Thursday, August 19, 2010

Interview with Artist and Writer Jason Tudor

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Jason Tudor– a very talented artist and writer.   

If you get a chance, take a moment to checkout some of Jason's work
(all links are listed at the end of the interview).  I am sure you will NOT be disappointed.  


1. Where are you from originally? Where do you reside today?

I’d love to say I came from Melniboné, Caladan or Cynosure, but I’m happy to say my home town is San Diego. I live and work in Europe.

2. Can you tell us a little bit about your life outside of art?

My life does not deal so much with illustration. All my work is freelance. I am a writer by trade, both fiction and nonfiction. I have written a pair of novels with a third one coming. I have also written a garbage bag full of poetry, a handful of short stories.  I served 21 years in the U.S. military as a journalist, photographer, Web designer, illustrator and public relations person. I have lived or stayed for a fair amount of time in about 60 different places around the world including Denmark, England, Germany, Iceland, Norway, Thailand, Vietnam, and others. I have also served in three wars.  

3. What first inspired you to explore the world of art? When did you discover you had a talent for creating art?
My grandfather painted brilliantly and drew; I started imitating him.  It was during my attendance of my 9thgrade art class, that I first became interested in becoming a Comic Book illustrator.   A character called “The Vision” (from Marvel’s ‘The Avengers’), drawn by Chuck Carpio, also sparked my impetus to try to become a comic book illustrator. In fact, I still have my imitation of Chuck’s work in my portfolio from 27 years ago. 

You will hear about people, who are brilliant from birth, true prodigies in every regard – they have an eye! It is so easy and effortless for them to apply the pencil to the page and something - akin to a Beethoven symphony - ebbs forth. That was Chuck at age 14. I wished it were that easy for me. However,wishing is not working, and hope is not a plan. Therefore, I began working hard to bring what I had imagined during those tender teenage years to fruition.  I can proudly proclaim, I have met my goals on a moderate level.  

4. Do you remember your first creation? How old were you when you created it?
Creating something and achieving some level of satisfaction with it must be akin to killing the dragon or tossing the One Ring into Mount Doom. Although, you can never be perfect at it, there is a heightened sense of self and a bolstering of confidence that only exists in that situation. It’s probably the same feeling a salesperson gets from slam dunking a deal, or a Wall Street titan gets from cutting the legs off a company to make it his own; the stimulus track has to be similar. While I do not remember the first creation, there are multiple instances where I have felt like I hit the mark as close to the bull’s eye as I could. That is a tremendous feeling. The key there; however, is learning from that and ensuring there is a modicum of success to use for the next project.

5. Are you self-taught or did you attend a school of art?

A bit of both, though I never formally finished an art degree or a concurrent series of study at an art school. I may still go.

6. What are your favorite programs to work with?
Software is contradictory. Some will say it makes an artist’s brain lazy.Others will say it enables a compelling new level of imagination in that the user can generate galaxies, planets, cities, vehicles and much more. I am a big believer in balance. Certainly, software like Photo Shop, Vue, Bryce and others have changed the landscape of how artists work. It is how illustrators employ the software that really matters. I would liken it to how artists use photos or models for reference, and then employ that reference in the final work. In the end; however, I am a big fan of Manga Studio EX, PhotoShop and a few others because I also do digitally generated work.

6a. What mediums do you work in?
I do a surprising amount of pen and ink work. The pencils are created by hand on 11 x 17 inch Bristol board or comic book paper. The pencils are scanned and then the inks are done in Manga Studio. I normally use PhotoShop if I choose to color something or pain in acrylics. 

7. How would you describe your creative process?
My creative process is loud, solitary, messy, focused, evolving, interrupted,unfinished, and continuous.

8. If you could describe just a single source (as I like to call it– my favorite muse) that never fails to inspire you, what would it be?

My bookshelves are a potpourri consisting of a variety of authors and illustrators. My Internet browser’s bookmarks list is also varied and long.There are moments from films and play lists of songs that always seem to propel me at the right moment. There really exists a harem of muses from any number of different sources. In that regard, I am not sure I have ever had one “go to”source for inspiration. However, I would offer that small things lead to bigger things. A doodle might lead to a drawing, which might lead to a painting. Sometimes the muse is yourself.

9. Can you name some artists that you admire and have found to be great sources of inspiration?

The following individuals are ones that inspire me and that I admire: 

Arthur Adams, Brian Bolland, John Byrne, Howard Chaykin, Salvador Dali, Will Eisner,Frank Frazetta, Michael T. Gilbert, Michael Golden, Mike Grell, Michael Kaluta, Jack Kirby, Jim Lee, Todd McFarlane, Frank Miller, Moebius (Jean Giraud), Leroy Neiman, George Perez, Jackson Pollack, Steve Rude, P. Craig Russell, Dave Sim, Bill Sienkiewicz, Walt Simonsen, Barry Windsor-Smith, Paul Smith, Jim Steranko, Dave Stevens, Timothy Truman, Chris Waggoner, Matt Wagner, Michael Whelan, Al Williamson, and Bill Willingham.

10. Suppose someone asks you to create something that deviates from your distinct style. How do you mold your distinct style into their request while still preserving your own special signature style in the completed product?
A Client’s needs come first. Begin with the end in mind. I may offer suggestions; however, it is up to me to give the client the product they desire. Style should follow suit on the creation. There is no intent on my part to force something on the canvas that says, ''Lookee lookee ... Jason Tudor wuz here. Lulz!'' 

The client dictates the need. That my “style” comes through - in the final creation - is a byproduct of the utility of the work, and is not intentional.Certainly, there are brilliant artists whose style is both unquestioned and powerful. They command an audience, a Brinks truck filled with cash, and an unlimited timetable. They are ''artists'' in the grandest, most romantic sense whose commissions are sought after. I am certainly not one of those folks. My style would never preempt someone's illustrative needs.

11. In the past, many artists have stated that they have a difficult time knowing when a project is complete. Do you have this same problem? If you do – have you developed a tried-and-true method to let you know at what point a project is finally complete?
Deadlines are important in this regard, as well as time management. When a project is due, it’s due, and no amount of coaxing will improve or upscale what you are doing when something is due. It is up to the creator to determine the boundaries and manage the creative process in such away that the best creative product can be delivered on time and at budget. Of course, there will be challenges and boundaries along the way. However, as an artist and a creator, it is important to work with clients and manage expectations and challenges as they come appear.

Uncommissioned work without deadlines is masturbation in its purist form, as well as training. This is where many artists can fall into a mental rumination: Is this piece complete? What else can I add? Are the angles right? This is where a good mentor or partner can be helpful; to help the artist know when to stop or go on. Otherwise, you can fall into some cyclical mental gymnastics that might ensure you never finish a project or drive you into places you do not want to be.

A ‘tried-and-true’ method I use to let me know when the project is finally complete is to decide between publication and payment.
12. What projects are you currently working on?
I am doing some illustration for, ''The Undead that Saved Christmas'' anthology. I have about a half dozen other things on my plate right now, including some illustration and a book jacket design, but it’s up to my clients to reveal what those are; not me. Otherwise, you may hear  about them when they are finished. Confidentiality and nondisclosure are also an important part of the creative (business) process.

13. Can you provide any words of wisdom and helpful advice for the newly budding artists out there?
The word “will” is an important one, as in: “I will do that.” and “yes.” - both open doors. There is a reason the phrase, “starving artist” is prevalent. It is important to look at ‘any and all’ opportunities in illustration, design and other fields related to art to get a foot in the door. Create a foundation,build the structure, and then branch out. Over time, you get to dictate your own terms if you are good enough. Drawing, painting or illustrating is like any other field with talent (e.g., television, film, video games): talent is cheap and easy to come by. 

You have to figure out what is  going to make your brand indispensable early on. Grow that. Earn your bona fides. Talent is never as important as direction, production, and distribution in the whole process. The streets of Motown, Memphis and New  York City are full of thousands of talented musicians,but very few make an income. Know your role and take your work seriously -not yourself.

On another note, the information age is bursting with new laws, policies and procedures. There are new frontiers for copyright, use of material and so on. It is important to have a handle on the creation process in the information age, specifically as it applies to licensing rights of images,video, music and other forms of media. Something may “inspire” you, but you might have to pay to use its likeness (e.g., the Hollywood sign in California). Legal hand tying and a great many people’s need to fatten their wallets have given us a time when creativity comes with a cask of tariffs and a fare meter.

Finally, lose weight and smile more.

14. What books and albums would you recommend to those newly budding artists?
The creative process is so specific to the creator. My advice is to chase,collect, and immerse yourself in what inspires you. Then, at least for a time,leave it all behind and get out of your comfort zone. Find something that you consider: impossible or out of your league, and chase it. Once you have spent a few months or longer chasing it, then drop it and move on to something else – rinse and repeat. Anything material that allows you to do these things is helpful to you as a creator and as a human being. Growth begins with discovery, education, and the willingness to lunge headfirst into something containing more questions than answers.

15. The path to fulfilling our dreams is always riddled with pitfalls and obstructions. What warnings could you provide to help make the path less hazardous for those who have just ventured out on their own path?

“Do what you love. The passion of art is a red herring.”

Yes, it is important. Yes, it is vital to the creative process. However, it is one part of the creative process - not all of it. Ultimately, humans need to eat, drink, sleep, perpetuate the species, and have a roof over our heads. The ways in which we express the triumphs and tragedies in achieving those things become the tunes, illustrations and writings of our generations. 

Eventually,business people latch onto the ones that can make them and their investors’ money and call them “art”.  I believe in art. I do! There are pictures, strings of words, noises and other material things that are beautiful beyond compare. However, “art” as a commodity, as an investor driven, law-bound and procedurally riddled process, has superseded too many times and corrupts the whole bunch. It is important to find a center that is between the necessity of creation and commerce; as well as to find the balance between the passion of creation and the need to put food on yours and your family’s table. 

Remember, the artists who killed themselves via drug addiction, suicide or some self-inflicted mortal wound are well… dead. Certainly, for the better ones, their works live on. However, they are still dead. While the demons and angels of creativity might be the most dominant forces in a life for a time, they are parts of what makeup a life - not a life. 

Everyone pays their fare across the Styx in different amounts and achieves success in different degrees. I have probably been too chicken to pay a greater toll in return for a sliver of chance at artistic greatness. I like my life and almost everything that comes with it. 

There is room for both the practicality of a life lived and the skyscrapers of imagination you will want to ascend, ablaze in the furious  glow of triumph.

If you are interested in learning more about Jason Tudor then please visit the following links:

Jason's Personal Website.
Jason's Facebook fan page.
Jason's DeviantArt site.
Jason's Personal Bio.

© Angelica Raene

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