Aaron Renier is the Eisner Award winning author of Spiral Bound. He's also a dear friend of mine. I've always loved Aaron's art, from the minute I saw it. he's like the guy you would sit next to in elementary school that could draw anything---only he's followed through on being that guy and ended up as a consumate illustrator and first rate storyteller. When I look at Aaron's art, I see all the manic interest of a precocious kid---knights, weird animal characters, impossibly involved story lines---turned into highly elegant artwork. I am eagerly awaiting his first book of a projected trilogy, The Unsinkable Walker Bean, coming soon(ish) from first Second.
Here is Aaron's website:
Above art from the forthcoming Walker Bean book. Colors by Alec Longstreth.
1. can you describe your drawing routine---how often you draw, how many hour per day---how you break up the day with drawing?
The first thing I do in the morning is turn on NPR in my studio. I'll let it run in the background as I make breakfast, and while I'm gone walking Beluga (my dog). As long as it's going I have this calling to get to work. When I sit down at my table... around 10:00 I set my alarm for 4 hours. I try to get as much penciling as I can get done in that time. I always have a cup of coffee next to me, or a glass of water. I have signs on my door telling me I cannot bring in my laptop... because it gets way too distracting, and... for the MOST part I listen. About 3 days a week I go and do this at a coffee shop. Sometimes just being in my house is too distracting. Around 2:00 I stop for a late lunch. I can check my email... watch the Daily Show or if there is a new Office or 30 Rock on Hulu.com . At 3 I set my alarm for 3 hours and I try to tighten my pencils and start to ink. Sometimes I can finish a page at the end of this time. I usually ink to a book on tape... or I have listentoamovie.com playing in the background or Pandora.com (Yes my laptop has made it into my studio if this is going on) At around 6 I stop to walk Beluga and go to the park and have dinner. If I'm done with my work I go see what people are up to, but if I'm not around 8:00 I usually try to finish my page... maybe watching a Netflixed movie, or listening to a book on tape. This time I'm usually replacing my coffee or water with something... stiffer. This is a bastardized version of Alec Longstreth's schedule http://makecomicsforever.blogspot.com/2005/10/schedule.html
2. how much revision/editing do you do in you work?
I do very little editing with my art. I have come to really like the mistakes I make, and only white things out if I really made a mess. With text I edit quite a bit. I'm always looking back and thinking somebody doesn't sound right. My portfolio books are filled with post-it notes trying to remember all the changes I want. But sometimes I look back and want to throw away the notes because my idea to change it was dumb... but I leave them so I can think about it longer... because future Aaron will be a wiser Aaron.
3. talk about your process---do you write a script or make up the drawing as you go?
I work on a rough draft... and usually a second rough draft. But before I even start a draft I keep these recipe cards with ideas on them. Just single random thoughts I have... like... "Monster in pond" and plot ideas like "stucky is better sculptor than turnip." And eventually as I get more and more of these ideas on cards I can lay them out and shuffle them around and decide what goes and what I need to come up with and then eventually the entire idea comes to me.
When I get the story stuck in my head I draw it out with stick characters just focused on my pacing and my story. I go through it once in a composition notebook. Then I wait a few days and reread it. Then I go through it with a fine tooth comb looking for ways to make it better, and become more focused on my layouts. I also work this way when I go to my final art. I look at what I originally wrote, see the problems with it, and try to correct the problems.
4. do you compose the page as a whole or do you focus more on individual panel composition?
I try to compose the two page spread as a whole. I usually have both pages from a spread on my desk at one time. I am very interested in how each page flip looks.
5. what tools do you use?
I draw with regular #2 leaded pencils, although I should probably draw with a harder lead. I've inked most of the book I'm working on now with a Pentel Pocketbrush pen. I love it so much. All of Spiral-Bound was inked with Superblack Speedball ink, with a #2 watercolor synthetic brush. I letter with 08 Microns, and I do odds and ends with my Rapidographs and my Rotring art pen. I need to get a new fountain pen. I also have been using a razor blade to scratch up my drawings. http://drawman.blogspot.com/2008/01/razor-blade-inking-technique.html very fun and makes my drawings even more organic ... and I use white out to make white lines. I love the foam chisel tip.
6. what kind of paper do you use?
I draw on 500 series Strathmore Vellum, but sometimes art supplies don't have it... so I sometimes use whatever I can get. (14x17)
7. do you read a lot of comics? are you someone who reads comics and then gets excited to make more comics---or is your passion for making comics not linked to any particular love for other comics?
I love comics so much! I haven't been reading a lot lately, but I'm always excited to go get more. When I'm really into my own work I don't read many others. My reading has usually something to do with what I'm working on. Nonfiction and nonfiction used coffee table books are what get me interested in drawing. Books about boats, and animals and bugs. Children's encyclopedias. Big photo books on single topics.
8. do you make comics for a living? if not, how do you support yourself, and how does this relate to your comics making process?
I make money with my comics, but I really pay my rent doing illustration work.
9. do other art forms often seem more attractive to you?
More attractive that I would leave comics for them? No. I very much feel like this is what I want to do.
10. what artwork (or artists) do you feel kinship with?
With my friends who are creative. Most of them are cartoonists, but I have many friends from college who do fine art painting, sculpture, conceptual work, printmaking, photography, music... and I'm very interested in what they do. I was the cartoonist in my school... and they in turn are interested in what I do.
11. is a community of artists important or not important to you?
Very important. I've moved five times in the last 10 years and every time I move I strongly consider what kind of artist community is there. I love being challenged by the people I know.
12. what is your parents/family's reaction to your work?
Very supportive, but I always think they would have been happier if I would have gone into advertising. My mother thinks I have a good mind for thinking of... advertisements. She is wrong. But everybody really loves what I do, and when I get jobs with things they've heard of ... like Nickelodeon... they really think I've made it.
13, what is more important to you---style or idea?
Idea. I think my style comes along with idea... it's along for the ride. My work keeps growing, but I don't think much about what cool new way I can draw eyeballs or something. I sincerely try to draw as best I can. What comes out of me is what I am capable of. The more elaborate my ideas the more I challenge myself to draw different things.
14. is drawing a pleasure to you or a pain?
Both. But there is nothing more pleasurable than being happy with a drawing. It makes my feel unbelievably amazing.
15. when you meet someone new, do you talk about being an artist right away? do you identify yourself as an artist or something else?
I don't tell people what I do unless it comes up. I never say "artist" because I think that sounds pompous. I love saying I'm a cartoonist. I don't need to us a more vague word to describe what I do. "Artist" describes everything from basket weaver to naked bungee jumping. I'm a cartoonist.
16. do you feel at all connected to older comic artists like steve ditko or jack kirby---or does this seem like a foreign world to you?
I feel very connected to the artists I grew up loving. John Severin, Bill Watterson, Herge. I feel very connected to them.
17. do you ever feel the impulse to not draw comics?
No. I'm frightened by the idea of not doing them. Terrified.
18. do you draw from life?
I used to more. I need to start going to figure drawing again.
19. do you pencil out comics and then ink? or do you sometimes not pencil?
Always pencil. The only thing I don't really pencil are repetitive things like a pile of rocks, or water. If it's a texture type of thing I go at it straight with ink.
20. what does your drawing space look like?