The Ancient Book of Myth and War presents to you a time capsule, a glimpse into a strange and wondrous world, where myths and legends still roam freely and wars rage in the hearts and minds of the noble and the feeble alike. Experiments in color, shape, line and composition enrich each and every page, accompanied by text that will enlighten the audience with atmospheric facts concerning origins, eras, and even media used in the production of the art itself. The Ancient Book of Myth and War is a fine art hardcover collection of images produced by some of the most highly sophisticated animation designers in the industry.
And just who are those “highly sophisticated animation designers” you ask?
First up is Scott Morse. Along with being presently employed at Pixar, Morse is the genius behind such books as Southpaw, Soulwind, Volcanic Revolver, Magic Pickle, Spaghetti Western, Visitations, Ancient Joe, and Barefoot Serpent. You can check out Morse’s blog here.
Lou Romano, also on the Pixar payroll, has worked on The Powerpuff Girls, The Iron Giant, and The Incredibles. You can check out Romano’s blog here.
Don Shank has worked on a number of animated projects including Ren and Stimpy, Dexter's Lab, and Samurai Jack. He also did development work on The Incredibles. You can check out Shank's blog right here.
Finally, Nate Wragg is an animation industry vet and (also) a present Pixar employee where he was a sketch artist on Ratatouille. He had a short story featured in Image Comics’ Afterworks 2 anthology produced by yet another completely different group of talented Pixar artists. You can check out Wragg’s blog right here.
After having some trouble getting my local comic shop to order this book for me, I simply ordered it through Amazon, got it a few weeks ago, and have been devouring it ever since. Great talent. Amazing artwork. Excellent production and presentation. No wonder they artists debuted the book at the Nucleus Art Gallery back in March of this year.
According to Morse’s blog, there are three other Ancient Books in the works. Next up: The Ancient Book of Sex and Science.
Published by Red Window and distributed by AdHouse Books, The Ancient Book of Myth and War is available at a nice discount at Amazon and worth every penny.
To read part one of the interview, click here.
To read part two of the interview, click here.
Bernie Gonzalez: Moving onto your most recent project to hit the shelves…how did your story with Matt in Postcards come about?
Jason Copland: My involvement in Postcards was an act of kindness by the book's editor and head honcho, Jason Rodriguez. We had worked together previously (Jason was my editor for the Stuart Moore penned Western Tales of Terror story I illustrated) and he felt that my work would fit nicely in Postcards. Jason had a few stories that still needed an artist and he felt that my style would work best in service of Matt's story. So, via email, Jason introduced me to Matt, although I was aware of his work though the DC Conspiracy.
BG: Let's talk about the production. How did you and Matt put the story together?
JC: The production of our story was fairly uneventful, really. Matt sent me the "Marvel style" script, a plot with dialogue broken down over the four-page length it was originally meant to be. It was the first time I had worked from just a plot, so it was kind of exciting and scary, at the same time. I began by listing all the beats of each page that needed to be illustrated and, to my surprise/horror, I quickly realized that some pages were going to need 13-16 panels to accurately depict all the information Matt had described. Many of those panels were going to be repeating panels with slight variations, which meant that many of them needed to be the same shape and scale. That fact led me to organizing the pages in a 4x4 grid layout. After that, it became a matter of deciding which panels, on pages with less than sixteen panels, got an extra frame to help control the story’s pacing and tension.
As I was working on the layouts, I realized that 4 pages just wasn't going to be enough space. I felt that the last shot needed to be large enough to help alleviate the claustrophobic tone that the restrictive grid system of the previous pages imposed. So, instead of cramming the final shot in, I made a case for having a splash page as a fifth page to give the ending a more visually fulfilling ending. Thankfully, Jason agreed.
I emailed out the layouts to Jason and Matt when I finished them and got their "OKs”. From there, I printed out the pages and inked them and then sent them out for corrections. No corrections were asked for but there was a change to one of the panels on the first page to accommodate the lettering.
BG: Now that Postcards is on the shelves and you can see "Send Louis His Underwear" in the context of the other stories, what do you think of your contribution? The overall book?
JC: I am very happy with the work I contributed to Postcards. I think Matt and I put together a great little tale. And being part of this amazing book that is filled with so many talented creators is the icing on the cake.
BG: After Postcards, you're working on Kill All Monsters! Being a huge Godzilla fan, I'm already sold on the title alone. So realizing that you want to keep a few aces up your sleeves for the paying customers down the road, what's the skinny behind Kill All Monsters!?
JC: Well, KAM! started as an idea I had to have a book that I could use as a showcase for my work. I was going to contact writers and ask them to write a story for a "robot vs. monster" anthology that I would then illustrate and self publish. After talking with Alex Ness, we came up with a basic premise of what was to become Kill All Monsters!, which is, how do you combat giant monsters that are bent on ridding the Earth of all human life? That's right! Build giant robots!
Enter writer, Michael May. Mike took that very basic 50's giant movie monster idea and mixed in some 60's Nick Fury-ish espionage and intrigue with some 22nd Century eco-concerns, and what came together is something I've very excited about. KAM! is a book I'd love to draw for as long as I possibly can.
BG: Any other upcoming projects you can talk about?
JC: There's a book of poems by Alex Ness, called A Life of Ravens, that's about to hit the printers. The book features illustrations by some very talented comic creators such as Mike Grell, Peter Bergting, Alex Sheikman, Josh Howard, Paul Harmon and Rich Koslowski. I illustrated a short poem called Valkyrie Fly; it has three full page illustrations, which was a bit of a departure for me as I usually only draw sequential stuff.
Also, I'm just finishing up the inks for a short story that's going to be part of an anthology book editor/writer James Powell is putting together entitled Dear Santa, Let Me Explain. The really cool thing for me about this story is that I wrote it, too. It will be the first story I wrote that will make it to print. It's called "Whatever It Takes" and it's an autobiographical recounting of an unusual Christmas time moment.
BG: Any upcoming appearances, conventions, events, etc?
JC: I will be attending this year's Fallcon in Minnesota and next year's Emerald City Con in Seattle. I don't think I'll make it to next year's San Diego Con unless Kill All Monsters! finds a good home.
BG: Anything else you want to add that can’t be held against you in the court of law, but possibly in the court of public opinion?
JC: Just that I'd like to thank Indie Pulp for giving me the chance to chat about myself. It's the one subject that I know a lot about!
If you’d like to contact Jason, see more of his artwork, and keep tabs on his upcoming projects, visit his website and his blog. You can also see more of Jason over at his Myspace page and Comicspace page.
Also, to find out more about Postcards: Stories That Never Happened, make sure to visit the Eximious Press website or purchase the book over at Amazon.
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.
I first stumbled onto Jason Copland’s work in Postcards: Stories That Never Happened…
Edited by Jason Rodriquez, Postcards is a collection of stories inspired by actual vintage postcards gathered from flea markets, antique shops, and second-hand stores. The postcards may be limited by a single paragraph of text, but the creators that have contributed to this anthology have allowed their imaginations to fill in the blanks and tell the “true stories that never happened”. One of the stories in the anthology, “Send Louis His Underwear”, was written by Matt Dembicki and illustrated by Copland.
The story, particularly the artwork, made such an impression on me that I decided to contact Jason and hit him up for an interview. Big thanks to Jason for agreeing to the interview and providing some honest, insightful answers into his life and art.
Bernie Gonzalez: Alright, Jason. Let’s start by filling a few blanks in your bio. What's your background? Did you go to art school/take art classes? Self taught?
Jason Copland: Well, I've taken my share of post-secondary art education, that's for sure. My first stop was the Alberta College of Art, the school my father graduated from (and my Dad's friend, John Byrne, dropped out of!). After two years there, I decided to follow Byrnes' lead and dropped out, too. I moved back to Vancouver and, after spending a few years in music retail, I felt a need to go back to school. I enrolled in a two-year community college art program where the focus was more on practical skills and techniques of image making. From there I finished out my art school training at the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design. Six years of post secondary education in total...and one huge student loan!
BG: Ah, the abyss that is the student loan debt. I know it all too well. So to beat that beast back where he came from, do you have a day job or are you able to make a living through your art?
JC: For part of the week I work a day job as a librarian assistant at the Vancouver Public Library. The other part of my week in spent taking care of Stewart, my two-year-old son. Comics are still a side thing, but with some luck and a lot of hard work, I hope to be able to make my living doing comics fulltime.
BG: Is Stewart already spending some time with a drawing pad and those jumbo-sized crayons?
JC: He just turned two-year-old in July, so it's still too early to tell if he's going to follow in his old man's footsteps. But, he has done some sketching while sitting at my drawing table, so you never know! Personally, I think he should take up a trade, that way he'd be sure to make a decent living.
BG: With Stewart and a day job, how do you organize your drawing time? Take me through a typical day/week.
JC: Almost all my drawing time comes at the end of my day. Monday through Wednesday I take care of Stewart. Those days start around 8am and go until my wife comes home from work at 5:30pm. I get a little work done during his nap time, most of which is emailing people and surfing the internet. After putting Stewart to bed and spending some time with my wife, I'll draw from 10pm to about 2am. Then, I'm up at 8am to do it all again. My Thursday and Fridays are roughly the same as above except I work at the library instead of taking care of Stewart.
BG: I believe “busy” is the appropriate word. So why comics? Why do you feel the need to spend all the time and effort creating art for the comic medium?
JC: Funny, I've been asking that question to myself for years. I have a hard time coming up with a concrete answer. I guess it's because of my love and respect for the medium. I've been reading comics since I was a wee lad and have always regarded the art form (and the creators involved) very highly. I'm fascinated with the sequential nature of comics, telling a story with a series of images is a very satisfying experience. Plus, the notion that you can create new worlds with nothing but ink, pen and paper is very liberating, too.
BG: Would you say that most of your artwork is comic artwork? If so, then do you think of yourself as a "serious" artist?
JC: Yeah, almost all my work is traditional sequential comic book work. I definitely consider myself a "serious" artist. And why wouldn't I? Because comics are considered a "Low Art" form? I don't believe in the notions of "High Art" and "Low Art". That offensive distinction was created by institutional art critics and historians to bring an air of validity to the art forms that they had a stake in, namely painting and sculpture. Comics are just as valid and important. In terms of "Art", I'd put Frank Miller's Sin City on equal footing with Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa. Seriously. Ok, I'll get off my soapbox, now.
BG: No, no. Stay on your soapbox for a little longer. I'll even play devil's advocate.
In the grand scheme of things, aside from Hollywood's recent interest in GRAPHIC NOVELS (in capitals for emphasis and credibility), comics have primarily been seen as juvenile. Kids read comics before they grow up, develop their reading comprehension, and move onto "real" books, "real" literature. So how can you compare something like Sin City, a book that may have more illustrative/fine art qualities than the average comic, with an actual piece of FINE ART (in capitals for emphasis and credibility) like Mona Lisa?
JC: I think comics got a bad shake, historically speaking. Once Dr. Wertham got his crusade up and going, the US Senate started questioning the morality of comics and their creators, and the stifling Comics Code Authority was put in place, Comics didn't stand a chance to be considered anything but lowbrow amusement. Comics were too far ahead of their time and that scared too many people. In another reality, one where the fear mongering of people like Dr. Wertham never existed, comics of today would be regarded far more favorably as a valid form of entertainment and expression. As far as I'm concerned, all the Mona Lisa has going for it over Sin City is about 500 years of validation.
BG: Interesting perspective. Let’s give this fine art vs. comics comparison one more go around.
When people discuss fine art, names like Picasso, Monet, Klimt, van Gogh, Renoir, etc commonly turn up. When it comes to comic art, there is also a rich history with artists such as Romita, Kirby, Dikto, Toth, Eisner, etc. As a comic artist, how important do you think it is for a comic artist to know about comic art history? How much do you know about comic art history?
JC: If someone is interested in making comics, a general knowledge of comic history should be a high priority. Knowing the past helps inform decisions made about the future. I have what I would call a basic knowledge of the history of comics. I'm not so good with the finer details about particular "Ages" but I know of the overall rise/fall/rise again details of comic book history. Or, at least, I once did but my lack of nightly sleep is starting to take its toll on my long term memory.
To read the second part of the interview, click here.
Published by First Second Books, Robot Dreams is Sara Varon’s newest graphic novel and her third book. Her first venture into the graphic novel world was titled Sweater Weather; a 96-page all-ages story about a few animals and their snowy-day adventure that earned Varon a “Best New Talent” Harvey award nomination in 2004. In 2006, Varon made good use of her fluffy style and pastel love in her wordless children’s book, Chicken and Cat.
Now, with Robot Dreams, she’s made a natural progression and taken her wordless visual passion and produced a 208-page OGN that, on its surface, could easily be dismissed as another kid’s book. Dogs reading papers, robots playing at the beach, connoisseur anteaters, and a melting snowman populate the cartoony landscape. But upon deeper examination, the story explores the value of friendship in subtle fashion and in a variety of relationships…and it’s all done without text.
Like Joshua Simmons’ House, Robot Dreams stands as a perfect example of the power pure visual storytelling can demonstrate. It takes a brave and talented storyteller to convey a narrative driven soley by the pictures without the aid or protection of snappy lines, monologues, or thought balloons. Fortunately, Varon is able to deliver a great deal of understated emotion without a single word.
If you can spare a few minutes, I'd recommend giving Robot Dreams a "read".
I saw the Copic Multiliner SP Brush (BS) at Wizard Chicago and instantly fell in love. Well, as much in love as you can fall with a pen.
In my limited experience with brush pens, I've found that the tips give out way too quickly. They start flexing too much and I lose control of my line widths. I'll admit to having a heavy hand, but I need a strong, resilient tip with some resistance when I work on an illustration. This new pen produces velvet-soft strokes of 0.2 to 5mm, has refillable ink cartridges, a replaceable tip, and comes in a sturdy aluminum casing.
Let's see what magic we can make.