Know the Ledge

I tried to front on Joe Mad for a long time... But I couldn't deny the sheer talent this guy has for too long...
I tried to front on Joe Mad for a long time… But I couldn’t deny the sheer talent this guy has for too long…

Comic book illustration is cool, but the knowledge gained by drawing from life combined with comic book exaggeration takes the work to a whole ‘nother level…

My statement is about enhancement, not constriction.

The reason why Michael Jordan is one of the greatest basketball players of all time is because of his solid foundation in the fundamentals of the game, not just because of his aerial dexterity when making a slam dunk.

Art is no different. For example, Joe Maduriera’s work resonates in large part because of the “steak” of his work, the fundamentals. His construction is rock solid and his knowledge of anatomy comes in extremely handy when he’s exaggerating those elements; the muscle forms still make sense. The “sizzle,” or style, is his personal interpretation of the fundamentals (i.e. the aforementioned construction, anatomy, proportions, etc.) and rendering technique (hatching, bold contour lines, positive/negative space, etc.).

It’s not an “either, or” situation when it comes to comic book illustration. It’s both.

Too many people have been duped into thinking it’s style over substance and that’s what prevents them from growing as artists. There are too many people out there trying to perfect a look without knowing the fundamentals first. Only by knowing the rules, really knowing the rules, would you then be able to break them.

I have looked at Alphonse Mucha's work for years and I still find something new...
I have looked at Alphonse Mucha’s work for years and I still find something new…

I am as influenced by “fine art,” “street art,” classic illustration, graphic design, etc., as I am by comic book art. My influences range from George Perez to Eduardo Risso to Bill Sienkiewicz and I’ve gleaned something from each of them (and more). When one’s influences are diverse (and beyond the realm of comics), it helps in finding one’s own vision, one’s own “style.”

Diversity in knowledge leads to individual development. If one only looks at anime or (G_d forbid) Rob Liefeld, then that work is only going to look like a pale imitation of that influence. If one diversifies their reference pool, in addition to learning the fundamentals, they will eventually establish their own visual language.

Liefeld’s success was totally based on being at the right place at the right time, not his talent. Don’t get me wrong, he was smart and got his money, but very few people are asking “When is Liefeld gonna drop a new joint?” these days. He’s completely locked in the early 90s… And it’s 2014.

To be clear, I am not saying that his talent didn’t get him in the door. However, it wasn’t his talent that made him a mega star… That was the Spike Lee 501 commercial.

As much as I love Moon Knight and Stray Toasters, it's Bill Sienkiewicz's work with acts like EPMD and the RZA that makes him the man in my eyes...
As much as I love Moon Knight and Stray Toasters, it’s Bill Sienkiewicz’s work with acts like EPMD and the RZA that makes him the man in my eyes…

As for an artist, like, Bill Sienkiewicz, he comes from a fine art/classic illustration background that makes his work not only far more interesting, but far more versatile as well. In addition to projects like Elektra: Assassin, New Mutants and Moon Knight, he also did the Jimi Hendrix graphic novel Voodoo Child and album covers for Hip Hop acts EPMD and the RZA. People inside and outside the comic book industry check for him, and he stays in demand.

At the end of the day, cats like are the artists I respect and patterned my career after…. And I thank the Higher Power for that…

What I am saying is that Sienkiewicz’s work is way more versatile, allowing him to be successful in both the comic book industry and beyond.

His understanding of the fundamentals is so tight; he’s able to go into different styles beyond comics, such as post-modernism, collage and more, which creates his idiosyncratic style. That makes him much more appealing, and marketable to different audiences. His work is just at home in a fine art gallery as it is on the printed page.

That’s kind of my point. As an artist, you shouldn’t limit yourself to one market, especially a market as small and as competitive as the comic book industry. If you do, you may very well starve. I peeped game very early on. I knew I wanted to be a commercial artist at the age of 7 and my whole education was dedicated to that goal.

Yeah, comics are my root influence, but they’re not the only one. Because of that, I have been able to carve out a diverse career, which includes comics, but graphic design, animation and education as well. And sure, the reason why I get calls from a diversity of clients is because of the comic book root, but it is as such that these clients see how my work can benefit their projects.

In the words of Wu Tang Financial: Diversify yo’ bonds

Comic book steez, rock star client... Dig it!
Comic book steez, rock star client… Dig it!

M.E.C.C.A. Con is only three days away! I’ll be there selling books, moderating panels and, hopefully, meeting old friends and making new ones…

Speaking of… I’m offering The New Mythology Pack for the con! For only $50.00 you’ll get The Horsemen: Divine Intervention, Issues 1 – 3 of The Horsemen: Mark of the Cloven (written by Jude W Mire), Chronicle: The Art of Jiba Molei Anderson and 2 Horsemen art prints! Can’t beat that with a stick! Hope to see the Detroit fam there!

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