December 21, 2007

99 and 16

Hey folks. It's the weekend before the break and another piece has come in. (Came in last week, but I've been busy.) That means with one more piece, this project's run will be officially done and we can get it sent to eBay.

I've decided I'll just get portfolio binders and keep the art as is; no binding. It wasn't the idea I had originally, but I think cost wise and due to the fact that the paper is all different, it's just easier this way. I'm also going to spend the $40 to get an ad on Fark for when the auction goes up. It'll likely link to the actual auction listing, but then there will be information on where the project is so we can have people get the book as well. Maybe I'll do two ads.

I don't have any interviews in the can right now and the Big Mailer is probably going to hang out at the current artist's location until next week. This will also likely be the last post until some time in January. I hope you all have a festive and safe holiday and we'll see you in 2008.


December 10, 2007

Interview - M.J. Smith

This interview was very inspirational and it was a real treat to hear some of these answers. Of note, M.J. Smith's family suffered a loss just a day after this interview, which makes a lot of what he says very emotional. I hope you enjoy this one.

Michael J. Smith (aka The Artist Smith) is a South Carolina based artist who comes from a long line of artists. When he's not painting or raising three kids, he's running gallery hosted art classes for children.

Michael, thank you for taking time to talk with me today.

No problem, thanks for your time, and for starting the project.

It has been a ride, for sure. So your bio says you teach, is that a full time thing or more private lessons or volunteer?

Private lessons and volunteer. I have taught classes on illustration and comic book art. The private lessons I do cover most styles of artwork. I have a lot of children that I teach and only two adults. The kids are great. They are open to any kind of art. The adults are both middle aged and they are only interested in water color beach scene painting.

Have you taught in schools or universities as well?

No, but I have taught classes that were given by art galleries and supply stores in Ohio and here on the beach. The gallery would advertise classes on whatever style of art and then a flat fee would be charged. I would get paid based on the enrollment. The last one I did was very well attended. I had over 20 students. I try not to do much of it anymore. It takes up a lot of time and family needs required me to be home more than I used to be. About 5 years ago my daughter became very ill. She was diagnosed with three diseases at once. I home schooled her through high school and now she is in college. I have more time now so I may get back into more of the teaching. There is an academy here on the beach that has students of the high school age range. They have shown interest in having me teach part time there. I am thinking about it.

Now, I don't want to ask about your arm, but I want to ask if you had to teach yourself how to draw/paint again and if that was as difficult as it sounds.

I don't mind talking about the arm. Several years ago I lost the use of my "drawing" arm. At first I freaked completely out. Anybody who is into art knows that losing that ability would hurt. I spent a short time feeling sorry for myself and then I took a trip. I got to shake hands with Frank Frazetta. He is my all time favorite artist. During that trip I discovered that he had recently suffered a stroke and he had taught himself to draw with his left hand. Getting back home I started to experiment. I found out that I can draw with my left hand, but my stuff looks different then it used to. I have limited use of my right arm now. I cannot do marathon painting like I used to (12-18 hours at a time). I can do 5 to 6 hours and I am done for the day. My right arm shakes when I hit the cut off point. Now I am getting to the point that I feel more at ease with the concept that my old style of art is in the past.

As if that were not enough, just over a year ago I had a series of small strokes myself (called TIA's). They caused me to lose the ability to remember numbers and other basic facts. My wife told me to stop acting like Frazetta on get on with it. I decided after that to get into digital artwork. I have to admit I do not like the feeling of it though.

I can't imagine what that's like, worst I've had is a jammed finger. Did it at all reduce your ability or even desire to teach?

Not really. Lately I have thought about getting a teachers certification here in South Carolina to become an art teacher for the local school board. It may sound all happy and fluffy when I write this but here goes... Children have the ability to learn art a lot faster than adults. The greatest feeling for me is when it "clicks" and a child sees what they have created. Their expressions are priceless. Having children yourself I am sure you know that feeling. I actually had a student from over twenty years ago looked me up a couple of years ago. He is working in the movie business now doing pre-production artwork. He told me that the time I spent with him made him decide to go to college and do what he wanted to with his art. That day was filled with MAJOR pride. My head swelled three times it's size for awhile, until my wife put me back into my place. The funniest part of that story is that I only spent three or four weekends teaching him to draw RPG artwork. He was a D&D player and he wanted to illustrate his characters. That little amount of time led him down a full time career in art. That is a fantastic feeling. He was just a kid who I forgot about (for the most part).

So, other than Frazetta, would you consider children - not necessarily yours - a big influence on your work or just your love of teaching?

Just my love of teaching. My influences run wide. My two Grandfathers were both artists. One did native American artwork, the other did Irish (Celtic) art. My father is an artist as well. Other artists that I have known along the way inspired me. Even some younger ones like Dave Dorman. Other influences were the Brothers Hildebrandt, Bernie Wrightson and the guys from TSR in the early 80's. They were cranking out an amazing amount of art in a very short time and most of it stands up to the test of time. Easley was always my favorite of that group. Today there are so many inspirations. I have spent a lot of time on the CG Network checking out the guys doing digital stuff. They are a bunch of very talented people. There is a lot more access today to other artists thanks to the internet. I look at what some guys are doing right out of school today and it amazes me. Back in the late 70's and early 80's there were not nearly as many fantasy illustrators as there are today.

So aside from teaching, do you have any projects that are on going or any signature works that you like to do or are asked to do time and again?

I know it sounds cliché, but I am working on two children's books presently. I co-wrote them several years ago and started to illustrate them I was about half way done with both books when our storage unit was robbed and over 116 painting were taken (as well as a bunch of other art and supplies). I am asked to do my biomechanical lightning storms often. I have probably done about 100 of them, if not more. I think one is on my site named "Mindstorm". I also do a monochrome style of portrait that I have been asked to do a lot of in recent years. I am working on one tonight. Out of everything I have done I would say that tattoo designs in general would be the one thing I am asked to do most often. Black and whites most of the time. I have done thousands of them over the years and I could not begin to ink someone myself. I just do the designs. My family is very happy when I get them as assignments. They are fast and easy to do and they pay well for the time involved. The thing is, if you are going to be a working artist you have to be willing to do anything you can (within limits) to meet the bills. Most of us (freelance artists) don't have insurance, etc. We have to do out own thing. It can make life very interesting at times. My daughters situation cost a very large amount of money. I had to make it. So I will do most any kind of artwork. The only limits are pornographic and sadistic artwork. They are not for me. Any young artist who thinks they are going to be able to thrive at only what they want to do are fooling themselves, for the most part. Most artists don't have that capability. We do what the client wants.

Adding to that, and acknowledging keeping some level of morality in your work, aside from that, what's the oddest request or job a client has asked of you?

What a loaded question. I have done some very strange murals and tattoo designs. By far the most uncomfortable was a oil painting. I was hired by an older man to paint his much younger wife in the nude. It was a classic pose. She was a very attractive young lady but what really got me was that this man sat there while she posed for several days and he asked constant questions. "Why do you mix that oil stuff int there?" etc. He kept saying sexual things about her and I finally had to ask him to stop. After days of this I about lost my mind. That painting bought my wifes first car. I did a mural that was sort of bizarre. A group of "skater boys" hired me to do a tribute to Charles Manson. It has been a strange three decades.

You win for weirdest commission story. That's just amazingly uncomfortable.

Is paint your preferred medium?

Acrylics are my favorite for color, but I like the sketch book and pencil for relaxing. Oils are so difficult if you have a deadline. I also love sculpting. I use polymer clays.

Other than being inspirational, did you learn from your father and grandfathers more than you did from any classical, traditional schooling?

Oh yeah. I got kicked out of more than one art class. My family taught me that all art has meaning, even if it may be hard to see. They taught me that lines are important but the feeling of the work is more important. For instance, while doing artwork many artists will describe a sort of trance that they go into. I do the same thing. I lose track of time. There is something almost spiritual to creating art (at least for me). I just like the feeling of entering a world you create yourself. Often times I will have a huge back story to a little painting or drawing I have done. That is because my mind has created it during the process.

Eventually, maybe improbably, one of your students may read this. You'd said earlier about art being work, harder work than most people realize. What other advice could you give your students or anyone reading this?

Never take for granted the art that you do, or the people that you meet along the way. The smallest piece of art or the littlest contact with a person can lead to great things. Create, create, create. Draw and paint all you can. Practice is everything. I had to re-learn a bunch of stuff over the last several years. I don;t take anything for granted now. If you get a commission , do it. Don't wait till the last minute. Clients often want changes and don"t ever take it bad when they do. You may think you have the greatest painting in the world in front of you. The client has their own vision and they pay the bills. Learn as many styles and materials as you can, that way you are more valuable as an all around asset. Most of all though, enjoy what you are doing. If you are not having fun you are doing the wrong thing. I have been doing artwork since the dinosaurs were on earth and it has always been fun, even during hard times.

Well that's all I have. It's been a great pleasure talking to you. The art you sent in was wonderful and I'm glad you're a part of the project.

No problem at all. Thanks for taking the time to start the project. It is amazing how one person can make the biggest contribution. People often overlook comic artists, thinking somehow they are less than real artists. Any one who has ever done comic art knows the truth, it is hard work. Good luck in the future project. I will be here if needed.

If you'd like to see more of Michael's work, you can visit his site.

December 07, 2007

CBLDF Member Party

For you CBLDF members, clear your calendar for December 10th. The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund will be hosting a member party at the Village Pourhouse in Manhattan. The evening will be filled with appearances by music and art guests, gifts and door prizes. The event is the first of many in December so if you're not a member and would like to attend, sign up now.

Interview - Me

Chris Tinkler, contributing artist to the project and staff writer at ComicNews.Info was very kind in setting up an interview.

You can read it here.

December 04, 2007

98 and 15

If all falls into place, this run of the project will be complete by next week. One person has said they've mailed theirs, three more have said it's sitting on their desk just waiting to be...I don't know, signed, inked, colored, stamped. So I'm sure there will be more than 100 yet I'm not decided on whether or not to include everything I get till the end of the year or cap it at 100. I'm leaning toward the later. I'd like the first run of the book to match the name of the project, then after that we can freewheel a bit more.

To that end there are still some things needing to be done.

  • I need an A3 size scanner. I can scan on the 8.5x11 scanner I have, but I don't want to clip artwork and reassembling would be a pain. Mustek offers them for $150 so if you feel like donating to the cause but are unable to draw, this would be a great way to show your appreciation for the endeavor.
  • Still not sure about how to deliver the actual artwork. The poll showed more people in favor of the portfolio display binders, but again, those will only hold 96. If you have info on a better display binder that would hold 100 pieces, please contact me.
  • Once all the art is scanned (see the first bullet) I'll need to set up a store front to sell the books as well. I don't know what type of books are available or what should be charged for them. I know people have offered information about some seriously top notch print-on-demand services, but I'm looking for easy.
Now on to some other items.

With the near completion of the first run, I'm already turning my thoughts to round two. The Big Mailer will be floating around for a long time, but that shouldn't stop additional projects from running. But this time it'll be wide open. I'll find small page count books, I'll have it open for digital artists (don't know how I'd do that yet) and different types of books would go to different charity funds. For example, for all past artists who have kids or who teach kids, we'll have an under 18 run and all proceeds would go toward an organization dedicated to children's health or housing or education. We could have a women artists run and proceeds go to Safe Place. A digital only art run could go toward the One Laptop per Child Foundation.

I like all these ideas, but the trick is to be able to get the word out and make sure the right amount of money is raised and more artists can participate. I don't doubt that we'll ever run out of artists, but I may run out of ways to find them, so I need your help. If you haven't already, print off the PDF and take it to your schools and coffee shops and places of business. Send submissions to major blogs and aggregation sites. Chat the idea up in forums. I've been doing this on my own for 9 months now and this is about as far as I can take it. A few folks have posted art or an entry on their sites about it and that's wonderful. If you haven't yet, it would sure help get the project some recognition.

Enough pleading.

I still need people to interview. If you're interested in doing an instant message interview that takes about 45-60 minutes, please email me and we'll set something up.

Thanks all, more to come soon.

November 21, 2007

Mike in Poland

Hey folks. I've been out of town for a few days so I apologize for the lack of updates.

Two more pieces came in and they're both wonderful. I only have one problem, I got one from Mike Bilowicki in Poland, but I don't have an email for him to tell him the piece made it. Mike, if you're reading this, email me so I can have your contact info.

I'm gonna have to redo the tally, but I think this pushes us up to 95. So so close.

More info and updates coming. The holidays will shortly be upon us, hopefully it won't detract from the project too much.

Thanks to everyone who has participated thus far. Carry on.

November 12, 2007

Interview - Juan2.0

Juan2.0 (aka Juan Falk) is a sequential comic artist living in Moweaqua, IL. He has a project he's working on called "Allison" and he's one of the more prolific commission artists I know. Juan was one of the first people to sign up for the project and had ideas instrumental to how it's run today.

Juan thanks for taking the time to speak with me today.

No problem, glad to have a chance to share some insight about my work with you and everyone else viewing the site.

Tell me about Allison.

Allison is my baby...she's my creator-owned project that I've been working on for quite awhile now. I like to describe her book as going to be sort of like Alice in Wonderland on crack...but not really. It is in the way that you have a beautiful young lady trapped in a unique world who is trying to the best of her abilities to find her way home, but Allison's story really goes a lot deeper than that in that everything you ever experience when it comes to the artwork will always have double or triple meanings to that what you see on her journey will not always really be as it appears. It'll definitely be a new kind of experience for readers.

If you can recall, describe the moment or event that you realized you
wanted to be an artist.

Age 5...Eagles grocery store. My dad bought me an issue of Spectactular Spider-man and Merc issue number 5...between those two comic books and the little ones that came with the He-man action figures back in the day, I was hooked. Art and the goal of becoming a professional artist has been coursing through my blood, sweat and tears ever since.

Would you describe yourself as a classically trained or self taught
artist? If you studied, where and was it a good experience?

Completely self taught. I'm like a stubborn old mule, I won't give up until I figure out how to do something. I'll just keep trying over and over again until things start working right. So everything I do / have done is completely self-taught through trial and error.

As for studies, I took all of the art classes I could in high school and then went to college for two years to try and get a degree in arts, but at the end of the second year, the teacher kept me after class to tell me that I would never be able to do this for a living. That I just didn't have the talent or the skill for it. That really pissed me off, so I dropped out of school that very day and never went back. From that day forward, I have set out to prove her and everyone else that says my art is garbage wrong. One way or another, I will succeed in this...I don't care how long it takes, I will become a professional illustrator one way or another.

What would you like to accomplish with your art?

Right now, my main goal is to get Allison finished up and have her be the absolute best possible artwork that I have ever done to date. At first she was just going to be your typical comic where I do the pencils, someone else inks, someone else colors, letters, etc...but as the years have went by, I realized that I want to do everything myself and that I no longer wanted her book to be done in the traditional manner. Now her book will be a blend of traditional and digital styles to create something unique for the readers to experience.

Who were your biggest influences when you were starting out and has
that changed?

When I first started trying to draw professionally, hands down, my two biggest influences were Rob Liefeld and Todd McFarlane. Anything those guys would draw, I had to have it. I couldn't get enough of them. Especially McFarlane...I bought everything of his I could get my hands on. Amazing Spider-man 318 and 319 just blew my mind on what comic books could be. They were no longer the cheesy six boring panels to a page layouts. These things were now exciting to look at and I couldn't get enough. I would spent countless hours studying how they drew the lines and trying to draw exactly like them. Over time I eventually picked up Todd's habits / style...but Liefeld's has always eluded me for some reason (which honestly is probably a good thing).

Today my influences are spread over a great many people and I'm always adding new things to my artwork to push myself to keep growing. I don't ever want to get stagnant with my style and become a one-trick pony. I always want to bring people something new and unique from now on. Before it was just me trying to be like McFarlane / Liefeld / Turner / Finch / Whoever and now my art has sort of taken on a life of it's own. I just do whatever I think will look best for whatever I'm working on at the moment.

My current favorite above everyone else is Ashley Wood. You'll see a lot of his influence in the Allison books...but it won't be just me trying to ape'll be me taking some of his ways of doing artwork and throwing it into my own pot of ideas and past influences to create something different. As far as other influences at the moment: Yu (for his page layouts and use of blacks) and Templesmith (for his coloring ideas) come to mind...I'd really like to get a lot more Bisley into my stuff as well...especially with the way that guy can pencil render his images...he does some really incredible stuff and gives his pieces a lot of life and energy to each one.

Do you make a living with your art, how hard do you work at it?

At one time I did solely make a living off my artwork...but I had a lot of hungry days and nights during that time of my life and I literally hated the way I was now I work three jobs 24/7 whenever I'm not sleeping.

If you could change something you do while creating, a habit or
crutch, without any effort, what would it be?

I have a bad habit or trying to be a perfectionist with my artwork. It's my biggest flaw as an artist. For the longest time, I tried extremely hard to make everything all clean, neat and perfect...and it didn't work. Art is life and life is not perfect...the Allison stuff is 100 times better than any of my old artwork solely because I realized that nothing can nor ever will be perfect, so why even try to make it look that way? Just do the work the best you can and get as much done a day as you possibly can. Now I actually enjoy doing my artwork and look forward to each new challenge...whereas before I was so close to giving up...because what I was doing just didn't feel like me. It felt like me trying to imitate someone else...and it just wasn't working, so things had to change. It was pretty much do or die at that point in my life.

Are you a hard set solo artist or would you like to collaborate more
with other artists?

I'm very independent. I've always been that way and I doubt things will change now. I like having the creative freedom to do my artwork how I would like to see it done without anyone else influencing or changing anything with it. My art is a reflection of me and I'd really like it to stay that way.

Artists are generally not happy with what they've done or how
accomplished they are, but if you had to label it, what would have to
happen for you to consider yourself successful?

I don't consider myself an accomplished artist at all yet. I truly feel I have a long way to go before I can call myself a professional, but I think that thinking comes from not being able to support myself financially solely off of my artwork yet. My goal in this life is to get a full time career going doing nothing but artwork and to be able to support not only myself, but my family as well off of it. If Todd McFarlane, Ashley Wood, Jim Lee or any other pro artist out there today can do it, then I can do it too. It can be just have to find the way.

What media are you most comfortable using and why?

I used to have this extremely narrow-minded approach to my artwork for the past ten years that all I ever wanted to do was be a comic book penciler...because they make the most money for their efforts and they are most know for the work (even though others help them with it)...but I threw that garbage out the window. Now I do everything myself. You'll see everything from pencils, to inks, to painting (oil, acrylic, and watercolors), to digital art in the Allison books and the one thing I regret doing is not trying to learn how to do more of these other ways of doing artwork earlier on in my life. I would've been a lot farther now if I had...but like I said in the beginning, I'm stubborn as hell when it comes to things so it took over ten years for me to finally realize that art isn't just about pencil and paper...there is so much more to it than just that and as an artist you should try everything. Don't limit yourself to just one thing. Be well rounded and always do the best that you possibly can with what you have available to you.

I know sequential art requires a lot of focus and stamina, do you ever
find yourself not wanting to tell stories and just paint or do pinups?

For many years, all I did was I really can't stand doing them. I like the challenge of figuring out how to do a sequential page...that is what keeps me moving forward because with each new page, it's a new challenge to figure out just how exactly I'd like to do it. And with me incorporating painting and other media into my artwork now, I'm actually enjoying myself with things at the moment. It really keeps things interesting...unlike the pencil only thing I used to do which was very tedious and extremely stressful on me.

When you look back on the choices you made as an artist or becoming an
artist, what - if anything - would you do differently?

Honestly, if I had all this to do over again (and I hate saying this because I really do love art with a passion), I wouldn't of ever decided to try and become an artist in the first place. I have gained so much in my life from being an artist, but I have also lost a lot to it as well. You sacrifice a lot to do art and what you give up, you can't get it back again no matter how much you wish you could undo things. I really wish I had finished college and chose a different profession instead.

Do you think it's easier to be an artist today than say twenty or
thirty years ago?

Yeah, in my opinion, with the internet and the way it can reach people worldwide, I think an artist has an easier time of exposing their work to a wider range of audience now than they did back then. Twenty or thirty years ago, you wouldn't of had that. Back then you had to go to the cons and show around your portfolio to try and get a job...nowadays all you have to do is post your work on your site, pimp the hell out of it, and miracles can happen overnight. I hear about it all the time about how so and so got a job with DC or Marvel or whoever just from one of their editors checking out the artist's website or Deviantart account. So yeah, I'd say today's artists have it a lot easier.

I know you have done a lot of commissions, what's the oddest request
you've drawn?

A lot is an understatement...I'd hate to think how many commissions I have done in the past five years alone. I'm always getting commission requests on a regular basis and sometimes I have to turn the stuff down just because there isn't enough time in the day to get everything done anymore. My oddest request is two fold. One time I had someone who had me draw Mary Marvel all twisted up in a lamp post looking like she just got the living crap beaten out of her...the other is all of the extremely hardcore sex commissions I've drawn over the years. I'm not proud of those at all, but the money that people will pay you to draw that stuff is ridiculous. It makes drawing comics for an average page rate chump change.

Do you get most of your interaction with other artists online or do
you have a studio you belong to? Which do you prefer?

I rarely interact with other artists anymore. I'm just too busy with things. I cut out a lot of the internet sites I used to waste time at on a regular basis and I really try to focus my time and effort solely on getting more artwork done on a regular basis now. I'm still not to where I want to be 100% but things are a lot better now than, let's say, they were 6 months ago. I'm really trying to change my life right now and so far, so good. I still have good days and bad days just like anyone...but even on the bad days, I still try to accomplish something with the art.

You post work on some studio message boards, is there a dream book
you'd like to work on or a publisher you'd like to work for?

I only post to pique people's interest in Allison. Allison is my dream book, but if I could have any publisher that I would like to see publish her, it would be either IDW or Vertigo. IDW, because I love the way they publish their comics...good quality paper and they really let their artists be creative with their work and Vertigo, because with Allison's tale being extremely off the wall, it'd fit right in with their other titles.

Do you have anything you'd like to say to your fans and fellow artists?

To the fans: Thanks for everything. You guys are the energy that keeps me pushing forward. Even when I'm broken and bloodied at the end of the day from working myself to death, you guys make it worthwhile. I promise you I will keep moving forward and succeed in my dreams of making Allison a reality and attaining my art career goal. You have my word on that. I owe you guys at least that much for all you have given me.

To my fellow artists: Never give matter what anyone says. If someone says you can't do something, you get out there and you prove them wrong. Only you can change your life and only you have the power to make your life what you want it to be. It's never going to be easy, but it'll always be worth it.

Thanks for your time. Good luck with your work!

Thanks for having me. It's been a pleasure. - JUAN -

To see more of Juan's work, you can check out his site: or Art on his site is of a mature nature, not safe for work.

November 06, 2007

Early Poll Results

I'm actually a bit shocked by the early results in the poll. I'd all along assumed the best way for the project to fetch a meaningful price at auction was to have all the artwork physically bound together, as if it were its own book and not a loose collection of drawings and paintings.

Turns out I could be wrong and a bit enlightened. I think if I'd have gone through the trouble of forcing the art into a bound book, it may have ruined it.

The art already lives in two of these presentation folders. They work well to keep them organized as well as fairly safe. Having as many as we do, they're both almost full and there's a caveat; they each only have 24 pages. Double loaded I'm going to be four pages short. However I think that's a small issue and I could probably find similar folders with enough room.

These also have the added bonus of allowing my to include the postage from outside the U.S. that I clipped off the international envelopes.

I don't know how I'd do a full credits page or even if one is needed now. Right now each page just has a sticker on it with the artists name. I have hundreds of emails with folks' websites and a master document with all their info, I could just print their names and websites and add it to the folders.

It would work, but it wouldn't be as unique. I really liked the idea of having them all sort of tied together like a coffee table book of original art. Having them sit in sleeves like that makes it seem more like you bought 100 pieces of art at a convention. (And by the way, you know what that would cost? Keep that in mind. Imagine you paid only $20 for each piece.) But the people have spoken and it's given me pause as to how to handle the final product. It may take a bit of time to sort it out. I'll probably still go to the binders and get a quote and that more than anything may determine how it will all be delivered.


November 05, 2007

Interview - Israel Turley

Today's 100 Artist Interview is with Israel Turley (aka bindlestitch.) Israel is a sales rep at a lumberyard in Missouri and in his spare time he creates comic style art. He's got an upcoming project, "Hillbilly" and is a regular poster on Penciljack. Israel, thanks for talking to me to today.

Thanks for having me. It's a pleasure.

Right off the bat, you work in lumber sales. Is that something you fell into or is a career choice?

I fell into it. I never really thought I had the talent to make it at what I wanted to do (comics) So I had to pay the bills somehow. I've been doing it about ten years now. But hopefully with enough practice I can make it in comics one day.

A lot of people are in the same boat, doing what they have to to do what they want. Do you want to make your own books or work on, say, Spiderman?

Both. If I ever get to that level where I can work fast and with decent results, I'll start submitting some stuff to the big two. For now it's focusing on my own thing because no one can say, "No, you're not good enough" when I'm doing my own stuff. So, now is my own thing to get better, and later I'm taking on Spidey, heh.

Do you have any formal art training or are you self taught?

Self taught. And that's an ongoing process. It was just in the last year that I got serious about actually working in comics someday. So lately, I've been actually looking at how pros do what they do. Trying to figure out their process and apply it to what I do. I've grown leaps and bounds but have a long way to go yet.

Who are some of the pros you look at to help you?

Wow. It's really all over the board. Lately I've been looking at a lot of Ryan Ottley's stuff. That guy just blows me away. Also Frank Cho. You hear a lot about his ability to draw women but that guy can draw anything. And then of course I look at the people I "hang" out with on Pencil Jack .com. There are not only great artists on the site but people who go out of their way to help fellow artists. Which is amazing considering they are training their competitors. I think that show incredible character.

Besides PJ and other comic artists, do you have any other artistic or creative influences?

Not really. I'm just kind of a straight comic book geek. I know a lot of people tell you to look at other stuff to help you learn but I'm in love with the comic medium. I listen to music for inspiration when I write and I guess there are some films that inspire me but nothing like comic art.

So you haven't put much thought into doing other forms of art?

No. I don't really consider myself an artist. I never had a lot of design sense, which is why I struggle so much with layout. I was never really interested in "real" art. I can admire it and respect the ability it takes but it's nothing I want to pursue.

Tell me about Hillbilly.

Heh. It's the usual fare really. It's about a guy from Missouri (surprise) who's been screwed over by the government and he's going to set things right. Later in the series, if it makes it that far, I want to get into a lot of the Ozark folk tales and explore some of that. I'd say it will have a hard time gaining readers because it's pretty much opposite of everything that's mainstream today. I mean it's not a religious or political comic but it has both religion and politics sprinkled through out it. It's probably to "secular" for the religious crowd and to "offensive" for the non religious crowd. So, yeah, it's probably an amazing waste of time.

That actually sounds pretty interesting. You don't hear of many stories from the Ozarks. I could see it being like a Hellboy type book, exploring myths and legends. Would you draw and write it?

Yeah. I have no money to pay a good artist to draw it so that leaves me by default. Same with a writer.

What's it been like working with the Awesome Storm Justice 41 folks?

Absolutely a great experience. I can't recommend it enough to creative types out there. Working with you and all the other staff people there has just made my first real experience working in comics a great one. I had done a few pages for another comic right before the ASJ41 stuff but it wasn't as challenging. It was fun but ASJ41 was a real learning exercise. It probably spoiled me on working with editors in the business.

If you could change something about how you work, a crutch or cut-corner, what would it be?

My heavy use of reference material. I want to get where I can slam out a page a day and only use ref on odd stuff or for the details. Right now I have to use it so much to get my people and anatomy correct. I envy guys who can just sit down and draw. I have a huge time seeing a scene in my head. I have to really concentrate about what it should look like and that's when I break out the evil reference. heh.

There's good referencing and then sort of photo manipulation. What are your thoughts about artists like Greg Land or Tim Bradstreet who use so much photo realism in their work?

I know Land is looked down on for his use of whatever it is he uses. And then guys like Bradstreet. It's not something I want to do , getting heavy into the realism. It used to be but now I want to be able to meet deadlines and be that guy who editors call up and give work because I'm fast and good. Like Ottley for example. I know I've mentioned him already but he's really someone I respect for his ability and his speed. On a side note, on the Bradstreet/Land thing. I don't have a problem with those guys personally. I mean they're getting paid to do a job and I respect that as long as they don't cross any ethical boundaries, I'm cool with what they do.

What medium are you most comfortable using?

Pencil. Without a doubt. I am terrible when it comes to color, although I've been trying to teach myself some painting in Illustrator. I used to ink a lot with Staedtler tech pens but I've moved from that and I'm learning how to do it digitally in illustrator. I'm technologically about six years behind the rest of the free world.

You've quoted Romans in a few places I've seen your work. Is religion a big influence in your life and your work?

It's a huge influence on both. A lot of people can separate themselves from their spiritual beliefs but I've never been able to do that. I am in no way a saint, though, I just try to do what I think Christ would have me to do. Most of the time, and this is no joke, I end up failing miserably. I try not to talk a lot about it in conversations unless someone brings it up. I've found beating someone over the head with it gets you nowhere. People don't want to hear your sermon. So that's how I try to approach my work also.

Any parting words for your fellow artists?

Yeah, I want to say thank you to all the guys and gals on PencilJack and, including you. You guys have helped me (and are helping me) to reach a goal in life and I can't thank you enough Also I want to say to anyone out there considering the 100 artists projcet to give it a try. Ben is great to work with, if he tells you he'll do something, he will. Have no fear. Sharpen that pencil and get to it. God bless.

Awesome, thanks for taking the time today.

Thanks for having me man. I enjoyed talking with you.

You can see more of Israel's work on his Comic Space site:

November 02, 2007

10 To Go!

Due to a miscount on my part, we're not on 88 or 89 but 90 images! I promised someone to keep a spot open for them, plus mine makes it 92, or 8 left!

I think there are 8 pieces coming in soon so we should be VERY close.

Jeff Bigler


I received your art today. It's wonderful, great pencils. It made it in one piece, thanks again for participating.

This officially puts you in the queue for the Big Mailer so I'll be contacting you when it's your turn. Keep in mind it may be a VERY long time as it has to go through roughly 70 other people first.

Only one problem, I don't have your email. I went through all my form mailers and couldn't find anything with your name or address or email. If you'd be so kind as to email me with your contact info, I'll make sure to add it to my file so I can get back to you.

Thanks so much,

PS There's a new poll up. Cheers.

October 29, 2007

Grass Roots Promotions

Thanks to the relentless input by soon to be contributor Chris Tinkler, I've thrown together a promotional flier people can print off and take to their local comic shops.

(The artwork on the flier is care of Rodrigo Laiz, Eric Schock and David Montoro, chosen at random.)

Please, print a few out. Take them to book stores, comic shops, record stores, coffee shops, any place the would support art.

I'll also be blitzing a few more sites today to spread the word. I expect we'll be done soon with the Single Mailer so I want to make sure folks know about the artwork soon to be available and the cause.

Carry on.

October 25, 2007

Final days.

As we get close to the end of the first run of the 100 Artists Project: Single Mailer, I'd like to textualize some points, maybe get some feedback.

To start, there's a new poll up, please take the time to vote.

The site and the blog get on average less than 100 hits a day. Most of those come from people blogging about it and people clicking on my signatures in message boards. There have been a couple huge bumps when larger sites have written about it, but generally it hovers between the low to pathetically low end of the viewing scale.

What this means is that there is a concern I have for when the first book actually goes to auction and on sale. I want to make sure it gets a lot of views and a lot of support, otherwise it's going to be a lot of work for very little reward. (Reward of course being how much money we can raise.) I've tried submitting stories to Boing Boing and Fark, two of the bigger "blogs" to no avail. I also tried to submit the story to NPR, my local NPR station, several local news stations and papers and so far no one has responded. A contributing artist was kind enough to list us on Linkswarm and Metafilter, that raised awareness. I'm no media darling and I don't have a lot of contacts in the field or anything like that, I don't know if anyone does.

When this thing goes to auction, I'm worried we won't be able to get what it's worth. If you look at straight commission prices, if each artists charged me $100 for their art, that's $10,000, which seems kind of ludicrous. The idea that it's all original, has come in from all over the world and is assembled into a single book should add a few hundred to that price, like any DVD box set or leather bound graphic novel adds to those values. Then add that it's going to charity and surely a philanthropic soul would pay nicely for it...if they knew about it. If I started bidding for this at $1000, do you think anyone would bid on it? I'm torn between starting low to get people interested but would devaluate the art and starting too high which would be a good exchange for the work done but would scare off average bidders. There's no way I could start the auction at $10k, no one would EVER go with that, but that's what the art is worth. Even $5k sounds high, though technically that's only $50 per drawing, which is around 25% of what I know some people would charge for the art they've sent in.

There may be a silver lining in the print-on-demand part of this, where the digitized versions of the art are sold online. I'm hoping at least the artists who participated would get a copy, I know I will be, but I can't count on that. They've already contributed art, why also buy the book later? At what kind of numbers are we talking about; 20, 50 people? What would you pay for something like that, a book of basically 100 prints? $20? $50?

I'm kind of making this up as I go, honestly. I'm terrified of the upcoming binding process because I know the varied sizes of art are going to make the job expensive. I don't have a reliable scanner and I don't know if I'll be able to cover the listing and POD costs either. When all 100 pieces come in, it may actually be another couple months before anything happens, so I don't want folks to be disparaged, it's just a logistics thing. I'm sure even if I had the business acumen to file as a non-profit and receive some kind of funding that would take time to sort out.

And in the mean time, is there enough interest to start future projects? I feel I've bled the artistic world dry with this and doing more books after the first ones may be a decades long endeavor just trying to get participation.

Ok, enough doom and gloom. I'm still excited about it all and we're so very close to being done that it's just wonderful. I'm so glad so many people want to be involved. Thanks to everyone.

Carry on.

October 24, 2007

Hey Hal!

I got an email from a "Hal" today asking this question.

Are the 49 drawings on the gallery part of the first 100?

Yes they are. I haven't got around to scanning the rest yet (on my list) but they will be. I don't know if I'll add all of them yet.

Also, Hal? If you see this, the email address you provided bounced on me. So, welcome aboard, if you have any questions drop me a line.

Carry on.

October 21, 2007

14 To Go!

Two more pieces came in this weekend. I've added mine in as well which brings us up to 86. That's insanely close to being done with this first part. I'm quite excited about it and it makes me feel really pleased that so many people wanted to be involved.

Let's push this over the top and get this thing done!

Carry on.

October 19, 2007

Welcome Metafilter and Linkswarm Viewers

If you've come by via the Metafilter or Linkswarm link, I'd like to welcome you to the project. We're very close to completing the first part of the project, under 20 pieces of art needed, so if you want to get in on the first go around, best to do so soon.

The project is meant to be on going. As soon as we get 100 on the Single Mailer bit, I'll open up opportunities for more people to contribute more regularly; smaller sketchbooks, smaller mailers, digital work, etc. Some of it might take some figuring but I'm confident it can be done.

If you'd like to participate and have questions about anything, don't hesitate to contact me.


October 17, 2007

80 Artists!

Folks, we've only got 20 spots left for the 100 Artists Project Single Mailer phase. To date I've received 80 pieces of art, I'm very excited.

However, we still have 20 to go so if you want to get your piece in the first book, you'll have to do it soon. Don't wait, visit the site, get the info and send in some work. If you've been siting on the fence or putting it off thinking you have time, now's the time to do it.

Big thanks to all those people who've sent work in, you've shown real moxy getting involved in a project like this and I applaud you.

Carry on.

October 15, 2007

Break From Interviews

Apologies if you were looking for another interview today. I've done two straight months of interviews with contributing artists and I need a break. That's not to say they won't continue, but along with working on other things, I also need time to find people to interview. Most folks don't answer emails and I've near exhausted my list of people I "know."

To that end, if you'd like to be interviewed, feel free to drop me a line. More than likely I'll pick these up again in November some time. Hopefully by then we'll be close to completion of the Single Mailer.

That, by the way, is up to 80. Very excited to see the final 20 come in.

Carry on.

October 10, 2007

77 and 13

I got three more pieces in yesterday bringing the total to 77 the number of single pieces mailed in.

The Big mailer is also moving swiftly and will be at its 14th artist by next week. I applaud and appreciate the recent group who've acted quickly to make sure the project moves forward.

With only 23 more pieces to complete, I'm wondering if we'll be able to finish by the end of the year. With a few more pushes to art sites I think it's completely doable. I'm worried about fall semester finals at the end of November and vacations for the holidays. Traditionally these have alway been slow times for collaborative projects. Again, if you have a way to make this project publicly known it would be helpful.

Good work people, carry on.

October 08, 2007

Live Journal

You know what, if you saw this off your RSS reader, I apologize. I didn't want to make a new LJ user, I wanted to make a group for users to join.

So if you are an LJ user, please consider joining the group and telling friends about it.

Interview - Phil Shaw

I'm talking today to Phil Shaw, aka sacredbob from the Sacred Pie comic. Phil is a K-4 art teacher in New York where he and his wife both work. Phil thanks for taking time to talk with me today.

No problem- it's a pleasure.

You mentioned you've also done mural work for the city, what was that like both working on a large scale and working for the city?

I was the "team leader" for a group of six artists who worked on the murals under the direction of the principal artist, Jan Marie Spanard. (all of the work can been seen at ). It was a really great experience. Besides getting to make a living painting and do a lot of the work from a cherry picker(!), the murals were SO large that I worked 50+ hours a week just to finish it before Winter really set in.

It was cool working for the city itself- we met Mayor Jennings a half a dozen times. It's really a different world working at that scale and (to be honest) budget.

Were you doing this work while you were working on Sacred Pie?

Yeah- actually, I started illustrating and posting Sacred Pie within a few months of getting the mural painting gig. That was just about 8 years ago.

Did the mural painting, and later the teaching, have an effect on the comic?

Definitely. The teaching more than the mural painting even.

When I was doing the mural work, a lot of the focus was on light and shadow. trompe L'ioeil is French for "fool the eye", so the style needs to be able to look deceptively real. Comics (though they CAN be very naturalistically drawn/painted) are traditionally more stylized. Though the painting experience solidified my drawing and coloring abilities at a very formal level, it didn't help my comic-ing progress the way I wished it had.

After 2 1/2-3 years of mural painting, I started teaching art (I went to Grad. school, worked nights, blah, blah...). Once I started teaching concepts like contrast, emphasis, and movement, I started incorporating them into my comic work. I started noticing improvements.

Then, I started a comic-book club after school. To make sure I knew I what I was talking about, I started researching and (for the first time) came across Scott McCloud's books. Those changed the way I did everything. I won't get into how much I learned by trying to teach, because it would take me all day.

I'm sure your students would appreciate that.

Speaking of comics, where did you get the idea for Sacred Pie? I know the official background is about God and Lucifer and power. Is that how it started out?

Actually, no.

Sacred Pie started out as a "three mooks" comedy-esque comic (just set in a pseudo-religious-sci-fi universe). The three main characters (Roonas, Sid, and Bob) are based on myself and two of my pals from college (Roonas is still the official co-writer and comes up with, like, 65% of the really, really cool stuff.)

As the comic started to progress, though, we started to see the potential for bigger storylines and better ways to tell them. The aforementioned teaching experience and exposure to Scott McCloud being near the top of the list of influences (though Lucas's "The Power of Myth" essay, Asimov's "Foundation" series and Robert Jordan's "Wheel of Time" books helped with the writing aspects as well.

If you look at the earliest chapters of Sacred Pie and compare them to the most recent, you'll see a lot more elements that expand the world the characters live in- specifically the "religious" good and bad guys (respectively) Angels, Demons, God, Lucifer, etc.

Do you have a religious background that influences your work?

Yeah, I guess.

I was raised Catholic and still attend church. I'd like to feel that the ideas for Sacred Pie come more from the science-fiction realm than from the religious. I think that a lot of things that exist in religion can also exist in science. (Maybe the universe being created in "seven days" is possible, if you consider that a "day" to an immortal omniscient being is, literally, billions of years).

I like using the loose religious framework for the story, but I don't want to get caught up in the semantics involved with specifically quoting scripture, et al. I try to focus on the characters and the events in the story; the battle between God and Lucifer is too big for most of us to comprehend. Sacred Pie just focuses on some of the pawns in the game.

You mentioned your friend Roonas writes a lot of the comic, what's it been like working with someone for so long?

It's awesome. Roonas and I were friends before we started Sacred Pie, and it's definitely something that gives us an excuse to get together(despite our work/life schedules).

As far as the comic goes, though, having him as a co-writer is an invaluable resource. I can't tell you how many times he's saved the comic from a ridiculous idea or a staggering conflict in plotlines. I think anybody who creates a comic should have a co-writer or a collaborator of some sort; it's important to have someone who can look at it from a different angle. I don't think Sacred Pie would be what it is without Roonas's constant input.

Artistically, who has been an influence on you and has that changed over the years?

I think my biggest influences, artistically, have been fairly constant throughout the years. I learned the most early on (and still have traces in my artwork) from Captain Mark (Kistler), Ed Emberly, Jack Kirby (especially old Fantastic Four), and Bill Waterson (I loved how he could ride the line between cartoony figures and highly representational backgrounds(as well as the style of Calvin's daydreams).

Later on, I picked up influence by Drew Hayes (of Poison Elves), Jeff Smith, and Doug Tennapel, as well as online comic "peers" James Mason (Mase of Urban Shogun fame) and Amy Kim Ganter.

There's a lot of Waterson influence in others I've talked to. Was there ever a time you wanted to be a traditional comic strip artist?

Yeah. Like, all of seventh grade. I did a bunch of "Far Side" rip-off comics for the school newspaper and realized (after the first twenty or so ideas ran out) that I couldn't do "punchline" comics. I needed a narrative.

Sacred Pie is purely an online work and I know you guys want it that way. Do you think because of choices like that it's easier to be a successful artists today than say 20-30 years ago?

That's a "yes AND no" kind of answer.

I think it's much easier to get your work published (both online and in print) than it was even ten years ago. Because of the possibility of online comics, it's also much easier to expose your comic to a potential audience. There are only three places to get comics within a reasonable driving distance from my house- but every house on the block has internet access. And, you can pander to an international audience (many of my readers, for some reason, hail from Sweden and Denmark)

The downside, of course, is the flooding of the market If anyone CAN have an online comic- or in print- they will. And they do.

Well put.

I think this is an excellent idea, but the problem is you won't make any money from it. Not unless you're in that 95th percentile. As long as you go into it knowing that you won't get rich, and you're just doing it because you love it (or because 500 people reading your comic really IS enough for you), then you'll be fine.

I don't make a dime for Sacred Pie and I don't intend to. (Unless, of course, someone offered me tons of cash for an animated series or video game, but I'm not holding my breath.) I do it because I love it; and I want to see it through to the end of the story. If some people want to go along for the ride, more power to 'em.

Have you ever found that even though you're doing this because you love it that there are times when you feel you could be doing better?

Aye, that's the rub.

For the past 7 1/2 years, I've put pages up on every Sunday. It's anywhere from 1-5 pages (depending on schedule, work, vacation, etc.), but something ALWAYS goes up. If I could go back and fix all of the pages that I think I rushed through, or even (which is the case for too many pages) wish I could remove or replace, I would never get any further in the stroy. I try to do the best I can while still keeping my self-imposed deadline.

The death of so many online comics has been lack of updating. I've seen some really well written, beautifully drawn comics go under because they stopped making new material.

The pressures of work, real life, marriage, and kids (which I'll learn about soon enough) can bring a self-published comic down. My overall tendency is to get better as I go along, so I just keep going and updating (no matter what) and trust that the quality improves as I go.

Speaking of kids, are your students fans of your work?

Yes. The eldest of my students are (I won't mention the comic to the younger ones due to the violent content). A lot of them have even sent in fan art (or handed it to me in the hallways.)

I also (for the last 3 years) have done library lectures on comic creation for jr. high and high school students, as well as a weeklong class at a local college each summer. (Some of them I had hinted at submitting a piece for the 100 Artists Project, but I think they all chickened out).

I always end up picking up a new reader or three at these events (plus it helps me sharpen my own thinking about my comic work.)

That has to be heart warming to receive fan art from students.

It's awesome. Plus, they think I'm super-cool because I can talk (at length) about the X-Men, Spiderman, Venom, etc. They don't expect that kind of connection with a "grown up" most of the time.

You mentioned your wife also teaches, is she an artist as well? What does she think of your work?

No, she's a first grade teacher.

She loves Sacred Pie, though. She thinks it's neat that she gets to see the process from the planning stages (she's often about when Roonas and I plan), to the sketches, the drawings, coloring, etc.

Her whole family reads the comic now, too. (I even think a couple of them like it besides the fact that I did it, too)

I've kept you a while, do you have anything you'd like to say to your fans and fellow artists?

To the fans, I'd say- keep reading! Roonas and I have years and years of stuff we need to get to, and it'll keep getting better and better as we go along.

To my fellow artists, I say keep drawing! The more you do it the better you get. If you love it, keep going. Set a deadline for yourself and keep it; your fans will come if you're consistent.

Oh, and, uh, feel free to link to Sacred Pie (heh).


To see more of Phil’s work and to read a great comic go to

October 03, 2007

Comic Store Gives to Charity

Seen on Boing Boing, comic book store gives 20% of sales to charity.

That's just one of the reasons I'm proud to announce that will donate 5% of every online sale to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund which supports comics-related first amendment cases.

We're also donating an additional 5% to the Hero Initiative which helps get financial help to golden age comic artists who never made any royalties from their priceless creations.

Looks like good ideas get around. If you frequenPublish Postt the shop in San Jose, CA, stop buy and buy something extra.

October 01, 2007

Interview - Steve Downer

I'm talking today with Steven Downer, comic book artist, cartoonist and illustrator. He's based in southwest Montana where he works on secret projects with Canadians.

Steve, thanks for taking some time to talk today.

Sure thing, Ben

Are you a full time comic artist or do you have another job as well?

I have a full-time job as a T-shirt art designer. Comics is just on an as- I- have-time freelance basis right now.

You're also quite young compared to a lot of your contemporaries, are you planning on any schooling or does the t-shirt company have your time all locked up?

I'd love to get some formal training, but yeah- I can't afford the time, or the tuition, unfortunately. But I intend to take some classes when time permits.

You recent art is very cartoony and stylistic, but you've done some very impressive realistic illustrations. Which is your favorite to work on.

I really love the fun energy of the cartoony style, and I think that's where my real niche is, but I love the way a more straight, realistic style allows a cartoonist to broach more serious topics with less difficulty. So a mix of both, but I think I do prefer a cartoony style.

Have you thought of, or have you yet, done straight up cartooning?

You mean a comic strip?

Not really.

I passionately love comics and superheroes, and I confess to being somewhat disillusioned with newspaper comics and cartoons on the whole.

While I grew up on Calvin and Hobbes, I love almost everything about comic books, and I relish the opportunity to use color on a regular basis.

You're currently working with the Awesome Storm Justice 41 group, what's that been like working with them?

Man, I have nothing but great things to say about everybody over at ASJ41.

The writers, pencillers and especially editors- a better group of creators would be hard to come by, and I love the way they're all so eager to just have fun with the characters.

Other than ASJ, do you have a signature project, something that someone would associate with Steve Downer?

Not at the moment. Until a year ago, I published James Blond, a webcomic, on the Transplant Comics webring, and I have an upcoming print comic book, but at the moment I'm afraid not.

I guess I'm just spending too much time on those t-shirts... maybe I ought to slack more.

I'm sure those of us with full time jobs would love to slack more as well.

Who were your biggest influences when you were starting out and has that changed?

Funny, I was just thinking about this.

Growing up, most comics were disallowed in my home- apparently comics in the '90s were too "extreme"?

But the exception to that was Hergé's Tintin works, and I devoured those.

I also grew up on Calvin and Hobbes, and I think that Bill Watterson has had the biggest influence on me overall.

I really see Hergé's influence in backgrounds and composition, while Watterson shows through in body language and panel layout.

Bruce Timm's Animated Batman was something I obsessively copied growing up, and his streamlined work has really taught me a lot over the years.

Right now, I'd say one of my biggest influences is Sean Galloway- his minimalist, extremely stylize work always blows my mind. I'm also a huge fan of Darwyn Cooke.

The list goes on for miles, but I'd say those dudes' work will always get a few bucks out of me.

Are you excited about the Tintin movie?

I have somewhat mixed feelings about it, though- Hergé WAS Tintin, and without his guiding presence my expectations are kinda low. I'm honestly more interested in tracking down the old live-action movies he was directly involved with- they look really fantastic.

Artists are generally not happy with what they've done or how accomplished they are, but if you had to label it, what would have to happen for you to consider yourself successful?

I guess I'd consider myself materially successful if I make enough from my art to live comfortably on. But I don't think I'd really be a successful artist until I make something that really leaves an impact on people, y'know? I think it can be done with comics, and I want to have a hand in something that makes people stop and seriously consider something that they've never thought about before.

I'm sure that's the dream of every artist, but I also believe that it's honestly achievable. I guess I'd consider myself successful if I do something that makes a lasting impact.

If you could change something you do while creating, a habit or crutch, without any effort, what would it be?

Hmm... There are quite a few things, but I'd really like to get better about winging it on perspective. I get pretty lazy on that sometimes.

Is that something you think formal training would help or is it more patience and attention?

Both, I think. I have the technical knowledge to do it, but when I'm pressed for time it's very easy to just "guess" where vanishing points should be and fake it. I think having someone around to call me on it would be a big help, though.

Do you think it's easier to be an artist today than say twenty or thirty years ago?

I think it's easier to make money at it, mostly due to the global opportunities the Internet has blown open, but actually BEING an artist- the act of creating... I don't think it's any easier.

If you can recall, describe the moment or event that you realized you wanted to be an artist.

Hmm... I can remember drawing all my childhood... but the exact moment I defined what I wanted to be?

I was probably ten... At a friend’s house, sitting in the yard after watching Batman: The Animated series, we were tracing out of a Superman coloring book and I said, "Know what? I'm going to do this for the rest of my life".

So probably about then, I suppose.

Well now I feel really old.

I've seen the work you've done for ASJ, it's a really solid mix of medium. Which medium is your favorite or most comfortable?

I'm probably most proficient with a pencil and Bristol Board, as far as drawing goes. I'm also not half-bad with that "Photoshop" thing, too.

Do you have anything you'd like to say to your fans and fellow artists?

I'm gonna take a line from Strong Bad here:

Ladies to the left for make-outs!

Dudes, to the right for high-fives!

and Artists.... I love ya all. Keep on creating.

Brilliant, well thanks for taking the time to talk today. Good luck with everything.

Thank you, and let me know if I need to break any Single Mailer stragglers' kneecaps.

You can see more of Steve's artwork on his website,

Merchandizing Update

There's a link to a shirt on the right, from there you should be able to get to the entire 100 Artists merchandise line.

Here's a flash badge if you were looking to snaz up a blog or site.

Here's the code for it.

<embed src="" FlashVars="path=" width="450" height="300" wmode="transparent" TYPE="application/x-shockwave-flash"></embed>

This now also appears on the main site's shop page.

Six Months

Unofficially, the 100 Artist Project started on March 30th. In six months we've assembled 72 pieces of art and mailed one sketchbook to 12 people who have contributed to it.

Since hit tracking was enabled in May for this blog and the main site, we've had over 3,600 vists and 4,800 page views; 2000 of those in September alone. All of this has come from word of mouth and people linking back to the site. For that I thank you. I'd also like to ask those that haven't yet to link back to either the main site or this blog. More links raise our Technorati score and increase search engine visiblity which hopefully translates to more artists seeing the site and eventually more people knowing about the auctions and the sales when they start happening. It's a small thing now, but considering it's all been ad-less referrals, I think it's a success.

We should have 2-3 more pieces of art coming in this week. I'm doing my best to find new art sites to alert to the project, if you have any suggestions let me know.

There should be an interview here today, and I've got one, but it's on a different computer and I may not get it posted until tonight. I apologize for the delay.

I'll be making up some shirts, buttons and bags to start with. The voting on the merchandise type is still open, but it's easy enough to make a bunch of things and let people choose. I'll be mixing in some phrases with the main logo, things like, "I drew for the 100 Artists Project" and some with the tag line "Standing Apart, Drawing Togheter" included. What I thought might be a cool idea is if you've already submitted a drawing, I've got a list of when your art was received and it has a number. I could make jersey type shirts with the logo on the front and your number on the back. If you are interested in that let me know and I'll do something up special for those people.

Thanks again for everyone who's participated. If you are reading this and aren't and artist but have a knack for organizational drudgery, I could use some PR assistance. One of the early contributors, Annje Jensen, has offered to help keep up the MySpace page, although lately all I've been doing on it is marking all the webcam-stripper invites as spam.

So happy half-birthday to the project and thanks again for your interest and help.


September 29, 2007


I thought I'd put up a quick note about 100 Artists merchandise. It would be more for novelty and word of mouth than actual profit for the funds or project upkeep. At first it would just be the logo on various products, but there could be more.

I've put up a poll to find out what type of product interests people the most. I'd be using Zazzle and they have a set number of products, but anyone shopping there can customize it before buying. This way I'll also have something to put on the Shop page until the books are actually ready to auction and later print for sale.

A friend also recommended contacting the Drink and Draw or Pub Sketch type groups and see if they'd be interested in participating. The Illustration Friday site has linked to us and I'd like to welcome those folks who are stopping by.

Stay tuned for more. Another interview up Monday. Cheers.

September 26, 2007

71 and 12

With two days left on the poll and a whopping nine votes, I'll be spending some time scanning the remaining art so all 70 current pieces are in the gallery.

And to add, yes there is a gallery. It's on the main site. I may have to tweak the Flash interface but I think it's possible. I STILL don't have a decent scanner (which is going to be integral to this project eventually) so if you'd like to help, you can either donate to that fund, or you can help out by visiting my Robot Portraits site and get a commissioned piece, that would help keep things running AND you'd get a little something back.

Also, I've received the 71st piece for the Single Mailer AND the Big Mailer is off to its 12th stop. So, the project is moving along. I didn't get much of a bump from the reposting of all the message boards, but I've started up over on Deviant Art and hopefully there'll be some interest there. I'd also like to apologize to those 250 people I emailed a couple days ago. If I didn't think the project was in trouble of stalling out I wouldn't have done it. As it is I got about 5 emails back saying, "Oh shoot, I forgot." Again, all word of mouth help would be great and if you have ideas on promotion PLEASE get with me and we'll work on something.

Thanks! Keep that art coming in!

September 24, 2007

Interview - Ben O'Brien

Ben O’Brien (aka Ben The Illustrator) is a graphic artist and illustrator based in Dorset, UK, but they’ll be relocating to Cornwall soon. You may have seen his work in Smart Cars and Vice Magazines as well as The Guardian. He and his wife Fi are a self contained design agency.

First off, thanks for taking the time to talk with me today.

How did you hear about the 100 Artist Project?

I saw it on the Little Chimps Society website, it sounded awesome to be honest. I love illustration projects that bring different people together so I was desperate to be involved.

Are you self employed or do you work for an agency or studio?

Self-employed. I used to be creative director of a small design agency in London, I enjoyed it but spent most of my time wanting to just focus on my own illustration work...

I now work with my wife, Fi, who manages our print sales and plenty of creative projects.

So you've done a lot of magazine covers and ads and such, yes?

Quite a bit yes, although I've always still got a lot to aim for though!

Was it a choice to work in the style you do now, the fanciful, colorful scenes, or was that more a need to adapt to the market?

It just came naturally to be honest, I've always drawn landscapes and I'm a bit of a nature freak so I'm always looking at trees and views. I find I create the best illustrations when I just do what I want to do, I'm not really a fan of adapting creativity to suit the markets, it takes the spark out.

That said, where did you pick up the desire to do landscapes?

Mostly from travelling I guess, when I was a kid we'd drive around France and see the mountains in Alps and the beaches on the South Coast, I just love places! Landscapes have always had quite an effect on me, so I try and get those feelings into my illustrations. If I can create a place that makes someone feel something, then my job is done!

Did you study art or are you self taught?

The basics of drawing I learnt myself just from copying comic books. I studied animation at college, which gave me a good grounding in visual arts I guess. Throughout school, right from childhood, art was the only lesson I ever enjoyed, I had one very inspiring teacher, and plenty who I just set out to rebel against.

Who were your biggest influences starting out, that teacher maybe?

Yeah, Mr.Dutfield, he taught me from the age of 13 - 16, taught me to try new things and not to feel the need to use traditional methods. He was great. At the same time I was discovering pop art, Lichtenstein, Warhol and all, plus early New York graffiti artists like the Wild Style guys and Keith Haring. All these people had such an incredible use of colour, I loved anything with colour.

There’s also an old book-cover illustrator called Brian Cook, my folks gave me a book of his work for Christmas and it blew me away, he painted all the British landscapes using really fresh colours, they looked brand new, but they were done between the 1930's and the 1950s. All these people using colour have to be the base influence for what I do now.

In doing what you do now, is there anything - a habit or crutch - that you'd change?

Thats a tricky one! Creatively I don't think there's anything, and generally, considering my job, there's nothing, I love what I do, and I love working together with my wife so that's all good, nothing to change... however! I do wish I was more confident, like more able to sell myself, better people skills! I've always shied away from people too much.

That actually answered my next, question about promotion, so thanks.

No worries!

Without naming names, what was the hardest or most improbable thing a client has asked you to create?

Hmmmmm, I had this one job last year, working alongside a design company for a massive client (no names named!) and we did they presentation, got the job, signed contracts, but then at the last minute the client decided they wanted a completely different style! However I could create the style they wanted (a 1950s cartoon style) so I just got my head down and produced what they wanted it's weird working in a different style, for the first time in my life I felt like I had a tedious uncreative job, not doing what came naturally to me! In the end it did look pretty cool, but no-one will ever know I did it!

Well to give you some credit and right the score (and feel free to name names here) who's been your best client?

I have a few that I enjoy working with, but my favourite is probably Smart Cars. I've been working with them for a couple of years on their 'alternative' ad campaign in Europe. They give me free-reign on what I illustrate pretty much, just Smart Cars zipping around fresh landscapes. The last thing I did for them was a landscapes which has been printed around a new Smart Car for a car show in San Jose next month, I can't wait to see it all together!

Where did Speaker Dog come from?

He started off as a doodle, just me coming up with new characters, he was actually connected to another character by a wire. I painted a few canvasses with him on, then it just rolled on from there.

Do you have plans for him?

Plenty! We have the paper toys which are set to get bigger and bigger. Fi manages the Speakerdog Paper Toys, and she's got designs from some really great designers for the next series, including Shin Tanaka who rules the paper toy world! We've also got our first Speakerdog exhibition in the UK in November which is going to be awesome. We've also just started talks to get a vinyl toy going!

Plus I'll always keep illustrating him, we have a lot of dreams with Speakerdog, just keep on taking him to different projects!

I know freelancers and self employed creators have to set daily routines like folks working office jobs, but have you found, especially working closely with your wife, that you seem to be working all the time? What's down time like?

Yeah, whenever we're at home, it seems like we're working. Although recently we've been house-hunting so we get enforced breaks. Down time usually involves cooking, walking or watching comedy on tv. It is hard since even when you're doing these things, trying to rest, you end up talking about Speakerdog or something!

Do you think it's easier to be an artist today than say twenty or thirty years ago?

Yeah, with the internet it is incredibly easy to get your work out there, and collaborate with people, and run great projects online. However! nowadays there are a lot of people being artists so there may well be more competition than there was 20 years ago.

Are you better at collaborating or working alone?

Working alone, but collaborating is like an exciting little break, it's different and interesting, but when it comes to generally making pictures, I'd rather work alone most of the time.

When you look back on the choices you made as an artist or becoming an artist, what - if anything - would you do differently?

I'm not sure, because I'm quite happy where I am now. I spent a few years working in animation, maybe I could have skipped that and gone straight for the illustration? I also wish I travelled further afield when I was younger, seen more of the world in my early 20s. I'm trying to make up for it and experience more places now.

Do you have anything you'd like to say to your fans and fellow artists?

Enjoy what you do. I have kind of 'found myself' in settling into illustration, and I think once you find your calling, your creative style, whatever, you should enjoy doing it.

... and use your powers for good. Like superheroes do.

Ha! Excellent.

Ben, it's been a pleasure. Thanks so much for talking with me today.

Ah, that’s it? It’s been grand, thanks Ben! A real pleasure. Fi and I really admire the 100 Artists project, it's ace to be part of it.

I appreciate that, it's been fun working on it and seeing everyone's work.


You can see more of Ben's work at his site,