Creator Interview: Jason Copland - Part 2

Here's part two of my interview with artist Jason Copland. To read part one, click here.

Bernie Gonzalez: A “lack of nightly sleep” is a perfect sequeway to get talking about your own artwork. We’ll start with the big question: How would you describe your art style?

Jason Copland: I don't know if I can talk about my stylistic tendencies without it sounding self depreciating. Um, let's see, I guess my work tends to be "liney". Is that a word? I use a lot of lines. I try to make sure that all those lines I use have a legitimate purpose, like helping describe texture/mass/mood/etc.

BG: How do you think others describe your art style?

JC: Scratchy, probably. Dense, maybe.

BG: So how'd it get that way? How did your art style become "liney"? Think of your artwork from maybe five, ten years ago. How did you get from that to now?

JC: The "liney" quality of my work probably stems from my preference for doing 90% of my inking with a pen and nib and the other 10% with a brush. There is less variance of line weight with a nib which can make the marks read more "liney". A second reason would be because I've been working mainly in indie comics, where color usually isn't an option, and I feel the need to do more hatching to give the pages a better sense of depth and mood.

BG: Were you always "liney" or was there a specific moment, inspiration, project, etc that brought that style out?

JC: Looking at my first comic book story I illustrated (back in 2001), I can say that my style has always been pretty much the same. I am starting to try to break out of my current style, though, and my work in Postcards was the first step in that direction.

BG: What was that first comic story from 2001?

JC: That first comic book story I illustrated was a book called Braids of The Gorgon. It was a Greek mythology based book that writer Ken Faggio and I were putting together. I finished the first two issues (of four) but no one seemed interested in it, publisher wise. I think with an editor, we could have made the book tighter and really made it rock. I still think about the book and wonder if we should give it another go.

BG: Let’s go through the rest of your published and unpublished work.

JC: My first published stuff was in A. David Lewis' book, Mortal Coils. I did art for stories that appeared in the first and second issues. That was in 2002. Published stuff, aside from Postcards and Mortal Coils, includes doing the art for Stuart Moore's story in Western Tales of Terror #4 and a two-issue mini series titled Empty Chamber with cohort A. David Lewis.

Besides the two issues of Braids of The Gorgon, the only other unpublished things I've got are a short story with Josh Hale Fialkov and my 24-hour comic that I did last year, which can be seen in its entirety on my Comicspace page.

BG: Are you a sketcher? Do you have a sketchbook where you work out ideas or just plain scribble?

JC: I don't do a lot of sketching for sketching's sake, actually. I do own a sketchbook but it rarely gets used. Most of the drawing I do, that I would consider sketching, is done for the purpose of working out page/panel layouts. The only time I do any real amount of sketching is when I'm starting a new project and need to generate characters and settings.

BG: I noticed that you have some sketches up on your blog from your recent time on the picket line. What's that been like?

JC: Being on strike has been a great opportunity to get back into the "sketching for sketching's sake" mode. I've even done some stuff that I like, which is something I don't say very often!

BG: In a behind-the-scenes, DVD making-of featurette breakdown, describe your working process when it comes to creating a comic page. How do produce a sequential page?

JC: First thing I do is read the script a number of times to get a sense of the overall page flow. I will make a note to myself if I think a panel will only work as a horizontal or vertical panel, depending on what is taking place in that shot. Once that concern is addressed, I start roughing out the page layout, sketching it out on loose sheets of paper, at about half the scale of the penciled pages.
JC: After the basic panel dimensions are worked out, I start drawing the individual panels on separate sheets of paper at actual size, tightening up the roughs. I then scan all the panels and assemble the page in Photoshop. At this point I make any changes that I feel need to be made to make the page stronger, sometimes that means rescaling a panel or body part or something, sometimes it means I rethink and change a whole panel. If all is good, I have my "penciled" page.

JC: I then print it out on 2 ply Bristol paper, in non-repro blue, and start inking.
BG: In his book, Writing the Australian Crawl, American poet, William Stafford said: “Art is a reckless encounter with whatever comes along”. For whatever reason, that quote always stuck with me, particularly when in comes to creating an illustration. Considering your process, how much control would you say you have over the final piece of art? How much is left to the unexpected or happy accidents?

JC: Up until I ink it, the process is pretty open to change. The "happy accidents" happen in the "penciling" process, mostly when I'm resizing panels and moving panels around. But, I do feel I have control of the final page through most of the process. Although, for my Postcards pages, I introduced the use of a dry brush technique for the grey tones which took a good deal of control away from me. And while this might sound crazy, I totally enjoyed not being in my artistic comfort zone and I ended up being very happy with the results; I have used it on a few newer projects since.

BG: Let me toss out another quote. French critic & poet Paul Valery said: “A poem is never finished, only abandoned”. Would you say you have the ability to call a piece/page finished?

JC: I would say, yes, I have the ability to call a page "finished". I am able to let a page go and start on the next one. But having said that, I have this sense that a page will always be "unfinished" in one way or another. I'd like to think that I am always evolving as an artist and that I would end up looking at my pages and find things that I would want to change, especially after a certain amount of time away from them.

BG: You mentioned earlier that your father graduated from Alberta College of Art. Is your father an artist as well? Did you see him drawing as you were growing up? Does he still draw now, and if so, do the two of you look at each other's work?

JC: He is indeed an artist. He's a very talented studio artist and illustrator. Unfortunately, I didn't have the chance to see him at work while I was growing up as my parents got divorced when I was very young. Although, we have recently begun to exchange emails and that has given me a chance to see some more of his work. He does some amazing Japanese influenced illustrations which he creates mostly in digital media.

BG: Do you have a particular artist or network of artists that you use for feedback on a regular basis?

JC: You know, I do have a small network of fellow artists that I correspond with from time to time, but I never ask them to look at my work. I probably should, though. One of the guys I chat with regularly is Alex Sheikman, creator of Robotika.He sends me stuff he's working on, through email and snail mail, which is a thrill. I love Alex's work, so getting stuff from him is always a rush. I'll give him feedback once in a while, but his work is so strong that I almost never have anything to say, other than "Wow".

BG: Greatest inspiration/s in comics?

JC: Guy Davis. Walter Simonson. Ashley Wood. Tony Moore. Paul Pope. Bill Sienkiewcz. All I have to do is look at one of their books and I'm raring to go.

BG: Do you regularly follow or seek out a specific comic artist’s work?

JC: All the fellas I mentioned in the question above. I grab whatever these guys draw.

BG: Greatest inspiration/s outside of comics?

JC: My wife and son are my greatest inspirations. I have a picture of them above my drawing table that I look at whenever I question my resolve. It never fails to motivate me.

BG: Out of curiosity, what does your wife think of your artwork and the comics you've drawn?

JC: She seems to like what I draw. That's what she tells me, anyway. But seriously, she is extremely supportive of my work and for that I can't thank her enough.

To read the third and final of the interview, click here.

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