Comics Anonymous

December 17, 2011, 11:15 pm
Filed under: Interviews | Tags: , , , ,

This year’s Thought Bubble had several big names attached to it – none more so than Adam Hughes, someone we don’t see enough of in the UK. We managed to catch up with Adam during the con to ask him about his recent tutorial video and the thought and techniques that go into his amazing artwork.

Good Copic Marker tutorials are rare to come by – is that one of the reason you did one of your own?

No, the only reason I did one of my own was because there’s this company in America that sells art supplies, Jerry’s Artaramma, that has a series of tutorial DVDs. I’ve had people ask for years “Could you do one?” and the idea of having to film it, produce it, edit it – do all that stuff, just felt a little bit daunting when I should be working. So we thought here’s somebody who’s got an infrastructure set up for that, so we thought we’d do it as an experiment and see how well it would be received. And it’s been received extremely well, so we’re toying with the possibility of doing more with the different aspects of the work that I do.

You’ve said previously that you might consider doing a Photoshop version – is that a possibility?

We’re toying with the idea – we don’t have any concrete plans right now, but enough people seemed to enjoy the Copic Marker demonstration , we could probably get away with a few more.

Did you use any kind of tutorial videos when first starting out with Copic Markers?

No, I’m self-taught. I suffer from a moron’s education, so a lot of times if I’m doing something new I’ll just start doing it. To be honest if you give me something, like DVD or board game instructions, I can’t just read the words and know how to do it, I have to physically get it out and start messing with it. I don’t know if that’s some kind of tactile learning system, but I learn by doing. So I just grabbed the markers and started messing around with them and doing whatever I could and noticed what did and didn’t work, like if you put too much ink on they are really over saturated and you can get this effect, if you let them get dry then you get some really nice dry brush effects. It’s all just been trial and error. The nice thing about when I did convention sketches when I used to do them full time – because that’s a young man’s game and grandpa is getting old! – I would get a lot of them done, and would get a lot of opportunities to experiment with them and find out how they work and what was the right paper, because it’s all about the marriage of materials – how well does this paper go with this brush or marker or pen, this board with this kind of ink, that sort of stuff.  So I had the benefit of a lot of trial and error time.

How do you feel about people learning from you and trying to copy your style?

I’m extremely flattered by it – and so long as they don’t live in a nicer house than me then I’m ok with it! It’s really nice, I have more days feeling bad about what I’m doing than I feel good, and if I see somebody else taking some of the principles that I employ or treading on ground that I’ve trodden already, I think ‘well, maybe I’m not doing everything all wrong’. People seem to like it to the point where they are actually emulating it and hopefully taking it a step further so that I can rip them off in return! (laughs)

It’s not something that you see much of these days – but would ever consider taking on an apprentice?

No – I’ve seen the Star Wars films and I know that it all ends in tears. It’s just gonna end up killing me! I’m still busy trying to work me out – I think most people get to a stage where they become teachers when they’ve reached a wall or they bang their head on some kind of personal interior ceiling, where they’re going ‘ I really can’t take this any further, so I’ll take it to other people’, but I haven’t gotten there yet, I’m still trying to figure out my style and technique – I’m not nearly as good as I could be, I’ve got to do more interiors. I’m still in a weird foetal learning stage – I’m like the world’s oldest freshman!

You mentioned working on interiors – is there anything going to happen with the All-Star Wonder Woman comic that you were doing?

Maybe someday. DC’s not really to interested in pushing it right now – they’ve just revamped Wonder Woman with everything else and the whole All-Star line has kind of fallen by the wayside. They’ve told me that if I ever finish it they’re happy to print it, they’re just not beating down my door to get it done, to the point that I’m actually going to be doing some other interior artwork for them next year. I think they’re just happy to have All-Star Wonder Woman sit on a shelf in my studio  – it’ll be my long lost forgotten project and I’ll release it when I’m 70 or something.

Is there anything in the DCNew52 that’s caught your eye?

There’s stuff that’s caught my eye – I don’t know if it’s in a positive way. Catwoman screwing Batman!?  That caught my eye, but I don’t know if I was thrilled by it. I have a tendency not to read that many comics and I sure as hell don’t read comics that I work on. The main reason why I don’t do that is because, let’s say I was a cover artist on your comic and you came up and said ‘Hey Adam – did you read issue #27?’ if I’ve read it and I liked it I’ll say ‘ Yeah that was a great issue I really loved it’ but if I thought it sucked, what do I do? Do I sit there and say ’Well, I’m glad to work on your covers, but it’s terrible. You really shouldn’t quit your day job’. But I don’t want to have to lie to them either, I’d feel terrible trying to be dishonest with people –so I let people I’m working with know up front ‘Don’t take offense to this – I’m not going to read this book’. You let me know what the general gist of the story is and I’ll produce covers for you that you’ll like, but I don’t want to know what’s going on in the inside. Maybe five years down the road I’ll read them and go ‘Oh that was really good I wish I’d been a part of that’.

How much of the Batgirl details do you read in order to create the covers?

Gail Simone will write a small description of what’s going on in the story – I don’t have to worry about the nuts and bolts of it like which sock Barbara Gordon puts on first in panel 12. Instead she’ll say the story is about ‘this’,  which is good because I don’t get bogged down by details either – I don’t think a good comic book cover is necessarily “pick a moment from the 22 pages and then just blow that moment up to the cover”. I disagree with that entirely, I think a good cover is eye-catching and gets people to thumb through the book. So I’ll ask for the synopsis and the little pastiche of what’s going on to give me an idea.

Adam was a pleasure to speak with and a really genuine person who obviously loves his craft. It can sometimes be hard to get conversations going with some artists, but as you can tell from the above, Adam was happy to spend time chatting about comics. You can see some of Adam’s recent work on the covers of the current Batgirl and Uncharted comic series, but if you’re interested in seeing some of the amazing covers he’s produced, you should really check out his hardcover book – Cover Run: The DC Comics art of Adam Hughes.

Craig @hastiecraig

All photos courtesy of Fiona Watson Photography.

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