Thursday, August 23, 2018


As an artist, it seems like the landscape is ever-changing from simply the tools, to the aesthetic. I intend to be an artist that never wants to stop learning, and as such, I find more and more interesting artists every day. Each artist has a unique insight and point of view, no matter the experience level. New views help open my mind and teach me there are many ways to utilize my skills and I hope that sharing our stories will help others in the same way. I believe there are many paths on an artistic journey, and each interview will help to show the stories of the artists that tread them.


Today we'll be interviewing Henrik Rosenborg.

Kaminski: The first question is typically the same to get the ball rolling: What made you pursue art? Is it something that you always saw yourself pursuing? What KEEPS you pursuing it?


Rosenborg: I think originally it was when I was very young and drew and painted in school. I always had a vivid imagination and was, for that age, fairly good at putting it on paper. I think the feedback from that when I was younger helped a lot. I didn't take it very seriously though, I just drew and didn't really care about progress, which was great in a way. The real progress started happening when I was sitting in my parents' basement playing World of Warcraft, no job or anything planned for the future and I was like, "what the fuck am i doing?".

I started thinking about what to do with myself, I knew, right then and there, that a normal job wasn't for me, I wanted to be creative. So I started approaching drawing as a profession, it took maaaany years before I even knew what to do with it. Seven years ago, now, I decided I wanted to be an illustrator so I just gave it all I got. At first it was more about just working with something that was interesting. Later on it turned into a way of helping people dream for a bit, see another world, even if just for a brief moment. Why I keep doing it I think is a mix of things, partially because I've put so much into it that I don't want to back down and partially the same thing as I mentioned, to help people dream a bit.

Kaminski: When first starting out were there specific industries you'd target or were you at the 'shotgun approach' and just sending out portfolio examples everywhere to see what stuck? And in that vein, what are some stories of your first for-hire projects (without naming any specific names of course)?

 

Rosenborg: Well I had been an avid player of Role-Playing Games (RPGs), especially in the fantasy genre for the most part of my life, so I knew I wanted to get into that somehow. I did very soon realize that it wasn't that easy to reach the bigger names even though I thought I was awesome. I started with applying to a bunch of RPGs on the Swedish market and the first few gigs I did paid incredibly bad.

My absolute first gig was for a big company, they found me as I was painting live at a big event in Sweden, the university brought us to different events to promote the school. At first I was kind of rude to the poor guy. I was tired and hungry, but he was persistent so we ended up deciding that I'd work with them on this project they had. It didn't work out though, I was so fresh back then, I didn't know anything about working professionally. It was quite a downer at first, that I lost a big name like that just cause I had a hard time adapting to the task. I was so used to just doing my thing you know?

To answer the question I'd say at first I did try get all sorts of jobs, and I did a bunch of jobs that I really didn't enjoy. But after a while i knew I wanted to get into Trading-Card Games (TCGs) and RPGs, so that's what i've been doing lately.

Right now i'm also getting into concept art, which is new and challenging!

Kaminski: Oh how fun! I love that you're so open to change.

That being said, I definitely followed suit, initially. When I first started out I had the potential to work with a big name game company that I certainly wasn't ready for, and so I declined the task. Looking back, I kinda wish I hadn't, but only you can know what you're capable of, you know?

As I've probably gone on about far too much in other interviews, I'm a HUGE fan of the Shadowrun universe and to this day, that's what reflects my need to draw so much cyberpunk and dark fantasy. 

Rosenborg: Yeah it makes a ton of sense, I guess you're ready when you're ready. I've turned down stuff before too cause I haven't felt ready or that it wasn't my area of expertise. I like to pick up jobs that i know I can handle.

Kaminski: So then, I have to ask: What influenced your dive into game art? Was it also that you played lots of RPGs and things? Were you hoarding RPG and card games much like I was in my youth? Lastly, were there any specific artists or game worlds that ultimately drove you forward?


Rosenborg: It was definitely RPGs, magic, some Swedish RPGs, computer games, Baldur’s Gate was a big one. All of these combined, it was just so imaginative. I remember, and sometimes still do to this day, the feel that the world is gray and dull in comparison to what a fantasy setting is. I often find myself trying to find some signs of real world magic! But in the long run, I want to make my own thing. I've been working for two years or so on my own fantasy setting with some friends, it will be a table top RPG and I am super hyped about it! I've always had a hard time restraining myself, I just really want to tell everyone about everything that i've made with it so far but I'm gonna keep it until it's finished enough to be showcased. 

The artist that has had the biggest influence me from the start and still to this day is Paul Bonner, just looking at his art has given me so many things. When I first saw a piece of his I was like, "how the fuck do you do that", and so that's been my constant pursuit too. Seeing his art has also made me believe in my ideas, that my imagination can turn into something, I don't always have to adapt and fall in line with what everybody else is doing. Which has been extremely valuable. Over the years I've of course picked up on other artists whose work I just love, like: Jesper Ejsing, Even Amundsen, Alex Konstad, Mike Azevedo etc!

Kaminski: Switching gears: when you first started out, what kind of training did you have initially? Are you professionally trained or did you learn as you went? Also: What medias are you favorite and why?


Rosenborg: At first it was all pencil drawings, which I've been trying to keep sharp up until today. I like to somehow stay in touch with the traditional mediums so I draw and ink some when I have time for it. It started out with a one year art school, where we got to try EVERYTHING! Sculpture, pottery, painting, etc., etc. That's where I grew the most in a short period of time I'd say. After that, I did three years at Uni - game design and computer graphics - there was a lot of 3D so I spent most of my free time doing 2D art. At first, I really didn't study too much; I've always observed a lot while being outside or around people to try to figure things out. But to actively study, I haven't done much at all. Some life drawing and anatomy through a course last summer. I've learned most through observation and just massive amounts of work! Being keen to figure things out and occasionally using reference! Correct anatomy, light, material, etc., aren't my main focus most of the time.

If it looks cool and believable i'm content!

Kaminski: I can see that your pencil work has a heavy influence on you, especially with the amount of detail your ink work has in it. Sidebar question, but do you do Inktober yearly? Or even Month of Fear?

Rosenborg: HAHA, noo... I try to, but I can never commit!

Kaminski: Hah, I agree. Something that has worked for me in the past is to find a theme and then start poking people to join in! Of course... mine usually are some sort of blend between cyberpunk and horror, but, well...

Rosenborg: Hmmm... like sci-fi or something?

Kaminski: It'd be a little more abstract than that, but yeah, pretty much.

Something like, "Pick a genre and research some material that could be in that and then adapt that to it." This is how, oddly enough, the Robo-Junicorn theme popped up out of nowhere for a project I worked on!

As far as media and creativity goes, it's amazing how many of us go through the trials of trying everything out before we decide what works or what doesn't. It took me awhile to decide that animation and posable figure sculpting was most definitely NOT my thing.

In that vein, are there any medias that you're simply not comfortable with? Do you have any stories about a project that you started that was an absolute flop because the materials just weren't in your wheelhouse or you just kind of thought midway through 'DAMN, this just isn't working'?

Rosenborg: Hmm... not really, this whole time I've been kind of set on doing 2D. Drawing, painting etc., so I've always dealt with any professional assignment with 2D. I have had assignments in school that involved 3D and 3D-animation which are areas where I am not at all comfortable! I've always been like "If I do what i love and get good at it people will hire me for it". So I've always just kept at it with 2D, painted textures, etc. - no photo bashing. That's just what i simply love and feel comfortable with!

Kaminski: Sounds like you and I have the same mentality when it comes to painting. I'm not against using whatever you want to get the end result, but I know personally that I can't find any solace in photo bashing and using texture overlays and things. Hell, these days I barely even use the blender brush (much to some people's dismay).

Rosenborg: Same here! All these options confuse me more then help me, to be honest. I mostly use one brush and just paint really.

Kaminski: Nothing wrong with that!

Rosenborg: But like you said! I don't mind at all what others use, I can see the point in using all of it.

Kaminski: It seems like you really push your work using techniques leveled up during traditional media use.

Rosenborg: Like what, for example?

Kaminski: Your work reminds me of the illustrations that I used to see frequently in fantasy game books - like watercolor and ink and things.

 
(Henrik's piece on the LEFT, Kojima's work on the RIGHT)

Maybe the best comparison might be similar to Ayami Kojima.

Do you have any projects that aren't under any sort of NDA or anything that you'd like to promote? These can be personal, or otherwise.

Rosenborg: I'm gonna mention two projects here that I am really keen on, one personal and one for a client. First off, I'm gonna mention the monster book I am working on for a litrpg book series called Ascend Online by Luke Chmilenko. Working with Luke is incredible, he's such an easy going guy, he's written this wonderful world that you just get lost in, it's so imaginative and it has this classic fantasy feel that i love. We throw ideas back and forth, he's letting me be a part of the decision making and it's a project I work on in-between other gigs. I simply do this because I want to take my time, I want to think, I want to doodle, i want to try before settling on something. Working with a person who's down with this is incredibly inspiring and joyful.


Secondly, I'm gonna mention my own passion project Ö (Swedish letter for some flavor). It started with me being in need of a home for all the weird creatures I was sketching. I started making up stories about them, but I kept forgetting a lot of the ideas I came up with. So one day I started a word document and wrote down one sentence about each idea, just to not forgot about it. It was a whole lot of weirdness, but it felt fun and crazy, just how I like a fantasy world to be. When I had thirty-five pages of one-line ideas, I felt like I should do something with it and so I started shaping it into Ö. Today we're five people working on it and what I can tell is this: it'll be a table top RPG, it'll be post-apocalyptic high-fantasy, there'll be a lot of darkness, you'll feel small and confused a lot. It's just one of those worlds I barely understand sometimes, but has a level of complexity and madness that I personally love.

Kaminski: What goals do you have for the immediate? And long term?

(WIP shot for a current project)

Rosenborg: For now it's all about stability for me: finding a balanced life, getting routines. I've worked hard for a long time and unfortunately had a pretty major crash about a year ago that I am still recovering from! Also, to just have fun and actually have a life outside of art. I easily get obsessed and burn out so I'm still trying to find a balance!
For long-term, the biggest thing I can think of is getting the ball rolling with Ö, and of course pursue some other career goals, like I'd love to work on something Blizzard related!

Kaminski: And to see you rebound as you have? Inspiring!

Rosenborg: Thanks man! It was a grim time.

Kaminski: Those serious downs with art can be intense, I never wish them upon anyone. I actually went through one myself for the earlier half of this year.

That being said though, I don’t want to dredge that up for you as it can be hard to break that feeling.
For the most part, I like to help people through hard times such as those!

And on that note: I think, especially with the cover, that Ö looks like an incredibly rewarding project!

Rosenborg: Oh i don't mind talking about it, ever, I decided to be super open with it. I talk about it a lot. I don't think suppressing it helps at all!

Kaminski: I agree! Good to know that your in the same mindset as me. Some people feel the opposite whilst I think talking about issues really helps to get them off your chest and breaks a cycle. Kind of like a big release!

Rosenborg: Yeaah man, helps you process them! Cause I don't think that these problems ever go away so, better learn how to live with them right?

Kaminski: And lastly: what's the best piece of advice you can give to upcoming artists OR what's the best piece of advice you've received this far as an artist?

Rosenborg: For me it has always been simple: Have fun! Fun is such an endless force of motivation and energy, if you feel like you're doing something fun it's easy to keep going. That's always been the lead motivator for me at least, just painting stuff that I enjoy and eventually I started getting paid for it and now it's my full-time job. Cause I got good at what I loved doing! So: Have fun, believe in your designs but also take a hard look at your work now and then and see what can be improved. Lastly, surround yourself with great friends and grow together.

Kaminski: I love the idea of collaboration! I think all artists should jump on the bandwagon!
I have to say, your interview was great! Thanks for joining in!

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Thank you all for reading, I hope you enjoyed this interview with Henrik Rosenborg.
If you did, please give it a SHARE via Facebook or Twitter, below.
You can view this interview, and many more, HERE.

You can find view more of Henrik's work at:

If you would like to be a part of my interview series, simply fill out the contact form HERE and I'll get back with you as soon as possible!

----------------------------------

THANKS FOR READING, AND UNTIL NEXT TIME!

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

As an artist, it seems like the landscape is ever-changing from simply the tools, to the aesthetic. I intend to be an artist that never wants to stop learning, and as such, I find more and more interesting artists every day. Each artist has a unique insight and point of view, no matter the experience level. New views help open my mind and teach me there are many ways to utilize my skills and I hope that sharing our stories will help others in the same way. I believe there are many paths on an artistic journey, and each interview will help to show the stories of the artists that tread them.


Today we'll be interviewing John Martin.

Kaminski: Morning John, let's dive right in! What's the reason you got into creativity? Did you have anything that ultimately led you down this path?

Martin: Comics. It's the first thing I saw and was like "wow" I want to do stuff like this. I tried to draw what artists like Jim Lee and Marc Slivestri were drawing (at the time they were at Marvel). It showed me that it was a huge part of my soul (I didn't realize this until after I got older).

Kaminski: I hear that! Comics are an amazing transcendence between writer and artist. And each goes hand-in-hand. Do you find certain techniques that apply specifically to doing comic art? Or even certain supplies that seem to work best for comic work? Basically, what's the comic palette like typically for a John?


Martin: I don't think there is a  certain technique that just applied to comic art, or any art for that matter. It can all be used if your creative enough. Supplies? Everything from the pencil to a paint brush. It can all be used. As for my palette it's still evolving and growing as I learn and experiment more.

Kaminski: There are certain supplies that I have like a mental block for. For example, Oil Paint eludes me for the sheer fact that it's like a mathematical problem or chemistry problem trying to make sure that everything lays in properly...

Martin: The only block I have on supplies is a financial one. The moment I can hurdle it, I'm trying it. And I know I'm going to make some really bad pieces when I try a media for the first time, but I know I'm going to learn a lot of what not to do.

The only block I have on supplies is a financial one.

Kaminski: Yeah! My fear and my space holds me back.
Oil paint is my ultimate goal, but fuck it's expensive.

Martin: It would definitely have to be locked up somewhere so the animals can't mess with it, but the moment I get some I'm Bob Rossing the hell out of some paintings for a bit!

Kaminski: Gah! I can fully agree there!
On the fact of exhibiting your work, whereas galleries are for fine artists (typically), it seems to me like conventions are really a catch-all when it comes to artwork in general, but a great deal of them seem to cater specifically to comic book artists. That being said, what is your gauge on the con scene? I know you do them alongside me, but I'm sure you have a completely different view of them than I do. Do you have any horror stories or incredible stories that you've experienced via conventions?


Martin: I enjoy doing cons, but I think a lot of your big market cons are starting to get away from the artist/creators and going into more of the media and cosplay (not all, just some like SDCC, Wizard World, Fan Boy Expo). Art theft is on the rise at these cons, also. 
I don't think I've had an experience at a con that can be classified as my worst even though I've had a couple bad experiences, but they have been quite out weighed by the great experiences and the people I've gotten to meet.

Kaminski: Well, as we've seen from personal experience, it appears as though celebrity watching is a real thing. For example, I've been to shows where we didn't sell a single thing, and yet the celebrity lines were packed all day long. It has the potential, to me at least, to be slightly disheartening.
On the flip side though, the folks that I do meet and greet at shows really put themselves out there and have very meaningful, incredible conversations. It's always amazing when a fledgling artist comes up with questions and their face lights up when you can give them the exact advice they were looking for.
Switching gears: I know you do a lot of ink work, especially working as a comic inker. What's your favorite thing about working with inks? What kind of advice could you give someone just starting out? Do you have any preference for a supply that you use?


Martin: Well I realized that my pencil work wasn't strong enough to do a book, so I went on to inking which I found out is harder than it looks. Even now I look at something and go, "how did they do that?!" I've come to love adding that extra dimension to a page as well as a bit of myself to it. 

Advice I'd give someone starting out? It's not as easy as it looks and start with a brush and not tech pens. Pens will hold you back. Also, be willing to do what the penciler is scared to do (advice that was given to me from Aldrin Aw), and the last bit of advice is don't take critiques personally. They are to help you get better no matter how harsh they can be. 

My supplies is normally my Pentel pocket brush, Pigma small brush, Faber Castel super brush, Raphael sable Rd #2, Hunt 102 nibs, and Sumi ink for pages. I use tech pens with brush pens for con sketches.

Kaminski: Man! That's cool, and also good to know! I use a brush marker myself and the strokes are amazing - especially when doing hair.
Do you have any projects you'd like to promote OR personal work that you're exceptionally proud of that you'd like to talk about?

Martin: I'm currently looking for new projects. There is also the 901 Anthology that should be out soon, which has the short story that Mitch Foust and I did (his pencils and my inks).  There are more projects in the future that I can't talk about right now, but I'm very excited about.

Kaminski: I'm glad to hear that your prospects and leads are really moving forward! That's super cool and I'm glad for you rockin it out!
I always hear people go on about how it's all about putting yourself out there. How did you manage to get connected to these artists to collaborate? Was it just something that happened naturally or did you have to go out of your way for it?

 

Martin: It's networking and working the field. Social media has been a great help when it comes to that. I've been able to get advice from some pretty big names in the industry. Sometimes some one will say that some one is looking for such and such and then I send what I've got and hope for the best. I also try and look out for work for other artists as well. If I see something that I know someone would be great for I pass it along. I think I've only been approached by one person about working together (Mitch Foust), I've gone after the others.
Cons are a great help with networking also.

Kaminski: That's GREAT! I think that the artist interdependence is a great tactic to get people to come back and forth.

Martin: I think the big companies are beginning to see that as well. There aren't as many exclusive working contracts anymore.

Kaminski: With working as hard as you do, you ever find yourself dealing with burnout? And if so, what kind of strategies do you use to cope with it?


Martin: Actually I don't. Sometimes I just have so much I want to do that I can't decide what to do first. And most of the people I befriend on social media over the last couple of years are artists as well, so I always see something new or different. I've even found out that I had been fans of a couple of them for years and didn't even know it. I also look through reference material pretty often and see what will make me go, "oh that would be perfect for this" and then knock it out. I try not to get in that hole or burnout because all it will do is make it harder to reach the end goal.

Kaminski: Man, I wish I could say the same, but sometimes my confidence and things wanes.

Martin: My confidence is fragile at times too, but I just try to remember the end game.

My confidence is fragile at times too, but I just try to remember the end game.

Kaminski: And for the final two questions: what goals do you have for the immediate? And long term?

Martin: Well, the immediate goals for the next year (I make them birthday to birthday because that's when I normally reflect) is to finish writing this mini series I had an idea for, get some cover work, and to ink a few books. Long term is to have a name in the industry and work on books that I've grown up loving. To work on games that I grew up playing, and to show my kids that dreams are goals if you apply a bit of focus and determination.

Kaminski: Lastly, what's the best piece of advice you've received or best piece of advice you can give to upcoming artists?

Martin: Best advice: ask questions and listen to industry pros. Befriend them if you can. As you grow and ask for advice, believe it or not, they will actually be watching. Be open to criticism as it's the catalyst to growth. And lastly, just get out of your own way and just draw. It doesn't matter what it is, just do it and try a new technique. You may be surprised on how natural it feels.

Kaminski: Great advice, and thanks John, for wanting to be a part of the interview series!

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Thank you all for reading, I hope you enjoyed this interview with John Martin.
If you did, please give it a SHARE via Facebook or Twitter, below.
You can view this interview, and many more, HERE.

You can find view more of John's work at:

If you would like to be a part of my interview series, simply fill out the contact form HERE and I'll get back with you as soon as possible!

----------------------------------

THANKS FOR READING, AND UNTIL NEXT TIME!

Thursday, July 26, 2018

As an artist, it seems like the landscape is ever-changing from simply the tools, to the aesthetic. I intend to be an artist that never wants to stop learning, and as such, I find more and more interesting artists every day. Each artist has a unique insight and point of view, no matter the experience level. New views help open my mind and teach me there are many ways to utilize my skills and I hope that sharing our stories will help others in the same way. I believe there are many paths on an artistic journey, and each interview will help to show the stories of the artists that tread them.


Today we'll be interviewing Tony Max.

Kaminski: Let's just jump right in: what makes Tony Max keep on annihilating art supplies? What got you started and what keeps you motivated?


Max: I learned to read from comic books, so they've been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. The comic realm taught me my vocabulary, my moral philosophy, and how to create art. It was always a given that I would have to return the favor, to give something back to that community. I've got more stories in my head than I'll ever have time to illustrate, but that won't stop me from trying. I've always operated under the philosophy that if you make enough art in your life, time can't possibly erase it all after I'm gone.

Kaminski: It sounds like you and I share some very similar sensibilities when it comes to the reasoning behind making art. So it reasons to be, that your ability with line must transcend to both medias because of your tattooing background. Do you find there to be a difference in approach when it comes to the tattoo gun vs. a pen / pencil? What's some strategies you use when jumping back and forth? And/or what's some similarities between the two?

 

Max: Tattooing is much more like painting than drawing. The techniques used for blending and saturation are similar to watercolor. Each stroke must be deliberate and colored in a certain order. Drawing comics allows me to work looser, allows me to lightly sketch an area until I find the perfect pose or perspective. Because tattoos are so permanent and unforgiving, creating comics has become the perfect therapy for unwinding after a long day. I get to create art on my own terms without having to please a client. The only similarities lay in my sketch process when I'm creating designs. But for my last three series, I've gone completely digital, and that's an entirely different beast. The only time I use a pencil these days is for tattoo sketches. I use a light blue Japanese soft lead that vanishes after I Xerox it. Maybe my tattoo and comic styles look similar. I can't really tell because my comics are a real world to me. They've ceased being drawings and feel more like I'm filming a documentary.
Tattooing is much more like painting than drawing. The techniques used for blending and saturation are similar to watercolor.
KaminskiWell! You just changed my perspective!

Max: Haha, how so?

Kaminski: I honestly thought that tattooing in general was like drawing and painting with ink, not painting in washes like watercolor.

Max: It is in some ways. Or maybe it's more like using Copic markers. But It's definitely not like oil or acrylic because there's no way to alter the color once it's laid down. You can tint it, but there's no do-overs. Every mark has to be purposeful.

Kaminski: Whoa! So cool! Switching gears: What's it been like to work in comics thus far?


Max: Working in comics is my dream job. It's so exhilarating to sit down at the desk and create an entire world from scratch! I started off illustrating a couple of issues of Bethany's Song by Donald Juengling. I had so much fun on that project that I couldn't wait for another project to come my way. I immediately started writing my own graphic novel set in a futuristic Memphis and found that I was very satisfied with the mystery I'd come up with. I called it The Golden Silence. It was sort of a hodgepodge of every old detective show I'd ever seen, but I crammed it full of personal experience and emotion. And when I say crammed, I mean it. My first draft was 456 pages. I edited it down to 416, which ran for 16 issues and took a year and a half to illustrate. I published it myself under the banner of Memfamous Comics. The reception was warm and people seemed to enjoy the main characters, so I didn't waste any time writing its sequel, The Crimson Hand. This time I shortened the tale down to 6 32-page issues. I'm right in the middle of that one right now. I also created a third series called Memfamous Comics Presents that tells short stories set in that same world. And I've got a few dozen scripts ready to keep it going for a while. Illustration comes natural to me, but learning to write, edit, publish, and market a book took a lot of reading and practice. I've really learned a lot about how to run a business myself. It would be nice to have some other artists involved in the process, but I just haven't had the extra funds to hire anyone. The profits are meager, especially compared to tattooing, but that will never stop me from telling a story that needs to be told. I'm anxiously trying to finish The Crimson Hand now so I can move on to my next project. My next title is a really fresh idea that I think people haven't seen before. I'm very excited about it.

Kaminski:  Let's jump right in then: what spurned your interest in your Golden Silence project? And in that vein, what's a good summary for folks of the story as a whole? 

Kaminski: In that vein: Was there anything in particular that seemed to drive you towards or away from your project initially? Do you still feel just as driven about the project all these years later?
For me working on a comic project has been a very slow process because of the daunting amount of work, so I can only commend you on your dedication.

  

MaxThe Golden Silence happened because I wanted to do something cyberpunk, but also something local. So I jumped ahead two hundred years into my own neighborhood. I created this scenario where a world war between religions had broken the United States and left Memphis to fend for itself. The entire city is surrounded by a wall to control who enters from the wasteland beyond. The police force is now corporate-owned and called The Public Eye because they use technology to spy on every inhabitant. The reluctant hero of the story is a disgraced former cop named Filadelfo Burden. Burden, with the help of his assistant Lola, now operates a Finder Service. He uses his experiences as a cop to track down various people, places, things, much like a modern day private eye. The only problem is that he has this monstrous addiction to sex, drugs, danger, or anything else that could get him killed. In The Golden Silence, he has to solve a missing person case without becoming one himself. He knocks on death's door almost every issue. That's the gag.

I was driven to do a detective story because of my love of old crime shows. I just threw Mike Hammer, Jim Rockford, and Sam Spade in a blender and added a pinch of myself. As I started writing, I poured more and more of myself into the story. I used a lot of personal experience with addiction, with psychedelics, with religion, with casual sex and used the book to explore how I really felt about those ideas. For instance, if a good friend died in real life, I would put that into the story and let Fil Burden work out his feelings toward that. Because his feelings are pretty much my own. So I stayed very focused and forced myself to get the work done. I didn't let anything pull me away from that project. My friends and family can attest to that. And I'm still that driven. But I just had a baby daughter born in December, so I'm finding that I won't have that much free time again for a while. But yeah, I live for work. The harder my day, the happier I am with myself at night.

Making comics is soooo exhausting. It takes forever. I can see why most are done by large teams of people

Kaminski: Oh I hear that! That is part of what maintains my trepidation of diving in headfirst. Once you start, you can't stop! So you better make sure you're fully committed once you start!
If you were to start over as a creative, what are some things you would tell yourself?


Max: First thing I would tell myself is to not release a brand new series a week before a presidential election. It turns out that people have their attention diverted and social media totally loses its marketing power. And social media is another lesson. I'd tell myself to not underestimate the prep work needed to launch a book in a way that the public can easily find and consume it. I also wish I could tell myself to start producing comics a lot earlier. I wasted at least a decade daydreaming about it before I did it, and I really missed out on this indie comics renaissance that happened about ten years ago. It's still happening, but now the market is so oversaturated that it's becoming increasingly more difficult to stand out in the crowd.

Kaminski: I can hear that... but in that same vein, it's all about grass roots, right? Once it starts to take off, there's no stopping it. Do you ever find your inner voice competing with the two sides of your artistic ability? Or do you view them as two parts of the same whole?

I know that working a day job, I have this tendency to come home feeling drained from dealing with the normal ins-and-outs of graphic design work, so it makes me wonder if there are also days where the same thing happens to you with tattooing vs. comics.

Laziness in art is a cardinal sin. That's the quickest way to get sent to Art Hell.

Max: Oh yes. Tattooing is like any job. It gets tiresome. Especially when the art you're creating is to satisfy someone else, and art is best when it's self exploration. So when I come home and switch gears into comic mode, it's all about pleasing that inner voice. I don't stifle it at all. I don't concern myself with editing, with being PC, or being shy, because that would be censoring whatever my subconscious wants to explore. Sometimes I read a finalized page and think "Well, that's rather offensive." But I don't edit that, because it would be artistically dishonest. And when it's over, I feel more relaxed because I've just had a therapeutic conversation with myself over thoughts that needed to surface. People think I'd be burned out from working too much, but the comics actually cleanse me and hit my reset button for the following day's work.

Kaminski: Definitely what art should do! I'm glad to hear that it's doing it's damn job instead of being all lazy and whatnot.

Max: Laziness in art is a cardinal sin. That's the quickest way to get sent to Art Hell.

Kaminski: This one is completely optional, but do you have any questions for me?

Max: I love your cyberpunk art. It reminds me of those old Shadowrun covers. Do you think you'll ever do a comic or graphic novel? Or do you prefer one-off illustrations to the sequential stuff?

Kaminski: Hilariously enough, my first influence is actually the ShadowRun second and third edition books. Because of that, Elmore definitely has a huge influence on my as well as John Van Fleet and Timothy Bradstreet. It makes me very happy that you recognize my influences as that means that I feel like I'm getting closer to being on point with that type of art.

Ultimately the whole project is actually part of a bigger world that Ashley and I continually work on and off - Honor: [De]Coded. The marionettes (all of my robot women) are part of this world as much as the displaced archetypes and foundlings, etc. etc. It's actually a world that is slowly building, but coming out none-the-less.

We have parts of the world and characters, but have yet to really find a way to piece it all together. Eventually it'll become a cohesive project though. I just have to stop getting lazy about it hahaha. That and I don't know if I could work on a comic project outside of my own work. I would have a seriously hard time on another's IP - making sure that every angle lined up to their expectations and things...

But yeah, the short answer is that it's all part of a bigger world that will eventually surface into a graphic novel form.

Max: I'm looking forward to seeing that happen. Cyberpunk is my favorite genre. I grew up feasting on cyberpunk comics, movies, art with these big cumbersome headgears and wires protruding from everything, but when I sat down to make my own universe, I had to modernize those ideas. I had to keep reminding myself that the future is wireless with smaller technology. It was hard!
If you could have any gig drawing an established character, which one would it be?
(Personally I'd like to revive Ghost Rider 2099)

Kaminski: Ooohhh.... that's a GOOD question!

It's hard to narrow down to one specifically... but if I were to dive into one character only, it might have to be Tank Girl. She intrigues me for so many reasons, but the one thing that I haven't really seen out of her is absolute depth. She just seems to be the embodiment of angst, and punk (which I'm okay with at face value).

Max: Oh yeah, Tank Girl definitely needs an update. They're always trying new artists, but the story never really progresses.

Kaminski:  What goals do you have set for yourself in the immediate? What about long term?


Max: My most immediate goal is to finish up my current series. The Crimson Hand only has half of its six issues out. But I desperately want to start my next series, so I'm about to shift it into high gear. My long term goal is to keep all these titles running long enough to make them popular. I'd love to see the Memfamous comic universe as a tv series, reaching a much wider audience. I would love to write for television, and it would be exciting to have a decent show set here and filming locally.

I don't have a retirement fund, and Hollywood money is about the only way to strike it rich with comics.

Kaminski: And of course, the final question: what's the best piece of advice you've received or best piece of advice you can give to upcoming artists?

Max: The best advice I could give to other artists came from my college painting teacher. "Just work." Don't feel inspired? Work anyway. Don't have an audience? Work anyway. Broken arm? Work anyway. Never stop working because each and every attempt makes you better at creation and safer in knowing your purpose. And a lot of the good stuff in art happens when you're not paying attention.

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Thank you all for reading, I hope you enjoyed this interview with Tony Max.
If you did, please give it a SHARE via Facebook or Twitter, below.
You can view this interview, and many more, HERE.

You can find view more of Tony's work at:

If you would like to be a part of my interview series, simply fill out the contact form HERE and I'll get back with you as soon as possible!

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THANKS FOR READING, AND UNTIL NEXT TIME!

Thursday, July 12, 2018


As an artist, it seems like the landscape is ever-changing from simply the tools, to the aesthetic. I intend to be an artist that never wants to stop learning, and as such, I find more and more interesting artists every day. Each artist has a unique insight and point of view, no matter the experience level. New views help open my mind and teach me there are many ways to utilize my skills and I hope that sharing our stories will help others in the same way. I believe there are many paths on an artistic journey, and each interview will help to show the stories of the artists that tread them.


Today we'll be interviewing Stephen Najarian.

Kaminski: My first question is typically the same, but what made you pursue art? And in that vein, what KEEPS you pursuing it?


NajarianSo I was always somewhat into art, since i was little, I was good at it and enjoyed doing it in my spare time though I never considered it something that I actually wanted to do with my life. It was just a fun hobby for me. It wasn't until I was in high school that things started to change. Having been in band/music since I was in the 6th grade I REALLY disliked marching band freshman year of high school, I hated marching in the parades, the football games, and the concerts. So sophomore year I decided to take art class instead "I'm good at art, I enjoy it and I don't have to do any of that extra shit, and I can stay at home thanksgiving morning and not have to wake up early and freeze my but off watching my high school football team get their asses kicked by our rivals".  Total win, win. After quitting band and taking art class sophomore year, my teachers immediately told me that I was quite advanced for someone with no formal art training and asked if I had ever considered art school.

That same year the Lord of the Rings, the Fellowship of the Ring came out in theaters. I was excited to see the movie as soon as I saw the first trailers for it. After coming home from the theater I immediately had to go get the books to read everything, I immediately became hooked. I fell in love with the design of the movies and the art of John Howe and Allen Lee, pouring over the art books. Discovering my love for fantasy and Lord of the Rings, along with taking my first real art classes made me realize this is what I want to do.

As for what makes me want to continue pursuing art is the fact that I am currently living the dream/goal I set out for myself when I was in high school.  I looked at people like Donato Giancola and his Lord of the Rings paintings and thought that is the coolest job ever.  You get to paint awesome stuff from your favorite books and movies and people buy it.  I may not be as financially well off as I would like or hope, but I am living fully off of my art, I get to paint what I want when I want, how can you not love that?

Kaminski: I'm sure I've quoted it many times before, but much like your push via Lord of the Rings, my push was always from Role-Playing games of the eighties and early nineties. It's no secret that Shadowrun has and will always be a HUGE influence on all of my work. That being said, it's interesting to see that we are both on two sides of a coin, it just happens to be a different coin. 

The fact that we can use our influences to push us to something greater, much like they used what was previous to them to push on, makes me happy at least. It's that whole thought of 'making something yours' that we were taught all throughout art school. Therefore: it's interesting that you note that your work is yours and yours alone. What's that journey been like? What are some pitfalls you've experienced or notable successes that came easy thus far?


NajarianExcept for a few freelance jobs here and there all of my art are personal paintings.  My art journey seemed to be a long and at times a challenging one.  I graduated art school in 2008, at that time I thought I was going to follow in Donato's footsteps, being an oil painter working my way up to book covers.  I kept working on portfolio pieces trying to improve my skills waiting for the time when I would be good enough to start getting paid work.  Hearing stories about other artists who would say things like "you gotta start at the bottom working for the crappy low paying clients and slowly work your way up" sounded incredibly unappealing for me

Why work for shitty low paying clients when I can just work on my own personal portfolio pieces, basically I thought what is the point working for some low paying clients when I can focus on building my skills for clients that have higher budgets that would pay a sustainable wage for artists, and actually enjoy the work I would be producing.  I kept on doing that until 2013 when I finally started producing work that I thought was good enough for some of the lower/mid level companies

I got a few paid illustration jobs but nothing that could come close to allowing me to quit my full time job and do art full time. Around this time I was listening to a web show, One Fantastic Week, where two fantasy artists would talk about art/business/and their art journey.  One of the hosts, Sam Flegal (if you'd like to read the interview with Sam, look to Interview #3) was making a living selling art at comic conventions, he had been doing it for several years and he was making a living at it.  I thought to myself this is something that I should try, I thought my work was similar in overall quality to his, and if he is making a living doing this then why not me?

Around that same time I got laid off from my job so I took advantage of my unemployment and my free time and started producing more work and attending conventions. It was slow going at first with little to no profit at the beginning but as I produced more work and got more comfortable with shows and selling I started to make money.

I have been doing cons for three years now and I am earning a decent living painting the things I like to paint and selling it directly to fans at conventions and online.

If someone is going to pay you less than $200 for a painted illustration, don't bother.  Paint something on your own, you will enjoy it far more, and it will do far more for your career than rushing to paint ten crummy illustrations as opposed to painting one kick ass one.  

As for pitfalls that I think people should watch out for, mainly the idea that there are only two options for artists, freelance or studio jobs.  That's totally not true, there are so many different ways and avenues for artists to make a living, do not pigeon hole yourself into just those two. Another thing I think artists should watch out for is some of these predatory low paying jobs/clients.  If someone is going to pay you less than $200 for a painted illustration, don't bother.  Paint something on your own, you will enjoy it far more, and it will do far more for your career than rushing to paint ten crummy illustrations as opposed to painting one kick ass one.  No one will hire you for your mediocre freelance work that you had no time to work on.  Spending the time to work on one killer painting will take you so much further.

Kaminski: The advice above is something that I'm still trying to learn myself. 

It seems like you've dove deep into the dark fantasy realm. Is this a topic that you find yourself fully invested in? Also, what about the genre excites you as compared to other genres out there?

NajarianI don't know if I would call my work dark fantasy, some of my work does have those elements.  I usually call myself a high fantasy artist.  Dragons, knights in armor, castles, sweeping landscapes.  These are all the things that have interested me in art and fantasy since I was little playing Magic: the Gathering in 1996.  I paint the things that I have always responded to in fantasy and have very rarely had interest in painting anything else.  I cannot see myself getting tired of dragons, castles, and snowy mountains any time soon.

Kaminski: Switching gears: Since you make your money typically with work that is yours, alone, do you have any advice for people that want to try this avenue too? What are some strategies to get their name out there and/or make active sales via website or conventions? Basically what NETS you sales?



NajarianI would say just paint and draw the things that you love to paint, your love for it will show through and fans and collectors will take notice.  I have always gotten a better response to my personal work than client work, and I have heard the same from my artists friends.  People can tell when you are emotionally invested in something.  Do what you love and people will follow.

As for promoting yourself online, that isn't one of my strong suits.  But what has worked is being active on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, tumbler etc.  Another great place is posting on reddit, I know it can be scary with all of the different sub reddit rules and some of the less than polite members in said communities, but reddit as a whole can be a great place for you to find new fans and collectors.

The best thing to do though, is to get out there in person meeting people and talking about your work.  Going to conventions and exhibiting has been by far the best way I have reached new fans and collectors.  My social media presence is relatively small, but my presence at conventions has been steadily growing and is my main source of income.

Kaminski: Which brings us exactly to our next point of business: some conventions, such as Dragon Con, have entry 'exams'. What's your advice to break-in? In that vein, what are your favorite shows to do? What do you find so interesting about them?

I would say try to submit your best work, hope for the best but don't be surprised or really that disappointed if you don't make it.  Not making it into one show, no matter how good it is isn't going to ruin your sales for the year or ruin your career.

NajarianUnfortunately I have no Idea what the secret is to break through the jury process for some of those shows. If I did have any secret tips I would be exhibiting at GenCon, DragonCon and NYCC this year (I didn't pass the jury in all three). It is a total crap shoot, last year I got into those three shows while failing to get into Emerald City Comic Con, this year it was the reverse, I got into ECCC and not into the others. I would say try to submit your best work, hope for the best but don't be surprised or really that disappointed if you don't make it. Not making it into one show, no matter how good it is isn't going to ruin your sales for the year or ruin your career.

I would say try to submit your best work, hope for the best but don't be surprised or really that disappointed if you don't make it.  Not making it into one show, no matter how good it is isn't going to ruin your sales for the year or ruin your career.

These shows are getting harder and harder to get into, more and more talented artists are applying and there just isn't enough room for everyone.  I think someones best bet is to focus more on smaller conventions that are growing in popularity, shows like C2E2 and AwesomeCon, MegaCon.  Shows that are big but maybe not as big or as difficult to get into as GenCon and DragonCon.  there are plenty of shows out there that are great to exhibit at that don't have the challenges as some of the bigger more expensive shows.

Kaminski: These are all shows that I eventually would like to break into myself - particularly C2E2. In time... in time.

Do you have any projects that you've been working on collectively that you can share? Such as a series or theme? Do you have any projects that you're particularly proud of? And if so, what makes them so appealing to you?

 

NajarianSo far most of my personal illustration work has been, "What do I feel like painting next?" Jumping back and forth between figurative work, castles and landscapes, and dragons.  There isn't too much cohesion between everything in terms of an overarching story, however, I have recently been working on a series of elemental dragons.  The first one started as a piece for fun on my twitch stream, and it very quickly has turned into my most popular print.  I then decided to do a companion painting to it that has also been quite popular.  Those two images have now turned into the beginning of a full on series of elemental dragons.  I now have three in the set with plans to do several more.

I have also recently been thinking about my favorite books, Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones, illustrating scenes and places from both.  Basically the plan currently is to jump around from dragons to castles


As for pieces that I am particularly proud of, there are a few pieces over the years that I am really happy with how they turned out, like what they did for my career, whether they were a level up moment in terms of skill level or my first paid job or first book cover.  I would probably say that my "winter fortress" painting was a piece that I really started to figure things out in terms of how to paint and hitting the level of finish I am looking for in my work.  That is also a piece that several of my art heroes have purchased prints of when I exhibited at IlluxCon. To have Mark Poole like your work enough to purchase a print is like a dream come true.

My final hour painting was also a piece that has done a lot for my career, it was my first big seller print, got me some good traction online and turned into a giant oil painting commission. That piece was the largest profit I'd made off of a single image.

Kaminski: I would be nerding out the whole time if any of my art heroes showed up to my table, and then actually buy a print?! Ashley would have to pick me up off the floor! 

Since you've talked a bit about your series and what you like to paint, then let's get into the nitty-gritty: What's your process typically like? Do you have any particular strategies you use to flesh out a piece from beginning to end or do you just dive right in and let the paint flow?

NajarianUsually I have an idea gestating in my head.  I like to spend a few days at least (sometimes ideas stay in there for weeks or months) thinking about the piece, what I want, angles, composition, I like to have a vision in mind before I start.  Once I have what I think is a solid idea I start sketching it out on the computer and the idea/design gets further revised and changed until I find an ideal flow to the piece.  Usually somewhere in this process I also start compiling reference images to either help with the design and sketching process or to help me with the rendering for the final painting.  Once I have my drawing and reference images compiled I dive in with the under painting.

(early WIP shot of the lightning dragon from above)

Usually I begin painting underneath my drawing layers, at this point I am just focusing on getting base layers of color and value.  I usually try to stay pretty muted at the beginning, as I build up the piece and the rendering I will start pushing and adjusting color as I go.  Once I feel comfortable I have everything I need I start painting on top of the drawing layers and slowly build up the rendering.  I usually jump around a lot when I work, I will usually start with the background and build that up a bit, then switch to the foreground and work on that.  If I focus on one area too long I start to get a little bored, I like to jump around the image keeping my eyes fresh to notice things that are bugging me that I want to improve, I especially do this towards the end, towards the end of the painting what always started as clean organized layers turns into a gigantic mess as I jump between foreground, middleground, and background layers.

Kaminski: A lot of people, especially fledgling artists, don't realize how long an idea can take to formulate. The comic project that Ashley and I have been working on actually started when I was back in elementary school and has been a slow burn since then. All of the robot drawings and gestures and studies and things are all the build-up for what will most-likely become an actual explosion of insanity for a game or book or comic or whatever it happens to want to become! Not only that, but doing sketches, thumbs, etc. are all a part of the process. Because of this, it also appears that our end-goal process remains pretty close to each other, with things looking like a mess for a hot minute before the final, ultimate clean-up stage.

Speaking of clean-up...What goals do you have set for yourself in the immediate? And the long term?


NajarianGoals currently are to keep making new work and selling at shows.  I am earning a living though it is not as much as I would like.  So increasing sales and getting better at conventions, improving my booth setup, and offering new products is my immediate focus.  I also want to try and find some more time to work on some traditional paintings, I haven't worked on any traditional work for the past five months or so and I would like to have some originals to show off at some upcoming conventions.  Besides that, find time to work on some drawings for a sketchbook that I have been telling myself I have wanted to kickstart for the past two years.  I need to get off my ass and start actually working on that.

Kaminski: And, finally, what's the best piece of advice you've received OR what's the best piece of advice you can give to established or upcoming artists?

The art heroes we all look up to were not blessed with some God given ability, they just worked really hard at it and so can anyone else if you are committed and put your mind to it.

Najarianthe advice that I have always really appreciated is hearing from others is their trials and struggles they went through to get to where they are.  Knowing that this art thing isn't easy, even for some of the top artists in the industry was super important to me.  You aren't going to wake up one day and be a master painter.  Embrace the journey you are on, don't get discouraged that it is taking longer than you want.  If you put your head down, don't give up and keep working you will get there eventually.  The art heroes we all look up to were not blessed with some God given ability, they just worked really hard at it and so can anyone else if you are committed and put your mind to it.

The other big thing I have learned was to slow down when painting, get good reference.  If you are struggling with a certain area, don't just say "oh well" and power through it, take a step back, find some better reference, repaint it if you have to.  It sucks scrapping something or starting over when you have spent so long on painting, but if it will make the end result that much better it is totally worth it.  There is no race to see how fast you can churn out paintings, quality over quantity always comes first when it comes to art.

Kaminski: Great advice, Stephen! Thanks for all of your insights!

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Thank you all for reading, I hope you enjoyed this interview with Stephen Najarian.
If you did, please give it a SHARE via Facebook or Twitter, below.
You can view this interview, and many more, HERE.

You can find view more of Stephen's work at:

If you would like to be a part of my interview series, simply fill out the contact form HERE and I'll get back with you as soon as possible!

----------------------------------

THANKS FOR READING, AND UNTIL NEXT TIME!

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Follow Ash @ashley.storyteller