Rebel Art, Indie Spirit, Outlaw Marketing - Since 2005

Artist David D’Andrea on the Melding of Art and Life

By Jason Thibault

David D’Andrea combines the draftsmanship of the poster artists and album cover designers of the 1960’s and 70’s with a raw detailed grittiness to create an organic pen and ink style that is unmistakably his own. His t-shirt designs, hand colored silk-screen prints and album covers are highly sought after and have won much praise and even more fans and admirers. He completely throws himself into his work and each new piece is an extension and evolution from the last one. David is a wandering soul and will probably continue to search and improve until the day he stops drawing.

What inspired you to first start drawing? Did you struggle in your formative years or did it come easy to you?

My earliest inspiration was most definitely MAD and Cracked magazine, Garbage Pail Kids, Wolverton, and 80’s cartoons and pop culture in general. My father’s LP collection was very influential. Album covers for Zeppelin, Cream, and Steppenwolf etc. grabbed me even before I took to the music, which of course happened shortly after.

I remember getting a hold of Kiss “Love Gun” for 25 cents at the public library. It was my first LP and I thought I had found the holy grail, the perfect melding of art and music.

I would say that the actual epiphany, the instance when I decided “this is what I do”, was when I saw the connection between art and skateboarding and the underground music and culture that went with it. Pushead’s “Puszone” in Thrasher Magazine, VCJ’s work for Powell Peralta, and soon after, the zines and flyers by my peers from around the country. I started a zine, made photocopied flyers, painted on endless griptape jobs…I was fanatical about it all.

It was the crucial period when I realized that rather than being a consumer/observer, I could BE it, a part of it all.

I wouldn’t say that I struggled with creating at this point. Looking back, it was the only aspect of life that I didn’t struggle with! School, girls, parents didn’t matter when I was totally nailing a copy of Pushead’s Exploited skull on my grip tape!

First professional work (piece / year) and maybe a quick story behind it.

My first published piece was an album insert for Oakland punk band “Fields of Shit”. This was a 10” album on the Life is Abuse label, 1995 I believe. This was just a natural progression from the xeroxed flyers I had been doing for the Oakland punk/metal/noise scene, so it’s hard to call it my first “professional” piece.
It has all happened pretty organically. I have always been the guy who does the zine or flyer or t-shirt. I was the guy who spent Friday night geeking out at Kinkos, working obsessively. The rest happened from there.

In the mid 90’s Oakland was an incredible place…inspiring and dangerous and fruitful. Places like the 40th St. warehouse (RIP) provided an impetus to get much of my early stuff out.

I reached a big milestone in 1999 with my first shirt for High on Fire. Matt Pike’s father-in-law printed us up a batch of two color shirts and we toured the US and Europe for 4 months with only my shirts and a demo cdr for sale.

Were you self-taught or formally educated? (or mixture of both, mentors etc…)

I decided to go to college once I was 27 years old. I had been reluctant to commit for a long time, but hit a wall and realized that formal schooling might help me make some sort of career of my work. I received my BFA in Illustration from The California College of the Arts in San Francisco.

My mentor there, one of the most important people I’ve ever met, is Barron Storey. His absolute devotion to the craft, his creed of total documentation via art, has set a huge example for me. Barron is without a doubt a “living legend” and simultaneously the most kind and supportive teacher and mentor on earth.

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?

108 nibs, a few liner brushes, .03 technical pencils, Strathmore 500 series Bristol…those are the basic tools at my drawing table. Once my drawings are done, I use the basic Abode suite on my Powermac for pre-press and/or color separations and layout etc.

The last few years have involved a lot of screen printing, so that’s a whole other set of tools. I am a part of Monolith Press, which was founded by my good friend and amazingly inspired label owner/printmaster/father, Mauz Parrillo. In fact, it was Mauz’s label “Life Is Abuse” who published that first poster insert!
At Monolith we use a semi-automated screen printing press, mainly Speedball inks, a large film output printer, etc. There’s a lot that goes into the screen printing process. I love it and am always trying to take it to the next level.

How has your toolbox evolved compared to when you first started out?

My toolbox is much more stripped down than it used to be. I think this is largely because of the screen printing work. With screen printing, my originals are always just black line with stippling on paper. The color seps are done later on the computer or sometimes by hand directly on the films.

Alternatively, when I do an album cover it allows me much more freedom, as anything can be printed digitally. Still, I don’t get too heavy on the materials. Sometimes I’ll use acrylic inks and watercolor and I like to use the masonite panels with a clay coating that allows me to sand/scratch the surface.

Favorite brand of ink:

Speedball Super Black India is the best and deepest black I’ve found. I keep it stirred and cut it with ammonia glass cleaner to keep it flowing.

Type of paper:

I usually draw on Strathmore 500 series Bristol. Occasionally I’ll use a plate surface illustration board or the masonite clay board if I want the ink to really sit on the surface and look as crisp as possible.

Which artists or creators do you return to for a quick boost of inspiration? Who are the masters of ink?

Roger Dean, Harry Clarke, Takato Yamamoto, Barron Storey, Rick Griffin, Alan Forbes, Arik Roper, Kiki Smith, Jim Dine

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?

I like to really push my research and preparation through lots of reading, image searching, and meditation of various kinds. I’m really fortunate to be able to work with a lot of musicians and collaborators who are directly inspirational to me. In these cases, the preliminary process just flows. My sketches are generally pretty “sketchy”, just to show my ideas and composition. My process is very heavy on the inking stage, as I often go light and loose on the pencil and freestyle the patterns and stippling.

So, the sketches sometimes go back and forth a few times, especially with album packaging, as I try to show a basic concept that spans the whole layout. It involves a certain amount of trust, which is sometimes there, sometimes not. My best work has been for clients who have the trust in my vision. The whole thing is a strange and (sometimes) difficult dance.

What’s currently sitting in your mp3 / CD player / turntable?

Lately: OM “God is Good”, Lord Vicar “Feel No Pain” , Makato Kawabata “Hosanna Mantra” , Astra “The Weirding”, Daniel Higgs “The Devotional Songs of…”, Jex Thoth “st”,Grouper “Dragging a Dead Deer Up a Hill”, Graveyard “st”, Buffalo Killers “Let It Ride”
Always: Hawkwind, Sabbath, Floyd, Roky, Saint Vitus, Pandit Pran Nath, Neil Young, Mahavishnu Orchestra…
I am way into collecting vinyl…vintage and contemporary psych, doom metal, classic rock gems. The cyclic/raga/trance-inducing stuff is my favorite to listen to while working. It lends itself to hours upon hours of inking.

What’s hanging on your walls and what is your favorite piece of art that you own (not created by you)?

I have the Takato Yamamoto “Secret Traces of Night” portfolio prints, a snow leopard by Dennis McNett, Alan Forbes’ Sleepy Sun, an original Hermann Rorschach card, Pushead’s Septic Death “Need So Much Attention” on newsprint, various odds and ends by Monica Canilao, photos by Paul Schiek. I also tend to fill my studio walls with tons of paper ephemera by anonymous or forgotten natural history or fantastical illustrators from years past.

What’s the last novel you read and last movie that you saw that you’d recommend? Which movies and books do you always return to?

I’m honestly not much of a movie fan. I do enjoy them very occasionally and when I do, the affect is to turn my creative mind off. I do read a lot. My favorite fiction writers of all time are Flannery O’Connor, Faulkner, Lovecraft, Carver. I also love natural history/science/paranormal studies. Henri Fabre “Life and Love of the Insect” is a masterpiece. My favorite thinkers/cultural engineers are Brion Gysin, Terrence McKenna, and Genesis P’Orridge.

I’m currently reading “2012 The Return of Quetzalcoatl” by Daniel Pinchbeck.

Current and upcoming projects?

On the table right now: OM/Lichens US tour poster, Fall Into Darkness Festival Portland, Black Heart Procession tour, Dinosaur Jr. and Jesus Lizard posters, and a public art project commissioned by the city of Emeryville, which is where my studio is located.

I have a lot of print projects lined up, including a series of art zines, a Sleep black light poster (based on the shirt design I recently completed), and an illustrated chapbook with Al Cisneros.

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?

I’ve come to see that it takes complete devotion, total immersion and a melding of art and life. I am hard pressed to explain what I mean. I feel that whatever IT is, I have it in me, like I’ll sacrifice whatever it takes, keep my head down, work my fingers to the bone, devote my life to the image….and I can only HOPE to break through.

If breaking through means sustaining via art, like paying the bills with art, well…I’m not certain! It’s a rough road with an (hopefully) overwhelming sense of freedom, poverty, hardships, and creative spirit.
“Breaking through” might be more attainable than that, depending on how you see it. It might mean to simply be a beacon, a creative force. This is not difficult. When a stranger flips through your sketchbook and feels a creative spark inside, that’s totally breaking through, in my eyes.

I have a signed piece of art by Barron Storey that will forever hang above my drawing table. Beneath the incredible surrealistic depiction of his studio he scrawled the E.E. Cummings quote,” I am a man, I am an artist. I am a failure and I must proceed”.

For more info on David D’Andrea and his work, head over to

Artist Michael Cho on Putting in his Time at the Board

By Jason Thibault

Michael Cho is one of those artists that simply fascinates me with his ability to straddle comics, illustration, painting and while maintaining a unique and timeless style. It’s like as soon as he gets an idea a whole series of paintings or drawings result from it. I first took notice of him after multiple blogs linked to his notes about inking article. It’s his tireless passion for creating new things that will make him someone to always be keeping an eye on.
Oh and I feel like a bit of a jerk for not seeking him out at FanExpo in Toronto as I did fly 2500 miles to go there.

What inspired you to first start drawing? Did you struggle in your formative years or did it come easy to you?

I was drawing since I was about 3 years old. Some of earliest memories are of drawing, actually. Growing up in South Korea in the 70’s, I would spend afternoons doodling pictures of giant robots or things like that. I don’t know if it came easy to me, since I was never satisfied with my work (I’m still not), but I always enjoyed it and derived a lot of personal pleasure and self-worth from the act of drawing.

First professional work (piece / year) and maybe a quick story behind it.

Well if, by professional, you mean artwork that I got paid for, then my first real job was drawing the title screen for a videogame in the 1980’s. I was 16 years old, the game was for the ever popular commodore 64 computer, and I drew it with a JOYSTICK. I kid you not. This was decades before photoshop, and years before features like “cut and paste” or fonts were introduced in software. I mapped out every pixel of a planet by hand, feathered it in 16 colours and got paid the handsome sum of $800, which was a fortune to me at the time. My best friend and I promptly proceeded to blow the entire stack on a trip to NYC three weeks later.

The first professional illustration work I did out of school was probably for a local theatre company that hired me to draw up some illos to be projected onto the set of a play. I had no formal training as an illustrator, since all I learned in art college was how to paint giant oil paintings, so I faked my way through the entire job. But when I saw my drawings projected on the set and saw how they had taken some of the items in my painting and had actually built them, I realized I wanted to be an illustrator. I had already worked on the other side, painting sets according to a designer’s plans and it seemed to be much easier and more rewarding to be working at the drafting table than climbing scaffolding.

Were you self-taught or formally educated? (or mixture of both, mentors etc…)

Half and half. I went to art college but I studied fine art and contemporary painting. So all my illustration and comics work is self-taught. Most of my technical knowledge today comes from studying the work of classic comic and comic strip artists like Noel Sickles, Roy Crane, Alex Raymond, Frank Robbins, Joe Kubert and Jack Kirby. I also learned a lot from the work of contemporary cartoonists like Jamie Hernandez and David Mazzucchelli.

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’m mainly a brush guy, and I prefer to hit everything on a page with one brush, even the straight lines. I used to use Windsor Newton Series 7 brushes for years, but they’ve eroded in quality lately, so I’ve been using a Raphel 8404 for the last year or so — #2’s or #3’s. The Raphael’s are as good as the Series 7’s used to be, IMHO.

I also doodle and sometimes do finished jobs with brush pens — almost always the Faber Castell Pitt pen, which I order in dozens of boxes. I’ve also got some special brushes that I use for effects, like special drybrush brushes, which I’ve carved and trimmed to specific shapes.

When I work in pens, I usually use hunt 102’s and 108’s. If I’m feeling really confident, then I’ll use the 103, but it has a lot of flex, so any misstep in pressure and there’s a big blot on the page. But its the closest nib pen that approximates the look of brush. I hate tech-pens but I’ll use them for deadweight lines or tiny little details — usually the Staedler pigment liners, in all sizes from .01 to .07.

Other than that, my other tools I use daily are my two raised triangles, a bunch of circle templates and a lot of green painter’s tape for masking things off. I prefer to mask things than white things out afterwards. I hate whiteout and don’t even keep a jar in a drawer anywhere. I used to mix up some white gouache for mistakes, but these days I just prefer to scrape it off with a razorblade.

How has your toolbox evolved compared to when you first started out?

When it comes to art supplies, I have a simple adage: “everything you love will eventually be taken from you”. That brand of ink you love so much will be taken off the market. And the brush you love will start coming out in inferior quality. They’ll stop making the pencil you use everyday and replace it with a crappier one. So that’s the main thing that’s happened over the years.

When I started, I used smaller size brushes, inking things with a #1, but now I try to hit most things with a #3 size. I also used cheap disposable brushes for years, but as I grew, I started buying quality tools and taking better care of them. I’ve kept the same raphael brush for over a year for example. I always want my tools to be completely predictable.

A main difference is the use of brush pens. They’ve improved in quality and performance over the last few years, so I can depend on them and can use them in some jobs without a noticeable drop in quality.

Favorite brand of ink:

Higgins black magic. Its not very black, but it is pretty thin so it flows well with a brush. It also doesn’t clog nib pens. And the other main advantage is that it’s the only ink I know of that doesn’t contain shellac — which is probably why it’s not very dark, like say, Dr. Martin Black Star. Shellac will eat your brushes. I’ve managed to keep some brushes in excellent shape for 2 years, simply because I use Higgins and wash them in shampoo after use.

Type of paper:

Mostly Strathmore bristol. Series 300 is the usual– vellum finish if I’m going to do any dry brush, and smooth if I need clean pen lines.

A funny thing about paper that some friends of mine and I noticed was that when you’re starting out and your work is amateurish, you tend to use the best possible paper. Then when you get better, you draw on any old piece of scrap you can find. Like, when I was starting out, I drew and inked everything on hot press illustration board. And my work was utter garbage at the time. These days, I can’t even imagine doing anything on illustration board.

Which artists or creators do you return to for a quick boost of inspiration? Who are the masters of ink?

Noel Sickles, Frank Robbins and Al Williamson usually do it for me. I could stare at Sickles’ stuff for hours. And Williamson at his peak was just about the lushest inking I’ve ever seen.

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?

With client work, the first step is always reading the article/novel/visual brief or whatever they send. I usually read things through a few times. By then an idea has already come to mind but if not, then I’ll do some word association or brainstorming. Writing is sometimes a necessary component of drawing. Once I have a concept for an illustration, I’ll sit down and do some thumbnail sketches. I then take the best thumbnails and turn then into colour roughs, using markers and brushpens. I tend to hand in colour roughs since my pencil linears can be a bit misleading. Once that is approved, I then paint up the final art using either gouache and ink or markers and ink, gathering up whatever reference I need along the way. After that, there’s usually a bit of scanning and photoshop cleanup and colour tweaking before I send the final into the art director.

What’s currently sitting in your mp3 / CD player / turntable?

When I’m drawing, I usually play music according to what kind of work I’m doing. If its client work, I usually play something energetic, like the Clash, A Tribe Called Quest or some old-school hip hop. If I’m doing personal work, then I usually play something by Will Oldham, Nick Cave, Hank Williams or Cat Power.

What’s hanging on your walls and what is your favorite piece of art that you own (not created by you)?

I actually don’t have much art on the walls, not even my own. I do own a Leonard Starr “On Stage” daily that I bought a few years ago, and its utterly gorgeous — late 50’s peak work from him.

What’s the last novel you read and last movie that you saw that you’d recommend? Which movies and books do you always return to?

I don’t have as much time to read novels these days, so I’ve been reading a lot of poetry. It’s kind of fitting for comics, as its about economy of words. The last volume I read was Seamus Heaney’s Collected Poems. Film-wise, I saw David Mamet’s “Red Belt” recently and it gets a high recommendation from me. As for perennial favourites, I’ve probably read “A Farewell to Arms” a half-dozen tines and watched the entire series of “the Wire” over and over while working.

Current and upcoming projects?

Currently, I’m finishing up a slate of freelance. I’ve recently completed the cover and jacket art to the 25th anniversary edition of Don DeLillo’s “White Noise” for Penguin Classics, as well as the cover and interior illustrations for Rabindranath Maharaj’s “The Amazing Absorbing Boy” for Random House. In late fall, I’m planning to shut down my freelance work for a little while and concentrate on personal projects such as a graphic novel I’ve been working on for a year, and an art book of Toronto alleyway drawings to be published by Drawn and Quarterly.

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?

My only advice is to just keep drawing and keep improving. Try and get critiques from other artists, and understand that they’re trying to help, not cut you down. In the end, cream rises to the top – if you put in the time and do the work, the rest will eventually follow.

For more info, Michael Cho’s blog and website is a must read. Also be sure to check out his webcomic Papercut.

Artist Ed Laroche on Doing Things His Own Way

By Richard Serrao

I first saw Ed Laroche’s work on MySpace when he added me as a friend and I was then introduced to his Graphic Novel The Almighty. He has a style very reminiscent of Eduardo Risso and has a very strong sense of pacing and panel layout to make any pro proud.

First professional work (piece / year) and maybe a quick story behind it.

My first Professional job was for Malibu comics back in the 90’s. I had a couple of pages in the back of the Raiden/Kano miniseries.

Self-taught or formally educated? (or mixture of both, mentors etc…)

Self taught.

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 use a mechanical pencil with 2B lead on Bristol. For inking I use various sizes of pigma micron markers, and for more organic jagged stuff I use hunt 102’s and a big calligraphy nib. Also, lately I’ve been incorporating my tablet PC in the finishing stages of production.

Favorite brand of ink:

Higgins water-proof Drawing ink.

Type of paper:

I layout my page on plain typing paper, then light table onto Bristol board.

Which artists or creators do you return to for a quick boost of inspiration? Who are the masters of ink?

Bryan Hitch, Olivier Coipel, Charles Adlard, Eduardo Risso, Al Williamson, Jaime Hernandez, Junji Ito, Adrian Tomine, Becky Cloonan, Fabio Moon & Gabriel Ba. I’m sure there are more but I’m spacing out.

Masters of Ink- Klaus Janson, Tom Palmer, Terry Austin, Bill Sienkiewicz, Mark Farmer.

Once a client has handed off an illustration job to you, how do you first tackle the job? A quick overview of your process.

I read the script and make notes as I go along. If it’s a good script, solutions just present themselves, then I rough it out and show the client the direction I’m taking the piece. After a few notes (hopefully), I move on to finishes and tweaks.

What’s currently sitting in your mp3 / CD player / turntable?

I’m listening to a lot of Coil at the moment and Paxahau.

What’s hanging on your walls and what is your favorite piece of art that you own (not created by you)?

I have nothing hanging on my walls right now and I’ve only ever bought two pieces of art in my life; they are both photos.

Last novel you read and last movie that you saw (that you’d recommend)?

I am currently reading Laughable Loves by Milan Kundera and the last movie that I saw that I could recommend was Star Trek. It’s the best movie of the summer so far.

Current and upcoming projects?

I’m working on my second graphic novel titled “Waveform” and at the same time continuing to sell and promote my book, “Almighty.”

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?

The more you do it, the better you become.

To find out more about Ed Laroche head over to the ALMIGHTY site, his MySpace page or check out this other interview at the Savage Critic.

The Insanely Detailed Art and Work Ethic of Anville

By Jason Thibault

I first saw the extravagantly detailed work of Anville through a blog post on OMG Posters. I then high-tailed it over to his website to find out more. Turns out all of his work was equally impressive. We wrote back and forth throughout the summer and he sent over a lot of new images as well as process steps to share with all of the readers of Op Wound. This is an artist to keep an eye on in the fine art, illustration and poster worlds. Once the secret gets out, he’ll be highly sought after.
And let’s be honest. I did this interview as an excuse to show you as much awesome art as I could humanly fit in this blog post.

What inspired you to first start drawing? Did you struggle in your formative years or did it come easy to you?

I always drew when I was younger but the first real hit of inspiration came from Spawn #28. The detailed inking of Todd McFarlane and the dynamic camera shots and anatomy of Greg Capullo was a total inspiration. For years I redrew spawn panels I liked, but added my own touch, I don’t think I ever “struggled”, more it was experimenting and having fun, and always testing out maxing out my capabilities from drawing to drawing, always adding more. Originality came a few years later, after being inspired by numerous wine bottles, 18th century etchings, and engineering drawings of engines. Moebius and Battle Angel Alita were also huge inspirations, along with discovering the rock poster scene a few years back.

First professional work (piece / year) and maybe a quick story behind it.

The first piece that defined my style would be “Lafourcade I” in 2006, which took a total of 3 weeks to concept, and a month to pencil. It was the biggest thing I had attempted to do something that large, and took a total of 8 months to finish. It features the first time I had drawn things I had been dreaming to draw, things I only saw in my head. A massive dying tree, armored warrior women with chainsaws, heavy filigree and just organized chaos. Its an overly complicated study in duality, which really doesn’t mean anything. Next month it is going to be screen printed.

Were you self-taught or formally educated? (or mixture of both, mentors etc…)

I was self taught, though I did attend art school and participated in traditional life drawing and concept classes. A big portion of my learning was self taught, staying up all night reading “The Dark Knight Returns” and Maxfield Parrish books.

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 rely on microns for the most part for inking, along with Faber Castell pitt artist pens for filling ink blacks, and brushes ocassionally. Three different kinds of pencils are used when concepting, a creatacolor monolith (hb) for rough sketching, .5mm mechanical pencil with hb lead for fine details, and a .5mm 2h for final pencils. More time is spent penciling than I notice, sometimes going through a whole Pentel click eraser in a drawing, trying to make things look just right.

How has your toolbox evolved compared to when you first started out?

The addition of dozens of French curves, c-thru rulers to match parallel lines, and a massive light box for final inks. Sometimes I will use the computer for drafting complex geometry, as I studied 3D Studio Max in school, and consider it a part of my training, so I use it when I need to.

Favorite brand of ink:
Higgins is what I use when brush inking.

Type of paper:
Strathmore Vellum Bristol, and graph paper when I sketch.

Which artists or creators do you return to for a quick boost of inspiration? Who are the masters of ink?

Aaron Horkey, Bryan Hitch and Paul Neary, Gustave Dore, Hydro 74, Zdzis?aw Beksi?ski, Florian Bertmer, Maxfield Parrish, Erte, Vania Zouravliov and Jeremy Bastian.

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?

I go to pencils same day, and just bust out a few sketches. Once an idea is solidified, Ill usually run it by the client. Almost every time, I will sleep on a good initial sketch and wake up and check it out, and it always sucks. I usually have to “punch up” the art by adding objects, elements and all other kinds of details to make it something unique, and have a approach. Going to inks usually means Im 100% committed to the piece at the moment.

The inking process is completely different than the penciling one, details are done on the fly. The pencils act as the girders of the drawing, where the hatching and details are the façade. Id you compare the sketches to the final inks, you can tell what I mean.

What’s currently sitting in your mp3 / CD player / turntable?

I switch between heavy metal and contemporary classical. The new Kylesa record has been on repeat, with Burst, Hacride and Gojira being the main contenders. A lot of shoegaze is also on tap, along with a lot of atmospheric prog-rock such as Oceansize and Boris is playing a lot as well. Something I can put on and let play for a few hours without messing with it. As far as classical goes, I spin Rachels, Deaf Center and Mozart.

What’s hanging on your walls and what is your favorite piece of art that you own (not created by you)?

I am a fan of Horkey, so the majority of collection is his work, along with a few Jared Connor prints I really dig. I also collect prints that are different than what I usually like, such as my collection of Dan McAdams prints (Crosshair) , which are beautifully screen printed posters of decrepit buildings done in colorful separations. My favorite piece as of now is “Snow Queen“, a Joseph McSween (2H) giclee I picked up.

What’s the last novel you read and last movie that you saw that you’d recommend? Which movies and books do you always return to?

I just came off of a huge Stephen King audio book binge, which I listen to while working, but the last novel was “The Fountainhead” by Ayn Rand. Its a cliché but it is a must-read for any type of creative person, to not compromise your goals or spirit. The last movie was “Mulholland Drive” which is always interesting, how Lynch lights all the scenes, very creepy. Movies on rotation are Seven, Event horizon, Old Boy and Dark City; anything with a real dark baroque vibe, with interesting tech and occult themes.

Current and upcoming projects?

Among 3 or so images being inked now to be screen printed, I am also working on a body of fine art pieces that will be painted, with certain paintings being inked as well. Its intimidating moving into painting to learn, as it’s a whole other process from picking up a pen. During the creating of these paintings, I am currently working on Lafourcade III, which is taking up my whole bedroom wall and is being penciled now.

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?

Dont let anyone tell you what you are doing is wrong, or popular, or marketable. Keep at it always, you can always improve and get to the next level. Doing art for free for exposure is what has helped me. Making some posters, flyers or your pals album art…whatever you can to get the art out there.

Spend conscious effort developing your own style, and figure out what you are giving to the art world that is unique. Having a real skill set with a pencil in your hand is very important, try not to rely on computers to make the art pop, make a nice clean original. One thing that may be more difficult is to find a mentor, someone who has been where you are and can advise you on the next step with experience, as an artist. I am very lucky to have found an excellent mentor. Don’t half-ass your art, and it will always reward you.

For more info and reading, head on over to Anville’s website.

Anatomy of a Pen and Ink Drawing From Concept to Finish

Hello, my name is Richard Serrao. I’m the co-owner of Optimum Wound and I’m also a graphic black and white artist.

The purpose of this Column today is to give a little insight into the creative process I employ, along with some of the tools I use. Which I’ll also show and talk about how I use them.

Above is the type of India ink I use right now. it’s super black, dries very fast and is incredibly affordable. For some of you that can’t see the type, it’s Speedball Super Black India Ink. This is by far the best version of India ink I’ve ever used. I hope this company sticks around and keeps making this type of Ink. It seems as though as soon as you get comfortable with one type of ink the company goes belly up. Sorry have a tendency to ramble a bit sometimes. Btw, when I work I never dip my brushes or nibs directly into the big bottles. I prefer to pour a little quantity in a small bowl or container and work from there. It cuts down on messy spills and cleanups.

This is a nib holder and I have three of these babies for the nibs I use the most. Having multiples of these holders are a must for me, it saves on time and having to constantly search for the nibs. I just leave my nibs in their respective holders and go to work as I need them.

This is a 102 speedball crow quill nib, it’s very sharp and creates an incredibly thin line for drawing. You have to be careful though as it tends to bite into your boards if you don’t pay attention and use too much pressure. They also break very easily as well, so caution is advised when using.

Above is just 2 examples of the different size paintbrushes I use to fill in black areas while working on a piece of artwork. Truth be told I have over 40 brushes which I purchased very cheaply for under 20.00 Canadian wholesale. To this date I’ve never used all of them but I feel it’s good to have a backup just in case you need it.

Here are Pigma Micron pens which I use to replace a regular technical pen. They dry super fast and are acid free and never yellow. They also come in a variety of sizes and are extremely affordable. Personally my favourite type of Micron pen. They are made by Sakura and can be found at any decent art store or you can order online here: http The numbers I use are 01,02,03 and 05 and when you buy them in a 3 pack like this you end up saving quite a bit too.

Go here to find lightboxes:

Yes I use a light box when I work. Why? It makes everything so much easier, along with speeding up the creation process. Once I get my template down, I then light box it directly to the board I’m working on and then once I finish my lines, I start to spot my blacks. Midway my artwork looks something like this:


Once I have a clear idea where all of my blacks will go that’s when I start to ink the piece. Sometimes as I ink I add in details that wasn’t there to begin with. Most of the times it works out. Here’s the finished version of “3 Zombies”.

For all of the detail work on this image I used a 01,02 and 03 Micron Pigma micron pens and then darken all of the lines around the black areas where I still haven’t begun to fill in the spaces with a 05 micron pen and then once I’m finished doing that I then fill in the blacks with a paintbrush. The size of the paintbrush varies, sometimes when I’m tired and I don’t have great eye-hand coordination I use a big flat nib, wish I could tell you the size but this nib has been with me the better part of 16 years and the numbers have rubbed off of it.

The same idea of working applies to commissions. Once I’ve worked out the details with the client I then proceed by doing an image without the blacks filled in and then show it to the client as a rough unfinished piece. if the client gives me the thumbs up I finish the piece of artwork and then get it ready to send out via the mail. Sometimes though a client might just ask for an electronic copy and in that circumstance I usually lower my prices considerably as I get to keep the original artwork.


Above is another example of how I work and here you can really see where the shadows will fall. Which I find is extremely important when you’re doing a piece of artwork that you want to get a very strong reaction from by people that may purchase your artwork.


Here’s the finished version. As you can see I did something a little bit different at the end of working on the artwork. I used some greys to try and give the artwork a bit more depth and make the foreground leap out more at you.


In this piece you can see a lot of the detail that goes into one of my drawings. Sometimes though it can be a real pain when you put this much detail continually on each piece of artwork.
Above, the finished version. Sometimes I look at it and can’t believe I put that much work into a piece of artwork. The best part was that it really didn’t take me that long to do it.


This is the last drawing I’ll be showing. It’s actually a commission of Freddy Krueger from Nightmare On Elm Street. I always hated drawing Freddy so, when I was asked to do this piece of artwork, I groaned, albeit internally. I would never complain to a client about a commission or their choice of what they wanted done.


And here’s the finished version below.


What a relief it was afterwards when I was finished. It was a major accomplishment for me. The challenge also was to have the image look like a typical shot of Freddy but at the same time make it fresh and different.

For anyone out there that asks why I use so much black in my work? Well to be honest when I was growing up we had only a black and white TV and I never even watched a color TV until I was in my late teens.

Sometimes when I’m getting ready to work on a page that’s giving me a hard time, I relax and then go watch TV and while I’m watching TV I take the color of the TV and watch it for a few minutes more. My brain then gets saturated by the black and white images and then I go to work.

Hope this helps anyone out there looking for the proper tools and maybe an idea or two about how to go about getting their work done.

In the latest offering from our company, Optimum Wound Volume 1, I have about 60 pages of artwork and story inside. Check on this site for ways to purchase said book if you like my work and the work of our collaborators. Here’s what the cover looks like.

Have a great week.

Richard Serrao
co-owner of Optimum Wound Comics