Kevin Colden: Hardest working man in show business. And though his name might not trip off your tongue in the manner of artists like Lee, Hitch, Seth or others there is no doubt in my mind that it one day will. Kevin’s artistic style allows him to easily cross all genres and quickly pencil, ink, color and letter all kinds of stories – and quickly he does, for I’ve never met an artist faster, more efficient and more professional than Our Man Colden. His work has graced the pages of various indie anthologies like HOUSE OF TWELVE, TRUE PORN 2 and MAULED and the next year will see him complete his two color graphic novel, FISHTOWN. Recently, Kevin has joined webcomic collective, The Chemistry Set, lending digital pen and ink to TODT HILL, written by your humble blogger.
Hands deep in all forms of medium – comics, film, graphic design and more – and creating strange, unique worlds on a battered and time-worn drafting table that has the distinctive honor of once belonging to sequential master, Bernard Krigstein, Kevin Colden’s feet are teetering on the precipice as he peers over the edge into artistic fame: all he has to do is jump.
Kevin took a minute away from posting today’s TODT HILL to answer questions about his work, collaboration and limited color palletes.
KLEID: I find it weird when I mention your name to folks I know in the industry and they draw a blank. You and I have been drinking and drawing for years now and I’ve seen you at almost every convention I’ve been to, pimping work that’s drawn the eyes of Erik Larsen and folks at the Big Two. How about taking two seconds to telling these fine people who you are and why they should drink with you besides owning Krigstein’s old drawing table.
COLDEN: Haha! Well, let’s see. I’ve lived in New York for a few years now, but I was born in ’78 and raised on the outskirts of Philadelphia in the 80’s and 90’s. My earliest memories are of my older brother Rich reading to me from Origins of Marvel Comics, so I guess that’s how the bug bit me. I used to buy GI Joe and Spiderman at the local 7-11, and I drew my first comic at age 6.
In my comics career, I’ve been primarily associated with House of Twelve, who I continue to draw for and work conventions with, and I’ve drawn small press comics ranging from horror to humor, drama and everything else, though I tend to shy away from superheroes. I write a sporadically scheduled column on Sequart.com and, of course, I’m a part The Chemistry Set.
Beyond comics, I spent a number of years as an actor, and play several musical instruments, having supported myself gigging as a singer/songwriter in my Kubert School days. I also have done art direction for several movies and have produced one short film. And since you brought it up, I actually do own a drawing table with some pedigree, which Greg Sadowski graciously let me take from Bernie Krigstein’s Union Square studio when it closed in 2004.
KLEID: You’ve recently graduated from doing your own short stories and minis to collaborating with a variety of writers such as myself, Elizabeth Genco and the folks at Media Blasters. What’s it like moving from total creative control into sharing the storytelling with folks who dream the ideas and direct you how to draw it?
COLDEN: Well, I’ve always worked from scripts written by other writers, so it’s really only new to the readers familiar with my work, not so much to me personally. In fact, in some ways I’m a writer’s artist, because I concern myself more with storytelling and pacing than fetishistically over-rendered drawings. And most writers appreciate that a lot.
When working from a script, I view the writer as the originator of the piece, and my primary concern is remaining true to his or her vision. However, I have to know my own artistic limitations and adapt the script in the best way I can, while still adding my own personal touches. Usually that involves interpreting the spirit of the story instead of a literal translation of the script. It’s also quite a bit different from drawing my own scripts because I never write a full panel-by panel script, whereas most writers I work with do.
Working collaboratively also helps me to explore new creative territory and forces me to draw things I wouldn’t normally draw. In some ways it’s actually liberating. The most terrifying thing any creator can face is a blank page. Once you finish a page, there’s the lingering voice in the back of your brain wondering “Will I be able to do this again tomorrow? Or ever again in my life?” When working with a writer the page isn’t blank, it’s got scribblies on it already.
KLEID: One of the things that caught my eye when considering you as the artist for TODT HIll is your innovative use of color. You used a limited pallete on the graphic novel you’re working on, FISHTOWN, and have applied that to RED and now TODT HILL. Tell us your thoughts on color and what sort of explorations you’d like to try with it?
COLDEN: I’m not a huge fan of heavily rendered computer coloring, I’ll admit. My favorite colorists of all time are Marie Severin and Tatjana Wood, both of whom did astounding, expressive work during the days of hand separations. Color never really clicked for me until I was working on my first film set, and noticed how the colored lights played on the faces and costumes of the actors. It finally dawned on me that when we look at an object, we’re not seeing the actual object; we’re seeing light reflected off of the object. What would happen if all of the lights in the world were only green and blue?
As far as exploration, each project dictates its own specific needs. With RED, it was Elizabeth’s idea to do spot red, which was something I’d always wanted to try. That’s one color. FISHTOWN (which will be done and out soon, I swear!) was originally going to be full color, but a few pages in I realized it wasn’t working, so I chose two colors that fit the mood best. And with TODT HILL, the nautical theme nudged me in the right direction, to which I added a third color for story effect. Maybe I’ll just keep adding one color at a time until I’m up to speed with everyone else.
KLEID: LIke me, working on TODT HILL is your first experience with webcomics. How have you had to change your style to adapt to the new format and what are your thoughts on print versus web comix?
COLDEN: I haven’t really had to change my style or workflow at all for the web. I still work at print proportions primarily because I find it aesthetically pleasing. Besides the technical aspect of having to make sure the lettering will be legible onscreen, it’s pretty much business as usual. In the future I’d like to more fully explore the potential of digital comics.
And that potential is almost limitless. Webcomics really are the next logical step for the serial comic, especially indie/underground comics. There is an infinite canvas for art and storytelling experimentation, no overhead costs for printing, and a potential audience of billions of readers. On top of that, there is a near-immediate audience response, which is something that print comics rarely offer. Kinda like being a tiny rock star, yet still being able to walk around in public.
Still, I love the feel of newsprint. And the smell. Sometimes when I’m alone at home I pull out old comics just to sniff them. Um… you don’t have to print that last part.
KLEID: Today’s Friday and I know you’ve got to get out of here and pimp today’s TODT HILL page – but before you go, what are the next five years like for Kevin Colden?
COLDEN: In the immediate future, Todt Hill will be ongoing, until at least next August, and I will continue be involved with The Chemistry Set in some way unless Vito goes crazy and hacks us all up with a pickaxe. I still contribute to House of Twelve on a regular basis, having collaborated with K. Thor Jensen on a story in the most recent release (HOUSE OF TWELVE’S HEAVY METAL THE MOVIE). FISHTOWN will make it out one way or another, possibly as a webcomic or a six-part series in print, and I am already beginning to research my next book, which will be an historical piece.
Beyond that, who knows? There are enough story ideas in my head to last a lifetime, and as long as I keep myself properly caffeinated, they will all see the light of day. If nothing else, I’ll certainly be making the convention rounds, spreading the love to everyone not wearing the proper protective gear.