DeviantART Interview of the Week: The Comic Marvels of Reilly Brown

With the deviantART-sponsored Artist Alley at Comic Con only days away, artist Reilly Brown has a lot to prep for. The co-founder of TenTonStudios, which is THE place for professional and aspiring artists to meet and share their works, also has his hands busy creating works of art for the legendary comic label Marvel.

As if this wasn’t enough, he is also co-creating a brand new world in which superpowers and full contact sports collide. Available this Wednesday with a free preview on Comixology, Power Play is set to steal a home run in the comic world.

Despite the recent flurry of activity that has engulfed this amazing artist, Reilly Brown was able to spare some time to talk about his art with us here at Buzznet.

Are you ready to find out who Reilly Brown is? Let’s go!

Buzznet: How did you first hear about dA? How did your partnership at Comic Con with dA happen? What are you expecting to come of that?

Reilly Brown: Who HASN’T heard of Deviant Art? It’s one of the biggest art websites on the internet!

I first heard about DA in college when I would post my work on a lot of message boards like PencilJack. People who didn’t have their own personal websites would post their work through DA. Eventually I started exploring the site and was like, “whoa!” this is a lot more than just an image hosting service, it was it’s own online community of artists which some really cool features like the ability to “watch” your favorite artists and get updates when they post new work, and the ability to add pieces that you like to a “favorites” gallery, which helps spread the quality stuff around to other people who might be interested.

The partnership with DA and Comic Con is pretty cool. Since they’re sponsoring the Artist’s Alley portion of the show, they’re taking it upon themselves to advertise for the artists stationed there. That’s pretty damn cool, and I can’t think of any other show where someone’s done that before.

I don’t really know what to expect from it, but it’s a great opportunity to get my work in front of the eyes of the thousand of people at SDCC, and hopefully it’ll let them know how to find me at the con.

BN: How did you become interested in graphic arts?

RB: I’ve always been into drawing for as long as I can remember. It was probably from watching He-Man and Thundercats as a kid. I got into comics when I was around 10 or 11, and I really liked that media because you can tell a whole story with just the drawings alone. The art is at least as important to the story, if not more so, as the text.

BN: As far as your career is concerned, how did you get from your beginnings to where you are now?

RB: After I graduated from VCU with an illustration degree, I started going to a lot of comic conventions. (I was) Hanging out with other artists, showing off my work and getting the chance to meet some editors. Eventually, I found myself in a portfolio review line for Marvel, and the editor there, John Barber, liked my stuff. He liked the mix of humor and action.

A week later, he gave me a call and said he had a project that would fit my style well, and that was the MARVEL HOLIDAY SPECIAL, which was a great first gig, because it gave me the chance to draw so many of Marvel’s characters. Great portfolio piece!

After that I quickly moved on to Cable & Deadpool, which was more of the humor and action stuff I was becoming known for. From there, Marvel just kept giving me more and more projects and it has kept me busy for the past five years.

BN: How did the idea of TenTonStudios arise?

RB: TenTonStudios came from all these crazy comic conventions I was going to when I fist started out. Me and a group of guys met each other on a comic book message board online, and we started planning trips to conventions together. Ah, the romance! We all got along so well that we decided to start our own message board and keep the group going. It’s been going well ever since.

BN: What are you trying to achieve with that site (TenTonStudios)?

RB: The site serves a lot of functions. Besides helping to promote the work and careers of the individual members, it’s also a good place for us to get in touch with fans, and give advice to young, upcoming coming comic artists. We have a new section on the forum, the Flight School, where the Ten Ton founders give in-depth, professional critiques and portfolio reviews to aspiring artists to help them improve their game.

BN: What has been the most rewarding thing to come out of TenTonStudios (besides The Oldest Whale Ever)?

RB: Ha! Shout out to Scott St. Pierre for his classic Whale story! People love that thing!

One great aspect of Ten Ton is just the network of artists and comics professionals it’s built. It’s great to be able to ask Khoi Pham for advice on a page layout, or crash at Chris Burnham’s place for a convention.

However, the most rewarding thing is when artists who have been posting on our message board for years get their first professional art gig, and knowing that the Ten Ton community helped in some way, either through advice and encouragement, or introducing them to the right people. We’ve all had to build our own careers from the ground up, so it always feels good to help someone else who’s going through the same thing.

BN: What inspires you to create?

RB: Oh man, so many things! A sense of competition with other artists is one of them, for sure. When I see one of my friends post some artwork that blows me away, I have to say to myself “I can beat that!”

A sense of fear of the ever-approaching deadlines is another one. When you know you have to have barely any time to finish an issue, all excuses and creativity block just goes out the window! Nothing is more inspiring than that fear of making a book late!

Also, a big part of it is just wanting a certain thing to exist, and know that it never will unless I make it myself.

BN: What is your creative process like?

RB: My creative process changes frequently, the main thing is to make it as easy as possible to get over any mental hurdles I have and plunge into the artwork.

The whole process really starts by talking to the writer about the story. Coming up with ideas and seeing where we each want to go with it is really important to get the creative fire lit. Then, when I get the script, I print it out and draw real quick gestures in the margins as I read.

The next step is a new one for me, but I’ve found it very helpful. I open Photoshop and redraw the gesture drawings on the screen to get a composition that I’m happy with. I’ve found it to be faster to do this in Photoshop because it’s easy to move things around or re-size them without have to erase and redraw several times to get it in the right place. I’m still keeping everything fast and loose, however.

Then, I print the page and trace the gestures onto the final paper in a light pencil, but this time with more of an eye for perspective and anatomy to really get the foundations of the drawing down. Next, depending on whether I’m inking or just doing pencils, I’ll go back in with either a darker pencil, or with a pen to add details and finish.

BN: Do you have any advice for people looking to pursue their dreams as comic artists?

RB: The main advice is just what you hear the most often: never stop drawing! Sometimes, people will come up to me at a convention and show me their portfolio and preface it by saying, “These samples are a few years old.” In that situation, I don’t even need to look at the person’s artwork to know they don’t have what it takes. If you have to rely on samples that are over a year old, you simply don’t have the focus and dedication to be a professional artist. You’re not putting the time in.

One of the things that I think the Ten Ton Studios message board is particularly good for is for young artists to get advice from established professionals. Check out the Flight School on TenTonStudios.

BN: You seem to be a rather successful artist with many things going on for you. What keeps bringing you back to dA to post?

RB: Deviant Art’s a great place to share your art around. It’s social networking made specifically for artists. I post artwork elsewhere on the web as well – TenTonStudios, Tumblr, and Facebook. You can see my stuff on any of those places. And of course, you can see my current project Power Play on Comixology.

Best of luck to Reilly Brown in all his future projects! PowerPlay also has a Twitter account, so make sure to check that out for the lastest news in regards to his creator-owned comic.

Which of Reilly’s works is your favorite?