By Richard Serrao
I recently interviewed Jacen Burrows and as always he’s very easy to talk to with no attitude despite being an awesome in demand artist. I’ve been a fan of his for a long time now, ever since he drew a comic called Skid Roze for Everette Hartsoe. For more info check out his website, livejournal or Myspace Page.
First professional work (piece / year) and maybe a quick story behind it.
I worked as Scott Clark’s background assistant for a few Wildstorm books back in the early 90’s. I can’t remember issue numbers but it was during the Moore run and also included the Spawn Wildcats crossover. That was a lot of fun.
Self-taught or formally educated? (or mixture of both, mentors etcâ€¦)
I did go to art school. I am a sequential art graduate of the Savannah College of Art and Design but I would still say I am mostly self taught. Art School doesn’t really teach you things so much as give you an opportunity to just constantly work and figure things out for yourself.
Tools of the trade: Taking a quick glance over at your pens, brushes etcâ€¦what tools have you mainly been using over the last few years?
All my work is digitally inked so all I use is pencil and paper. Standard 11×17 bristol and an assortment of pencil brands but all 2H to H with some 4H pencils for roughs.
Favorite brand of ink?
When I did ink I always used Black Magic
Type of paper:
I buy my stuff from Blue Line Pro who offer some great deals in bulk. I usually get 300 sheets at a time of 2 ply standard finish.
Which artists or creators do you return to for a quick boost of inspiration? Who are the masters of ink?
I am constantly looking through new artists but the ones I can always go back to for inspiration are Frazetta, Wrightson, Quitely, Adam Hughes, Josh Middleton and Katsuhiro Otomo. I always have a few pieces of each of their work near my desk.
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?
There’s no real mystery to it. I like to go somewhere quiet and reread the script or descriptions a few times till I start getting ideas and then thumbnail out as many quick ideas as I can until something feels right and I can start developing that direction more. All done small on scrap paper. Once I have sketches I like I can move to the big paper. I try not to do a whole lot of the development on the final sheet because it can damage the tooth of the paper or cause dirty spots that don’t erase clean and disrupt the scan. One tip though, if you are ever having trouble getting in the zone, turn off all your noise. No TV, music, no people or pets, nothing but you and the page. The silence will kick start you and once going you can go back to whatever you normally do.
What’s currently sitting in your mp3 / CD player / turntable?
I’ve been going through a phase lately with less music than in the past. I have been listening to a lot of audio books while I work and I’m currently working the Chuck Palahniuk library. When I do listen to music I lean towards really dark atmospheric stuff like Inade, Godspeed and the recent Nine Inch Nails Ghosts or heavier stuff like Dozer, High on Fire, Devildriver and God Forbid. But I listen to a little bit of everything. The new Atmosphere is great.
What’s hanging on your walls and what is your favorite piece of art that you own (not created by you).
I have a lot of art up, mostly surrealists. I have some prints from Wayne Barlow, Cam Kennedy and Beksinski I really like a lot. I have a poster version of this one I really dig:
Last novel you read and last movie that you saw (that you’d recommend)?
Cows by Matt Stokoe and .REC the Spanish horror movie being remade in the US as Quarantine or Wall-E.
Current and upcoming projects?
I’m currently working my way through CROSSED, a 9-issue horror survival series with Garth Ennis about the end of humanity and the most horrible things we can do to each other. After that I’ll be finishing up an Alan Moore miniseries I’ve been working on for a while.
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?
Never take the easy or lazy way out. Do the hard angles if you think it makes better storytelling. Fill up the pages with details. Always remember you are competing with the best out there, not the worst currently working and you have to do the work. No shortcuts. Editors and publishers will respect a strong work ethic and a desire to improve over all else.