Witch Doctor artist Lukas Ketner took time out of his busy schedule to talk about art for this week’s “7 Questions” feature. Read his answers to my burning questions below.
1-You’ve used your illustration skills in many fields, why are comic books your anchor as an artist?
It has to do with the ability to tell stories through drawing, and arranging those drawings in such a way to convey the passage of time, space, and occurrence. It’s the first thing I’ve tried to do that’s satisfying in such a complete way, and challenging in the most infuriating way as well. When you finish a page, and that page works in the best way you can manage to tell that chunk of the story, you really feel like you’ve earned something. It’s also the only work I’ve done that requires such a sheer quantity of illustration, and that results in technical drawing skills improving from all the practice. I’ll look at something I just drew from time to time and think things like, “huh, that worked well. I guess I’ll draw noses more like that from now on.”
2-What naturally comes out of your hand when you’re absent-mindedly doodling?
Cute plush toy designs. Not kidding. There’s one of my favs hidden in every issue of the first series.
3-If you weren’t so busy with your Witch Doctor duties, what other Image/ Skybound book would you want to take a stab at?
The Infinite! For doing something new and compelling with time travel, and for the groovy outfits.
4-Which artists currently working in the industry are you getting inspiration from?
I’m buying up everything I can find by artists Sean Murphy and Jerome Opena, and reading said finds repeatedly. I’m really intrigued by both because their older work is fine and dandy, but at some point in the last few years, they both turned some crazy, invisible corner, and now they’re both unmatched in my opinion. There’s so many other artists’ work that I really love, but few that I’m so IN love with that I’ll read the same stories ten+ times, linger on every page, and cry softly.
5-What’s the system like between you and Witch Doctor writer Brandon Seifert when it comes to creating the art?
It starts with the script, which I first get a draft of to familiarize myself with what’s likely going down in the Witch Doctor world for that issue. By the time the final draft is ready, Brandon and I have already gone through several revisions of anything new, such as monsters and new characters and settings. We may or may not have discussed ideas for these in the past, but I create a concept drawing new to the issue to ensure that we’re on the same page. This also gives me something to use as a model sheet so that characters and creatures look consistent throughout the story. If I only have the previous page to refer to, sometimes designs end up off-model as the pages progress, sort of like a visual campfire game of ‘telephone’. Or ‘videophone’ I guess. Never mind. Since Brandon is also the letterer, we have a pretty rigid system of thumbnails, or rough layouts in place to make sure that there’s going to be enough room for Brandon to letter it the way he wants to. Once those are approved, I drop the thumbs into blank spreads and pencil right overtop of them so that everything stays in place. After that, I ink it just like I would on paper. I use a Wacom Cintiq to draw everything these days, which makes editing even finished art easier than it otherwise would be. That’s about it for pages. Covers are a little more of a wild card, those are more likely to be drawn traditionally so that I have some original artwork to sell from time to time.
6-Do you have any advice you can give to up-and-coming artists- how to improve, where to meet writers, etc?
As far as improvement goes, milk people for what they really think of what you’re doing. Even if you have a ways to go, most folks won’t say so because you can draw better than they can, or because they think you’re asking them if your dress makes you look fat. Talk to editors, take your stuff into cons for a professional look by other artists, and be prepared for notes, not praise. Even if you feel like you’re not ready, DRAW COMICS. Lay out pages and get familiar with visual storytelling. There’s plenty of amazing illustrators that I admire that can’t tell a story with pictures, and plenty of artists whose style I don’t care for that can make the world outside of the page truly go dark. As for meeting writers, just put your best work wherever you can that writers will see it, online or in your portfolio, anywhere. Writers will come to you. Artists have an advantage when it comes to rookie self-promotion in that it only takes a glance at something good to hook someone’s interest, whereas a newcomer writer’s hard work takes a greater time commitment on the part of the prospective reader to showcase talent. If you really want to draw comics, show your stuff to pros to get pointers on how to improve, but also show your work to as many aspiring writers as you can. Often your art is their ticket to getting their work read, but they are your ticket to giving your pretty pictures context and substance. Together, you can make a lasting impression that you wouldn’t otherwise be able pull off on your own, especially if you go the extra mile and put together a sample story instead of a pitch that promises one.
7-Who would win at thumb war: Eric Gast or Vincent Morrow?
Morrow would win by cheating with magic. Eric threatens to quit, Morrow bares his soul, winning another inch of Eric’s trust, and thus their flawed but fateful Sherlo-Watsonian bond heals ever tighter. It’s all in the next series.