Workwear from WorkwearHub

Interview: Ashe Rhyder

Interview: Ashe Rhyder

Feb 07

An example of Ashe Ryder's amazing genre-bending work

Today’s interview is with artist Ashe Rhyder, whose long-running webcomic ‘Roommates’ takes a wide range of your favourite characters from novels, games, movies and musicals and puts them together under the question: What would happen if these characters lived together in a modern day apartment block? The result, in short, is awesome.

 

 

Tell us a bit about yourself.
My name is Ashe Rhyder, and I draw a lot. I’m predominantly self-taught as an artist, and I’ve been learning for many, many years. Still am, to be honest.

What do you do?
Mostly, I draw. Sometimes I write. Under the right conditions, I’ll attempt to paint.

Do you have a secret non-artist alter-ego?
I have a secret alter-ego, but art is in my blood and breath, and nothing I do will take me very far from it.

Have you always wanted to write comics?
Write comics, make movies, tell stories… some version of these things, yes. I’ve always wanted to share stories and images.

Your long-running webcomic ‘Roommates’ takes characters from a variety of texts and places them together in a contemporary apartment complex – when did you start this comic, and why?
Way back in uni, I had a bunch of characters from various projects cluttering up my brain. A fun thing to do with them in the down time was to try and figure out how they would interact if they ever happened to meet. The logical place to set this kind of interaction was a bar, because if there was one thing any of them had in common, it was Trouble With Their Romantic Partner (Except Javert, who’s a bit of an odd duck…). Alcohol and commiseration seemed like the most reasonable setting. I would draw these short comics and share them with my friends, and we’d all laugh and come up with terribly embarrassing but amusing things to happen to them later. One of my friends suggested I post the comics on DA, and so I did, and it just sort of snowballed from there.

How do you decide what characters make the cut?
95% of the time if a character appears, it’s because they’re my favorite. Almost always, the first character to appear out of any given source is my favorite of the whole. I’ve taken suggestions or requests a few times, usually because they fit some storyline that’s planned or because I really like that character or series and just hadn’t thought about adding them yet.

Do you have any plans for projects involving your own original characters, or is it the fandom life for you?
I’ve got a number of original projects running in the background, but I doubt I’ll ever abandon fandom entirely. It influences far too much of my life.

The content of the comic has gotten darker and the story lines much more involved over the years – has there been a conscious line of decision making behind this evolution, or is it something which has happened naturally, say by the nature of the characters you choose, or as your real-world interests have changed?
A little bit of both, really. The characters themselves lend themselves well to darker stories, since they are, essentially, tragedies. I’m also inclined to run characters through the wringer. The light-hearted and comedic episodes of Roommates are more of a conscious addition than any of the darker parts.

How much of your own experience do you feel has an effect on your art?
Of my own, very little. The majority of experiences that affect my art come from other people. I find them in stories, both real and fictional, and in other peoples’ artwork. I learn by studying tutorials and pulling bits and pieces of other artist’s styles; one artist’s rendition of a nose, another artist’s application of color, the way a third uses line weight to suggest shadow. The comic is a pretty accurate metaphor: it pulls from many places, and so do I.

Why do you think people connect to your work?
I think maybe because the stories, at heart, are about making mistakes and moving on from that. The majority of the cast are villains and anti-heroes. People get attached to characters like this for any number of reasons, but let’s face it; those characters are usually defined by their flaws. These guys are going to mess up. They’re going to lose their temper, say the wrong thing, act on the wrong feeling, and generally screw things up. We all identify with that.

In the comic, these characters are given an opportunity to move past the mistakes that almost always destroyed them in their original stories. I think that’s something everyone wants, really: to be told that even the worst mistake of their life isn’t the end of the road, and that there’s a chance that the person they are tomorrow will be better than the one they were today.

Before the Internet, fan comics were published in fanzines and the like – do you feel like ‘Roommates’ could have happened if you’d grown up without the Internet?
The Internet was actually the one of the places where I discovered other people liked the same things I did, so I’m not sure the comic would have made it without digital intervention. I certainly never made the connections offline that would have allowed for it. I may have still drawn a few of comics, but a lot of my work never makes it outside the confines of whatever book in which it’s been originally drawn or written. It certainly would never have lasted this long, or gotten as complicated.

You post the comic on DeviantART – why this website?
At the time, I was already using DA to show some other work, so it was pretty much a matter of convenience. It displayed the way I wanted with limited fuss. I’m not particularly patient with computers, so coming up with my own site was out of the question.

What are you looking forward to in 2013? (films/ books/ life/ career/ weather)
There’s a Discworld convention in 2013… and the new Hobbit movie. And Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing. I’m hoping for pleasant, sunny days, but also for the full spectrum of interesting (but not dangerous) weather.

In the style of Steven Moffat, can you give us three words as a sneak preview of what to expect in this year’s story arcs?
King. Changeling. If.

Do you have any final words of wisdom for our readers?
Strive. Fight for the ending you want. You are not alone. There are others out there who want the same things you do, who can connect with you and understand you, even if no one currently around you does. There are things you may have to learn. Learn them. There are places you may have to go. Go there. There are things that may scare you. Be scared. Take a deep breath. Face them anyway. There are times you will fail. It happens. Get back up. Strive.

 

You can read ‘Roommates’ here, and check out the associated tumblr page here.

Interview: Kate Leth

Interview: Kate Leth

Jan 24

Kate at Strange Adventures

Today’s interview is with the super-rad Kate Leth, a bisexual webcomic artist, Taylor Swift fan and all-round babe.

 

Tell us a bit about yourself.

My name’s Kate and I’m from Halifax, Nova Scotia. I am 24 years old and 5’8″. I have 20 tattoos and a cat.

 

What do you do?

I am a cartoonist, primarily online, but I also do some print work for comics like Locke & Key, The Strange Talent of Luther Strode, and a few different titles for kaBOOM!. I also work full-time at a comic shop called Strange Adventures.

 

Do you have a secret non-artist alter-ego?

The version of me that wears no makeup and drinks wine in the bath while surfing the ‘silver fox’ tag on tumblr.

 

Have you always wanted to write comics?

No! I only got into comics about two years ago. I’ve wanted many different careers, but this one just feels right. It’s a great way to express the kinds of things I want to talk about.

 

What inspires you?

My friends, my experiences with the world, dating, work, etc. The usual! I write a lot of autobiographical strips, I talk a lot about queer issues and relationships.

 

When did you first realise that you could be successful with your art?

When I saw artists I admired doing it. The internet is a magical place where people will pay you for things you make! All over the world, too! I posted some art that became popular and realized all I really had to do was keep working at it and getting better. It’s a really cool feeling – a lot of jobs or interests I had tried previously relied on other people. Comics are just me. I write, draw and colour everything myself. It allows for a real unique feeling of pride! Or, sometimes, embarrassment.

 

The subject matter of your work is pretty personal, covering topics from sexuality to self-harm – why do you use comics to deal with these themes?

I think comics are a great way to tackle hard subjects. I was introduced through books like Black Hole, Blankets, Dar, Fun Home… I loved the idea of taking such a ‘fun’ medium and juxtaposing it with serious issues. People won’t usually read a big block of text about self-harm, but a comic? I find it a great way to reach people, and I’m always shocked by the responses.

 

Is it difficult for you to be putting such personal work out there for the world to see, or do you find it cathartic?

Sometimes, it’s hard. There are subjects I can’t write about, some of them right now, some probably ever. I can’t seem to write about my family, or a few relationships I’ve been in. Maybe I’ll get braver. I hope to. I’m drawn to brutal honesty, so that’s what I want to make. When a comic makes me shake and feel a bit sick right before I post it, I know I’ve done the right thing.

 

You’re very open about your sexuality – when did you ‘come out’ and what has this meant for you?

I told my parents I was into ladies when I was 11. Well, my dad found out when I was 12. Bisexual is the correct term, I guess, but it still feels clinical. I’m just Kate. I’m attracted to an incredible variety of people. That’s all I’ve ever known, and I find it hard to imagine myself being limited by which bathroom they use. I think it’s made me a lot more understanding of people with sexual identities that fall outside what someone might call ‘normal.’ Probably more attracted to those kinds of people, actually.

 

What’s the silliest thing you’ve been asked about your sexuality?

A guy in university once asked quite earnestly if my being bisexual meant I was into “trannies”. His word, not mine. I thought it was so bizarrely hilarious, I had no idea how to answer. I mean, yes? Sure? But don’t use that word? He was drunk, anyway, and from a pretty small town, so I just kinda balked and laughed to myself.

 

What advice do you have for people out there who may be struggling with their sexual identity, whether it be coming out as trans* or telling their partner about a clown fetish?

Go easy on yourself. Really. You don’t need a label to be happy, and you don’t have to fit into a box. I get frustrated with young teens on the internet who feel the need to define themselves so specifically that they invent complex terms to label themselves with. Just be yourself! Like what you like. It’s okay to not fall neatly into a category. It makes you more interesting! Find people who support you and understand that, it’ll make you much happier.

 

How significant would you say the internet has been to your career? What are the advantages and disadvantages of pursuing success online?

Oh, my career is owed entirely to tumblr, which itself can be a blessing and a curse. There’s a huge queer community there, and thousands of fantastic artists, but there’s also a lot of anger. I’ve been eaten alive for some of my work! Still, you keep going and making. That lesson took awhile to learn.

 

Would you say it’s easier for artists to have a successful career now that they can upload and sell their art online, or harder because of the high saturation of amazing work on the web?

I think the internet is a huge advantage for artists. It’s not that hard to find an audience if you work at it and make things that matter to you!

 

Why do you think people connect to your work?

I think everyone takes something different. I don’t try and make myself look perfect. I mess up, I’m confused, I have lots of problems and I try to be frank about them. I hope that reaches people. I know it’s what I love about my favourite art, so it’s what I try to do.

 

What are you looking forward to in 2013? (films/ books/ life/ career/ weather)

The Hobbit 2, a whole mess of conventions, and I’m going to see Taylor Swift in concert. I can’t wait.

 

Do you have any final words of wisdom for our readers?

Kiss someone nice! Draw more often. Get off the internet and go for a walk.

 

Image from Kate’s tumblr. You can visit her website here.

Interview: Noelle Stevenson

Interview: Noelle Stevenson

Jan 10

A sample of Noelle's awesome art - artists work hard!Today we have the first of what will hopefully be a series of interviews with some rad webcomic creators, which is awesome and totally not an excuse for me to receive emails from famous people I am crushing on (totally not). 

 

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m Noelle Stevenson, I’m 21 years old, and I’m a senior illustration major at Maryland Institute College of Art.

 

What do you do?

I draw comics. I draw lots of comics.

 

Do you have a secret non-artist alter-ego?

Ha, nope, it’s pretty much all artist all the time over here! I wish I could say that I was a secret roller derby babe or something, but alas.

 

Have you always wanted to write comics?

Not comics exactly – I always wanted to draw and I always wanted to tell stories. Comics are a bit of a new discovery for me, to be honest!

 

When did you first realise that you could be successful with your art?

I always hoped I’d be successful as an artist – I was lucky to have very supportive parents and art teachers and I got a lot of positive reinforcement as a kid and it made me hopeful that I could be successful. Of course art school knocked me down a few pegs but it also made me improve a lot and I never gave up hope that I would be successful even when it seemed statistically improbable.

 

You’ve gained a fair bit of attention for projects like ‘Pokeymans’ and ‘Broship of the Rings’ – what are these projects and how did they come about?

Pokeymans started as a game between my friend and me – I was reading a blog called Remembered Heroes, where an artist who doesn’t know anything about comics tries to draw superheroes from memory, sight unseen. I wanted to try something like that, and my greatest shortcoming in pop culture knowledge is Pokemon, because I didn’t grow up with it. So my friend would describe a Pokemon to me and I’d attempt to draw it from description alone. The results are sometimes pretty close, sometimes abominations, because Pokemon designs don’t actually make any logical sense at all.

 

As for the Broship of the Ring, that was my first internet “hit.” I was watching The Two Towers and for no real reason I decided to draw Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli as modern-day dudes. I posted it on Tumblr and it exploded almost immediately, so I drew the rest of the Fellowship the same way, with hippie Gandalf, bro Boromir, and hipster Hobbits. I kept it going for a while, adding more and more characters – I had a lot of fun with it!

 

Your original webcomic, ‘Nimona’, is going to be published in hard copy. What is the comic about, and when does it look like we’ll be able to get our hands on it?

NIMONA is about a medieval supervillain named Ballister Blackheart and his rambunctious shapeshifting sidekick, the titular Nimona. The villains are the protagonists in this case, as they face off against Ballister’s former-best-friend-turned-nemesis Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin, the vain hero, and the corrupt institution he represents. It’s slated for release by HarperCollins in 2015, which feels like FOREVER away, but it will be serialized online first in its entirety!

 

How much of your own experience do you feel has an effect on your art?

Well, clearly I tend towards fantasy and sci-fi themes in my work. I grew up with Star Wars and Lord of the Rings and played at being pirates on the playground. I loved books and movies and stories of all mediums, so I guess that my preferred subject matter now is just the logical conclusion of that.

 

You attend art school – how much has this changed/ influenced your art?

I didn’t have much formal training before art school – up until my junior year of high school most of my artistic development happened in composition notebooks in the form of sketches and doodles. I had a great, supportive art teacher in high school, and she’s probably the reason I ended up at art school, but there weren’t many resources and it was still mostly self-directed. Art school has taught me so much and I’ve grown so much as an artist at MICA – I learned how to create digital art and even discovered my love of comics here.

 

 Would you recommend formal training to other aspiring artists?

I think it depends on the artist. I know a lot of talented illustrators who are completely self-taught. And personally, I’m glad that I didn’t have much training before art school – it let me figure out a lot of things for myself before the techniques and critiques could possibly obstruct my view. But I think it’s something that everyone needs to decide for themselves. Art school gives you a lot of tools for being a successful artist, but it won’t magically make you a successful artist. Whether self-taught or formally trained, it all comes down to drive, hard work, and the need to learn and improve.

 

How significant would you say the internet has been to your career? What are the advantages and disadvantages of pursuing success online?

Ah, well, I think the internet has done everything for me. It was through Tumblr and fanart that I got the following that I have now, that I got an internship at a comic publishing company, that I was signed with a literary agency, and that I ended up getting a contract with HarperCollins. The internet allows for a great amount of visibility and lets artists more easily form connections and communities. Of course there are disadvantages to putting yourself out there like that – you have to be prepared for a certain amount of backlash. No matter what you do, your work won’t appeal to everyone, and it’s the internet so they might want to tell you that in no uncertain terms.

 

Would you say it’s easier for artists to have a successful career now that they can upload and sell their art online, or harder because of the high saturation of amazing work on the web?

I can’t say for sure, having never really experienced a career without the internet! I’d say that one thing about the internet, though, is that even with the huge variety of images and artwork everywhere you look, the good stuff does tend to rise to the top. I’m thinking of webcomics here, specifically, but I think if the author cares very much about the story they’re telling and puts a lot of time and effort into it, that’s usually rewarded. The success of crowdsourcing internet projects through venues like Kickstarter is very encouraging.

 

Why do you think people connect to your work?

Hmmm…I guess what I said before about how most of my artistic development was through doodling comes into play. As a kid a lot of my drawings were intended to amuse my friends, you know, drawing in the margins of their notebooks and things like that. And that’s what I do now. I like how even doodles and simple figures with dot eyes can strike a chord with people.

 

What are you looking forward to in 2013? (films/ books/ life/ career/ weather)

I’m graduating in the spring, for one! And it’s my hope to attend more conventions – I’ll be tabling at AwesomeCon in DC and MoCCA in New York for sure. I’m looking forward for life after school to start. And the next Hobbit film in December of course.

 

Do you have any final words of wisdom for our readers?

Do what you want, stay positive, don’t forget to floss, all that good stuff.

 

Bonus Question from the boss: do you like cute puppies?

I LOVE cute puppies. Who doesn’t like cute puppies?

 

You can check out Noelle’s website here, her art blog here, and her tumblr here.