Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Spotlight: Jackie Lewis

Our latest student spotlight came to us without a background in drawing at all. Jackie's BA is in Theater Studies from Emory and needed to take some provisional courses to prove she was up to snuff and could make it in our graduate program (since we don't let just anyone in). Not only did she prove herself but she excelled. Jackie Lewis took to drawing and storytelling like a fish does to water. The transformation from newbie to literally everything to proficient and accomplished artist as one of our lead graduates has been an amazing thing to behold and we at SCAD-Atlanta feel blessed we got to be there when it happened. Editors have taken notice of her work too and even before she has completed her studies she has already been published in an anthology and is also hard at work on her first graphic novel with Oni Press. You can check out more of her work and follow her at her blog aptly named Jackie Makes Comics. And, boy, does she ever!

Q. Where are you from and what originally got you interested in sequential art?
A. I’m from Atlanta, and I’ve lived here all my life. I started watching the X-Men Adventures on Saturday mornings, and became completely obsessed. Like every ‘80’s kid, I loved Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, He-Man, and Thundercats, so taking that step into the world of comics from the X-Men cartoon was not that big a stretch for me. My gateway comic was Wolverine #74, and I read that thing until the cover fell off and I had to buy another copy years later. I’m still kind of obsessed with Wolverine…

Q. What books (comic or otherwise) do you regularly read and why?
A. I’ve mostly been reading self-contained stories, whether they’re collected shorter stories like Blacksad or graphic novels like Asterios Polyp. As I find artists and writers who inspire me, I have taken to following the creators instead of following a particular character. I used to read a lot of X-Men titles, like Astonishing, New Mutants, and Uncanny. I still love them like crazy. I also used to pick up anything Wolverine touched, but I’m not really up to date with my Wolvie trivia anymore. He has a son now, right?

Q. Who are your major influences?
A. One huge influence is Jeff Smith. Bone was one of the first independent graphic novels that I read, and I connected with Smith’s storytelling and drawing style immediately. I love the way he uses line and texture, and he’s wonderfully talented with mixing his cartoony style with realistic proportions. Jen Wang, Juanjo Guarnido, and Eric Canete are fantastic artists and storytellers, all with different strengths that I admire and hope that one day I’m in their stratosphere of awesome. Chris Sanders draws lovely characters full of life and personality. Chris Schweizer (who is also a top-notch cartoonist) recently introduced me to Pierre Alary’s art and OH MAN his stuff is beautiful. I also grew up on Disney movies, and I have to admit that I draw a lot of influence from pretty much every Disney movie ever. I’m drawn to fantasy adventure stories, and I think I can blame Disney (and the ‘80’s) for that.

Q. Do you have a specific process in your work and, if so, what is it?
A. If I’m drawing a story from a script, I’ll take it in 25-page chunks. I’ll do little doodles right on the script pages, trying to figure out what size I want certain panels to be, depending on the varying importance that different panels carry. I then design my pages in thumbnail form, no fewer than eight thumbs to one sheet of paper. This helps me keep my drawings tight and readable. Also, if I hate what I just drew, it’s no big deal because the thumbnails are so small; I’ll just redraw until it looks like I wanted. I then take my thumbnails and blow each of them up to the size that I want to pencil at (usually 10”x15”), and I light box that onto the bristol. I tighten up my pencils, then ink directly on top of that. One day, when I save up enough money, I’ll get a large-scale scanner/printer so that I can just print blue line directly onto my bristol. I dream of that timesaving day, and hope it gets here soon!

Q. What tools do you prefer to use in your work and why?
A. I like Holbein inks, Col-erase pencils, and Pentel pocket and color brushes. I like the pocket and color brushes because I can get a good line weight range from them, and they’re easy to break out when I find that I have a few minutes to ink. When I’m feeling fancy (and I am dedicating a few hours to nonstop work), I’ll break out my Kolinsky hair brushes (which lay down ink like a dream). I like to use the Strathmore 300 series vellum bristol board that comes in loose sheets, mostly because it’s cheap and it works just as well as the fancier papers.

Q. Do you have any professional work that has been published? And are you working on anything currently?
A. I did a 3-pager in Jam! Tales from the World of Roller Derby, put out by Oni Press this past June. You should totally check it out. It’s chock full of awesome artists and writers, and there’s not much that’s better than roller derby chicks. I’m currently working on an unannounced project for Oni Press. It’s written by Christina Weir and Nunzio Defilippis, it’s about baseball, and it’s awesome!

Q. Are you working on any personal projects and, if so, what are they?
A. I have the seeds for four different projects laid down right now. There are a couple that I want to start pitching soon. One is about a teenager who’s lost her sister, and her quest to find her. The other is about a young pilgrim girl and her adventures in the New World. They’re still in the early stages of development, but I’m so excited about writing them that they’re moving along pretty quickly.

Q. How do you juggle your workload between college and your freelance life?
A. I try to incorporate my professional work into my course workload, wherever possible. I don’t find it all that trying right now, but it has been difficult in the past. Basically, I try to make a little time for myself each day (like reading, knitting, etc), and work like a crazy person the rest of the time. Luckily, I am happiest when I’m working, because I get to make comics!

Q. Who would you love to work with one day and why?
A. Neil Gaiman, call me.

Q. Where do you hope to see yourself professionally in five to ten years?
A. I’ll be Supreme Ruler of Inkiness, and I’ll live in a castle surrounded by a moat filled with rainbows. Talking unicorns and dragons will live in harmony in the Magical Forest of Cintiqs, and Kolinsky weasels will romp through the Blue Line Meadows. If all that doesn’t work out, I’ll happily be busy making awesome, awesome comics.

And here's some of Jackie's amazing work. Go out get a copy of "Jam!" now and be ready for when her graphic novel hits the shelves this coming year!










Audrey Morris said...

well deserved!

Julie said...

Hooray, Jackie! I hadn't seen her kelpie pages until just now. They're pretty darn cool. <3

Cara M said...


Pat Bollin said...

I still can't believe how far you're work came, and how fast. It's really beautiful, and you rock! Keep rockin, girl.