David Petersen: Christian, very glad to get the chance to share your work with the Mouse Guard fans. Let’s start with you explaining who you are and about your book Korgi.
Christian Slade: I am an artist like many in the field of comics. I was born in 1974. My childhood was spent swimming in the inspirations of comic books, Star Wars, comic strips, childrens books and animated films....basically anything that gave off a strong visual sense including people, places and things in real life. These things still continue to motivate me. Korgi is my all ages graphic novel series published by the wonderful folks at Top Shelf Productions. It is a silent story told only with highly detailed pen and ink drawings.
David: What was your artistic background? Were you always drawing? Did you know even at a young age that art had to be your career?
Christian: As with many artists, I consider this field a calling. I knew from as early as I can remember that I wanted to draw and make pictures every day of my life. I have drawn or looked at things as drawings as long as I can remember.
David: I know you started in animation before launching your creator owned book Korgi. Was animation for you, or did you switch to comics because of the traditional animation industry shrinking?
Christian: I started in animation but before that, I started in book illustration which is my primary workload these days. I approach comics kind of like book illustration, only, they are told with more pictures. I love animation and still work in it occasionally I have also been involved with magazine illustration, theme park design, advertising campaigns and still love working in my sketchbook and doing plein air painting. Basically, I will go to wherever the art party is. As long as I can express ideas through drawing and painting...I am there!!
David: Do you feel your animation background helps inform you on making comics? or does it sometimes get in the way when you can’t show movement or the passage of time on the page the same way as in animation?
Christian: The way I see it, animation and comics are brothers. There are more similarities than differences. Both are the sequential arts. Both have artists that do both mediums. I kind of see animated films as a moving comic on the screen with music and sound. I would say that comics offer a bit more freedom and immediacy. One person can create a comic on their own in a relatively short period of time. A quality animated film often takes many hands in a group effort over a good stretch of time.
David: Korgi is an all ages book (with no dialogue so even pre-readers or learning disabled children can follow with no language barrier) Is that who you are at your core as a storyteller? or did you plan out that Korgi needed to stay within certain storytelling age-borders?
Christian: The fact that pre-readers and disabled children can enjoy Korgi is wonderful side effect to my decision to sit down and finally create the graphic novel comic story I always wanted to read. In essence, Korgi is the realization of a dream I had since childhood to create a silent story in which the art can be the main showcase and vehicle. I did not have a target audience in mind when I set out to write Korgi. I just wrote it and put it out there. Even though it is considered all-ages, it really is for anyone who loves comics told in a sci fi fantasy woodland setting. Oh yeah, and it helps if you like welsh corgi dogs too :)
David: Do you ever feel restricted by either the tone or wordless aspect of Korgi? Do you ever have ideas that you have to discard because they don’t fit because they are too dark or would need language to narrate them?
Christian: I do not feel much restriction with silent storytelling. In a way I find it liberating to just tell things through drawings. I consider drawing a language so if I properly think things through in sketches, I can say anything I want. As long as I can draw it, it can be told.
David: When doing a comic without words, do you have any type of script? or is it an outline? And describe the process of breaking it into pages and deciding how much of the story goes onto each page.
Christian: Actually, for a a silent graphic novel series, there is a ton of writing I do. Before I draw anything, an entire book is plotted out with short bullet sentences explaining every beat of a story. After that is locked in, I create small thumbnail pencil drawings of each panel and page. From there I lay it out in a rough format on the computer. This is the exciting part for me because, even though it is crude, I can for the first time see how the story looks as a whole. As far as deciding how much page/panel length to give sections of the story, I really just go with what feels right. I trust my instincts. I have noticed my tendency is to over explain a bit in which I often go back and remove panels and simplify a bit. I have also done the opposite and added pages into parts of the story to savor the moments and smell the roses.
David: For your Legends of the Guard story, you tell a tale about a sailing-mouse who falls in love with a mermouse. Without spoiling the story can you describe where this story came from and what you wanted to touch on while there.
Christian: We discussed previous entries in this series over the phone and it sounded like romance tales where not really covered that much. So I thought that would be fun. Plus I spent a greta deal of my childhood at the beach, even living right next to it for a great stretch. I feel it is a subject that often calls for me. I am always excited when this setting comes up in my art projects. It seemed like a natural place to stage this tale.
David: When it was time to do the final art for this story, what was your process?
Christian: For this story, I actually did all the rough in digital format which was new for me for a comic story. I feel the computer gives me more freedom and tools to edit and change things very quickly. In fact I have done all of my roughs digitally for the last 4 years or so. It is sad really because I like having rough original drawings at the end of projects. That said I would rather spend that extra time on the final artwork instead. The only project I still draw my roughs traditionally is Korgi because I like to work on that while I am outside or traveling.
David: Who would you cite as creative influences? and feel free to venture outside the realm of illustrators or 2D artists into directors, sculptors, etc.
Christian: My creative influences are too numerous to name here but I will throw a few out there: Albert Dorne, Norman Rockwell, Franklin Booth, Heinrich Kley, Rein Poortvliet, Walt Disney, Herb Ryman, Ralph McQuarrie, Graham Ingels, Eyvind Earle, Harry Rountree, Corot, Rembrandt, Franz Hals.....too many artists I enjoy. That said, artists as a source of inspiration are nothing compared to real life. My BIGGEST influences are the wonderful people in my family. My awesome wife Ann and our twin children Nate and Kate, our Welsh corigs Penny and Leo and all the inspiring places we visit....those are the things I truly love. Drawing and artmaking is more of an addiction and one I gladly partake in on a daily basis, but it is the people and places in this world, and the time spent there, that matter the most to me.
David: Christian, I appreciate your story and your time. Where should folks go to keep up with you and your work?
Christian: I actually just finished building a new website which has a blog and a portfolio at www.christianslade.com Thanks for the opportunity to work on a Mouse Guard story David. It was a lot of fun and I hope the readers enjoy it.
Christian's story Love of the Sea will appear in Legends of the Guard