NP: I pencil with various types of blue line pencils. .5 and .7 mechanical pencil and lead holders. I ink with a bunch of different pens, microns, zebra pens, copic multiliners, pretty much whatever is laying around I grab and draw….I’m always buying new inking supplies. Anyone who has seen my originals know that I really attack the page. I use white out, blue line, and pencil…it’s a real mess. One thing I’m a turd about is my paper. I work on two ply strathmore 500 series smooth. It is the best for guys using inking pens – clean line style of art.
WH: I heard you recently drew on “moleskine” and loved it. Can you explain for our readers what exactly “moleskine” is, and why was it so great for drawing?
Moleskine sketchbook – $12.89 at amazon.com
NP: I’m not sure what they are exactly – like a really expensive trendy notebook? So expensive and trendy that my initial vibe was, “Hey dude a spiral notebook at Wal-Mart is 79 cents!”. Then I drew in one at a recent con and my vibe was “Where in the hell can I get one of these expensive notebooks?!”
WH: Have you ever worked in color? Fellow WH artist Richard Cox‘s work with Copic markers blows me away. I’ve often wondered why so few comic artists work in color. It seems that color is always handled by someone else further down the line. Is it simply a matter of there not being enough hours in the day?
NP: Sure I play around with it. I like to paint. I like to play around with markers and do mock-up colors in Photoshop. BUT there’s just not a lot of time for it. I’m still learning to draw, learning about storytelling, line quality, form, anatomy etc, etc. If I was going to be a pro colorist I’d need/want to put the same amount of focus on my colors as I do my lines…and there is just not enough time. I just got a small Cintiq, so maybe in the near future.
WH: Speaking of Wacom, do you picture a day in the near future in which you no longer use pen and paper – an all digital work flow? Have you seen the new Inkling from Wacom? That seems like a bridge between the all digital world of drawing and the traditional pen and paper.
NP: I can see myself doing digital roughs. Right now I’ve been playing around with doing them on the computer and then printing them out and light-boxing them, then tightening them, then inking. I might start just printing the roughs on the board to cut the first light-boxing step out. I just got the Cintiq, so I’m sure eventually I learn to utilize it more.
I think the Inkling is neat, but I can’t really see a use for it. If you just use it to sketch…well then the sketch will be on paper anyways and you could scan it in if you liked it enough. If you use it to sketch and then want to refine the sketch via layers, you’d have a hard time doing so because the under drawing would still be there. So you could pencil by hand and thin ink with the Inkling…but then how is that different then doing it by hand? I guess the only use I can find is that it saves you for having to scan stuff in. If you photo traced you could go to town on magazines. Like a Victoria secret catalog with the same model through out…trace all of those and you’d have a nice vector character ref I guess….and it being vector it would be easy to re-size or whatever. But if you don’t photo trace I’m not sure what else to use it for. It looks cool as heck but I’m just having a hard time finding an excuse to buy it. Plus I think portable tablets with drawing apps kind of cuts into…or just outright bypasses the usefulness of this thing. What would you guys use it for?
WH: The Red Wing was a huge critical success. What’s it like being the “hot new artist?” Is it surreal to have lines of people waiting for you to sign your comics?
Fans line up to meet Nick and get their copies of The Red Wing signed.
NP: Haha! I don’t know about lines of people, but I got some good traffic at the last con. I actually feel bad for people if the line gets long because I like to chat with everyone and give them my full attention. But then I have this clock in the back of my head; I know that there is a person behind them waiting. Professionally speaking its really rewarding to see my work talked about – whether it be positive or negative. It’s really cool that I turned this silly hobby into a career. I actually read an article about Milo Manara (one of the all time great illustrators – EVER) and they mentioned that he influenced Frank Quitely, who in turn influenced me! I was like OMG! I got mentioned in an article talking about Milo Manara! It was a direct comparison. They didn’t mention if they liked my work or anything – but just being seen or noticed on a pro level like that was the best reward/compliment ever.
An example of Milo Manara’s work (though not a typical example…this is a family show after all!)
An example of Frank Quietly’s work.
WH: Now that The Red Wing is complete and you can step back and look at the finished product as a whole. What are you most proud of? What would you love to be able to go back and change?
NP: I’m proud to have it complete and that it came out on time. I think my art was good, solid, not mind blowing, but it fit well I think. I’ve never even drew a whole comic before, much less finished enough work to fill a trade.
What would I change? I wish I would have spent more time on the characters/character sheets. I just jumped in full steam ahead and the characters weren’t as unique, visually speaking, as they could have been. I spent a month before drawing any sequentials on Manhattan Projects just working up cool looking characters.
WH: Other than Jonathan, who are some other writers working in comics you admire and/or would love to work with?
NP: I love Robert Kirkman. His comics are easy to read, and always character driven. He’s not as progressive as guys like Morrison or Hickman with his risk taking regarding the medium, storytelling and format – BUT he does everything so, so, so well. I’ve felt that way for a long time about his work. It’s cool seeing all of his success and how being good can lead to great things. Jeff Lemire is my current new favorite writer, Sweet Tooth is a gem.
WH: Do you have any desire to “play in the sandbox” as Joe Quesada calls it? (Working at Marvel, though the analogy works for DC as well.) Is there a mainstream title that you’d love to work on?
NP: Not right now no. I actually don’t read many “big two” titles. I’d love to work on The X-Statix for Marvel (Mike Allred is amazing, and I’d be dumb enough to try and follow him on that and not do it as well), and The Authority for DC (Frank Quitely’s run inspired me to draw, and the series hasn’t been the same since he and Millar left the book).
WH: Next up is The Manhattan Projects, due out in March. Tell us about that. From an artistic point of view, how does it differ from the work you did on The Red Wing?
NP: It’s a zany, over the top, revisionist take on all the other things studied when the world’s best scientists and physicists got together to build the atom bomb. For me it’s a dream project. My style lends itself to the absurd…science fictiony type themes to draw. This project is all of that and so much more. Artistically I’m doing my same clean line thing, but taking more risks. I also really invested time into the character designs. The cast looks a bit crazy/insane. I had a lot of fun with body types, outfits, etc.
WH: Will The Manhattan Projects be a limited or is it planned to be an ongoing series?
NP: It’ll be ongoing. At least 15 issues (probably a lot more than that!), and be monthly. IMAGE is offering a lot of dealer incentives and we have got to be timely to keep orders up and retailer faith in our book. I’m also hell bent on being a monthly artist that pencils and inks himself…and still remain a detail whore. None of my favorite artists put out work monthly, or even bimonthly. I want to be an artist fans can count on, and give them their money’s worth on a monthly basis.
WH: Well that is certainly an honorable and lofty goal. What is your work flow like with Jonathan (Hickman)? Does he provide a full script? Is he breaking down what he wants to see in every panel? Or is he giving your broader strokes and leaving the panel breakdowns to you?
NP: I guess the best answer is that it’s here and there! Ha! I haven’t been getting dialogue but the scenes and moments have been broken down as far as what is needed out of the moments/beats. BUT I also have room to play. It’s a pretty organic process for the most part. Sometimes he’ll have an idea for something and send me a rough layout or what have you. Other times I’ll have an idea for something and turn one panel into a full page. There’s actually a one panel sequence in issue one ofManhattan projects that I convinced Jonathan to turn into two full splash pages. Just because I like extra work! Ha!