Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Bi-Weekly Interview #21 - Jose Alvarez

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 Jose Alvarez.

Kaminski: My first question is typically the same: What got you into doing art in the first place and what KEEPS you doing art?

Alvarez: I started drawing when I was around six, growing up in Mexico. Astro Boy, Dragon Ball, and Saint Seiya were really popular down there in the mid 90's. I just fell in love with them, I started trying to draw the characters. I'd find pictures of them in magazines and try to trace them.

When I was in elementary, there was another kid, Luis, who was really good at drawing, and I wanted to draw just like him. So I just kept practicing and practicing. I never reached his level, but at least it gave me the push to get better.

Nowadays, I've been doing it for so long that it's just kind of a natural thing to me. I try to take breaks here and there, where I tell myself "no drawing tonight", but any time I'm idle, I reach for a pen or pencil and, by default, start drawing the planes of the face, or a shaded cube. I just love doing it.

Kaminski: This is sort of related to a question, but more a preliminary - do you find that your heritage has any influence on your work in any way? And in that vein - do you ever have the desire to draw or paint using traditional influences?

Alvarez: Culturally, I don't think so. Anime and Manga were my main inspirations, growing up, and they're not very Mexican. They were popular in Mexico, but that's about it. As far as drawing or painting using traditional influences, what do you mean? Like looking at Mexican artists, or using Mexican methods?

Kaminski: Like stylistically, using cultural icons, traditional techniques, etc.

Alvarez: Oh, yeah, I actually have. I designed an Alebrije for my daughter, and I did a very quick Day of the Dead sketch last year, I think. I don't use the motifs often, but when I was looking for a logo for my brand, I was looking at Aztec hieroglyphs. I ended up going with something else, but the thought was there.

Kaminski: Whenever you first start to approach your art for the day / project for the week / etc. what themes tend to show up first? What kind of art do you enjoy to work on the most?

Alvarez: Oh, man, that's a tough one. There's been scant few times where I pick a theme beforehand. Most of the time it's, "What should I work on tonight?". I'd say the themes that tend to show up the most are characters and figure drawing.

Kaminski: But like - fantasy? Furries? Dark cyberpunk? What is a genre you typically feel yourself drawn to? And if none - what about character archetypes: do you feel drawn towards the overbearing villainous type? Or perhaps the subversive quick-footed thief?

Alvarez: Fantasy, for sure. I try to portray every character archetype I can, because I feel like if I just did one type over and over it'd get boring, both for me and the audience. But I like the more 'fun' types. I'd sooner draw Spiderman than Batman, as an analogy.

Nothing wrong with gloom, for sure, I'd just rather draw the fun.

Kaminski: Nice! As you can see mine tend to favor the post-apocalyptic or dystopian mindset...

Alvarez: I noticed. I really liked your cyber samurai series. I could see that being a really neat world to explore. You should do something with that!

Kaminski: Since you have a penchant for the more lighthearted side of art, do you try to make it a point to target a specific type of audience? In that vein, what are some techniques you think you could talk about that you may have utilized to push towards said audience?

Alvarez: I don't really have a specific audience in mind. I like to do a bit of everything, from lighthearted sketches about children's cartoons, to more adult-oriented pieces (nothing too explicit, though). They all do mostly revolve around comics.

Lately, I've been using a technique I got from Matt Rhodes for doing quick shading. You have your base color, then your light layer on top, and your shadow layer on top of that, and you kinda use layer masks to expose the light underneath. It's real nice, and quick, and the kids love it.

(Above you'll find the video where he discusses that technique)

Kaminski: Switching gears: let's dive right into it, what's a project that you're collectively working on that you'd like to talk about / promote?

Alvarez: My comic, definitely. Ever Skyward. Fantasy action/adventure with a dash of Eldritch horror.

Currently undergoing some revisions, but you can find the most current incarnation of it over here: http://grieverjoe.ithilear.com/comic/kanu-tamu/

Kaminski: What keeps it interesting to you? Do you have coping mechanisms when you get burned out on certain parts that you use to refresh yourself to get back on the horse, so to speak?

Alvarez: It's a mishmash of all the things I enjoy, so it stays interesting. Plus, it's a good way for me to exercise my writing and storyboarding muscles. 

As far as burnout? Videogames!


To expand on that, whenever I'm feeling down or burned out, I simply take a break. I just give myself a week to not draw anything. I still look at art, and find myself doodling absent-mindedly, but I force myself to not work on any projects.

After a week, I come back and hit it again. If I'm still not feeling like it, I take a day or two more.
Bloodborne and the Witcher are two of my favorite games, and they're also big influences for it, so whenever I get burned out, I play some games. Mostly Bloodborne.

Kaminski: Oh wow! It sounds like we have identical coping strategies!
And I find it particularly interesting, what with those being on the opposite end of the spectrum than the more light-hearted subject matter that you aim for.

I don't want to have something and have people go, "Oh, that's just a copy of 'x', with a different coat of paint."

Alvarez: Precisely.

There's a lot more things that influence me, and some of them don't really mesh with each other. I try to draw inspiration from all over the place, to keep things interesting. I don't want to have something and have people go, "Oh, that's just a copy of 'x', with a different coat of paint."

Kaminski: Oh nice! Most people have a hard time with that. Blending the genres and things.

What led you to the comics industry then? What do you find so appealing about them as a creator?

Alvarez: I've had the idea for Ever Skyward in one fashion or another since around 2003 (it was very, very different than it is today, though), and always thought it would be neat to see it take form at some point. I don't consider myself good at writing, and I don't know how to animate, but I do know how to draw! So I figured, the next best thing would be to make a comic.

Plus, comics are awesome. Spawn was my favorite, growing up.

Kaminski: Have you ever thought of scouting for a writer?

Alvarez: Not really. This story is mine, so to speak. I want to tell it my way. There are other people who can write way better than I can, but this story needs to be told by me. Even if it doesn't turn out to be good, it's told by me.

That matters to me. Same with the art. There are others, more talented artists than me, but their art won't do.

Kaminski: What're your takes on social media platforms than, such as Patreon, Kickstarter, etc.? Do you have any plans to pursue these as ways to push your project to the maximum? OR do you plan on making an attempt to push it into the realm of large-company publishing?
Either way, the main question is - what's your take on the different avenues of publishing these days?

Alvarez: I think I need a finished product before I can tackle publishing. I've thought about Patreon before, but realistically, my schedule for creating is so out of whack, I wouldn't feel right asking people to support me so they can get like four updates in two weeks, and then go a month with nothing else. In the future, I think I would look at print-on-demand, but I'm just not sure. Like I said, I'd have to have a finished product, first, then have a following. Once there, I'd ask to see what the reaction would be, and maybe do small-batch printing, and later, large scale. For that, I think Kickstarter would come in handy.

But who knows!

Kaminski: Before the last two questions, do you have any questions for me?

Alvarez: Do you have any personal projects? Like, a story, or an idea for a series? It looked like you were kinda going somewhere with the cyber samurai book.

Kaminski: So, for the longest time I've been working on a large scale, dystopian world. This is where there marionettes, the vigilant, etc. all live. Eventually it will all be condensed into a multipart epoch involving the many different factions and the way of life in the wake of the disruption of the world as it is. For more glimpses into this world, look all throughout my social media presence under the tag: #honordecoded

Every marionette, every character study, pretty much most of my independent work lives in that universe. I have yet to flesh put and/or truly decipher what I've actually begun to create with Ashley (whom is the writer for the content). In time though, it will all come to the forefront.

Alvarez: I thought it looked a little too cohesive to be random sketches.
I can relate. Most of my independent work is for Ever Skyward, too.
I think if you have a central vein running through all of your work, there is an attainable goal, if even on the very long stage.

Kaminski: True. The key is to keep pushing.
What goals do you have set for the immediate for yourself? And what about long term?

Alvarez: For the immediate future, I'd say to try and keep working on my art every day. Long term would be to finish my comic. I do have some other ideas, but honestly, at the rate the comic is going, I'd be doing good to finish that one project!

Kaminski: And of course the last question... what's the best piece of advice you've ever received OR what's the best piece of advice you can give to fellow artists?

(Thumbnails for the final, above)

Alvarez: I think the best piece of advice I've gotten is to study. Study the basics, study lighting, study anatomy. Study from life, basically. It doesn't matter what you want to do. Anime, comics, cartoons... studying from life will be what kickstarts your talent. You have to learn and understand the rules before you can break them.

I was given that advice when I was around 16, and was deep into my anime and manga phase, and I dismissed it, because I wanted to draw manga, not realism! I feel that if I'd heed that advice then, I'd probably be a lot farther than I am now.

So that's what I'd say: study, kiddos!

Kaminski: Yeah, you and me both on the 'further along' bit.

In closing, it was a pleasure to catch up! Thanks for the interview my good sir!


Thank you all for reading, I hope you enjoyed this interview with Jose Alvarez.
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You can view this interview, and many more, HERE.

You can find view more of Jose Alvarez' 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!




  1. Thank you for the interview, my good sir! I look forward to seeing more of Honor Decoded.

  2. Nice interview Jose! Loving Ever Skyward and can't wait to see more! =) Very proud of you - keep it up! =)

  3. https://www.everyviralover.com/2019/03/eid-images-2019.html?m=1


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