by Richard Serrao
The first time I saw Wes Craig’s artwork was on a Texas Chainsaw Massacre comic from Wildstorm and to be honest I had never heard of him before. Once I looked inside though his artwork blew me away. Ever since then I’ve been a fan and I really wanted to share his work with everyone so that you can enjoy his work as well.
First professional work (piece / year) and maybe a quick story behind it.
My first pro job was on “Touch” from DC comics, it’s rare in comics that your first job is for a major publisher, usually you have to climb through the ranks of small publishers and small paychecks at the beginning. I got really lucky on that one.
Although I never really even sent my samples to smaller publishers so, who knows? Maybe I could have started working earlier if I had. But I’m happy with how it turned out. Touch was part of a new line called DC Focus that disappeared pretty quickly, but it was all about the learning experience, and it was really valuable to me.
Self-taught or formally educated? (or mixture of both, mentors etc…)
Self taught in terms of the usual tools of comic books: pencil, pen and ink, etc. I made my own comics for years as a kid, full stories, inked on full size board, hand lettered, the whole deal, and when it came time to go to college I took the closest thing I could find to Comics 101 in my area which was a three year course in Illustration and Design, which prepped you for a career in commercial illustration.
I didn’t learn anything new about comics, in fact they were looked down on by most of the teachers, but I did get my first education in acrylics, watercolor, Photoshop, etc, so it was really useful for that.
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 lot of Faber-Castell Pitt pens and Microns, the brush and calligraphy types. I like the beveled edge of the calligraphy pen. If I have the time I like to use those along with a Windsor-Newton brush and Speedball ink, do some spatter and get messy, the fun stuff.
Favorite brand of ink:
Speedballs the best for me so far, but I’m not an ink snob, you can get cool effects with watery inks too.
Type of paper:
Strathmore, I’ve used the smooth kind for years but i just started using the vellum kind for one project and I love it, lots of tooth, makes the ink very scratchy, if that’s your thing, which for me, it is.
Which artists or creators do you return to for a quick boost of inspiration? Who are YOUR masters of ink?
Hmmm… I like guys who can bring their own voice to the pencils, it’s a rarity and getting rarer by the day, also pencilers who ink their own stuff, which is one of the reasons I do it myself. Kevin Nowlan, Bill Sienkiewicz, Brian Bolland, Paul Pope, Moebius, also Klaus Janson, who I didn’t like when I was a kid but I’ve grown to love, I didn’t like Jack Kirby when I was a kid either… apparently I was a stupid kid.
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 sit down with the script, analyze it, try to figure out the best, clearest shots to tell the story, pencil it on 8.5×11 printer paper, keeping it small so I don’t get bogged down with details, then blow it up to 11×17 Bristol board (by that I mean scanning the pencils into my computer, increasing the size in Photoshop, and printing it out in non-repro blue on my big-ass printer), and ink it over the blue line, trying to keep the life and energy of the pencils.
And this may be getting off the point but bear with me, the most important thing to me is getting the emotion of the piece, because above all you want to connect with the readers emotions. Technical prowess and the proper tools are important but to me, emotion is what matters above all, putting your own emotion into the work. It’s like hearing a band that’s the most technically skilled band ever, but that’s all they are, and at the end, you’re unmoved.
I’d rather hear music by a bunch of novices that play it with heart and with urgency and feeling over the technical stuff. Which brings us to our next question…
What’s currently sitting in your mp3 / CD player / turntable?
Tom Waits is a constant, every album Radiohead’s ever done, Spoon, Metric, Arcade Fire, Death From Above, lots of other stuff too, some rap, jazz, lots of punk, pulling inspiration from as many sources as possible is important to me.
Looking back on what I just wrote, why does every rock-loving white guy have to mention they like rap so they can seem cool, but they never mention any names? Mos Def, K-OS, Native Tongues.
There, see? I know my stuff.
What’s hanging on your walls and what is your favorite piece of art that you own (not created by you)?
Sadly, I don’t own any original art, but I hope to change that some day soon. On my walls in poster form is an Alphonse Mucha, “Starry night” by Van Gogh, a Japanese print, and just so I don’t get too artsy-fartsy here I also have a Mike Mignola Hellboy, and a Jack Kirby New Gods splash page reprint that I cut out of a book.
But the gold is really on my bookshelf, tons of art books, convention sketch books, graphic novels, etc.
Last novel you read and last movie that you saw (that you’d recommend)?
This isn’t the last novel I read but the one I’ve read most recently that blew my mind was Ragtime by E. L. Doctorow, and in comics I’d say Parker by Darwyn Cooke, and Asterios Polyp by David Mazzucchelli were both amazing. The last good movie I saw was A Serious Man by the Cohen Brothers. And just for popcorn fun, I thought Iron Man 2 was really good, but that’s me.
Current and upcoming projects?
I’m working on a creator-owned series for Wildstom right now, it’s a five issue series, created, written, drawn, inked, colored, lettered, and designed by me. So as you can imagine, it’s pretty labour intensive and it’s taking me about two months to finish each issue, so it won’t be out until early 2011. For updates you can go to http://mojoblender.blogspot.com/
What would be your dream project to work on that you haven’t yet have had the chance to?
Working on my own comics and getting paid enough to live, is my dream, so, check. But aside from that there are certain characters I’d love to work on; Superman being the biggest, also Thor, the Hulk, the Flash, The New Gods, and the Joker.
As an artist you continue to grow and improve with each new body of work, how do you motivate yourself to do this?
Well thank you kindly good sir. I’d say I’m in a constant state of trying to get better, with occasional fits of laziness where the work looks like crap to me. I don’t want to get to a level where I think I know how it’s done and there’s nothing else to learn. I want to keep on learning until I’m in the ground. I’m always studying other artists, practicing different techniques, and trying out new tools.
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’ll never make it and you’re a failure.
Really, if you’re working your ass off then you will get there eventually, you just have to keep marching onwards. If the next level means company work like Batman or whatever, then you have to hit the comic conventions and show the editors of the company your stuff, if the next level is doing your own work, you can do it right now, put it up on the internet. Right this minute, damn it!