By Richard Serrao
Just last week we posted 5 Reasons to draw in pen and ink, however we often come across amazing artists who create their art in the digital realm. Our interview with Dan Mumford continues to be one of our most popular Master of Ink features. Brian Denham is another such artist who rocks a Cintiq instead of a 2 or 3-ply comic board. The results are rather stunning. It’s his run on Iron Man: Hypervelocity that really made me stand up and take notice of his work.
First professional work (piece / year) and maybe a quick story behind it.
My first pin-up was a double page image of Badrock in Youngblood Battlezone.
I self-published a comic that Rob Liefeld saw, and he hired me a week later at San Diego Comic-Con in 1994. I was told to start work on Monday following the show. Todd Nauck was kind enough to let me stay at his place for 2 weeks. I got to work on Monday and did a ton of pi-ups of different things that hopefully will never see print. Rob liked how I drew Badrock and told me to do layouts for a pin-up of him. I made it a double-page spread of Badrock smashing through a wall. Rob loved it, had it inked and colored and told me it was replacing his image of Badrock he was going to draw for this Battlezone book. A week later at the comic shop there it was on the shelf, so ten days after starting at Extreme my first pro work hit the stands. That was mind-blowing!
My first pro book was Violator Vs. Badrock.
McFarlane sent Liefeld the prototype Spawn toys before any of them ever shipped. Rob was in a meeting messing around with Violator and Badrock when an idea struck, he came into the bullpen and told me he had a mini-series for me. It was Violator Vs. Badrock. Rob told me I drew monsters great and was always on the look for something just like this for me to draw. He asked me who I wanted to write the script and I answered, “Alan Moore.” He told me there was no effing way that we could get Alan Moore, and I told him, “You’re Rob Liefeld. You can do anything.” Rob lit up and went to this office and came back later and said. “Ok. Alan More is writing you’re book.” That was crazy. I was so emotionally shocked but I tried to play it off.
Self-taught or formally educated? (or mixture of both, mentors etc…)
I’m self-taught. My 6th grade art teacher told me I was not very good and I should take another elective. I stuck with it though and I would hang out in the school library and read art books and books on the masters. I would interpret all that info for comics though as that was my life-goal. I found a book in High School reprinting Neal Addams Batman in black and white and I had that checked continually. It was a good teacher. After that I would go to the local con at the time, The Dallas Fantasy Fairs where I met local artist Kerry Gammill. He became a mentor to me and would always tell me things to improve. We are friends to this day. He helped me and John Cassaday as well.
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 work exclusively on the computer with Adobe Illustrator. I had a Wacom Intuos since 2000, but I recently upgraded to a 21ux Cintiq.
I use Illustrator over Photoshop because my brother bought me the program. It was frustrating as hell, but I stuck with it and made myself learn to draw on it. Then one day when I was working at Top Cow I got the idea to draw comics on it and I figured out some things that would allow me to do that. Peter Steigerwald told me there was no way anyone could draw a comic on the computer at a good speed and I wanted to prove him wrong.
I like that Illustrator keeps the line art crisp and not pixelated even when zoomed. I love that my final file sizes are under 2meg. It lets me work on a cheaper PC while maintaining good quality line art.
If you are curious about my process, I have a blog on drawing comics in Illustrator at http://www.illcraft.com for you to check out. Start reading from the first post.
Favorite brand of ink:
Pixels. For a serious answer- I love sketching with Bic pens.
Type of paper:
Notebook or napkins. I like the disposable nature of them. Makes me feel like I’m not on stage performing and I can just express myself however I want.
Which artists or creators do you return to for a quick boost of inspiration? Who are the masters of ink?
More than I can name, but mostly: Greg Capullo, Berni Wrightson, Frank Frazetta, Eric Canete, Alan Davis, Jose Luis Garcia Lopez, Marc Silvestri, Bryan Hitch, John Buscema, Joe Quesada, Jim Lee, Oliver Coipel, Jorge Zaffino, Enrico Marini, J.C. Leyendecker, Adam Warren, Clamp, Tetsuro Ueyama and a bunch of European and Japanese 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?
I open the script in Open Office and copy each page of script into a Illustrator file and save each page as a separate file.
I break each page down by page creating loose sketches of the scene.
I draw the art in a standard comic-sized template I created in Illustrator CS3, which has the official pro borders and Live art area indicated.
I create panel shapes and convert them to clipping paths. I number the panel layers per panel then create sub-layers to keep each panels art. After my sketches look good I lower the opacity level and change the line art to red. I then go to each panels layer and create the art as “inked” art. Meaning my next stage would have been tight pencils if I were using paper but since it’s black art on the computer I go from sketch to finished art.
After the art is completed I go back over it with white and highlight some area that need it, like cracks, or armor rings or spit, blood, stars or splatter.
I save the art in multiple formats for future needs. I email my editors and let them know I’m finished with that page. I’ll email it if asked or place if on their ftp.
When completed with 5 pages at DC or 11 at Marvel I’ll submit a voucher for my work and I’ll get paid within 2 weeks.
What’s currently sitting in your mp3 / CD player / turntable?
Mostly podcasts. I call or text multiple podcasts on Talkshoe each week that relate to pop-culture and comics. BigFanBoy, Tim’s Late Night Lounge, Mighty Sabo and Son, Breaking The Panels all of which are available on Talkshoe or iTunes.
When I’m not doing those shows I listen to Pandora.com’s Trip Hop channel.
I love Bollywood soundtracks!
I really like funky music ala Operator Please.
What’s hanging on your walls and what is your favorite piece of art that you own (not created by you)?
I like to keep my walls free of artwork. I do have an autograph X-Files 1 comic in a frame signed by Frank Spotnitz, and Chris Carter that he signed “I Made This”
I have an autograph of Ray Bradbury on the wall. He signed my con badge at Comic Con last year. I used to read Fahrenheit 451 because I liked seeing my last name in print as Denham Dentrifice. It inspired me to make it happen on my own as an adult.
I have a couple of art images I made on my walls and the Marine Corps flag. Clutter free beyond that.
Last novel you read and last movie that you saw (that you’d recommend)
The Road was the last novel I read and I’ll recommend the movie; Star Trek!
Current and upcoming projects.
I am working on Starcraft right now. I’m also working on a creator-owned as I await approval. I’m slowly working on my webcomic at DenhamShorts.com and I’m drawing some art for How To Draw Super-Powered Heroes from Antarctic Press, shipping in June. I drew the cover for President Evil in July, and I’m working on How To Draw Super-Powered Villains for August.
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?
Put your art online and seek professional level critique. I mean ask some pros to give it to you on the level without any BS and listen. I recently asked some pro friends of mine to give me a no BS assessment of my art and it helps. Most of it I knew but didn’t want to admit, and the rest were great tips. We can all do better. We are all learning. Share your work, inspire others and seek honest review.
For more info on Brian Denham head on over to http://www.briandenham.com/