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, http://www.downerillustration.com/


Anonymous said...

OMG!!! I love this guy!!! Who knew I'd fins such awesomeness by just randomly typing my brothers name into google search!

Anonymous said...

Stpehen dude......you rock and I am so anonymous. *winkwink* !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!