By Jason Thibault
Like most of my artist discoveries I found Erik Rose on the internets. His black and white work immediately struck a chord with me. I believe that if he stays on his present course, he’ll go far in comics and illustration. You can find more info on Erik at his website and myspace page.
First professional work (piece / year) and maybe a quick story behind it.
My first pro piece was for an article about female skateboarders in Clamor Magazine. I was still in collage and a buddy of mine; Dave Crosland hooked me up with it. I still remember what it felt like to see that thing in print. In fact, to this day a piece doesn’t feel real or finished to me until it’s been reproduced
Self-taught or formally educated? (or mixture of both, mentors etc…)
Definitely a mixture of both. I received a BFA in illustration at the Columbus College of Art and Design in Columbus, Ohio in 2003 but I don’t really feel like I established a style or method of working until a couple years later. And even that was mostly through trial and error. I’ve heard people say this before and I definitely believe that you learn as much your first year out of school as you do the whole time you were there. There is no substitution for learning “on the job” and I recommend trying to do freelance while in school. It will force you to look at what instructors are trying to teach you in a practical way.
Tools of the trade: Taking a quick glance over at your pens, brushes etc…what tools have you mainly been using over the last few years?
I draw with a Mars Staedtler lead holder using HB leads but most of my “pencils” for my comic pages are generally done with a flair felt tip marker and then light box those “pencils” onto the boards I’m inking on. I use mainly Microns for line work, filling in blacks and thickening some lines with Higgen’s Black Magic and a Windsor and #1 Newton Series 7 Sable brush. I always heard pros going on and on about the Series 7 brushes and after I tried one there’s no way I could go back to anything else. I have all kinds of weird odds and ends I use as well; toothbrush and Blo Pen for spatters, some sumi brushes for dry brush, masking fluid for negative lines, Presto whiteout pens, gouache and white jellyroll pens for corrections and effects. I use a water brush filled with Higgen’s Black Magic ink and Faber Castell brush markers when I’m working on stuff outside of the studio. The covers for The Roberts were drawn in human blood so I used a 102 and 107 crow quill pen and a brush for that. It was surprisingly easy to work with. I thought I might have to water it down or add red ink to it to make it work but nope it looked great and was surprisingly red even when dry.
I’d really like to do more inking with the crow quill but I have a lot of practice to do before I reach that stage. I do some watercolors for certain pieces but most of my colors are done in Photoshop.
Favorite brand of ink:
I’ve really been digging the Higgins Black Magic lately although I usually have to leave the bottle sit open for an hour before I use it the first time to let it thicken up a little. It’s rare for me to get any light spots in my blacks when I let it sit out first it’s completely opaque. I love sumi ink but the fact that it’s not waterproof scares me and I lost a few projects years back because of it.
Type of paper:
Strathmore 400 series Bristol with a smooth finish for illustration work. I’ve been using the Canson Fanboy paper for my comic pages but I use the back so I don’t have to screw around with erasing the blue lines.
Which artists or creators do you return to for a quick boost of inspiration?
Man there are so many out there — Tony Harris, Danijel Zezelj, Jae Lee, Greg Ruth, Bill Sienkiewicz, Dave McKean, Ted McKeever, Joel Peter-Witkin, J.C. Lyndecker, Alex Maleev, Lee Bermejo, James Jean, Scott Morse, Bob Peak, Egon Schiele, Jonathan Hickman, Teddy Kristensen – I could probably go on for days. This is not even including directors like Peter Greenaway, Terry Gilliam, and David Lynch who have had a major impact on me.
Who are the masters of ink?
Bill Sienkiewicz is near the top of the list – I used to carry his phone number around in my wallet when I was in Junior High School. Let’s see…Jae Lee ( I hope he goes back to inking after this Dark Tower project), John Paul Leon, David Mazzucelli, Tim Bradstreet, Charles Burns, Tommy Lee Edwards Greg Ruth for sure. When it comes to pure draftsmanship Dave McKean, Duncan Fegredo and Danijel Zezelj are just the pinnacle of what can be done with human hands
Once a client has handed off an illustration job to you, how do you first tackle the job? Could you give us a quick overview of your process.?
The first step is always research; what era is it, what type of clothes, props, environments am I going to need? I usually collect a ton of research and maybe use 5% of it but I have it and it helps me wrap my brain around the idea. Then thumbnail sketches — these are usually so loose I have to write a paragraph to them to the client if I’m sending them. I’m really just working out composition at this stage, camera angles, lights and darks, etc. Once we decide on a composition sometimes I’ll do a tighter sketch but most of the time I go right to shooting photo reference if I need it. I’ll do a tighter drawing to size on marker paper or vellum using the flair and then light box that up to finish inking. I’ll scan everything into the computer maybe scan some extra textures or old bits of paintings I have laying around and then get to work on doing grayscale toning or coloring.
What’s currently sitting in your mp3 / CD player / turntable?
I have to listen to music when I’m working and I have a lot of different tastes so it can be anything from Saul Williams to Sigur Ros, from Meshuggah to Andrew Bird. You’ll usually catch me screaming along with whatever it is. It helps me get into the zone. As I’ve been working on The Roberts I’ve been listening to a lot of Nick Cave and the Bad Seed’s Murder Ballads – it seems very appropriate. I’d say my top ten as of today (because it changes daily) would be:
Ours – Dancing for the Death of an Imaginary Enemy
Nine Inch Nails – The Slip
Interpol – Our Love to Admire
Saul Williams – The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of Niggy Tardust
The Violet Burning – The Violet Burning
Jellyfish – Bellybutton
Nick Cave – Abattoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus
Mew – And the Glass Handed Kites
Imogen Heap – Speak for yourself
Def Harmonic – All These Worldz
Jon Brion — Meaningless
What’s hanging on your walls and what is your favorite piece of art that you own (not created by you)?
I have a bunch of original art up on the walls of my studio and in a glance around the room I can see Jae Lee, Lee Bermejo, Greg Ruth, Bill Sienkiewicz, Geoff Darrow, Tony Harris, Guy Davis, Ashley Wood, Shelton Bryant, Dave Crosland, dwellephant, Phil Noto, Al Columbia, Michael Zulli, Adi Granov, and Therese Nielsen. Just being surrounded by that level of work is like a religious experience. It can be tough on those days when you’re fighting with your own illustrations and you look around and see these masterpieces though. Probably my favorite is a Lee Bermejo piece from Global Frequency although it’s hard to choose. I’d kill a small child for a Dave McKean page from Cages. One day. I mean one day I’ll have a McKean not that one day I’ll kill a small child.
Last novel you read and last movie that you saw (that you’d recommend)?
Unfortunately I haven’t been able to do much reading recently I love Jonathan Carroll though and I’m a couple books behind on his stuff. Last good book I read was probably World War Z. Last movie was Wanted which was fun – not as good as the comic – but fun.
Current and upcoming projects.
Right now I’m finishing up issue two of The Roberts, which is being published by Image/Shadowline. It’s about The Zodiac Killer and The Boston Strangler living in the same retirement home and it’s written by Wayne Chinsang (Heaven LLC, Bad Ideas). Issue 1 is out Aug 6th and issue 2 is out in September. I have several pieces in some White Wolf books that should be out soon. After the Roberts wraps I’m doing a horror story called The Pieces of Meat by Sam Costello for Split Lip web comics. I’m in talks to do a fill in issue for Vincent Price Presents and then I have a couple pitches for books that I’m writing and drawing so I’m excited to see where that goes.
What would you tell an aspiring artist who is working his ass off but still needs and wants to break through to the next level?
You have to love it and live for this because if it’s just about a paycheck there are much easier ways to get one. I would say do want you want to do because it makes you happy. Don’t do work because you think someone else may like it do what feels right to you. People will either get on board or they won’t but at the end of the day you’re the only one who needs to love it. Just keep at it, find your weaknesses and work on them. That way at the end of it all you’ll have no regrets and no compromises just work that you are proud of.