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Tim Bradstreet on his Influences and Artistic Process – Part 2

By Richard Serrao and Jason Thibault

In part one of this interview Tim Bradstreet opened up his artistic tool box and went through it in detail. In part 2 we get a look inside his process and his artistic (and cultural) influences. In part 3 he gives out advice to aspiring artists and talks about his artistic evolution and upcoming projects.

Tim, which artists or creators do you return to for a quick boost of inspiration? Who are YOUR masters of ink?

Great question as I am all about the influences, especially when I need to recharge the battery. Guys that get me all fucking girly are (in no specific order) –
Bernie Wrightson, Gary Gianni, Danijel Zezelj, Frank Frazetta, Al Williamson, Alex Nino, Jim Steranko, Mark Shultz, Richard Corben, Timothy Truman, Franklin Booth, Jim Daly, Darwyn Cooke, Serpieri, Quique Alcatena, Gene Day, Jean Giraud, William Stout, Mike Mignola, Dave Stevens, Michael Wm. Kaluta, George Pratt, Tom Yeates, Joe Kubert, Reed Crandall, Doug Wildey, Wow, God I love Doug Wildey’s work.

That’s the main list off the top of my head. I’m leaving important one’s off but you can never absolutely DEFINE the list. I discover artist’s work I love and appreciate all the time. With most all of the artists listed it’s based off the body of work, entire careers. There are also a lot of exciting and bold artists really happening in the now, a lot of folks who deserve a wider audience.

But the thing now too is that with digital there are so many really wonderful artists that work in multiple styles. That’s great, that kind of flexibility is amazing and I’m awed by it, but with varying styles it’s more difficult to define them. I’m drawn mostly to artists who’ve really defined themselves with that one-of-a-kind look, “It couldn’t possible be anyone else’s work but so and so . . .” etc.


A cover for SCALPED, an ongoing DC Vertigo series.

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?

Awww, c’mon, that’s boring! ;) It’s sometimes different based off the job requirements but my normal M.O. begins by executing a photo rough or ‘key art’. Normally I start out focusing on the main figure (s), getting that right, the idea of it . . . what pose, what position, what props, how to present this character dynamically, iconically. All of that is an automatic flow that begins with the feeling/vibe I get from what the character is, what he/she does, what actions define them.

Then it’s all about composition, telling a story in a single frame, whether that’s a more ambiguous ‘mood’ shot where the tone defines the moment, or it’s an actual scene. Sometimes it’s a superdoodle with multiple iconic elements combining to create a pastiche. I try to get inside the character’s head and then step out and move my eye/camera around. That’s all in my head as I begin to form an idea of what I want to photograph.


Pencils for a BLADE cover

Sometimes I sketch it out, sometimes I go directly to the shoot and riff the idea. Sometimes I’m using reference that wasn’t originally intended for the job in hand – and that’s even more ambitious in many ways because you are creating the actual figure like a Frankenstein, pieces and parts, a bit from this a bit from that, a complete jam. Then it’s all about creating an environment that compliments the human element. It’s ALL composition.

When I complete that photorough to my or my client’s satisfaction then I take it to the light box and translate (over vellum). Once my pencils are finished I flip the vellum over (I print everything backwards) and dry transfer it to my Bristol board. That’s when the real fun begins. Ink, glorious ink.


The cover CRIMINAL MACABRE issue 1.

Then I work the color myself or indicate the color treatment I’d like for my colorist/partner, Grant Goleash, then sit back while he does his magic. Generally after Grant has done his bit I edit and tweak the color again and then deliver.


The cover for PUNISHER MAX issue 27.

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

It’s an iTunes DJ playlist taken from my (Scores Only) playlist. It just runs and runs and runs my favorite scores. I’ve got about a week’s worth of music in there with no repeats. It helps create a mood. I love working to film scores. Right now it’s Jerry Goldsmith – “Jerry in Japan“, a live recording of Goldsmith’s film music conducted by Charles Fox. As we speak I’m listening to a most bombastic kickass version of the Title Track from The Wind And The Lion. Next track up in the que is Merlin’s Spell, by Trevor Jones from the score to Excalibur. This is some sweet stuff.


A piece used for the animated Kuwait sequence in the PUNISHER film.

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 a lot of art hanging in my studio because I lack the wall space. There is so much I’d LOVE to hang in here to inspire me but it’s all windows and bookshelves. I have Bernie Wrightson’sMomentos“, hanging in my bar. To my left is a gorgeous black and white original by Jim Daly. It’s incredible, a neat as shit scene of a dragon rider, framed by a tunnel of darkness, part of some kind of twisted hulk of a structure. In the background are other riders off in the distance, flapping winged leather for some unknown destination. It’s so cool.


The cover for PUNISHER MAX issue 33.

Next to that I have an original Martin Emond page from the Heavy Metal story White Trash. Tom Jane got it framed for me for my birthday last year. It’s one of my prized possessions cause Martin traded me for it years ago. He tragically passed away a few years ago so this one is mighty special. In front of me hangs my 4 year old daughter’s artwork. She draws and paints like crazy. I’m fairly sure she’s going to be in the creative field when she grows up ;)

In my Bar hangs a picture of Chief Dan George as Lone Watie from The Outlaw Josey Wales. I have no idea who the artist is, my dad bought it for me at an antique shop a few years back. It’s just damn cool. I’d really like to get my Doug Wildey page from Creepy hung up in here. I have a Paul Gulacy grey-toned page from a Black Widow story originally published in one of the old black and white Marvel mags . . . Bizarre Adventures maybe? Can’t remember. I’ve got a couple Wrightson’s, Lee Bermejo, Truman originals . . . Geez, there is just so much. I may have to brick over my windows.


The badass cover for PUNISHER MAX issue 45.

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 re-read Frank Herbert’s Dune for about the 6th or 7th time. It’s definitely my favorite sci-fi/fantasy novel if not my favorite all-around novel. I guess that also answers the last part of your question because I seem always to return to Dune, as well as the rest of the Dune series. Have to re-read them all every time.

Other books I rotate back to all the time are the Master And Commander series of books by Patrick O’Brian, The Name Of The Rose, by Umberto Eco, Conan, Solomon Kane, Bran Mak Morn, and El Borak, all by Robert E. Howard. There are others too.


Tim Bradstreet’s character Manfred Gallows from his Red Sky Diaries saga.

Last movie I saw that I would recommend . . . Edge Of Darkness. I’m a HUGE fan of the 1985 original BBC mini-series starring Bob Peck (a tour de force performance) and directed by Martin Campbell. I was drawn to the film adaptation for two reasons, 1. Because Martin Campbell (Casino Royale) himself was back in the director’s chair remaking his own film! and 2. Because I’m a huge Mel Gibson fan. Whatever people think about his personal issues I don’t really have any problem putting that aside to watch the fucking Road Warrior when he’s back on the screen after a 5-6 year absence.

I thought it was condensed (the original was 6 hours) decently enough and enjoyed watching a film that wasn’t assaulting me with ridiculous, over-the-top action and flimsy dialogue. Ray Winstone too, is fun to watch as Jedburgh. There is a fun role reversal from the BBC version, the original is based in England so the Gibson character is English and Jedburgh is American. The character’s nationalities are flipped with the remake taking place in America. Also, just really love the story by Troy Kennedy-Martin.


The original pen and ink cover for the PUNISHER DVD comic.

Current and upcoming projects?

That’s always such a loaded question, primarily because at any given time I may be working on something that is a bit far down the road, like Red Sky Diary. I’m co-writing a novelization and in between working on other stuff I write, edit, work on this massive glossary of terms, do illustrations, etc.

But it’s still going to be a year before this thing comes out. I’m also working on a mondo cool personal project, a book of illustrations which are anything the fuck I feel like drawing. I’ll end up with 15 or so. They run the gambit from ambiguously interesting character pieces, to actual scenes, to montage stuff. Sci-fi, fantasy, horror, post apocalyptic, combinations of all of that. Each illustration will be handed off to a writer like Warren Ellis, Bruce Jones, or David J. Schow.


The cover for SCALPED issue 19

The writers will come from many different areas of expertise, comic writers, screenwriters, novelists, etc. They will get carte blanch to write about whatever they want to as long as it pertains to that image I hand to them. It’s the normal creative process in reverse. They will each be limited to around 3 to 4000 words. When they finish the story I’ll add a spot illustration or two in order to round things out. My plan is to print it oversized (like 9″ x 12″) and do it as a hardcover. All the illustrations will be in glorious black and white.

Aside from those “in the works” projects, I’m keeping busy working on a new comic series by Garth Ennis that Dynamic Forces is publishing. Also getting set to provide covers for a new Clive Barker series at Boom! I’m always busy with Rogue Angel, it’s a line of novels that I’ve been doing covers for over the last few years. Seriously I’m looking for something “regular” to do again like I did with Hellblazer and Punisher. I was LOVING doing Criminal Macabre with Steve Niles but it’s been on hiatus for like 8 months now.


The cover for PUNISHER NOIR Issue 2

I’m looking for a gig, someone help and old saddle bum out here! What I’m really looking forward to is production designing this awesome period western-style revenge film set in colonial New Zealand that my pal Andrew McKenzie wrote and will direct. It’s an incredible script. I brought it to Tom Jane and we’re co-producing as well. It’s very close to green light status. It’s called Sweetwater.

Read Part One of this Tim Bradstreet interview.  And here is part 3 the final installment.

For more info you can visit Tim Bradstreet’s website or head on over to his company page for RAW Studios.


HELLBLAZER Issue 188 cover

Hart Fisher on Marvel and the Most Controversial T-shirt in Comics History

In 1995 Hart had a few hundred “Marvel Can Suck My Cock” t-shirts made up and managed to sell them all quite fast at Comicon that year. For those of us with bad memories he discusses the feeling in the air at the time amongst the indie-comics community.

by Hart D. Fisher

The Marvel Can Suck My Cock shirts were a specific response to Marvel’s business practices. This was when Dark Horse, Caliber, First Comics, Eclipse and the other indies started taking a bite out of Marvel’s sales figures. Then Image was formed and frankly, the powers that be behind Marvel wanted to punish them (Todd, Jim and Rob) for daring to leave at the peak of their success and start their own thing. To crush the competition Marvel came up with this horrendous boondoggle (it really fucked up the industry) of a plan to wipe them from the stands, literally. A comic book store has limited wrack space. They felt that when push came to shove, a Marvel title would always win out in a fight with an Indie for shelf space. So these morons decided to push the comics off of the stand physically by weight of numbers. Marvel nearly tripled their output to push the other books off the shelves, they were looking to bury guys like me with sheer weight of numbers.

A lot of comic book stores got hurt with this move. More than a few stores bought this line of crap and ended up with boxes of sub par comics stinking up the back of those stores. But hey, Marvel got paid, what the fuck do they care? Right? At this time, Marvel was also making noise about Marvel marts and about pulling their books from all other stores. Real stupid short sighted thinking. Just like the greedy idiots that want to erode the window of when films move from the Theater into your home on DVD. If they release DVD’s of theatrical releases in a bid for a quick buck they will kill the theatrical business and when that’s gone, you’re in trouble. This happened in comics. Stores started going out of business for buying Marvel. I knew several personally that got burned. The general thinking amongst many of the indies I knew was the stores that fell for it deserved what they got. I didn’t feel this way. I felt the comic book store owner was my partner in business and without him I was fucked. Marvel did not act that way at all.

I couldn’t say “Fuck You” to the suits in any other way than publicly. I wanted to make it hurt. I wanted to humiliate them. I grew up a died in blue Make Mine Marvel! Bullpen bulletin reading maniac fan. I also felt betrayed by their practices as a fan of comics. By doing something public like this, I could steer the conversation and outrage to the business practices they were perpetrating. You don’t like the comic business the way it is today? You can thank Marvel Fucking Comics and the rest of the lemmings that followed their lead during the distribution wars. My t-shirt was my voice telling them and everyone else, I’m here for a fight and I’m not leaving these wracks quietly. It was a declaration of war. I’ve always felt that you could outspend me, but you couldn’t out think me. And these gimps certainly go tow to tow with me in the gutter.

I took their money away, all of their status, and sold out of 100 shirts in less than one day. I sold the shirt off of my back twice for double the price. Then I heard about John Romita Jr. getting tough with some of the kids that wandered around the booth with their shirts on. I mean, he was getting physically violent and verbally abusive with this one guy from Fantagraphics or Slave Labor. So I went over there and took a walk around the Marvel booth, talked to some folks I knew, and sauntered away with that loud mouth bully sulking but not saying a word to someone he can’t bully.

I fucking HATE bullies.

I sent people over to their booth after that. The Marvel guys all thought my Kill Image comic was pretty funny until the joke was on them. They threatened to sue the San Diego Comicon if they didn’t kick me out of the show and make me stop selling the shirts. My publicity stunt changed the language of the booth display contract all vendors sign now because of this. Now there is a clause in the contract that states you can be ejected from the show for doing anything that is derogatory to another publisher OR to comics as a whole. Who the fuck could possibly decide what is derogatory to the comics industry as a whole? Gee, how do you figure that out? You don’t. Now they can arbitrarily throw you out for anything they feel like coming up with. This is one of the many reasons you will not see me at the San Diego show.

The Marvel shirts stirred the scarred little boy/men that ran many of these shows. I know of many people kicked out of shows around the country for wearing their shirt. I’ve had to cover up the word Cock several times on the shirt with Duct tape to keep selling it. One time at the Wizard World Chicago show, right after they bought it out and were running it for the first time they shut me down. Told me I couldn’t sell the shirt. I said no problem. Instead I gave the t-shirt away with any copy of Rectum Errectum (the book is even more crazy than the title) I sold until I got to the head guy at the show and we came to an agreement as to how to sell the shirts and then I sent my mom around the show on foot selling shirts.

If you’re smart enough, you can always figure out a way to make yourself heard in one way or another. You have to fight for your voice. That is what I taught all of my Boneyard Thugs. The fans were fucking pissed about what Marvel was doing. Store owners were furious. They were betrayed. The shirts were embraced for years after that until I got bored doing them. This wasn’t just my voice being raised, Dianna Schutz bought about 6 shirts for her editorial staff and one for Frank Miller. Hell, if you watch Chasing Amy, the Kevin Smith flick, you can see the Marvel Can Suck My Cock on a fan at one of the comic convention scenes, a Bill the Bull shirt made it in there also.

But people were really angry about Marvel then.

Weekly Roundup: Bleeding Cool, Chuck Palahniuk and French Batman

Comics
Most of the talk in the comics blogosphere and news sites centered around Rich Johnston’s new site, BleedingCool.com. His residency and column Lying in the Gutters has come to an end at Comic Book Resources.
Warren Ellis has returned to writing a weekly column at Bleeding Cool entitled Do Anything. Looks like it’s going to be a fun ride.

Publishers Weekly had a great article on underground comix and how they transformed the landscape of American comics.

Webcomics.com has a piece on how artists should protect their backs literally. I can`t emphasize enough to artists to spend the money on a good chair. After spending hours hunched over a kitchen table drawing and then using a crappy art stool I finally broke down in the late 1990`s and dropped 500 bucks on an engineer`s chair with adjustable everything.

Laura Hudson over at Comics Alliance wonders when comics will be available on game consoles.

We also got a sneak preview of Nathan Fox’s FLUORESCENT BLACK, PART 2 – ONE WAY OUT!! Looks like killer work. And it will also make an amazing collection when all is said and done. I`ve heard Nathan`s work described as Paul Pope on steroids.

Chris Sims reviews a Tarot, Witch of the Black Rose live on twitter a page at a time. Hilarious.

Erica Friedman over at Okazu details out the Top 7 Things Every Young Artist or Writer Needs To Know. There`s some great stuff in there that even us older fellas can take to heart.

Be sure to hit up the fantastic interview with Bob Fingerman conducted by Tom Spurgeon over at the Comic Reporter.
I forgot that Bernie Wrightson had worked on the Punisher P.O.V. back in the day. Here’s an awesome cover that he did.

And finally the Comics on Handhelds: Taking Webcomics Mobile – South by Southwest podcast is now live.

Art
A creepy new Elvis poster poster from Print Mafia was featured over at OMG Posters. I want it but I think it would give me the heebie jeebies after a while. The new David D’Andrea hand-painted posters on the other hand are gorgeous.

Greg Beato over at Reason Online does a quick retrospective of Juxtapoz magazine and how they sparked a lowbrow art revolution.

LittlePixel took Classic Albums and re-imagined them as old paperback covers. Here’s the flickr set.
Take the Munsell hue test and see if you got what it takes to be a colorist.

Writing & Publishing

ChuckPalaniuk.net had a short story contest.

The Washington Street Journal posted Reinventing the Magazine; covering 5 publications That Push the Boundaries of the Print Medium.

Social Media

Glenn Gabe over at Search Engine Journal gives his take on who actually Owns Your Twitter Account.

Wired covers Scientology`s s tumultuous relationship with Wikipedia and there recent banning. B

Mashable reviews The Top 6 Game-Changing Features of Google Wave. WAVE has to be making the keepers of Facebook stay up late at night as it is almost certainly a FB killer.

TechDirt asks when you can hold every song ever recorded in your pocket… Does $1/Song Still Make Sense?

The Good Stuff

100 Best Movie Lines In 200 Seconds

Twitch has an early INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS Review

Batman meets Sin City, in French. Cool little trailer for a new fan film.

And finally Leo gives us 8 strategies for Clearing the Queues in Your Life.

Hart Fisher on Comics Journalism, Frank Miller, Running Danzig’s Verotik and Life in Los Angeles

by Hart D. Fisher

In the early 90’s Hero Illustrated (Wizard’s main competitor at the time) put Hart Fisher on their Top 100 Most Important People in the Comic Book Industry. They also dubbed him as “the most dangerous man in comics.”
He then found himself doing journalism for Hero. For one article, Hart spoke with the man himself, Frank Miller. I asked Hart about Frank’s work and what it meant to him (and all us really) back then and how he felt about everything that Miller had accomplished over the past few years.

WORKING FOR HERO ILLUSTRATED AND HANGING OUT WITH FRANK MILLER

I did journalism writing for several of the old comics magazines. When I was in college I wrote an opinions column for the Daily Illini and got fired for being too controversial and outspoken, literally. I wrote for The Comics Journal (a great Rob Liefeld interview which was stunt casting. I should post the original audio tapes. He really spills the dirt after about an hour of bullshit), Fan Magazine, Hero Illustrated hired me for a few, that’s how I got to really know Glenn Danzig.


When Hero asked me to do the Miller interview, I was jumping for joy. I was a big Frank Miller fan back then. I loved his work. I loved his outspoken dedication to a truly adult and free press. I loved that he was fighting for the comic book as an adult art form. I respected how he walked away from Marvel at the height of his success to find his own way instead of selling his soul slowly like John Byrne. I grew up a Marvel Maniac. I felt Marvel had betrayed its fan base in the nineties and liked that Frank spoke out on that issue. I met him several times over the years and found I enjoyed his work less and less with time.

The interview with him for Hero, that kind of sealed it for me. That and the fact that every time I ran into Frank he acted like he’d never met me, never spoke to me before or even had a clue who the fuck I was. When you meet a guy for the 2nd or 3rd time, sure, I can expect that. But the 5th or 6th time I run into you, and this is after I interview the guy and he’s got one of my Marvel Can Suck My Cock shirts? Gimme a fuckin’ break. But that’s all my bruised ego talking. During the interview he got really cranky when I pointed out the spots he ripped Mickey Spillane off DIRECTLY from the novels. I mean, go read the Spillane books, you won’t be as impressed with the writing on Sin City after that. I was bored with all of the other interviews I read with him. They should have printed my original text. I wanted to know what beer he had in the fridge, what was the last CD he bought, real life shit like that. Some of it made it in, other parts didn’t. I should really post up all of these tapes.

I’d have to say after talking to him here and there over the years, I found him to be a cold fish full of sour grapes. I’m happy a new audience is finding his work. I’m enjoying the film adaptations immensely. 300 rocked, Sin City rocked everywhere Michael Madsen wasn’t on screen stinking up the place. Look at the way his graphic style has found its way into advertising now, look at the ads for Death Sentence. That’s all Miller there. The man was the guy who turned me onto Japanese manga which changed my art style completely. Dark Angel wouldn’t have looked the way it did if Frank Miller didn’t get Dark Horse to publish Lone Wolf and Cub. Miller was very influential on my work growing up and into college.

I only hope it puts people into comic books stores to buy comics. That’s the bottom line. Sure there are great film adaptations of Millers work are coming out, the real question is does this help the comics industry? Sales figures suck. I mean, they suck hard. You can’t make a living in comics. You make it from turning your comic into a movie or a video game. I hope that Frank’s success helps change some of that.

RUNNING FULL-TILT IN 1994, TAKING ON THE JOB AS MANAGING EDITOR FOR GLENN DANZIG’S VEROTIK COMIC EMPIRE

I know It’s a little off point, but I’m going to give you some background to this period in time. On August 16th 1994 I moved from Champaign Illinois to Los Angeles California. Why? I was deeply disturbed by Michelle’s murder and the ensuing murder trial. Anyone who’s read Poems for the Dead should know that when those poems were being written I was insane and suicidal. I moved to LA to get away from the pit I was in and to finish The Garbage Man. By the time I left Champaign I was playing Russian Roulette with a .38 special on a regular basis. It was time to leave Champaign.


Los Angeles was tough. I moved with my brother and a friend, Rob Robbins. The friend turned into a real piece of shit, not paying any rent, no money for food, and boy did he like shit talking me to all our friends back home. Told them all I’d blown the Boneyard “Riches” on drugs, hookers and partying. Not a fucking chance. I had a book that was supposed to set me up and leave me with some money. I had great pre-sales through the roof, I was going to make a killing. But the artist fucked me and blew his deadlines completely on what would have been Boneyard’s first color book. This left me with barely any rent money in my new place in LA.

I was hired by Hero Illustrated to interview Glenn for the magazine. We hit it off. I was already a fan of his anyway. At the point that Glenn called, I was three months behind on my rent, the deadbeat roommate had just skipped town owing me money, food was scarce and we were pretty fucking desperate. My brother was working in a chop shop and making just enough to keep us eating. Glenn’s call saved my ass and gave me a shot at the big time working with big names and a real budget to work with. I leapt into this position. It was a dream job in everyway except for the reality. Glenn and I butted heads plenty, and I don’t think this is the venue to talk about that.

Funny stories? Yeah, I have plenty. I think the best story out of them all is when my late father came to town and he’s got no clue who Glenn is, what he’s about, nothing.
At the time the Verotik offices were located in my house. The whole crew gathered there, Glenn, Me, the boneyard crew, Glenn’s art dealer, some of the guys from Verotik, to get ready for a night out at the strip clubs.
In front of everyone, my old man starts grilling Glenn about this leather jacket he’s wearing that’s barely held together by safety pins.
Fred “Hey, you make money, right?”
Glenn “Uh, yeah, I guess you could say that.”
Fred “Well how old is that fuckin’ coat?”
Surprised, Glenn looks down at his leather coat, the pins “It’s almost as old as I am and…”
Fred “Yeah, well, I think it’s time to buy a new fuckin’ coat.”
The room erupts in laughter. No one could believe my old man was razzing Glenn, but that was my old man. Picture Chuck Norris if he never did martial arts, had a bad perm and smoked 3 packs of Belair’s a day. I got my big mouth from him and my brass balls from my mother.

One night we had dinner with the bassist from White Zombie and some Hell’s Angels. Another night it was the Biohazard guys. I got to harass Simon Bisley for inking with a goddamn Sharpy on Death Dealer, and shoot some pool with him in San Diego. That was great. Simon was fun. Working on Go Nagai’s Devilman was cool, but the end product didn’t hold up. Talking with Glenn’s Jeet Kune Do sensei, one of Bruce Lee’s students, that was pretty fucking cool. He was a little disappointed in Glenn ‘cuz he’d lost his temper and laid a guy out that night.

He was ready to kill me when I didn’t back him up at a meeting with all of his financial people. We didn’t see eye to on the sales forecast for the upcoming releases, I didn’t back him up on his claims. He was furious. He let me have it in the elevator as soon as the doors shut leaving the meeting. But I was right when the figures came in, unfortunately for him.

Then there was the time, I forget where we were, but one night we were talking about bands, punk rock, and at the time, I wasn’t really into punk. Didn’t know much about it. Someone brought up The Misfits. I asked Glenn if he thought they were any good. He looked at me like I was kidding, but I wasn’t. I had no clue that Glenn had been the lead singer for this band, or how fucking great they are. Glenn thought I was fucking with him, but he was even more shocked that I wasn’t. Through a couple shots down my throat in a crowded bar and I’ll tell you stories all night long about just working with Glenn.

Working for Glenn was a tremendous learning experience. I made some mistakes with him and that business, but I learned from them and applied them to Boneyard.

Brian Denham, Master of Digital Ink

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 Ray Park and a Kandyse McClure autograph they gave me for drawing on trucker caps.

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/