Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Spotlight: Cara McGee

It's time to spotlight another outstanding student in the SEQA-ATL department! This is always hard but someone always tends to rise to the top. Cara McGee is an incredible example to other students as ever standard we hold students to Cara meets and excels. Though she can be serious and is continually working to improve her craft, Cara has never lost sight of the fun the work should be. She has a calming and fun energy people gravitate towards. One could say she's the matriarch in our undergraduates as her presence at Temple meetings always means a good crowd. Beyond seeing her work on this blog she keeps one called Fauxglass. And so I don't steal her thunder about upcoming work, check out the interview!

Q. Where are you from and what originally got you interested in sequential art?

A. I’m a military brat, so I’ve lived all over the world, but most of my life has been spent in Texas. Having lived in Germany when I was little though, anime was very accessible, and something that I watched a lot. It continued until I was in middle school, and discovered that shows like Sailor Moon and Dragon Ball Z actually started out as comics (this was back in the day when those and a couple of other series were actually released as monthly floppies, and you couldn’t find manga at all in novel form yet). I started emulating the style and took a lot of art classes in high school to improve. However, by the time I started college, I didn’t really think I could have a career in art, so I majored in a few different things. After a trip to Japan where I saw all sorts of people buying and reading comics all the time, I decided there was a lot of potential there, and wanted to make sure I learned to make comics to the best of my ability.

Q. What books (comic or otherwise) do you regularly read and why?

A. The only manga series that I’ve been keeping up with lately are Bakuman and Hitman Reborn, as well as girl-oriented stories like High School Debut and Lovely Complex. I’ve branched out into a lot of Western comics since going to SCAD though, and love series like North 40, Sky Doll, Scott Pilgrim, and Courtney Crumnin. I tend to be swayed by a title’s art a lot more than the story, at least at first. Otherwise I read a LOT of novels, mostly Historical or Fantasy.

Q. Who are your major influences?

A. I think I developed a lot of my style from reading and imitating manga by Hisayo Nakajo (HanaKimi), Kazuya Minekura (Saiyuki), Shiro Miwa (Dogs) and Hiroaki Samura (Blade of the Immortal), along with countless others. I have been turning to a lot more western influences though, and love artists like Ryan Kelly or Becky Cloonan, who have taught me not to be afraid of the brush.

Click here to expand/collapse the rest of Cara McGee's Q&A.

Q. Do you have a specific process in your work and, if so, what is it?

A. Oh man, I’m still trying really hard to nail down a process. Right now, I print out whatever script I’m working on so I can doodle thumbnails or ideas in the margins as I read. Then I go through again, working out the layout of the pages in breakdowns. Panel structure and pacing is something I’ve really been focusing on lately, so I spend a lot of time at this part. Once I think I’ve got some good compositions down, I’ll blow the thumbnails up and print them out, then light box more detailed pencils. After scanning those in and tweaking those in Photoshop, they get printed again, and I’ll either light box inks, or else print them in blue line, if I can afford to. Also, lettering still scares me. A lot.

Q. What tools do you prefer to use in your work and why?

A. It’s probably a huge waste of lead, but I do all my sketches and thumbnails with blue lead from Japan, as I’m more comfortable with it, and feel I can correct mistakes much more easily. What I use to ink depends (of course) on the look I’m going for. If I want a page or illustration to look more manga-influenced, I only use a G-pen and .005 microns to ink with, so I can get really fine, delicate lines. If I’m going for a bolder, darker look, I usually use a Pentel Pocket Brush along with a variety of any other tools I might need. Lately I’ve become a big fan of using the Maxxon white ink to soften edges or lighten areas. When using colors, I traditionally use cake watercolors (from a set I’ve had since high school), though I’ve started to experiment a lot with gouache as well.

Q. Do you have any professional work that has been published? And are you working on anything currently?

A. I actually did work on a short story for a small publisher before coming to SCAD, but it’s so horrible and embarrassing, I wont even say what it is (or the pen name I used). I only bring it up because the terrible reviews that it got actually helped push me to apply to SCAD so I could learn to do this stuff right. It’s paid off ten fold, as I’ve gained much more than I even expected at SCAD, and have even begun working on a title for Oni Press, thanks to the encouragement of my professors (and pitching many, many times). It’s called Confessions of a Virgin Sacrifice, written by Adrienne Ambrose and is really not anything I’d ever imagine I’d do, but I’m so glad I am. It’s such a fun story, and I’m going to do my best to make the art as kick ass as the writing.

Q. Are you working on any personal projects and, if so, what are they?

A. Haha, Confessions keeps me pretty busy since I’m still trying to figure out a good work method, but when I have the time, there’s a couple of mini comic ideas I’ve been trying to finish. Neither is more than 15 pages, but they’ve been taking me months since the technique and style is much more artistic and different than anything I’ve worked on in school. I also try to do a few cons every year, including anime and comic cons, and that means trying to put out a number of new illustrations and pin ups whenever I can work those in as well.

Q. How do you juggle your work load between college and your freelance life?

A. I actually try to make the two overlap whenever I can. If I learn a new technique for school, I figure out how I can apply it to what I’m doing for work, and sometimes I can develop a story I’ve been working on as writing exercises. It’s hard to be drawing assignments all the time and still try to make it feel like you’re having fun and enjoying it, so I like to try to stop and take breaks to sketch or paint things that are just for my pleasure.

Q. Who would you love to work with one day and why?

A. Haha, I have a total writer crush on Neil Gaiman and Brian Wood. I love almost everything these two have put out (Gaiman’s novels in particular) and would love to have a chance to work from one of their scripts.

Q. Where do you hope to see yourself professionally in five to ten years?

A. In Five Years? I hope to be teaching, preferably on a college level (SCAD’s still stuck with me a while longer while I attend Grad school!) and still working on comics. In ten years, who knows? I definitely want to still be involved with comics in some way, but I want to start learning the printing side of the business as well—maybe get started on editing or even start my own publishing company. My goal is to be able to teach and show everyone the techniques manga artists often employ that appeal to so many people, while balancing it with western ideas that make comics successful here. I’ve got my work cut out for me, in other words.

Now take some time to check out some of Cara's work!


Cara M. said...

thanks guys! I'm incredibly flattered to be picked! I just want to quickly note that under influences when I say Brian Wood, I meant Ryan Kelly. Go me!

Rick Lovell said...

Congrats Cara... well deserved. Hope we can work together before you graduate.

Pat Bollin said...

ZOIKS!!! I've been replaced! :) Congrats, Cara. You rock! I really enjoyed the interview! I'm still trying to figure out what your working method is for the green toned art. So give!

Jackie Lewis said...

Cara, you must school me on watercolors!! Your arts are gorgeous!!

Jeremy Nguyen said...

Magnificent! Great post guys, i love the idea of covering students and we hope to be doing the same over here in SAV at SEQALab. Much love!

Domo stanton said...

YAY CARA!!! I knew you'd be up there eventually!

Nolan Woodard said...

I made that edit for you, Cara. Congrats again!