So…once again, it’s been a while since my last post, but I have a good excuse for my procrastinating. I killed a comic.
The last year was a pretty big rollercoaster for me. I started off 2016 with the reality of CHEW’s end, after nearly 8 years, hitting me full in the face. And with that reality came a lot of questions about my future. CHEW was what established my career, and chances are, it’ll be the thing that most readers will remember me for. I don’t really mind that, as the book has done more than John or I could’ve ever imagined, and I couldn’t be more proud of the work.
The biggest question in my head was the same one folks have been bombarding me with every time they run into me at a show:
“What’s next for you?”
And frankly, after 8 years of putting everything I had into CHEW, that question scared the crap outta me. I’m not a big fan of change.
See, this whole thing has been a whirlwind for me. I’ve never really wanted to do a 60+ issue epic, and I certainly never dreamed that my first major published gig would do what CHEW has done. But here we are. And a lot of 2016 was split between making peace with the work we’ve done, making peace with the fact we actually succeeded, and making peace with moving forward in its wake.
We killed CHEW on November 1, 2016. I colored the last page, walked out of my office, came home, ate dinner with my family and spent the next month in a fog. And in that month, I got a ton of messages from CHEW readers. All of them thanking us for the ride, and all of them sorta grieving the fact that it was over. I’ve done my share of grieving it as well.
And during that time, as the fog cleared, I began to write a story I began percolating on back in January 2016. In the last two months I’ve written the first two issues of what I’m picturing as a 20-issue finite series, and the next 3 scripts are quickly writing themselves. I’ve yet to pitch it anywhere yet, but I’m aiming to release it later this year. I’ll be drawing it as well. It’s a fairly personal story that I’m truly hoping CHEW fans and new fans will give a shot. I think it’s a very fresh story that’s unlike anything else out there. That’s not hype. That’s just an honest observation.
My tentative goal is to write the bulk of the series before it ever hits shelves. Though I’m well-versed at handling art duties on a monthly comic, I’ve never shouldered the burden of also having to write one. So I’m trying to be smart about this, and so far it’s been massively fulfilling.
Fingers crossed, I’m aiming to announce the project in the summer/early fall.
In the meantime, as I work on this new project, I’ve been taking some freelance work to keep the lights on. Took a huge commission list back in December (samples below), and as I wrap up the last few of those, I’ll be opening to a second wave of commissions. Those interested can hit me through the CONTACT section of this site, and be sure to click the “YES, This is a Commission Request Button”.
In addition to that, I’ll be uploading the remaining issues of CHEW art, along with some fun new original art. And we’re tweaking the site a bit to make browsing the Store a bit more enjoyable.
I’m also now on Instagram and Facebook, in addition to my Twitter and Tumblr. I post less than I used to these days, as I’ve been pretty focused on making my new series the absolute best I can, without too many distractions.
Anyway, that’s all I got for now. Tune back in tomorrow, as I’ll be posting a special commissioned 5-page comic that I think CHEW fans will enjoy.
So…this is different. I’ve gotten so used to writing my thoughts in short-form via Twitter that it’s gonna take me a second to get used to long-form blogging again.
Anyway, welcome to my new site. It’s sorta my first “real” website. After ten years of duct taped and crazy glued-together websites, blogs and MySpace pages, I just felt like it was time to streamline my online presence and upgrade my storefront.
There’s a decent amount of original artwork in the Store, with plenty more to come. I’ll gradually be uploading original art from past issues of CHEW, along with other projects I’ve had the pleasure of working on. Lotta covers, sketches and whatnot that I think you’ll enjoy. It’s also a personal goal to upload daily sketches that’ll be available in the Store, too, so keep your eyes peeled. I’ll also be taking commissions from time to time, so I’ll post details later.
But aside from creating a better avenue for fans to get my art, I just needed a new outlet for whatever’s going on in my head. Social media can be fun, but it can also be a gigantic distraction, so it was time I made a change. And I’ll fully admit to being a bit of a Twitter addict from time to time (usually whenever Zack Snyder makes a movie), so I’m trying to redirect my energy into more productive, fun projects.
So keep checking in. I’ll be shooting new updates to the site through the usual channels (Twitter, Tumblr, etc…), so expect some peeks at what I’m working on soon.
Note: I originally wrote this piece back in 2011 for my old Blogspot site. Four years later, I think it’s still timely, as I still get asked about developing my art style more than anything else. So I hope this is helpful to young artists.
“How’d you come up with your style?”
I get this question more than anything else. And it’s funny because my “style” was a pretty big hindrance to my career up till about 4 or 5 years ago. Don’t get me wrong, I got work. But getting editors to really invest in me fully used to be pretty friggin hard. I just figured it was all me. “I must not be good enough.” So it’s really odd when young artists wanna know how I developed the look of my work.
Of course, I don’t have a set formula for this stuff, really. And I certainly don’t have the secret to becoming a great artist. It works different for everyone, I think. As it should. I think the key is finding the place where you’re most comfortable. And by “place”, I mean a visual vocabulary. For me, I’m most at home in a place that’s bright, silly and manic with just a hint of darkness under the surface. Unfortunately, it took me something like 10 years to find it. Sorry. There are no shortcuts.
Let’s start at the beginning, shall we?
Circa 1991, my first official mini-comic. I was 9 at the time, and I ended up doing dozens of these between then and high school. No focus on “style” or anything. Hell, the thing was done in Bic pen on pink construction paper. Not much to discuss here, really. I just loved comics even then, and my motives for making it were pure. I just wanted to entertain the few friends I let read it. I may even revamp this later, so don’t steal it.
Jump to around 10 years later, 2000-ish. A young Rob was just starting college as a Computer Animation major (because how the Hell does one just become a pro comic artist anyway?). I was still dabbling in comics between classes, still trying to draw “serious” comics that “mattered”. I’d always been a Marvel kid, and stylistically, I’d always tried to attempt that look.
Except for the fact that I totally sucked at it, as the above images show. This was about the time I was discovering Photoshop (Ooooh, lookit the colors!). I had a decent grasp of what color grabbed the eye, but still had no friggin idea what to do with the program.
Cut to 2001, the above page changed the course of my career, and I suppose, my life. I did this autobiographical comic on a whim, just trying something different. Angsty, right? OH, it gets much, much worse.
I sent this page to an old artist friend of mine along with the page above it (the one with the fire). I think I even did both in the same day. Anyway, I sent them to this older, wiser artist pal, expecting him to tell me how friggin AWESOME the angsty “serious” stuff was. But what’d he say?
“Hey, what was that other thing you sent me? That cartoony thing? That was great. I think that might be your style.”
“Really?”, I thought. How could he like that page? It was just me messing around. I didn’t even break too much of a sweat on the damn thing.
But being the glutton for affirmation that I am, I pursued it, deciding to try a stripped down, elastic style to learn the finer points of storytelling. After all, I sucked at drawing backgrounds. And I hadn’t done a whole lot in the way of composing a page. If I wasn’t focusing on “the cool stuff” (like drawing veins and abs that showed THROUGH clothing), maybe I could learn these rudimentary comicbook principles that had eluded me. What a concept.
Cut to 2002. Simple style, it was. Not a lot of frills, but I was learning. Also, I was pumping out art by the buttload. I didn’t even remember half of this stuff existed until I found it today. A lot of these were failures, but I still see seeds of things that I still draw from today. Most of my vocabulary for character expression came from this period. Learned a lot about color, too.
More 2002. Young Rob was full of angst, hormones, philosophy and loneliness. I’m posting this because it shows some pretty neat experimentation with transition, storytelling and page layout. Also, I was getting better with Photoshop.
2003. I was doing a weekly strip for my college paper, getting the hang of this nifty simple look. As I got the visual language down, I started experimenting with texture, adding more detail to the art and testing Photoshop’s capabilities.
All autobiographical, by the way. The bottom one was a cathartic documentary of how I was let go from my job at Office Depot. Upon seeing the strip in print, my old manager sent a letter of warning to the University’s Dean. I stand by my decision, since the rival Office Depot found it hilariously accurate.
2004. This shows nothing, other than I still had a hell of a sense of humor.
More 2004. Slowly adding more and more detail. I was getting confident with the simpler style. I was learning a lot about Photoshop, too.
Now 2005-2006 was weird. I’d gotten the rules of the simpler style down, so what’d I do? I started breaking them. I started bending things that shouldn’t be bent, twisting shit around, and I loved it. Another really important time for my development. Also started working on line quality and inking after Erik Larsen thumped me during a critique for having shitty line variation. He probably wouldn’t even remember it.
2006-2008 was a blur. Having graduated from college, I basically got a real job and barely drew for a good year and a half. Yep. I just stepped away from it and paid some bills. Here are a few pieces I came up with for various projects once I decided to return to comics. By this point, I knew how to navigate a comic page pretty well.
2008-NOW. You know how this story ends.
Anyway, I’m hoping this was somewhat encouraging to young artists unsure of their direction. Every creator starts somewhere, and every creator makes ugly art on their way to finding their voice (as I hope this post illustrates).
Now get to work.