH: Oh no! Was that a technique you used because you’d never done that kind of work before, or did you specifically want a watercolor look?
LA: We were shooting in the dark. It was a process the publisher thought would be more affordable. We’ve never been completely satisfied with any printed work. We’re always looking for ways to make it better.
SH: What kind of technique do you use now? Are you interested in any digital processes?
LA: Actually we’re trying to find ways to avoid a digital look. Mike is doing more textured work that I scan in halftones so that there’s actually less work to do on the computer and more on the original page. Brush strokes form washes, graphite textures and tones. Maybe he’s phasing me out! Should I be worried?
We’re doing more and more with animation influences where I’ll probably end up doing fully painted background paintings for Mike’s layouts and then he’ll do the figures separately, combining them on the computer. We’ve toyed around with that quite a bit already. Most notably issue no. 9 of MADMAN Atomic Comics where it’s one giant unbroken left to right action sequence.
SH: At the time, did you ever consider that you’d become such an integral part of the look of Mike’s art?
LA: No. I’d taken art classes in college. I’d always kept my hand in painting here and there my whole life, but it never occurred to me that I’d ever do it professionally. It was just initially a convenience for Mike that really has blossomed into something wonderful for us to create together.
SH: Your work enhances the unique, pop-art feel of Mike’s art immensely. Did Mike request that you do this, or was that your own intention, or did it evolve organically over time?
LA: Mike was always clear on what he wanted. He would show me ads from the 50s and 60s. He showed me various cartoons. European comics that had that Pop art sensibility were constantly being shoved under my nose. He’s inundated me with what he loves at such a constant flow that I think now it’s pure instinct. He rarely ever asks me to change anything now.
SH: On a day-to-day basis, do you and Mike discuss the mood and atmosphere of stories before you begin working on them?
LA: He’ll often talk excitedly about what he’s working on and how he wants it to feel. Usually it’s when he’s finished drawing it that we go through the story and get specific. We’re always together so it’s a very organic consistent process.
SH: Mike has mentioned that you were a jeweler. Do you miss that work? Do you still design pieces?
LA: Not really. I was so excited when we decided it was safe for me to quit my day job and work together at home. My worst workday since is better than my best day I ever had in jewelry. It was more about sales than creativity.
SH: How did your previous training and experience in another creative field help your work as a colorist?
LA: By contrast it only added to my appreciation about what I get to do in art. It really wasn’t a creative job when compared to what I’ve done since.
SH: Have you any interest in working with any other artists, as a colorist or in any other capacity?
LA: I do. I’ve colored work for Art Adams, Geof Darrow, I think I colored the late Seth Fisher’s first work in color. I just colored a short story for Joelle Jones that Jamie Rich wrote for Popgun no.3. All challenging. But always fun to work out each individual vision. I’d love to do more with other artists, but there’s only so much time.
SH: Are there any stories that you’d like to tell? Have you any interest in writing or drawing your own comics?
LA: I wouldn’t rule it out, but I’m completely satisfied and fulfilled with what I have in front of me.
SH: Do you read any comics regularly; do comics interest you at all?
LA: Very much. It’s such a unique and under appreciated medium. There’s so much variety and diversity. Amazing what’s out there.
SH: Would you name a few of your regular, or favorite comics?
LA: I still look forward to everything the Hernandez Brothers do. Probably my all-time favorites. Chris Ware’s Acme Novelty Library, Dan Clowes, Eric Powell’s The Goon…we just picked up Alex Ross’s new Kingdom Come issue where he’s experimenting with a more illustrative approach. I love James Jean’s work which pulled me in to Fables. Palooka-ville, Powers, Charles Burns, Blankets, Savage Dragon, Flaming Carrot, Rocketo, Paul Pope’s work is wonderful, anything by Darwyn Cooke – his SPIRIT series was wonderful this last year! Y: The Last Man, All-Star Superman…
SH: Are there any artists (outside of comics) who you aspire to, who have influenced your work?
LA: Oh yeah. I look at anything and everything. Magritte, Hopper, Dali, the Wyeths, Matisse, Monet, Klimt. When we were in San Francisco we visited the SF Museum of Modern Art, which hit every emotion from total disinterest to complete fascination. We walked out of the gift shop bearing heavy bags.
Recently, Eyvind Earle is someone I’ve been drinking in lately. He was best known for being the creative force and stylist for Disney’s Sleeping Beauty. A lot of animation background artists have been on the agenda lately.
Mark Ryden’s work would represent some contemporary work that inspires me, though it’s often disturbing. And artists who work in comics but also play in the fine arts realm whose work I love would include Dave Cooper, Jim Woodring, and our dear friend Al Columbia, who is simply a mad genius.
SH: How has becoming a mother affected your work?
LA: I don’t know that it has. I have to juggle my time as efficiently as possible, but other than trying to do work I want to share with them…I haven’t thought about it.
SH: When I was very small, I used to like sitting on the floor drawing pictures at my dad’s architecture office. Do your children end up being entertained by your work, or distracting you from it? Have you found a solution to having two jobs (i.e. parent and artist)?
LA: They are an absolute distraction! To be honest, I probably only work about one week of school hour days out of the month, so it’s not much of a juggling act. It’s quite easy work and a nice change of pace. I’m fast. Poor Mike never stops working. If he didn’t love it so much I’d feel sorry for him.
SH: Does your son share your interest in an arts career, and what is essentially a family business at this point?
LA: All of our children are very creative. Mostly musically at this point. Our oldest son, Han, is the most artistic, concentrating on graphic design. I assume he is who you’re talking about since he has colored a few books. He’s the manager of a local skateboard and clothing store and has just started his own t-shirt company, and he records a lot of music and Rap. Our second son, Bond, is strictly a musician. He can pick up any instrument and almost have it mastered in a day. A brilliant guitarist! Our daughter, Kelby, is still in school and seems to split the difference between music and art. Though since she has written a few songs of her own, I’d put her more in the musical column too.
SH: Do you ever get tired of working with your husband?
SH: This has been amazing, I can’t thank you enough for answering so comprehensively.
LA: It was fun. Thank you!
Sonia Harris writes a new, 2 line, potted summary of her life every week, but it never really says anything. If you’d like to write a short bio, send it to her: firstname.lastname@example.org.