September 04, 2007

Interview - Jeremy Dale

Jeremy Dale is a rising star in the world of comic art. You can see his work in the G.I. Joe 25th Anniversary comics, Wildguard: Fools Gold, Miserable Dastards, Space Doubles and his own book Absolute Zeroes. Jeremy lives and works in Columbia, South Carolina with his wife Kelly.

Jeremy, thanks for taking the time to speak with me today.

Hey, no problem at all-- this 100 artists project is fun to watch come together, by the way.

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

Wow, that's a broad one. Honestly, it was probably when I was around 10 years old. A local cartoonist came to my library and gave a seminar to a large room of children on how to draw their favorite cartoon and comic book characters. I remember looking at my paper and what he had on his at the front of the room and realizing, "Hey-- that's not too bad! I did pretty well with this." That'd be the first time I noticed I had any talent at it, anyway.

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

A little of both, really. Mostly, though, I taught myself from every resource I could get my hands on-- pre-internet, it was extremely hard figuring it all out. I didn't major in art at all in college, though-- I decided that I needed a back-up career in case comics didn't work out... so I majored in Mass Communication and got some nice experience as a deejay on WONU in Chicagoland radio.

What would you like to accomplish with your art?

I want to be a storyteller. Pinups and single images don't interest me much-- I'd rather tell a story visually. If I can somehow inspire someone along the way, I'd love that.

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

Will Eisner beyond a doubt. That's never changed. His work has been an incredible inspiration. More recently there's Mike Wieringo, Darwyn Cooke, Art Adams, and Ryan Ottley-- all artists that know a lot about telling a great story that springs right off the page with crackling energy and passion.

I know you make a living with your art, how hard do you work at it?
Probably harder than I should, actually. I'm having so much fun doing what I love for a living that I sometimes don't realize how the long hours at the drawing board affect me in a negative way. Honestly, I've been doing 3-4 pages a day without weekends for so long now that I don't remember what it's like to NOT be in the studio every day.

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

Be more patient with it-- I tend to get too frustrated and antsy if I've been drawing a page for too long, rushing a bit much along the way just to move on.

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

I'd LOVE to collaborate more. Just hanging out with other creators at conventions is incredibly inspiring-- I'd love to work in a studio environment or see others ink or color my work more often. I love the creative dynamic.

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?

That's a great question-- and honestly, it's hard to define, but I'll try... I would honestly just like to be respected for the work I do and make enough while doing it to keep my family taken care of. Every thing else (notoriety, being an inspiration, making loads of cash, being a comics superstar) is just gravy-- it'd be nice to have, but in the end would probably just spoil me if I had too much of it.

What media are you most comfortable using and why?

Pencils-- I like the looseness of the pencilled line, although seeing my stuff inked well is the ultimate treat... as long as I'm not the inker.

Would you rather push yourself to get a lot of work done or push yourself to perfect one piece at a time over a long period?

The former, as I think anyone that knows me would agree. I'm far too impatient and driven to allow one piece to sit on my drawing board for too long. I want that thing done as well as I can on the deadline I have or earlier.

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

Research what I needed to know or learn earlier-- who knows how much better I'd be if I'd applied myself to learning it all sooner?

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

Mostly, yeah-- we get paid better now and are treated better with more notoriety, but on the other hand no one allows ANYTHING to be brilliant anymore... every book is broken down critically so nothing will ever be legendary in the current market. That's disheartening, when the overall quality of comics at the moment are SO much better written and produced than they have ever been. Here's hoping we remember how to just have fun in stories again sometime soon.

You're originally from Indiana, you live in South Carolina now. Would you consider either of the places you've lived a hotbed for comic book art, or art in general?

Columbia, South Carolina is pretty active in the comics scene-- about a dozen or more active professionals, which is a shock to me, coming from a town where I was the only guy really serious about it. I wasn't used to seeing other creative types interested in comics before moving here. However, the South Bend-area of Indiana is GREAT for comic creators. I really enjoyed being an adopted local there before the move down south. I may not dig the city in general, but this area is great for creators.

Your recent big commission came with the G.I. Joe licensed book. It paid well, it'll get a good distribution and I know for a lot of us Children of the 80's it had to have been a delight to work on. How did it compare with doing your own book, Aboslute Zeroes?

It has been a thrill working on the G.I. Joe characters for these comics, especially given that I get to draw them in their original form from the 80s. I'm such a geek-- I still get excited every time I get to draw guys like Cobra Commander, Destro, or Snake Eyes on a page. It obviously has its negatives, like the absolute control over the page like I would with Absolute Zeroes-- but the overall pleasure of doing work on a high profile property so early in my career is exhilarating.

With that said, I miss drawing my book-- I look forward to being able to sit down and revisit the characters again.

What's a typical day like for you?

Well, I have been in a night work mode lately-- it makes it easier to work nights and still have time to spend with my wife, Kelly. I tend to start work in the afternoon and take a break when she gets home to have dinner and hang out for a bit-- then head back to work until the work is done... anywhere from midnight to 9am, typically. Rinse, repeat. hehehe

I know your wife, Kel is very supportive of you. She even does a bit of art herself and helps you with some of your work. There are a lot of husband wife teams in comics. Do you find that it's helpful to have someone that close be involved in your work or are you worried it'll cause creative problems?

Yeah, she just started inking at the behest of friend and fellow illustrator Loston Wallace. She's really taken up the brush well-- it's stunning to see her improvement in such a short time. Considering she's never really dabbled in art at all, I can't understate how amazing it is to watch her grow artistically. We don't have any problems working together-- we really enjoy it, actually. It gives us something we can do together if I have to work weird hours... and comics and weird hours go hand in hand.

You know a lot of people in the industry, and a lot about the industry and its history. If you were in charge of one of the big two or even a larger independent publisher, how would you use that knowledge to make a difference? What would you do to make the world of comics better?

Ideally, I'd bring in some artists under a studio and treat them right while still instilling a great work ethic. CrossGen tried something similar, but I think they expanded too fast and didn't have a solid enough base to make it work. There are plenty of artists that can do great work on a deadline-- don't let anyone tell you they don't exist anymore. I've met them, seen them work... it's really inspiring.

It really comes down to that whole "remember the mistakes of the past" thing-- seeing what didn't work before and figuring out why is the first step in creating a successful plan of attack in this or any other matter.

You're one of the hardest working artists I know but you're also an almost shameless and tireless self promoter. Aside from the benefits of having great artistic skill, have you found your promoting yourself to be tough to do? Have you ever received any flak for it?

Thanks, I really appreciate the kind words. Promoting myself has been a real task to undertake, but it's taught me a lot about targeting my market effectively. What flies on, say-- newsarama won't necessarily do the same on the Bendisboards or even an artist community like penciljack or I've taken flak for it, sure-- anytime anyone thinks you're only around to sell them something (whether that's a comic or even an idea), they immediately get defensive. Just know your audience and cater to them without sacrificing who you are and you'll be alright, I think.

Out of all your online niches and publishers you've been involved with over the last 5 or 6 years, which has been the best help to your career? Which has been the biggest disappointment?

Artistically, I wouldn't be the artist I am today without the in-depth critiques and feedback I got there... not as much now, but a few years ago that was my classroom. Creatively, getting to know and work with the guys at Heroforge (a group of artists that include Loston Wallace, Dash Martin, Nate Lovett, Shane Peters, Ben Rollman, Jamie Snell and myself) has been AMAZING. I've learned tons from them.
Professionally, the G.I. Joe book has really opened doors for me at the big 2 and beyond. People that wouldn't even give me a glance before are at least recognizing I exist now, and that's all I ask.

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

Oh, like a parting shot or a word of divine wisdom? Remember what made you love comics when you first got in? Celebrate that. The next generation want to get excited about it, too.

Thanks for your time. Good luck with your work!

It's been a real pleasure! I love comics, and talking about them is pretty cool, too.

You can see More of Jeremy's work at and .

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