QUICK QUESTIONS WITH: Stephen Downey
WHO ARE YOU AND WHAT IS YOUR CONNECTION TO COMICS?
Stephen Downey, comicbook artist. I’ve been creating comics for the last few years and just managed to go full time at the art business this year.
WHAT COMIC ARE YOU WORKING ON RIGHT NOW?
I’m working away with Maura McHugh and Rob Curley on the Jennifer Wilde Mini series from Atomic Diner as well Rob’s BlackScorpion one-shot, spinning off from his fantastic League of Volunteers. I have a few other things simmering for next year also.
WHAT’S THE BEST PART OF MAKING COMICS?
The best part of creating comics is seeing something form on the page that was blank before. Interpreting words in a script and turning them into visuals that will hopefully bring a bit of entertainment to others is a great feeling.
WHAT’S THE WORST PART OF MAKING COMICS?
Probably those days when you feel you just aren’t any good and every line is a struggle to come out. You’re never quite sure if what you are drawing is rubbish or your mindset is overly critical. The day after isn’t much better when you realise what you drew actually was a bit shite.
HOW DID YOU FIRST DISCOVER COMICS?
I used to read the Funday times in the Sunday World newspaper, then moved onto Batman in the newsagents. The 90s X-men cartoon got me really into collecting comics regularly, and when I spotted a giant Wolverine poster in the window of Talisman Comics I was hooked on the American stuff.
WHO IS THE BIGGEST INFLUENCE ON YOUR WORK?
Initially it would have been the 90s X-men artists. Jim Lee and Andy Kubert was definitely top of the list. These days though I’m more a fan of the ‘inkier’ artists such as Steve Epting, Mike Perkins and Michael Lark. Along the way artists like Bryan hitch and J.H. Williams were artists to aspire to also.
WHAT TOOLS OF THE TRADE DO YOU USE?
I’ve recently just changed my working method after investing in a Cintiq. I ‘pencil’ all digitally, then print out bluelines to ink over with a brushpen and brush. Digital paintings and colouring/toning are back on the Cintiq. I still haven’t got my head around Manga Studio, so it’s 99% photoshop when I’m using the computer.
WHAT IS THE SINGLE WORK OF WHICH YOU ARE MOST PROUD?
It really is usually my latest piece, I hopefully improve with every day at the drawing table and hopefully Jennifer Wilde is my best work. That said, I am really proud of having two full length original graphic novels, Slaughterman’s Creed and Cancertown released, both with writer Cy Dethan. I think maybe I may be marginally more proud of Cancertown, not because of the actual art, but because it was my first real comic work and hefty 150 pages long.
WHAT IS THE BEST ADVICE YOU HAVE RECEIVED?
I think it was people looking at my inking and telling me it wasn’t matching my pencils. I think I forgot that people couldn’t see my pencils and on my earliest days I quickly inking over them. I realised that what was on the printed page is the finished piece, so it has to be as good as the best art of the process.
WHAT IS THE WORST ADVICE YOU HAVE EVER RECEIVED?
‘You’re style is too 70’s, you should draw more cartoony and modern’. Style is a personal choice, so good advice for me concentrates on the fundamentals of the drawings rather than artistic choice.
WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE CURRENT IRISH COMIC SCENE?
I feel like it’s really developing at a nice pace. There are some great self published comics out there that are telling great personal and quirky stories and other more commercial pieces that are finding a market that wasn’t there before. It still has a way to go before it’s the French market, but it’s definitely looking up.
WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE HAPPEN IN IRISH COMIC IN THE NEAR FUTURE?
I’d like to see a longer shelf life in the market. I think trade paperbacks and graphic novels are a great format for keeping stories on the shelves and digital comics are great for (practically) overhead free perpetual distribution. I think exporting home-grown books would be nice too. Selling Irish graphic novels over Europe and America would be a great thing to see and of course a nice lucrative market where we can all become millionaires wouldn’t go amiss.
WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE HAPPEN IN COMICS IN GENERAL IN THE NEAR FUTURE?
I think an even more mainstream readership would be nice. New and better ways of distribution for both physical and digital comics would be nice, more hybrid comic stores that sell coffee, selling comics at bars, everyone on the train and bus reading comics. Especially mine.
WHAT WAS THE LAST COMIC THAT MADE AN IMPACT ON YOU?
It’s not a comic per se, but Genious, Isolated: The Life and Work of Alex Toth really gave me the incentive to push further with the sort of layouts I’d been experimenting with. I haven’t even read it yet, but flicking through my copy of Blacksad wants to make me up my game with backgrounds, and Will Eisner’s A Contract with God is telling me to be more expressive with my linework. It’ll probably be something different next week, I’m just about to order some of Al Williamson’s work…
FROM YOUR EXPERIENCE WHAT IS THE BEST ADVICE YOU COULD GIVE SOMEONE WHO WANTS TO START MAKING THEIR OWN COMICS? (And don’t say DON’T :) )
Be comfortable in the style of art you like to create, whether it’s cartoony, illustrative or design based, but always look at the fundamentals of comicbook creation: Storytelling, composition, anatomy and gestures so that you can use your art to tell comic in the most convincing and effective way.
ANY FINAL THOUGHTS?
Just some self pimping if you don’t mind; If you want a nosy at my work my website & blog is at Stephendowneygallery.com, which also has links to buy most of my books. I’m on twitter at Twitter.com/stephenmdowney and check out JenniferWildeComic.com for previews of my current work.
Stephen Downey is a Belfast based comicbook artist and illustrator. He has worked with Insomnia Publications, Titan publishing, AAM/Markosia, Heske Horror, Comic a Gael and Beserker to bring his comics and artwork to the masses. He is the co-creator of Cancertown and Slaughterman’s Creed, both with Cy Dethan and has worked on the Torchwood comic strip for Titan magazines. He draws all day long and loves every minute.
You can email him: stephen [at] stephendowneygallery [dot] com or pay him a visit at www.stephendowneygallery.com