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’s “Momentos“, 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.
HELLBLAZER Issue 188 cover