I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Danny Kelly – a very talented artist. Check out some of Danny’s art work at the end of the interview. Believe me, you will enjoy them!
Where are you from originally? Where do you reside today?
I was born and raised in northern New Jersey, a little town called North Arlington, right across the river from Newark. I moved to Key port, New Jersey, a town at the tip of the Jersey shoreline, about 10 years ago with my wife. I am hoping to move somewhere a little more secluded in the near future.
Can you tell us a little bit about your life outside of art?
My other passion is animal welfare - the safety of dogs in particular - I am quite outspoken about it. I have turned some people off with my radical views of justice towards animal abusers, but I do not mind; it is too close to my heart to worry about others' apathy.
What first inspired you to explore the world of art? When did you discover you had a talent for creating art?
I am sure as a child I saw a TV commercial for Star Wars figures or something. I remember seeing collections of the Marvel Star Wars comic books at my local library and being amazed. I have had an urge to draw since I can remember; I was always seeing objects and faces in things like patterns of wood or clouds. I always saw things differently so I felt the need to communicate what I saw to try to show others why I was so different.
Do you remember your first creation? How old were you when you created it?
Speaking on creating an actual piece of artwork,I really cannot remember. I have had a pencil in my hand since my earliest memories, and most of what I drew were things from cartoons, He-Man and things like that. I would try to draw realistically while referencing the TV screen.In terms of character creation, I believe my first real creation was a barbarian named Retribution - I created it in high school,around '92. He was some sort of agent of heaven and hell who was unleashed on earth to thin the herd of humanity. At that time, I believed in religion and those old bible stories played a part in my characters' story. Once I grew agnostic,the character meant much less to me, and I abandoned him.
Are you self-taught or did you attend a school of art?
When I was around ten or twelve, my father gave me an old art instruction book series from the 50's (real technical illustration stuff), and I would copy from the book exactly. It never quite worked; trying to draw''realistically'' just was not what I felt or did not look right. It took me another decade or so before I figured that out and applied a different style. A couple of years after I finished high school, I heard that a fellow artist (who was a classmate) had gotten into the Joe Kubert School of Cartooning in Dover, New Jersey. I thought of myself as a better artist than him, and I felt that if he could get in then so could I – I did. I spent two and half years there, I still look at it as the most fun I have ever had.
What are your favorite programs to work with?
I am late in the game in terms of learning digital art. I have only played around in Coral Paint Essentials and Photoshop. Eight years ago, I took a night course in Photoshop, Illustrator and Quark. I was completely lost, since years had passed since I had taken basic digital art at the KubertSchool. Of course, the technology was very different in 1996. Now I am very slowly teaching myself Photoshop.
How would you describe your creative process?
An idea materializes in my mind's eye, though blurry. I spend some time letting it focus in my head until at least, I have a sense of composition. I sketch it out lightly and loosely on copy paper; then I revise it about three or four times. I keep tightening until I eventually lose patience and decide to call it finished. Other times, I just feel like drawing a simple scene or a character. I just draw it on copy paper, but I try to keep it very simple and as abstract as I can. I am constantly trying to simplify my work.
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?
Dark cloudy days always make me draw more; they always bring out more creativity than an average day.
Can you name some artists that you admire and have found to be great sources of inspiration?
I was inspired by, and studied, so many different artists. I have always gone through phases where I would become fascinated by a certain artist, whom I would analyze the reason I loved their work so much. I'd attempt to incorporate that aspect of an artists' particular style into my own work. There are many artists who continue to inspire me: Bruce Timm, Alex Toth, Mike Mignola, Adrian Salmon, Paul Grist, and Neil Vokes. They have influenced me so greatly that it sometimes becomes difficult to define the line where your influences show and where your work starts looking too much like your inspiration. Like all creative things, it's a matter of balance that I always strive to achieve - sometimes successfully, sometimes not so much.
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?
It takes a lot of analysis; I would likely do my best to create what I thought they were looking for. My style is quite angular, so I try to sharpen and cut some lines until I am comfortable enough that it resembles my own touch. It is sometimes frustrating to work in a style you are not comfortable with,especially when you take great pride in your style. The fact that you have sacrificed possible mainstream success to stay true to your own vision, no matter how abstract or ''stylized'' it may be.
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?
There is a famous quote, I do not know it word for word nor do I remember who said it but it was along the lines of ''a piece of art is never done, it's just abandoned''. I've spent days working on something only to realize that it's overworked. I have also posted art online that I realized looked unfinished. For me, it is just a matter of patience, the more time I spend on something, usually, the better it is. Working in comics is so dead line driven, that I usually try to complete pieces as fast as I can. As a result, I am always ready to draw quickly.
What projects are you currently working on?
Right now, I have a lot of requests from online friends for drawings of their characters, and I am also drawing things for pitches. My main project is a comic called M.O.N.S.T.E.R. Home, written by Dan Barnes - it involves, Van Helsing, being committed to an asylum full of classic monsters. It is quite fun! I have several projects that are ''in the works'': a possible graphic novel by an accomplished and very popular writer; a few online friends have stories they'd like me to do that sound very promising; and The Curse of the Vessel, which is a story written by Michael Leal.It recently won the third round of a contest ran by Small Press Idol - which was very exciting and appears to have a lot of promise.
Can you provide any words of wisdom and helpful advice for the newly budding artists out there?
Develop a thick skin!
Constantly teach yourself new techniques.
Draw every minute that you can.
Keep a lot of photo reference around you.
Study great directors as well as great ''classical'' artists.
Learn everything you can.
Make sure you want to be a pro artist; there is a lot of sacrifice - especially financially. You have to want it so bad it is all you think about. Make sure it is the only thing you want to do with your life. That passion and persistence will pay off.
I would also suggest aspiring artists to network on sites like Facebook and DeviantArt. Facebook has been the best thing for my career, the people I have met and the networks I have become a part of have opened more doors than I could have imagined.
What books and albums would you recommend to those newly budding artists?
It is always good to have How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way - a classic book that really helps an artist understand constructive anatomy. Hogarth's books always have good insight. I suggest any budding artist to get a couple of books on everything from basic cartooning to photo realist painting. It's best to swing wide in both directions in order to find your balance.
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?
Understand that some people will love your work; some people will hate it. Do not change to try to impress those who do not like your work. It is just a personal taste thing. Understand that you will get a lot of criticism and even torn up here and there. You have to shake these things off, people often have their own deeply hidden reasons for putting others down. Learn what you can from critiques. You must live, eat,sleep and breathe your dream. You must accept this dream and the consequences of following it. Nothing worth anything comes easy or cheap. Take the long hard road, and you will be a success in the long run - not just right now.
DANNY KELLY'S ART WORK!
Dracula1 Bathory Zombie Woods
Full Size Image view here. Full Size Image view here. Full Size Image view here.