Comic Artist & Illustrator, GABO, on The Life After, Albert the Alien, & Kickstarter Success.
May 20, 2015
I hail from the burbs of Chicago, and my background is primarily in the comic book industry. I've dabbled in a little bit of graphic design and animation, but not nearly enough to talk about.
First Entertainment Job
I believe my first paid job was doing work for Elephantmen, a monthly scifi comic published by Image Comics and written by Richard Starkings. Starkings had been mentoring me for about a year and he finally gave me a chance to prove what I had learned by doing a bit of color work for an issue of Elephantmen.
Initially it was the ease of the medium. Mind you, the art of creating comics is not an easy task, but it takes far less time to produce a story than it would say an animated tv show or film.
The idea that I could finish a story in about 20 or so pages in less than a few weeks, take it to FedEx, and print out several copies to hand out to my friends or fans is one of the most appealing things about this medium.
Also, I don't need to rely on anyone but myself to complete a comic. I know some people who do cartoons all on their own, but that is a huge time commitment.
I could put out four or five issues before someone releases a 20 minute animated film.
The Life After
The Life After in short is a buddy comedy set in the afterlife. The more depressing pitch is that it's a story of a man named Jude who wakes up in a level of Purgatory reserved for suicides and he doesn't know why he's there.
It's sort of a reflection on how different cultures have rules that either contradict each other or just plain don't make sense.
Take Japanese samurai for instance- they would commit Seppuku, a ritual suicide that let them die with honor- in the eyes of Christians this would be a mortal sin, right? What some believe to be an honourable way of dying is perceived as a sin in another culture, so how does the after life manage all of these things. That is The Life After, an old overworked system that needs new management.
I think originally the book just came from that very concept- religion being so far from the base message that things have gotten out of control. If you boil down every single religion in this world to its most basic of messages you get one clear message: DON'T BE A JERK. Be nice to people! Don't steal from your neighbors, don't murder people, don't disrespect your parents etc.
We just wanted to address the fact that all of these rules and regulations in religion are at most times silly and just cause more torment than help.
Advice for Aspiring Comic Book Artists
One of the biggest pitfalls aspiring artists IN GENERAL (illustration, animation, photography, cooking, hell even hair stylists) is NOT DOING ART EVERY SINGLE DAY. Art is a muscle, if you don't use it on a daily basis it gets weak. Now, I'm not saying you have to create a masterpiece every single day- in fact most days you won't create masterpieces!
Most days you'll create complete garbage, but it's that garbage that will help you build a mountain to reach that golden ring you want so bad.
I know so many artists that want to become professionals but refuse to do the work or worry too much about little things like using the appropriate tools or being in the right mood.
Get a sketchbook and draw or write in it literally everyday. There is an amazing book called “365 THINGS TO DRAW” - BUY IT. You can get one on Amazon for about $3. Draw in it everyday. DO THE WORK.
One of the biggest difficulties I've had to face was finding time to work on projects. I had a full time job and I went to school full-time during my late 20's.
I would work 9-5 and then I'd have to wait at a coffee shop for 2-4 hours until my girlfriend could pick me up to get back home, so I would work at that coffee shop. I would do homework or client work there.
Before I started going to school my biggest deterrent was TV and video games.
A lot of people have this idea that they need to play video games, watch tv shows, or read books to get better at their craft and while I agree with that to a degree, you absolutely can NOT let that over shadow the amount of stuff you're creating.
If you had to break down your time I would say try to take 3/4ths of your time and dedicate it to making art. The other quarter can be spent reading, watching tv, playing games etc. For me at the moment, the only games I play are while I'm on the toilet or riding passenger in someone's car.
You want to succeed? WORK.
Social Media has been such a beneficial tool for my career. I've been able to connect with so many fans, clients, and artists in ways I would have only been able to at comic conventions in the past.
Being able to interact with people in a matter of seconds via twitter or facebook and having them share the work I do to THEIR fans, friends, and family is such an amazing tool for growth not only as an artist but as a product.
If you are an aspiring artist and you don't have Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, AND Facebook accounts, you are missing out on so many opportunities.
Posting on Instagram daily is the easiest thing in the world to do because you can simultaneously post to all other social media outlets increasing the views on your work.
Building up an audience for your work is KEY to success.
Albert the Alien
Albert the Alien is an all ages comic about the first foreign exchange student FROM SPACE. Albert was originally designed for a book published by Reading With Pictures, a not for profit organization based in Chicago.
They specialize in creating comics that adhere to core curriculum standards for grade schools. Essentially they're comics that kids can actually learn from.
I've been working on the book for nearly 5 years now with writer Trevor Mueller and it's been a blast.
Current Career Aspirations
I can't lie, that's a bit of a tough question for me. I've had an incredibly successful Kickstarter recently, something that I was aspiring towards. I've been nominated for a Russ Manning Promising Newcomer Award, which I could have only dreamed of ever getting.
And I'm working on a book with a writer that let's me do pretty much whatever the hell I want! I've got it pretty good right now haha.
I think the next step for me would be the chance to draw a Ninja Turtles comic or work for Marvel or DCComics.
Here's hoping they give me a call soon!
How do you differentiate yourself in a highly competitive field like comics?
COLOR. A lot of artists I know don't typically color their own work. I'm not that great of an actual illustrator. There are A LOT of areas that I lack in, particularly anatomy, so I make up for it with my coloring skills.
About 99% of the books I've worked on have been entirely drawn and colored and sometimes even lettered by me. I think some people find that refreshing and are often quite surprised. That and the amount of detail and random characters I put into my backgrounds. I love that stuff.
Successful Kickstarter Campaigns
I've actually been a part of a few Kickstarter campaigns in the past, so going into my own wasn't as tough as most people would have it. The other campaigns I was a part of I simply just created graphic assets for or was an artist in the book they were raising funds for.
This time around I was in charge of putting together the entire book, figuring out the math on how much I would need to raise, developing and implementing all the graphic design work not only for the Kickstarter page but also for the advertising of the campaign.
It's a lot of work and if you don't plan ahead it can really blow up in your face. I recommend doing as much planning as possible before launching any Kickstarter and making sure that your project is completely or close to being finished before you actually do it.
Keeping your customers happy is KEY.
Top 5 Moments
5) Winning an Eisner for my work in a Comic Book Tattoo in 2009.
4) Doing an entire comic in watercolor (my favorite medium) for Elephantmen issue #50.
3) Having British television personality Jonathan Ross purchase nearly every single page of that comic from me at a show.
2) Being nominated for a Russ Manning Promising Newcomer Award.
1) Getting paid to do what I love.
What is something about your career that you would like people to know that they might not?
There is a LOT of loneliness when it comes to being an artist. I spend a lot of time alone in my studio. And, while sometimes I really appreciate the quiet, I truly miss the comradery that you find in most other jobs that require you to go into a physical location.
I have a lot of friends who share studios with other aritsts and I'm so incredibly jealous of that.
Being in a room with other artist to bounce ideas off of or ask for critiques and help on work must be really amazing.
If you ever have the opportunity to get into something like that TAKE IT. You will grow immeasurably. Money and the lack thereof is something you will suffer from for a while also.
There are ways of making quick money, but more often than not, doing what you love doesn't pay very well right away. I truly believe that if you stick to it though and really put your heart into it and make the right moves and meet the right people- doing what you love can be very lucrative.
A lot of people will tell you that going to college or art school is a must. I am a firm believer in the idea that you get what you put into learning.
It doesn't matter if you go to a good school or an awful school- it's up to you how fast and strong you grow.
I decided to attend college after many years of being broke and having no real future ahead of me. I went to school to get a Bachelors degree so that if all else failed I knew I would be able to go somewhere and at least teach others how to be better artists.
Some people can learn by watching YouTube videos- if this works for you then do that! The comic book industry doesn't require you to have a bachelors or a masters from some prestigious school- it requires that you are a good artist.
I've known people who have gone to ivy league schools that can't find work because they just aren't that great of artists. Take anatomy classes. Take classes on how to paint with watercolor, acrylic or oil painting.
Above all else- if you want to become a comic book artist, MAKE COMICS. You can't learn how to ride a bike by watching others ride one- you have to get on it and try.
For nearly the past decade I've been mentored by two very special friends, Richard Starkings and Justin “MORITAT” Norman. They've been crucial to the progress in my career.
They've introduced me to all the right people and taught me so much about the comic industry.
Currently, the project taking up most of my time is The Life After comic. Each issue takes me anywhere between 3-5 weeks to complete.
During that time I also work on Albert the Alien web comic which updates twice weekly on Thrillbent.com.
The rest of my down time is spent going to conventions all over the country and working on various side projects that I've got under my sleeve until later this year!
Anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
Please check out my Instagram, @galvosaur – I post art and photos of my pug nearly daily!
Where can people go to find out more information about you and your work?