Jerrell Conner Interview

I met artist Jerrell Conner at this year’s Comic-Con. A humble, and obviously talented guy, his work has only been gaining more and more fans as of late, with exhibitions, posters, t-shirts and all manner of things focusing on his unique designs. In 2005 he released an original graphic novel, entitled Revelations: The Prophets, the first in a planned trilogy inspired by the biblical book of the same name. It’s certainly unlike most books on the stands, with certain sequences dedicated solely to prose, and uninhibited layouts. It may be too untraditional for some, and there are rare signs of a new artist’s hands, particularly in the imperfect spelling and occasional unclear art, but for a self-published writer/artist, it’s a bold debut, and shows the promise of a multi-discipline artist.

Revelations was initially your thesis project right? How different did the book end up being from your initial proposal?

Yes, it started back in 2001, in a quite different format than it’s current state. Initially it was a mock pitch for an animated feature. Not a book at all, basically a rough outline of the story (not nearly as flushed out or expansive as it has grown to be
over the years). Only 3 characters from the original project still remain (and have evolved quite a bit), there was a sculpt of one of the characters, process books, and concept
art, movie posters, and a short 3 minute animation which was essentially the center piece.

It’s quite a unique style you have. I can see touches of David Mack and Bill Sienkiewicz. Would you say they are influences on your work, or have I missed the mark entirely?

Hmmm, I wouldn’t say you’ve missed the mark, I am a fan of David Mack’s stuff and recently ran into him at a convention, but I don’t believe his work was something I referenced a lot while, or before, working on my book, same with Bill’s, but that’s more of a recent acknowledgement for me. Often people ask me about my style, and it’s hard to put in words, I don’t have a single place of reference for it. Just growing up in the time I did and in the environment that surrounded me, I seemed to soak up a great deal of influences. I’m pretty much a sponge, so there is some anime, concept art, G.I Joe, video games from the early 90’s, early X-Men and Dark Horse stuff in there, but nothing too
specific. I think two of my biggest influences when I started the Revelations series were Egon Schiele, and Ashley Wood, sooo awesome!

What’s your process for creating new artwork? Is it a combination of traditional tools as well as the computer?

Funny, I knew little to nothing about the comic industry/process. The Revelations book series just kind of threw me into the mix of it all (though as a fan, I really didn’t have aspirations in doing a comic), and I had a lot of figuring out to do, so stumbling through the process was…. interesting. The goal was to do a mix of traditional painting and Photoshop work, and that’s the way it started. I did some paintings for backgrounds for the first few spreads, going back and forth from paint to the computer, back to painting and so on. The problem was this was a 96 page graphic novel and that was taking waaay to long! So about 95% of the book ended up being Photoshop drawn on a tablet, which really worked out better in the end and was much faster. It was a learning curve to say the least, but towards the end I think the panels really began to come together and have a nice flow and color scheme.

Revelations: Book 1 was published in 2005, with plans to publish two further books by 2006. What happened that put those plans on the back burner?

I got lazy. No, not really. Actually the opposite, I got REALLY BUSY with all kinds of art work going on! The thing that sucks (I’ve learned) about self publishing is ALL
the responsibility you have to carry, and all the hats I find myself needing to wear. The first hurdle was that, once the books were published, having to do the press and promote
them, then touring and doing shows, and getting them in shops, because I was the distributor. Hustling them to as many shops and conventions as I could, the problem was that it was JUST me doing it, so there was really no time to work on the next title during that time. Secondly, everything was out of pocket, so with the bills and expenses I had just through living I needed to do other freelance jobs and art projects to pay the bills, and even make it possible to do conventions and shows, which was fine, because it was still art and I enjoyed it for the most part, but of course if all my time was spent doing those projects the next Revelations title was pretty much on a shelf collecting dust, partially
finished but still waiting to be completed. I more recently have made the commitment of not letting a week go by without finishing at least one page for the next book, moving around other projects to at least fit one day in for it every week, otherwise I fear it would never get done. Things that get put off, tend to KEEP getting put off.

Your art career seems to have taken off quite nicely, with work for clothing lines,
posters and the like. Was that always the hope for you, that you’d become a working
artist?

I’ve been drawing and doing art for what seems like forever. My earliest memories are of drawing Star Wars space battle scenes, making sound effects and the whole 9. It was like play time for me, so I’ve always known it was something I wanted to do. It kind of runs in the family, all my siblings and parents seemed to have some creative streak and artistic tendencies, but it wasn’t until I started winning competitions and contests in middle school/high school that I thought this was something that I could actually do for a living and not just for fun on the side.

How difficult is it too manage your burgeoning art career, with your comic book ambitions?

See two questions above! Pretty much those have been my main difficulties and struggles with that crazy balancing act betwixt the two. For me, Revelations is first and foremost in my mind, even though at times it has to take a back seat so I can do other projects, the main reason why I do those projects is because I feel those are opportunities for me to further the book series. They pave the way for all the stuff I do with Revelations.

My aspirations are not about becoming a famous artist or being popular. I’ve had this vision of this story in my head for years now, and telling it in a certain way. The goal is
just to finish it and get it out there in people’s hands, in a place where they can be exposed to it, get caught up in it. Whether or not they even know who the artist is irrelevant. It’s all about the story and getting across the message.

How do you think your faith influences your decisions as an artist?

I don’t think there are any decisions that AREN’T affected by my faith. It goes: God, family, then art. My passion for my beliefs is what drove me as an artist initially, and I feel this gift isn’t for my own benefit but for others. To NOT do it, to NOT give it my all would be a
disservice, not only to those who can gain from it, be uplifted, and inspired, but to the One who gave this gift in the first place.

What directions would you like your career to take in the future?

Early in college I had aspirations in the area of direction, but lately I don’t know. I really don’t look too far ahead. Right now, the focus is for finishing these Revelations books, and get them to the big screen!

What thoughts go through your mind when you look back at your previous work, and when
you see others enjoying it?

Generally i think, “Geeeeeze that’s crappy!” But we all have to start some place. I’ve seen my style and process grow a lot over the years. I do understand however that without the early work back then I wouldn’t be here now. I get a big kick out of it when someone actually likes my work or the books. It’s more of a surprise than anything. It is reassuring though, and makes me feel like maybe I am doing something right and not wasting my time following the wrong calling, like I should have been a doctor or plumber or
something.

Go here for a very well done video piece on indie artists at Comic-Con 2008, including Jerrell, and go here for his official site.

Making of Solomon Kane #1

Comic books are a lot like onions – they make you cry. No, I mean, they have many layers. Yeah, that’s it. Now at Dark Horse’s official site, you can peel back those layers and have a brief look at what it takes to make a comic, specifically Solomon Kane #1. The 32 page comic goes on sale on September 24 and is written by Scott Allie, with pencils by Mario Guevara. Covers are provided by Joe Kubert and John Cassady (who also does the Lone Ranger covers) This unique feature showcases the first 6 pages of the ish, in its various stages, namely the script, pencils, colouring and lettering. All comics are a team effort and this is a rare example to peak behind the curtain and see what each creator brings to the finished product. Go here for a look at the mad puritan Solomon Kane, the other creation from Conan creator, Robert E. Howard. This new series begins with a 5 part adaptation of one of Howard’s novels, “The Castle of the Devil.”