Q&A with Paolo Rivera May 12, 2014 – Posted in: Artist Interviews, Blog, Featured Columns
As we always do…let’s just jump right in.
Where are you from, where did you grow up?
I’m from Daytona Beach, FL, born and raised. In an art store is where I spent most of my days.
What’s the first thing you can remember drawing?
Like most kids, it was all dinosaurs. By the time I was 4 and 5, I was already into the various “properties” of the 80s, He-Man, Ghostbusters, Voltron. But once Ninja Turtles hit, that was pretty much it for a very long time. I also drew a whole lot of Batman after the Burton movies came out.
Do you have any formal art training?
If you consider “formal” to be having artists for parents, taking the standard classes throughout middle school, AP portfolio classes in high school, and 4 years at the Rhode Island School of Design… then yes. This has always been my dream job, so there was never a time when I wasn’t trying to achieve it.
Tools of the trade…what are your favorite “go to” tools. Pencils, pens, inks, paper, paint, etc…What are we guaranteed to find at your drawing table?
I have a lot more art supplies than I probably should. Most of my preliminary work is done digitally, then I print it out and go over it with pencils or paint. I’ve got a video tour of my old studio in NYC. It’s much the same setup now in San Francisco, but with totally awesome Craftsman tool chests to hold everything.
Who are your art heroes? Whose work do you pull the most inspiration from?
There are far too many to name, but here’s the list I usually give: in high school, Alex Ross, Jim Lee, Joe Madureira, and Adam Hughes were the guys I was always looking at. In college, I got more into old-school illustrators like H.J. Ward, N.C. Wyeth, J.C. Leyendecker, Rober McGinnis, and Gil Elvgren. Later on, it was Milton Caniff, Noel Sickles, and Alex Toth. This week, it’s Moebius and Katsuhiro Otomo. It never really ends.
A similar, but different question, what artists have had the most influence on your own work?
All those artists, though more or less, depending on the stage in my career. I’m a bit of chameleon when it comes to style, so I have no problem changing things up if I see something new that inspires me.
What project/commission was most challenging or has given you most satisfaction?
The cast & crew poster for Captain America: The First Avenger. It’s still my favorite, and it was a whole lotta work.
What advice would you give to young people who want to follow your steps?
Draw, draw, draw. There’s really no other way to do it. Beyond that, I tell everyone to sculpt — it’s the fastest way to learn anatomy. No one believes me, but it’s really the only thing I know for sure.
submitted by Facebook:
I have become more enamored of artists who use a brush in their work. I am particularly fascinated with Dave Sim’s recent explorations of the history of photo-realism in comic strips and his attempt to learn to ink like Alex Raymond. I wonder if you use a brush and ink rather than pens in any capacity other than large blacks and if you think the days of the brush master have passed.
I have heard tales of Wrightson dipping and re-dipping his brush, running it down the edge of the page to get the tip and flow just right, inking two or three small strokes and starting the process over, ten or fifteen minutes for each three strokes in those Frankenstein plates. Will we ever see another Bernie Wrightson?
I could sooner see a young artist learn how to replicate the texture of brushwork on a computer before I see one learning how to do it like Mr. Sim is trying to do now, by getting messy through hands on trial and error.
Is there any attention to this art still practiced or is the focus on learning the micron pens and such?
I’m not familiar with Sim’s recent work, but I’ve always been a “brush man,” myself. Alex Raymond and Al Williamson, in particular, have always been a huge influence on me (although there are many, many others). Part of the reason I love brushes so much is their versatility — you can make it look like pen and ink, make big, bold strokes, or create special effects like dry brush.
All that being said, I did recently buy a whole host of drawing pens. I’ve never really used them for finished work, but I’m starting to love sketching with them.
That doesn’t surprise me about Wrightson at all. I always have a piece of test paper on my drawing board, both for inking, as well as painting. The only time I’ve done anything approaching his level of precision on Frankenstein was my Daredevil #10 cover. That was one of the few times I switched to a smaller brush (#2, I think — I typically use a #6).
The tradition is very much alive, but perhaps less so in superhero comics. But even there, I see a wide range of styles and tools. Perhaps the biggest shift in mainstream comics has been the resurgence of artists who ink themselves. I don’t think that will ever die out. (btw, that amazing cover is available as a poster! -Craig)
submitted by Mike Pascale:
How much do you use reference for your figures or backgrounds? Do you find that deadline pressures prevent you from using as much as you’d like, or do you prefer to take a more imaginative approach?
How much contact/interaction do you have personally with the writers, editors, inkers and colorists on your titles, and how much do you think there is overall in the industry? Should there be more or less?
Do you ever feel that your abilities/skill set is/are being commoditized, due to the now global talent pool and the Internet? Do you ever get a feeling you lost a project because an uninformed (or budget-conscious) client decided to hire a guy from an “emerging market” nation or kid out of school for half your page rate rather than pay for your experience?
It really depends on the particular project. If I’m doing covers, I might take a photo of myself for a pose, but interiors require much more research, if only to lend authenticity to the environment. In general, I try to do layouts from imagination, find gaps in my understanding, and beef it up through research. As for deadlines, I’d love to not have the pressure, but then I’d probably never get anything done.
I can only speak for myself when it comes to contact among collaborators. I’ve had nothing but stellar experiences with all. The majority of communication is via email, which provides a ready reference for all past correspondence. Sometimes it’s easier to just talk on the phone, but that happens less often. To tell you the truth, I’ve spent more time talking with my collaborators at conventions than I ever did while we were working together.
We are all commodities, whether we like it or not. I’ve known that from the beginning and have always made decisions with that in mind. I’m also lucky that I’ve never “lost a project” (although I’ve had to pass on many for various reasons). There will always be young kids willing to work for much less — I was one, so I don’t resent them at all. But ask me again when I can’t get a job. It’s easy to say that while things are going well.
submitted by Arinya:
How has technology changed the way you work? Tablets, Photoshop, scanners and the internet…has it changed things for better or worse?
I’m a big proponent of technology in my workflow, but the basic skills haven’t changed since ancient times. If you can’t draw, having a Cintiq won’t help you. What it can do is automate repetitive tasks and increase efficiency, two things that I’m very thankful for.
Networking-wise, technology has really revolutionized things. Now you can live anywhere in the world and make a career in comics… so long as you have an internet connection. But that also means that the competition has never been higher. The distribution models are changing as well, but that’s a trend that’s happening across all publishing. Like a fancy brush or pen, it’s just another tool. There will come a time when that’s not the case, but it’s a long way off. When it does come, everyone will be able to do it, so it won’t matter anyway.
submitted by Tim Weber:
Do you have any advice for someone who is just starting out, who wants to work on their awareness of correct perspective? Tips, tricks and/or recommended books or videos?
No matter what, you need to draw every day. Portraits are the fastest way to know whether you’re any good or not. If you can draw a portrait, you can draw anything. For perspective, there’s a whole bunch of stuff out there. My favorite is an Andrew Loomis book called Successful Drawing. If you’ve ever wanted to draw, you’re probably familiar with the basic rules of perspective, but that book in particular is great about the practical ways of applying them. Furthermore, you have to remember that perspective is a part of all subject matter, not just buildings. That’s why sculpting is so useful for learning anatomy. We live in a 3D world, and comic book artists, more than anyone, need to be able to work in all 3 dimensions.
Here’s a few from Twitter…
Simon James @SJames asks…Would you ever want to do interiors on Spider-Man? Who is your favourite Spidey artist?
I have in the past. I’d love to again some day. There are too many to choose a favorite, but my Spidey is an amalgam of Romita, Ditko, and Art Adams.
Dave DSG @Dave_DSG asks…What is the source of inspiration of @PaoloMRivera? scifi books, movies, comic etc.?
All of the above. Also, the long history of illustration and painting. I listen to a lot of audio books too.
Jason McLellan @manji675 asks…Any tips on drawing shoulders and collarbone? I sometimes have issues with shoulders lining up correctly
Google the “arc of hollows.” That ought to help.
…and personally I have to ask, I read in Daredevil 1.5 it sounded like you’d love to draw DD again. The editor seemed open to it as well. 1) Why’d you leave the book? and 2) can we hope to see you back on it? You brought back a look and feeling to the book that had been missing since I first discovered the character back in the David Mazzucchelli (pre-Born Again) days. What can we do as fans to get you back in the pages of DD?
I left the book because it was my 10th year at Marvel and I wanted a raise. Simple as that. I knew I’d never have more bargaining power than I did right then. It wasn’t enough, and so I was prepared to move on. I had nothing but the best of experiences with everyone on that book, and everyone respected my decision (and fortunately, they all still talk to me!).
I’d love to come back at some point. It’s just a question of things lining up at the right time.
Let’s wrap this up with some plugs…what are you currently working on?
I’m all over the place right now. Still doing covers and posters, mostly, and trying to pick away at my own story whenever I get the chance. I’ve never written anything before, so it’s very slow going.
Tell us more! What’s this creator-owned project you’re working on?
When the fuel for their nuclear reactor runs out, a group of 5 robots and their creator, Hazel, must journey to an abandoned missile silo to find more. Their reactor just happens to be the main character, THE SINK. When things don’t go as planned, loyalties are tested, robots become mortal, and ancient secrets are revealed.
That wraps it up! Thank you so much Paolo! Be sure to check out his amazing blog “The Self-Absorbing Man“. It’s far and away one of the very best artist blogs on the web. Packed full of great insights behind his work.