By Jason Thibault
I originally intended to have Becky Cloonan included within the first set of Masters of Ink interviews but it was bad timing do to the onset of summer vacation and convention season. We chased her down again and landed 12 answers with Miss Cloonan. I’m a latecomer to her work. I’ve always admired it from afar but it wasn’t until earlier this year that I had my comic dealer hunt down a copy of Demo for me. It was worth the wait.
Whether she’s working on an album cover, illustration, mini-comic or graphic novel, her raw talent in pen and ink rendering shines through. On to the interview now.
First professional work (piece / year) and maybe a quick story behind it.
The first book that I worked on which was professionally published was Jennie One, written by Brian Wood and published by AIT/Planet Lar. Following that was DEMO, also written by Brian and published by AIT, which was a 12 issue series of one shot stories about people with super powers, but told in a way totally unlike a superhero comic. It was really well received, and Vertigo just recently published a collection of the original 12 issues. Brian and I are currently working on six new issues with Vertigo, in the same format as the original.
Self-taught or formally educated? (or mixture of both, mentors etcâ€¦)
I went to school for animation at SVA, and left after three years to draw comic books. I think that a formal education is important for a good foundation, and life drawing classes are critical, but most of my breakthroughs as an artist have been due to pushing myself harder. There’s a lot of artists that I look up to, and I’m happy to be friends with some amazingly talented people. We’re all constantly raising the bar for each other.
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 mostly a brush, when I’m at home I use a Winsor & Newton series 7 (size 2) brush and Winsor & Newton India ink. While I’m traveling I use a Pentel brush pen, which is refillable so I don’t have to bring ink along. Sometimes I’ll use a G Pen, too. I really like using Borden and Riley paper for Pen and Ink, it’s very smooth, and thin enough so that I can transfer my sketches without any problems. I also love Mono erasers.
Favorite brand of ink:
I use Winsor & Newton India ink, or Yasutomo liquid sumi ink.
Type of paper:
For ink work I like really smooth paper, first because my pencils are really sloppy so rougher paper makes my pencils even more smudgy. When I paint though (sometimes I watercolor) I like paper with more tooth.
Which artists or creators do you return to for a quick boost of inspiration? Who are the masters of ink?
If I have to choose three (because if not I’ll go on forever!) my favorite artists are Joseph Clement Coll, Franklin Booth and Hokusai. My favorite cartoonists are Guy Davis, Kaoru Mori and Tim Sale. Actually, for inspiration I make a conscious effort to look beyond the art books I have, and I’ll go to a museum or watch a film or go to the opera or something. I find looking at art for inspiration usually leads me to frustration, so I try to look outside of my medium for that.
Once a client has handed off an illustration job to you, how do you first tackle the job. Could you provide us with a quick overview of your process?
If I’m working for a company I make sure to get a contract and establish my rate up front, and detail any extra expenses (rush job, corrections, etc). Then I’ll do a few thumbnails and show the client. They’ll pick one or make suggestions and I’ll jump into pencils. Same thing, I show them the pencils and they give me edits or an OK. Then I’ll go into inks and colors, showing the client every step. When they approve it, I’ll send them the high resolution file and an invoice, and they’ll get my check in the mail! 😀
What’s currently sitting in your mp3 / CD player / turntable?
I usually just make enormous playlists and put them on shuffle, but for brevity’s sake today I’ve listened to Wolfsheim’s Casting Shadows, Clutch’s Robot Hive Exodus and Blind Guardian’s Nightfall in Middle-Earth. I’m also listening to the Twilight audio books which is like a total guilty pleasure that I love and hate at the same time. I’m very conflicted.
What’s hanging on your walls and what is your favorite piece of art that you own (not created by you)?
I don’t like hanging up my own art, I think I only have one silk screen of mine hanging that some of my friends signed. I dunno, I have so much cool art that it’s hard to pick! I have two German folio pages from the 1920’s by German artist Ferdinand Von Reznicek, a beautiful silk screen by Tim Sale and 4 Age of Reptiles lithographs by Ricardo Delgado. I’m a sucker for nice frames too, so I make sure to frame all the pieces I get. I also have a really cool stencil by Corey McAbee for his movie The American Astronaut. I also have a first edition printing of H.P. Lovecraft’s Supernatural Horror in Literature, and a few other interesting artifacts lying around. I really like antiques, and I try to pick up nick knacks from places I travel to so I’ve got almost a mini museum in my living room.
Last novel you read and last movie that you saw (that you’d recommend)?
The last book I read was “The Devil in the White City“, which was amazing. I love history and historic fiction, this was about the building of the World’s Fair in Chicago and the rise of H.H. Holmes. The last movie I saw was a screening of the The Shining, which was, as always, scary as fuck. I’ve actually been having a lot of fun doing horror comics lately, but knowing that I’ll never make a comic as scary as the Shining is like setting myself up for failure from the beginning. Still though, horror has been a fun genre for me to play around in, which is ironic because I’m a total cover-my-eyes wuss when it comes to scary movies.
Current and upcoming projects.
I just finished an 8 page short for Dark Horse Presents called “I see the Devil in my sleep”. I’m currently working on new Demo issues with Brian wood for Vertigo, and I’m doing a few other short projects on the side as well. My graphic novel East Coast Rising volume 2 won’t be printed through Tokyopop, so I’m working with them to find a way to finally print it, so I’m hoping that happens.
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 working your ass off! But also don’t forget to have fun- comics is a business that if you stop having fun you’ll end up killing yourself.
For more info on Becky head on over to:
http://www.estrigious.com (my website)
http://inkandthunder.blogspot.com (my blog)
To read the first 12 Masters of Ink interviews head on over to the Jacen Burrows piece.