Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Spotlight on Legends of the Guard contributor Justin Gerard:

As a note to the readers, Justin’s story is a little different from the others. The story takes the form of a song with musical notation. Each page is a verse and has a 1/3 page illustration of the verse by Justin. Because I don’t want to spoil much of the story, this interview will focus more on Justin and his work and process than the Legends story itself.

David Petersen: Justin, Thanks for doing the story on short notice! And I appreciate you doing the interview too. I was very glad to get you on-board for this project. When I’d asked you before the song framework was an option, you’d been worried about doing sequential storytelling. Do you have the desire to tell stories longer than a few illustrations allow? either with comics or prose? When I look at your sketchbooks I always feel like there is a bigger story you are itching to tell.

Justin Gerard Oh definitely. Most of them start out as just little doodles without much meaning or context.  Just a character that seems interesting.  But then you kind of can't help but start designing a world around them that seems appropriate to them. And once you've done that it's hard not to start populating it and exploring it.  And then the story part sort of develop naturally whether you mean for it to or not.  
So most of these worlds end up with stories that I definitely wish I could cobble into some kind of larger and more cohesive whole.  Sadly, I am not the most gifted writer, and when I try to mesh the writing with the images, it doesn't always work as well as I'd like.  
But I do have some plans in the works for the next sketchbook that will involve a lot more writing with the images...  (Can't really say more at the moment, but check back on my blog in August!) 

David: Talk about your background in art. Were you one of those kids that was drawing before you were walking? Did you have family support to continue in art? What was your pre-college art education like?

Justin: Haha, yes I probably was one of those kids who was drawing before he was walking. My memory is terrible, so I can't say that for sure, but it seems like it. 
My mother claims that she drew pictures in my peanut butter sandwiches and then takes all the credit for my stuff.  (Which probably answers the second question) My parents were definitely very supportive and I owe them a great deal for everything. 
I went to Bob Jones University for art. My college art experience wasn't much to speak about.  Most of what I gained from college was probably taste, rather than technical ability.  Bob Jones has a really incredible collection of religious art, in particular a gallery with quite a few enormous Benjamin West paintings in them. 

I stole a step by step guide from the library while I was there. It was the one with the Peter DeSeve tutorial in it. (The one with the pirates.)  I studied it voraciously and never returned it.  To this day it has probably had more impact on how I work than anything else I ever came across.  

However, probably the best education I got, I got at the universities book press, where I worked while I was in college.  It was awesome experience and did tons to prepare me for the professional world and freelance illustration.  I am really thankful for the opportunity to work there during college.  

David: You now teach art and illustration through a few venues including the Lamp Post Guild. Was there something from your education you felt really needed to be passed on or a case of you wanting to help new students fill in all the gaps your formal training lacked? What is the best piece of illustration advice you have even been given or could give?

Justin: Hmmmm…  Actually, what it is I think, is that I want to teach at a school someday; But not yet. 
For now I would just like to do smaller presentations, and classes and demos where I can.  Right now I still have all these ideas and things I want to try. Clients I want to work for, projects I want to do and shows I want to have. I would like to gain a bit more experience in the commercial art world before feeling like I would be ready to teach full-time. That way, when I go to teach, I will have the benefit of actual market experience, and won't just be theorizing about the way I think the market ought to be.    

As far as advice goes, I would say, only do this if you really love just sitting alone and drawing. And if you do find that you love that, then just do it a lot. Just draw a ton, and draw the things you love.

David: By looking at your blog, it’s clear you do a great deal of process work before the final image including character studies, layouts, color composites, and preliminary paintings. How do you keep from going too far in an image’s development so you don’t feel it’s overworked or that you've overstayed your creative welcome in that image...all while still doing the right amount of preparation?

Justin: Oftentimes this is taken care of for me because deadlines and client needs only permit me to do a certain amount of preliminary work.  It does get a little more tricky when it is purely my own work and I sometimes do overwork the preliminary stage. It is definitely a delicate balance.  In general though it is just how much patience I can muster up.  I think drawing and redrawing an image almost ALWAYS makes it better.  You may lower the overall amount of work you put

out, but you will definitely raise the overall quality of your work.  

David: My readers enjoy hearing about tools of the trade, please share what you like to draw with, paper surfaces, color methods, etc.

Justin: I tend to switch things up a lot when I work. It is rarely the same method twice. 
However, my approach is generally the same. Basically, I do a lot of drawing and then do an underpainting and intiial colors traditionally, and then I scan this in and finish everything digitally in Photoshop. (Adding darker darks and more intense colors.)  
I will work in pencil or oil or acrylic or watercolor depending on what I am wanting to do with the piece. 
But perhaps the method I end up going back to the most is colored pencils and watercolor on Strathmore 500 series vellum bristol which I then work digitally over top of.  

David: Who would you cite as creative influences?

Justin: The list is enormous and it would be impossible to mention all of them.  DeSeve is a great one obviously, Gustafson, Bonner  and Meseldzija are perhaps some of the most influential for me as far as contemporaries go. Rackham, Rembrandt, Leighton, Friedrich and Dore for the classics.  But really the list is enormous, I am always interested in discovering new talent and stumbling on classics I never knew of.  Last week I stumbled on a French Academic painter named Vibert Jehan Georges whose oil paintings are just amazing, and everyone should check out his work.  It's just fantastic. 

David: What projects are coming up next that folks should look out for?

Justin: I have got the aforementioned sketchbook that I hinted at earlier, as well as an illustrated book in the works.  They are both still in development, but I am hoping to announce the details of it in August this year.  Likely, there will be goblins, dwarves, trolls and dragons with bad table manners...  

David: I'm really looking forward to that project! Justin, thanks again for doing the story and interview. Where can people find out more about you and your work?

Justin: I am terrible with social media. I promise to reform and get my act together later this year.  For now, the best place is my blog: www.quickhidehere.blogspot.com

Justin's Story The Timber Mice (with music written by Cliff Monear)
will appear in Legends of the Guard volume 2 # 4
along with stories by Bill Willingham & Jackson Sze

Upcoming Appearances:


Jeff Lafferty said...

Excellent interview! I've been a fan of Justin's work for some time. Thanks for posting this.


Unknown said...

Absolutely thrilled to hear tha Justin Gerard will be contributing to Legends Vl. 2. Can't wait until it's out.

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