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Masters of Ink with ROB MORAN Part 1 [INTERVIEW]

Rich and I both approached artist Rob Moran for an interview last November. Neither of us knew that the other had done so. That should tell you just how much his art affected both of us individually. Rob is an extremely busy creator and was gracious enough to answer over 20 of our questions.  He labours over every brushstroke that he lays down on paper formulating hard-edged timeless illustrations. This interview will be broken up into 2 parts.

In this first part he dives pretty deeply into tools and his technique. Part two will appear tomorrow.

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

ROB: Comics were definitely my inspiration to draw. I could read and write from the age of four and learned to read using comics before I went to school; I started with the weekly comics published here in the UK and very quickly discovered the joys of American books… The artwork in comic books hooked me right away and from very young I learned to recognize the different styles of various artists.

I feel as if I have struggled for most of my artistic career, never mind ‘formative years’. Art is struggle, essentially…if you are doing it right. It’s only in recent times have I felt I was achieving about 95% of what I was trying to do with each page or piece of work…I’m finally getting what I see in my head down on the paper. I’ve also stopped doubting and second-guessing myself as much; both of which plagued my early years. As for coming easy to me…that’s complicated; I was born with a modicum of ability to draw – or ‘talent’ if you will, but so are a lot of people…talent is as common as salt. What makes the difference is having the focus, determination and application to work hard and refine that talent; to wear down the rough edges and polish it until it shines brightly enough for people to notice you.

When I was a teenager I showed my art to a pro comics artist who rather dismissively and snarkily said, “Your ambition exceeds your ability!” Well you know what, so it damn well should…if it doesn’t how are you ever going to strive to be better?

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

ROB: Oh Lord! Now you’re asking for the impossible; I have trouble remembering last week, never mind that long ago. Very first pro work was when I was sixteen; a series of cartoon illustrations for a local newspaper. I learned a valuable lesson on that job…never piss off your editor by drawing a cartoon of them looking like a drunken bum or they sack you. A sad truism of this business is that some editors have no sense of humor…especially the ones dealing with cartoons.

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

ROB: Self-taught, I’m afraid; a complete autodidact. A self-made man, if you will…and I think it’s damned nice of me to take the blame. No mentors or teachers; frankly, I never met a teacher I didn’t want to punch.

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?

ROB: Ah, on to the good stuff; I could talk tools for a year and never get tired of it. When it comes to basic drawing or penciling I don’t use anything special; mostly mechanical pencils with a plain HB lead, though more often these days I use a mechanical filled with non-repro blue leads.

Since I believe most of the work is done in the inking the tools get a bit more specific here; my primary weapon of mass inkstruction is the Gilot steel pen nib, the kind you put in a pen holder and dip into a bottle of ink. I use mostly the 303 nib but occasionally vary that with a 404 or 1950; have to say though I LOVE the 303 – you can use it and abuse it. I buy them mail order; they are pretty inexpensive which is good ‘cos I go through a ton of them. You need a lot of practice to make these pens work for you, years of it; people worry that they spit and splatter ink, that’s mostly inexperience talking. Using them at the correct angle with a good flowing ink of the right paper cancels out that concern. Also don’t just draw with the point of the pen, use the edge, even the back of the tip to vary your lines.

As for brushes…for most of my career I have used the traditional sable brush but just recently I started using nylon brushes and I like them; they hold their point well and you can scub them into the paper for dry-brush techniques without fear of damage.

I also have what I call my ‘SFX Tray’ which is filled with all sorts of weird stuff; wax pencils, sponges, strips of leather, dried leaves…anything that will create a texture effect. I even use the stalks from millet plants, these dipped in ink are great for drawing grass or tree branches. I pretty much will try anything that makes a mark.

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

ROB: My toolbox seems to have gone in a strange evolutionary cycle; it started out quite simply like most artists’ do, I acquired and tried nearly every tool you can think of searching for that magic instrument – you know, the one that will suddenly make your drawing brilliant (they don’t exist BTW). So my toolbox has devolved back to the traditional tools I started out using; pen, brush etc.

Favorite brand of ink:

ROB: Used to be Higgins Black Magic but the quality has declined in recent years. I’m constantly searching for good NEW inks; currently using Speedball Super Black on the recommendation of some artist friend from the US and Canada and it is mighty fine.

Type of paper:

ROB: I drew on Bristol board for years but sadly the quality of that has declined, too; has a tendency to bleed and not take a line the way it used to. These days I use Norfolk cartridge paper which I buy in bulk from an online supplier; it comes in huge sheets that give me four US comic sized pages per sheet and is considerably cheaper than Bristol. The Norfolk has a good surface for pen or brush and will go through my A3 (10 x 15”) printer easily…I like to print my pencils out in non-repro blue for inking as I hate the effect erasing has on my inks.

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

ROB: OMG! Seriously? You really want to go there? Okay, on your own head be it – THE GRAND MASTERS: Alex Raymond, Al Williamson, Hal Foster, Alex Toth, Joe Kubert, Angelo Torres, Frank Robbins, Milt Caniff, Noel Sickles, Jim Aparo, Dino Battaglia, Sergio Toppi, Hugo Pratt, Jesus Blasco, Luis Garcia, Fernando Fernandez, Esteban Maroto, Alberto Breccia, Frank Hampson, Frank Bellamy, Jim Holdaway, Don Lawrence, John Burns…I could go on and on but I won’t.

Current artists who inspire me are, Paul Gulacy, Phil Winslade, Butch Guice, Gianluca and Raul Cestaro, Francisco Francovilla, Mike Perkins, Mike Deodato and my absolute favorite contemporary comic artist – Corrado Roi!
I have left DOZENS out, BTW and that’s only the comic artists, don’t get me started on illustrators of fine artists.

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?

ROB: This process differs depending on whether we are talking about comics or illustration work. Since I primarily do the former these days I will address that.

First up, it’s always a good idea to read the script – that definitely helps. I read it at least twice; once to get the story down – then to start breaking it up into pages. I usually draw small thumbnails onto the actual script page, sometimes I pencil straight from those, sometimes if the editor desires it I will draw up more fully realized layouts (I’m doing this with my current gig), before going to pencils.

The ‘pre-process’ after thumbs/layouts and before penciling is very important to me and often the most time consuming; being a stickler for getting thing right I tend to reference EVERYTHING. This often includes shooting tons of reference photos for costume, poses, lighting, vehicles, animals whatever. I even go to the length of building model sets to get the lighting right.

Once all the reference is in place I start penciling, getting everything down as quickly as possible, usually the pencils are not so detailed unless I really need to nail an expression or stance.

INKING: this is the most enjoyable part of the whole business; I tend to zone out when inking…it has become a very Zen-like for me and the thing I enjoy most. For years I stressed over my inking, concentrating so hard on getting every line right I tightened up and never achieved the results I wanted. In the past couple of years I discovered the secret is to let go, relax, let the inks just flow from your hand as easily and naturally as you can…like handwriting. Mind you, it took me years and hundreds of hours of inking practice to achieve this state so I’m not saying it’s easy to do.

Visit Rob Moran’s website.

Viktor Kalvachev brings NOIR back to Masters Of Ink

Victor Kalvachev first came to my attention with his Graphic Novel Pherone. It seemed that he just appeared fully formed in the comics world and started banging out a crime story that resonated on many levels. A quick little intro of Viktor’s past credentials: A graduate from the National Academy of Art with an MFA and has worked in the video game industry for a while. His latest work can be seen in a virtual world game called VIE.

BLUE ESTATE #1 has a Diamond order code of FEB110384 so go out and order it from your retailer now and support crime comics. The FOB is 3/14/11 so head on over to your retailer and support crime comics by ordering it.

VK: Thanks for having me on OpWound. I really appreciate the invitation.

RS: You’re welcome Viktor, it’s an honour to to do an interview with you. It’s always a pleasure to interview another creative type like yourself who is so open to sharing with our audience your incredible talent.

RS:  What was your first professional work (piece / year) and maybe a quick story behind it?

VK: Well, I’ve been doing art professionally for a very long time, but may be the very first piece I did on my own and got paid for was this mural in front of a small candy store. I don’t remember the name of it, but they wanted a cute girl standing in a sexy pose with a giant heart-shaped candy behind her. I was 18 and very excited to have a paid gig. This was back in my home town – Varna, Bulgaria. The guys who owned the store were two 25 year old students from the local University and they wanted a long legged girl you can’t resist. I might have the drawing for it somewhere back in my parents’ house. I am curious to see it now.

VK: My first mentors were 2 great Bulgarian artists – Ventzi Antonov and Stoimen Stoilov (his work is also exposed in the Louvre). They managed to keep me away from teachers and helped me grow very independently, finding out what really drives me and what I want to do, rather then learning to be like everyone else.

A great deal of influence was the French comic magazine “PIF Gadget”, which arrived every Wednesday and it was like Christmas for me. This and the German caricaturist Herluf Bidstrup shaped me to become absolutely in loved with visual storytelling and characters.
I graduated the High School of Art in Varna and then got my M.F.A. from the National Academy of Fine Arts in Sofia, Bulgaria. I specialized in print, which is a very black and messy inky situation. I’ve done pretty much all printing techniques – from simple linoleum and woodcut to complicated multi-layer mezzotinto, aquatinto, dry point and lithography. I have to admit though that this wasn’t my thing. The materials I used back then were mainly German brands, but I can’t remember their names.

RS:  Tools of the trade: Taking a quick glance over at your pens, brushes, favourite brand of ink and type of paper, etc…what tools have you mainly been using over the last few years?

VK: I will combine all these question and hopefully won’t disappoint you, because I haven’t been using real ink and paper for many years now. I discovered Wacom tablets somewhere in 1992 and became really attached to digital art. The entire book PHERONE is done digitally, using Corel Painter’s Scratchboard Tool. For me, by now, this is hands down THE BEST digital representation of a classic pen and ink. Most of my drawing and inking happens in Painter and I only use the standard tools.

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

VK: It’s a long list, but here are a few names in no particular order that I associated with Black & White: Nicola Mari, Bidstrup, Bernet, Mignola, Baru … As for inspiration in general, it’s a crazy long list and I don’t even know where to start. I am a sucker for good art and thanks to the Internet I discover new inspirations everyday. May be a good start is to check the LINKS section on my web site, but that barely touches the surface.

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

VK: – Well, first I need to understand exactly what has been asked of me, know my limitation and opportunities. I go back and forth clearing all that out.
– Then I come up with a basic plan and have my internal deadlines I know I have to meet if I want to make the client’s deadline.
– Next step is reference – this is KEY! If you are drawing an M16, you better know what it looks like to the smallest detail even if you don’t need to draw every single screw. I’ve seen so many badly drawn guns I still find it hard to understand why, given the fact there is so much available reference online.
Know what you draw!

RS: I completely agree with you. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen an artist draw a block and try to pass it off as a gun or when the story actually mentions a specific type and the artist just wings it and completely botches all of the details. This burns me a lot….. Sorry, please continue.

– Then I do my first sketch and submit it along with a bunch of comments and question that got raised in the process of creating the sketch – it’s always a good idea to keep your client informed of what you are doing to avoid unnecessary fixes. The earlier you catch a potential fix, the better for everyone.
– After it’s approved (and signed with blood) I move on to the final phase of actually finishing the piece. I like to have a bit of time so I can step away from my work for a day or two. It helps me to see it with fresh eyes and find what I can do better.
– Then comes the “suggestion” from the client that changes what you’ve been working so far and it’s really important to not get bitchy about it, because just like you, they were also in a creative process and thought of better ways to convey the idea. Hopefully it’s not setting you back too much and you are able to stay on schedule. My advice to young artists – always plan for fixes when you ask your price! There will always be some and if there aren’t any, then good – use the money for the client with more fixes then you planned for.

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

VK: I listen to and a couple of stations on Pandora. I like mainly Chill, Acid Jazz and a bunch of modern oriental jazz (I don’t know how it’s called exactly). A few names are Dzihan and Kamien; Adam Shaikh; Badmarsh and Shri.

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

VK: I have an original from Stoimen Stoilov which is priceless for me. Also a few prints from Loisel I bought in France; 2 posters from Nathan Fox and Tommy Lee Edwards. I have to admit that my favorite piece though is “Pushing Buttons” from my good friend Bruno (a.k.a. Nox at Massive Black). I just love this piece too much and I can’t explain why.

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

VK: I recently saw The Air I Breathe and I really liked it. A great movie!
Lately I’ve been reading old Raymond Chandler books, I don’t know why. Maybe they make me feel like I am 16 again (that’s when I first discovered Philip Marlowe and he became my hero.

RS:  Current and upcoming projects?

VK: BLUE ESTATE. I’ll be working on it for the next year and have 12 amazing issues slated for production. It’s by far my most favorite project of all times and I am really excited to work on it. The first issue is coming up on April 6, but we’ll have in time for Wonder Con, so whoever can make it, stop by the Image booth and you can have your copy before everyone else. I am working on this with 3 good friends of mine – Toby Cypress, Nathan Fox and Robert Valley. Amazing ink artists, one of them you had already interviewed here (Nathan Fox).

Check out the web site for a lot of info and FREEBIES:

RS: 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?

VK: – To begin with, never think you are working too much. There is no such thing if you really love what you do. If you have the urge to do it – go, use your body while you are young, because as you get older you can’t stay up all night and then keep going the next day.
– Know what you draw! This has several meanings – know why and who are you making this for. If it’s for you and you are just having fun – explore the hell out of yourself and don’t care. If it’s for a client – make sure you understand exactly what they need, because that’s what matters!
Second – know what it is. If you are drawing people – learn anatomy. So many artists these days get away with cool effects and shiny details, but are missing the big picture. Use reference if you need to, but stay true to the body and how everything works.

– Communicate with your clients and keep your deadlines! If you are afraid you are not going to make a deadline, don’t hide and hope for the best – tell your client in advance and get help or time.

– The last and VERY important advice is – be easy to work with! Be nice and listen to your clients. Don’t bitch when they want you to change something. This means that either you didn’t do it right the first time, or you didn’t plan enough for fixes in your price.

VK: Thanks again for having me.

RS: It has been a pleasure sir. I’m really looking forward to reading Blue Estate when it comes out. I loved Pherone and highly recommend it to everyone reading this interview.

There’s even a behind the scenes section that I’ve included a sneak peek of in this interview AND a bonus story. Awesome stuff.

Blue Estate – Blue Estate – issue #1 – The Rachel Situation – April 6

THE CORRIDOR; A Creepy Little Horror Film and its Writer Who Never Gave Up

Josh MacDonald was the fella that I first watched EVIL DEAD, EVILDEAD II, THE THING, THE EXORCIST, THE FLY, ALIENS & REANIMATOR (amongst hundreds of other films) with. We met on the first day of grade 7 (Junior High in Canada) and hit it off right away. Further on in the interview I detail the myriad of comics that the man introduced me to.

In the almost 3 decades that I’ve known writer and actor Josh MacDonald I’ve watched him accomplish many career milestones.  From television appearances, scripts turned into short films, plays that he wrote travelling across North America and acting roles ranging from direct to video fodder all the way to working on James Cameron’s TITANIC for a few months with the Nova Scotia crew.

I’ve never interviewed a writer for this site and who better to start off with than an age-old friend. But first let’s dig into the trailer for the movie in question.

For the 27 years that we’ve known each other you’ve always been a writer. Be it short stories, scripts, plays or episodic television you’ve always been working on something. What drives you to keep at it?

It’s interesting that you define me as a writer, since— for most of our lives— you know that I was also pursuing a career as a performer, acting throughout university and then into the professional world. I’ve never trained in the same way as a writer, and maybe— arguably– that’s part of the thing that actually makes me one: I’ve spent my life being able to generate stories without killing myself to do so; it’s kind of the thing that’s always come naturally, like other people have an aptitude for— I don’t know– playing basketball.

I cannot play basketball— I have no game.

Josh pictured with actor Callum Keith Rennie on the set of FFMW

When you ask what drives me to keep at my writing, I wish I had a more “rags-to-riches” story to share— one where I kept plugging away in the face of adversity— but writing and performing have always paid my bills; I haven’t had a day job since college. The terrifying thing about a life in the arts, though, is that this “luxury” could stop at any time: there’s nothing to say I’m not working at Ultramar a month from now. But, so far, I’ve been able to keep the wolves at bay. As a writer, in particular, I’ve held onto the stubborn belief that if I can punch a piece of work out until I reach the words “the” and “end,” then I’ll be able to find some application for that piece somewhere in the world: a door will open for it, and its journey will continue. I love working in different mediums and different genres, and feel lucky that I’ve been able to do so: sometimes, though, it’s been suggested to me that my creative wanderlust isn’t as clever a Fortune 500 scheme as mono-fixating on one particular career goal, then pursuing it relentlessly. I guess I get distracted by the winding paths.

You were the one who exposed me to Watchmen, Dark Knight Returns, Groo the Wanderer, Frank Miller’s Hard Boiled, Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing. I lay 85% of the blame for of my infatuation with comics at your feet. Why haven’t you ever tackled the medium as a writer? You’ve done damn near everything else.

Ha! I also believe that I introduced you to the good doctor Hunter S. Thompson and to Lester Bangs over the years! Off the top of my head, you introduced me to Howard Chaykin’s American Flagg, to novels by Jim Thompson, James Ellroy, Andrew Vachss; you were the first one to send me movies by Chan-Wook Park— naw man, let’s forget following this particular winding path, it’ll get us both using up way too much cyberspace!

It’s a twofold answer to your question: one part practical, the other part sort of philosophical. Practical: the deadlines in (mainstream) comic-book writing terrify me; I’ve never been the world’s speediest writer, and pumping out scripts for multiple titles every thirty days seems nervous-breakdown-inducingly intense. Philosophical: my whole life, I’ve loved comic books and movies.  I’m grateful to be able to work in the film industry, but— like anything you turn into your actual job— it can kinda kill your joy a bit; I can’t watch movies in the same way that I used to. So keeping my comic reading as a joy, as my escapism… I don’t mind that.

I’m in awe of what guys like Grant Morrison, Brian K Vaughn, Robert Kirkman and Joss Whedon can do, to name just a few— I just like to stand back and watch. It’s also fun to watch respected novelists reveal their love for the medium, lately, jumping in to create work: guys like Jonathan Letham, Michael Chabon, Ian Rankin, etc..

You’ve witnessed the filmed completion of 2 of your screenplays in 2010. That must have been an overwhelming experience after simultaneous multi-year processes. Is this an uncommon occurrence in the film industry?

It’s more a coincidence of timing than anything. I think most writers, producers, directors would tell you that the average development path for a feature film is a five-year trudge. My stage play HALO took about six years to come to screens as FAITH, FRAUD & MINIMUM WAGE, and THE CORRIDOR’s development took about four: the two projects converged during the festival season 2010. There was a point in the summer of 2008 where both projects were still fighting to get their green-lights, and it fell to me to convince the powers-that-be by working up two quick new drafts: I was two weeks out from delivering a second draft reinvention of THE CORRIDOR when a make-or-break, 72-hour polish of HALO was demanded of me: one that would either get the project its full-funding or get it completely shelved. For both projects, the producers’ timeline-schedules have checkpoints along 18 months of road, so you don’t want to miss a single one along the way or the project(s) might perish. That summer was a tough crunch-time — I worried I’d crash both scripts into each other and end up with neither getting made. I didn’t see a lot of sun July-August. After that, though, the convergence eased up for me personally— the projects’ timelines opened up from one another, and lots of other creative minds began to come into both to help carry the load(s).

Can you take us through the quick and dirty process of script to screen? And perhaps point out some differences between the 2 films’ journeys.

Writing FAITH, FRAUD & MINIMUM WAGE was a process of adapting my own work from another medium— my stage-play HALO. That’s an interesting assignment, because you’re trying to radically reinvent something while holding onto its essence. Live theatre and motion pictures seem awfully similar— they’re both story-telling vessels— but the former is a place for dialectic conversation, and the latter is a place where the story’s gotta move as pictures in action. Same thing, completely different– like turning a paper bag inside out.

THE CORRIDOR was a spec script— a horror story– written initially in my spare time away from HALO, as a way of off-gassing. HALO’s protagonist is a teenage girl and the movie is a comedy-drama which is generally brighter of tone (though not as bright as you might think— there’s a deep thread of melancholy in that story) while THE CORRIDOR is about five men whose experiences take them to some really horrific places.  It was kind of a yin-yang process for me, working on them both. My Angels and Demons, as it were.

Finally, there was some irony in the fact that my “teen flick” was the one that ended up being directed by Canadian horror veteran George Mihalka (of the original MY BLOODY VALENTINE). HALO (released as FAITH, FRAUD & MINIMUM WAGE) was a quote-unquote larger budgeted Canadian movie, starring Martha MacIsaac (from SUPERBAD, LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, GREEK), Callum Keith Rennie (HARD CORE LOGO, BATTLESTAR GALACTICA, CALIFORNICATION), Ricky Mabe (ZACH AND MIRI MAKE A PORNO, THE WILD HUNT, THE TROTSKY) and Andrew Bush (Picnicface, ROLLER TOWN) and, for me, was something of a “big machine”. The process of making THE CORRIDOR felt a bit more homemade: I optioned it to a horror-buff friend and emerging producer named Mike Masters (REEL ZOMBIES, SON OF THE SUNSHINE) who then brought the project to a Nova Scotian partner, Craig Cameron, and brought on director Evan Kelly. These guys are all approximately my own age, and— though we didn’t have the deepest of pockets— we were able to make our movie together, out “on the margins” of things. From the cast and crew onward, THE CORRIDOR felt a bit more D.I.Y., like I was making a movie with my friends over a couple of weekends.

Different experiences, these, but I wouldn’t trade one of them for the other, and I’m proud of both works in different ways.

How nerve-wracking was it to see both of your babies on the big screen last year?

I was too tired to feel a lot of nerves. Frankly— even if the movies get the shit kicked out of them by future critics or audiences— I feel a great deal of satisfaction in finally being able to “tie a knot in those balloons” and release them. It’s good to let them go.

I had the pleasure of reading The Corridor screenplay a few years ago. It instantly brought me back to that nostalgic feeling of Maritime winters and 1980’s horror novels (the good ones by Stephen King and Douglas Clegg). From watching the trailer it looks like they’ve nailed it. How do you feel about it?

That’s right–! You read THE CORRIDOR before I even optioned it!

I think everybody worked so hard on THE CORRIDOR— I’m really proud of them all. Evan’s interest was in deeply developing the character-study aspects of the script, and getting a quiet, contemplative mood out of the first reels of the picture— a New American realism sensibility (like David Gordon Green’s earlier movies, or Kelly Reichert’s). Starting from that honest place, I feel like THE CORRIDOR just gains and gains in intensity along its running time… I’m excited by the pressure cooker which builds up in that cabin in the woods. I think the awesome ensemble work of our five key actors– coupled with the work of Evan and everybody else, from production to post— really gives us a dimensional character piece that distinguishes itself against some of the cannon-fodder characterizations you find in lots of modern genre (and genre sequel) work. That being said, we also try to get our “Canucksploitation” on in the movie’s back half. Lastly, we try to reach for some enigmatic, sci-fi unknowables during the final reel (tipping our homage-hats to 2001, Solaris, Cube, etc)… Basically, from naturalistic beginning to extra-natural ending, we hope we take audiences on a pretty compelling “trip”…

What’s next?

It’s a fun time to be making movies in the Maritimes— I feel like we’re on the cusp of some new “pop entertainment” era here, with the stories we’re getting to tell.  There’s been a lot of knockout movies made here over the years, but they were oftentimes in the (entirely valid) idiom of Don Shebib’s GOIN’ DOWN THE ROAD— movies overtly concerned with our regional identity. My current peer-group simply wants to entertain, as best they can, and they’re starting to make some crazy dents in the mass pop-culture. It started with Mike Clattenburg’s TRAILER PARK BOYS. I story-consulted on comedy troupe Picnicface’s ROLLER TOWN movie last year, and that’s gonna be amazingly funny. My friend Jay Dahl has made a verite-camerawork horror movie called THERE ARE MONSTERS, capitalizing off his insane number of YouTube hits with the short of the same name. Former local movie-reviewer Mark Palermo has made an alliance with Hollywood music-video director  Joseph Kahn, and has fast-tracked his first horror-comedy feature screenplay into existence: keep your eye out for DISTURBANCE later this year (starring Josh Hutcherson and Dane Cook). I’m excited to watch FAITH, FRAUD & MINIMUM WAGE continue into its secondary markets, and I’m really hopeful that we’ll get THE CORRIDOR out into the larger world in the months ahead. Finally, my good friends Jason Eisener, Rob Cotterill and John Davies are already reaching stratospheric levels of success with their homegrown HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN. The movie is a towering piece of uber-entertainment: any exploitation fan is going to lose their shit over this one, and its amazing blend of sociopathic craziness and pure, happy cinema-love…. it’s the best time you’ll have in a movie theatre in a really long time, trust me.

For myself, I want to keep genre-hopping and exploring those side-paths. I have a kid’s urban adventure movie in development— sort of a Ferris-Bueller-meets-Run-Lola-Run, beeline-race movie— called OVER UNDER THROUGH. I’m also writing a horror-comedy about a particularly hellish night spent trapped in a demonically-overrun seafood restaurant, called THE TRAP: here I’m playing with “cheery” horror movies like Poltergeist, Gremlins and Ghostbusters, but then trying to contain my proceedings like in Die Hard or Walter Hill’s Trespass. Finally, I’m hoping to direct my first short later in the year, possibly with some help from Team Hobo and Team Corridor— a summer’s horror-chase exercise simply called GAME.

Or I might be working at Ultramar. Never can tell. Keeps me lean.

“It brought them all together… and then it tore them all apart
They’ve been the best of buddies for more than a decade, but now they’re changing– getting married, getting promoted, going bald, going insane. During a male-bonding weekend, they will discover a spectral corridor through the woods– an impossible hallway where none should be. It will lead these five men into fear, into betrayal, and into the biggest change of them all: by weekend’s finish… they’ll be dead.
TYLER CRAWLEY (31) needs his friends, now more than ever. Recovering from mental stress in the wake of his mom’s death, Tyler has been counting on a weekend with the guys to bring him back to normal. For Tyler’s sake his old buddies rally themselves, though the “glue” which keeps them together has weakened with the passing of recent years– a natural enough occurrence.
But with the introduction of a single unnatural occurance– the corridor itself– the knots in these male bonds will come loose with a terrifying speed. Both a fantastical passageway to somewhere and a passageway into the mind of the male animal, the corridor will lead Tyler and his friends to the very edge of sanity and beyond…
MacDonald positions the film as living somewhere between the character beats of Barry Levinson’s DINER and the trippy mind-bend of films like Ken Russell’s ALTERED STATES or Vincenzo Natali’s CUBE.”


“Casey McMullen never knew what a miracle could do… until she built one.”

When the image of Jesus Christ seems to appear on the donut shop where she works, teenaged Casey’s life is forever changed. Yearning to escape from the hopeless, pious boondock which she calls home, Casey tries to “spin”  this hoax into her own fortune, fame & farewell. If only her estranged father would notice: but that might take a real miracle…

Frustrated with her life, Casey McMullen (Martha MacIsaac) throws a coffee at the wall of the Krowne Donuts where she works… and the splash inadvertently comes to resemble an image of Jesus Christ. Overnight, Casey finds herself becoming the ring-master of a growing faith circus: the parking-lot teems in new customers, 24-7 news media arrive, and the chicken-shack next door cashes in with a “12 Piece Apostle Meal”. Casey’s hoax changes everything: for her strict, fundamental boss (Don Allison), her sweet, believing boyfriend (Ricky Mabe), her “Doubting Thomas” local priest (Andrew Bush), and, most importantly, for her Dad… Haunted by the aftermath of a family tragedy, Casey’s Dad (Callum Keith Rennie) is letting everything around him go: his mortgage payments, his business, everything. Casey’s hoax might be just the “divine intervention” which her Dad needs…but the results are not at all what she expected.

FAITH, FRAUD & MINIMUM WAGE is a modern pop parable: a story of The Father, The Daughter and The Holy Roast.

Further reading and resources:
Josh’s author page at Talon Books who have published two of his plays, HALO and  WHEREVERVILLE in paperback.
The Facebook Page for THE CORRIDOR and official movie site
The Facebook Page for FAITH, FRAUD & MINIMUM WAGE and official movie page


The Copic Wonders of Rich Hennemann [NSFW]

Over the last few years I’ve been seeing more and more artists using Copic markers mixed with other types of media to create some incredibly detailed and impressive looking pieces of artwork. A few artists come to mind and they are very good at pin-up art but then I discovered an artist that simply made my jaw drop with his use of mixed media and the impressive palette that he wielded with the precision of a Legend in the making. Rich Hennemann is truly a very talented individual. He can be contacted here for any commission inquiries:

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

Honestly, I don’t exactly remember. For years, just about all of my work was in private commissions/illustrations, so I don’t really have a specific date and time of what my first professional piece was. Sad……

I’ve since branched out, and have done spot illustrations, a novel cover, some character design, and am just recently getting into the comics world, with some indie covers, some work on trading card sets (base cards and original sketch cards) for FemForce and Luxura…and I’ve got a couple things in the works that hopefully I can talk about soon.

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

Completely self taught. I’ve always been a big fan of art, of all kinds, and I’ve done my best to study and learn as much as I could from the artists I admire most…which I try to continue to do to this day.

I also do my best to continuously try new things, new mediums, styles, methods. I love trying to figure out something that’s new to me, and usually I end up incorporating what I like into what I do. I strive to be constantly changing, and improving.

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 enjoy working in several different mediums. For most of what I do, I work primarily with ink and watercolor. My brushes are Windsor Newton Series 7 (size 2 & 4). For inking, I use a brush with Pelikan ink, or the Pentel Brush Pen, and various sizes of the Faber Castell PITT pens. I then paint with watercolor (and often incorporate some acrylic paint and/or colored pencils.)

If working in gray tones, which seems to be the most popular request for commissions, I will sometimes use wash, but most often go with a mix of warm and cool gray Copic Markers. I use a white paint pen for highlights, and when the mood strikes, a mix of paint, ink, or whatever I can find to finish a piece off.

You have a very unique style to your artwork. Can you give us an in-depth look at how you create an image?

Not a whole lot of mystery here. Once I have an assignment, or character decided on for a commission, I start with some brainstorming and doodling. From that, I’ll get an idea of what I want to do with the piece (this sometimes takes seconds, sometimes days).

Once I have an idea, I’ll usually do a very rough thumbnail sketch, mostly to work out the design of the piece, and where I want everything to go. Then, I’ll dive right in to the pencil drawing. Since I’m always inking and finishing (be it paint or Copics) a piece myself, the pencils are left pretty loose. Once I’m comfortable that I’ve got enough of a drawing on the page, I do the line work and tighten up the drawing with the PITT Pens.

Next, I go in with the Copics for color (well, not really color, as I only work in gray, warm and cool….so let’s say “tones”) and shading. From there, I finish it up with some highlights….and if I feel like getting messy, some paint and ink splatter.

Favorite brand of ink, Copic markers, watercolor, etc.

My ink of choice is Pelikan. I use the refillable original Copics Markers, in warm and cool tones. For water color I use mostly Pelikan, but I’ll mix in some Windsor Newton, and various types of acrylic paint. For white highlights, I love the Sakura Gelly Roll white pens, as well as concentrated white watercolor, and a standard white out pen.

Type of paper:

For Copic drawings, I use Strathmore Medium Drawing paper. Not as thick as the Strathmore and Canson paper or board I use for watercolors, but I love the natural tint to the paper, and it holds and blends the Copics beautifully.

Which artists or creators do you return to for a quick boost of inspiration?

I’m always returning to the works of my favorites for inspiration. My favorite artist, and the biggest artistic influence on me (even though you can’t see it at all in my work) is Tim Sale. He excites me, and inspires me, and just does things that I can’t do, which is what really draws me to his work. He has a style that is completely his own, and I do my best to learn from his masterful storytelling, design and technique. He’s also a wonderful man, who I am proud to be able to call a good friend.

And when we’re talking Copic Markers, my biggest inspiration (and the biggest inspiration for all current artists who use copic markers, whether they admit it or not) is the Master, Adam Hughes. Adam is an unimaginable talent, who can draw anything. And when he’s working with copics, he is the king.

I also have a great love for the work of Darwyn Cooke, John Romita Sr., Robert McGinnis, Norman Rockwell, Fritz Willis, Drew Struzan, Scott Morse, Bill Presing, Stephane Roux, Juanjo Guarnido…I could probably go on forever.

When you’re commissioned to do a piece for someone do you have a different approach to when you create for your own pleasure?

Hmmm…I guess that depends. As with any paying job, having someone else “make the rules” certainly changes things a bit, at least in that I’m trying harder to stick to someone else’s expectations and am less likely to do something crazy, or try something completely new.

But otherwise, no, not really. My favorite commissions are those I’m turned loose on….and in my opinion are the ones that always come out best. Of course, when someone commissions me, my first priority is to give them exactly what they want, but when their only request is “Spider-Man…and have fun with it!”, and not “Spider-Man…..swinging through the city, tilted to exactly a 64 degree angle, with exactly 41 cars below him, at least 24 unique buildings, and exactly 207 windows on each building, etc……”, the results are probably going to be better.

(That’s an exaggeration of course….but you’d be surprised how specific some folks can be…)

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

For no apparent reason, I’ve recently been trying to decide on my top 10 favorite albums of all time. So I’ve got several full albums loaded up that I’ve been listening to constantly – Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking by Roger Waters, Ten – Pearl Jam, American Idiot – Green Day, Blood on the Tracks – Bob Dylan, Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness – Smashing Pumpkins, Downward Spiral – NIN, OK Computer – Radiohead, The Chronic – Dr. Dre.

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

I’ve got several drawings and original pages by Tim Sale hanging up, as well as a few paintings/drawings that were done for my son by some friends and masters from the animation world….Scott Morse, Nate Wragg, Mike Lee, Robert Kondo.

My favorite piece is a wash drawing by Tim Sale, of Superman proposing to Lois, which was done to help me propose to my (now) wife. Not only is it a beautiful drawing, but for obvious reasons, it means more to me than any other piece of art possibly could.

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

I’m not much of a novel reader anymore, unless graphic novels count. If so…I recently finished “Revolver” by Matt Kindt (creator of the phenomenal “Super Spy”). I’m a huge fan of Matt’s style and storytelling, and highly recommend everything he’s done.

I also just re-read the three volume collection of “Blacksad” by Juan Diaz Canales and Juanjo Guarnido. The recent English collection printed by Dark Horse is beautiful, and if anyone out there hasn’t read it, there is nothing I would recommend more highly.

My wife and I just recently welcomed our second child, so I don’t get out to the movies much anymore either. I think the last movie I made it out to was “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows”, which I’d definitely recommend. Easily the best in the series since “Azkaban”.

Current and upcoming projects.

Right now I’m finishing up some sketch card work on the upcoming “Luxura: Sword of the Apocalypse” trading card set, and a cover for an indie comic called “Void”… well as a few things that are in the works that I can’t really talk about yet.

I’m also hard at work on my first children’s book, which is nearly finished, and should be out sometime later this year.

In addition, I’m always accepting commissions. I use commissions as a way to take a break from whatever else I might be working on….they keep me sane. So regardless of my schedule, I always mix in some time each day to work on commissions.

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.

Draw. Paint. Skribble. Scratch. Doodle. Whatever! If you love to create art, you must do it. Practice, study, explore…..and practice. If you wonder what will happen if you try something new….try it. If you wonder what it would be like to be a professional artist…..find out. It’s never easy, but if you love art, and work hard, you will get there….and nothing will make you happier.

The Deliriously Freakish Designs of PoltArt [INTERVIEW]

According to his bio ‘PoltArt also known is Aleksandr Poltavskiy is a freelance illustrator located in Meridian, ID. He has been doodling his entire life but decided to try it on a serious level about seven years ago.’ What I dig about Alex`s work is that it marries old-school thrash and hardcore designs with a the more urban vibe of skateboard graphics. The work is bold, it stands out and each piece definitely has PoltArt`s unique stamp on it.

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

Everything inspired me honestly. I was drawing ever since I can remember, when I was younger I had a friend who had a huge collection of comic books, I loved those covers! At the same time while growing up I played a lot of video games such as Atari, Nintendo (The original), Sega Genesis and such. So all of those video games and their covers really made me want to draw since I loved how colorful they all were.

As far as struggling goes, I did struggle a lot at first. Posting in non art forums can be very difficult. I remember one time I did some Grand Theft Auto fan art and showed it off and people just bashed it and laughed how my hands looked like penises. So I did have a rough start, but not quitting really helped me improve. And always looking at inspiration and reference did a whole lot as well!

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

I am not sure if we are going with first art sold or actually a professional level illustration so I will go with the second one. I think in 09 I actually got a chance to do stuff for the band Lamb of God. I did a few designs for them but the one that was chosen was a girls T-shirt design. I was still very excited about it and the interesting part was that this design was a random one. On others I tried very hard to think of complex concepts, on this one I threw together random things I doodled and surprisingly it turned out nicely!

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

I was all self taught. I actually went to art school one day and one day only. When I got there the teacher told us to draw what we wanted so I thought of drawing a sadistic voodoo doll. Apparently when you are 12 years old you are not allowed to draw that so they just told me how I can’t draw things like that. This quickly took away any interest I had in art school.

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?

Over the years I really evolved with my work. In the past I would draw a sketch on paper then scan it over and ink it using the pen tool in Photoshop and go forth. Then I started inking using the brush tool when I got better with a tablet. Now days I start with a sketch digitally, and ink digitally. I have tried to ink on paper and scan it and color that but I could never get my lines as crisp as I would like them to be, so I just stick with digital inking.

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

Well over the years it got a lot smaller heh. I still do have pens I ink with when I care to do something on paper alone, but for most part everything I ink is digitally.

Favorite brand of ink:

When inking on paper I tried various companies and the one I like the most is the Faber-Castell Indian Ink pens.

Type of paper:

I always liked standard computer paper, it’s just perfect the way it is for me. Cardstock is also very nice, especially when working with color markers that bleed through typical paper.

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

A lot of the time I go to the conceptart community. A lot of high end professional artists go there and it is a very overwhelming place even with inspiration. I only try to look for it every once in a while because I feel the more I look at someone’s work the more I kind of start leaning to his or her style, and that is definitely something I want to avoid. As far as masters of Ink I don’t really have any names that I know of. One of the artists I always loved ever since I saw his work in a book was Albert Durer, he puts so much detail into his inked pieces!

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?

Usually I start doing research on the client if I hadn’t beforehand. I find exactly what this person is into and try to create something that would work for those interests. I always do a sketch or two first and submit it while explaining to them that the sketch is a rough idea of placement rather than accurate details of the art so they know it will look completely different and better once I attack it completely. After I get the sketch approved I begin to ink the piece. Sometimes I color a little while inking that way I can get some colors thrown on and plan how I am going to color what. I continue that proves until the illustration is done. I typically try to keep the client updated the entire time to make sure they are still good with the art and they don’t want any changes yet. Because if I finish then they decide they want the hand to be a little bigger I have to re-work a lot of colors!

How have digital tools affected your creative process over the past few years?

I love digital tools a lot! Having to work with a tablet is awesome; over the years trying various applications also helped me find something I am comfortable with. About a year ago I also purchased a wacom cintiq tablet, and that made life so much easier. I am able to now do a lot more details in my work, and have it look very crisp at the same time.

What would be your best and worst professional experience?

My best work experience would definitely be when I had a single client buy over 5 designs I have done in the past all in one day. That was definitely a wonderful day. On the other hand my worst experience was when I actually first started working. I had a client who I agreed on a rate for. Afterwards he decided to not pay and I had done 6 or more illustrations. That was definitely a good time to learn to ask for a kill fee up front.

What was the best advice you’ve ever received but may not have listened to the first time out?

Light source. Back when I was starting out a guy told me to work on my light source. For some strange reason I had no idea what he meant by that and so I kept doing the same thing I was doing, so it took me a bit to realize how to define a light source and use that to add more interest to my work.

Do you approach your album cover illustrations illustrations differently than your t-shirt designs?

I do approach those differently. When doing a T-shirt design I separate each color into a different layer, whereas on an album cover I just mash all the colors together.

Which pieces are you most proud of thus far?

You know I am always proud of my current work. There are pieces that I have done in the past that is great and I am proud of achieving progress with them such as work I have done for Lamb of God or Harley-Davidson, but every time I do a new project I feel like I have a new favorite. I did a cannibal T-shirt design for Born of Osiris a few months back and even though I have done new work I still feel that is my favorite and I am very proud of it because of the concept and the colors I used.

What’s your vital daily ritual?

Well I do a lot of stuff and have a lot of hobbies. Usually if the weather is nice I like to go out and practice stunting on my motorcycle. Then I get home and start working. Throughout the day I get snacks and continue working. I pretty much continue this until 4-5am? I also take breaks throughout the day to play some video games. I have an Xbox 360 hooked up to my monitor so I just switch over play for 30 minutes then get back to hours of work. It works nicely heh.

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

Oh man, so much music in my MP3. I listen to a lot of music but while answering this I am listening to Gianluca Ferro an instrumental band from Italy. I do love all sorts of music from death metal – hip hop – Horrorcore – old school music such as Bobby Vinton.

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

Umm, well that is a difficult one to answer. I usually have random stuff from magazines cut out that I like, as far as actual work goes I do have a nifty Guild Wars poster I got with the game back in the day that I have posted.

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?

Right now I am on a few books, they are I Lucifer by Glen Duncan, and Mister B. Gone by Clive Barker. Those are both great books and I really love concepts that deal with demons, and horror, and just interesting story lines. So I would recommend those, I also love the Dark Tower books by Stephen king. I always seem to return to his writing. Heh as far as movies go I can’t get enough! I watch a lot, recently purchased Netflix so usually while working I either have a movie or music playing. The other day I actually saw the movie Due Date, I thought that was pretty funny. My favorite movie is probably The Crow with Brandon Lee.

Current and upcoming projects?

Right now I am working on a skateboard design or two, which I am thrilled about because I haven’t had a chance to do any so far. I am also back to work on some projects for Bravado, which is always exciting. And always doing random personal stuff, recently started a mummy design.

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?

Keep going? Heh just kidding that is pretty much what everyone would say right? Well I would tell him or her to promote himself to everyone he or she can. Use all the different social networks and company websites to get in touch with bands and labels. Just email everyone showing examples of your work and letting them know you would be interested in working for them. Don’t be shy! What is the worst that can happen? The band lets you down and says they are not interested? On the other hand if they are interested, then you would get yourself a client! Another thing is if you have different designs you have done for fun submit them as a mock up with the band’s name, maybe the band will love it and purchase that design right away!

What’s been the most effective means of marketing yourself both online and off?

Honestly the best marketing I have ever done was online and on MySpace. Back before their high tech flash version MySpace was fantastic to use for work! I would constantly send messages to different bands/artists and get work that way.

Thanks for the interview, I had a fun time answering your questions, was nice to reevaluate how I got to my current stage as an artist. :)

For more of Alex’s work head on over to