1) Tell the readers a bit about yourself Paul.
I was born in 1982 in Boston MA. I failed all my art classes in school and was that kid that all the art teachers hated. I’ve always wanted to draw comic books. So I’ve never aspired for any other career. A lot of kids that were in there would mention wanting to be an animator for Disney, etc. I felt like an animator doesn’t often have its own creative voice, and I was all about my own personal ideas. So I set out making mini comics about my cats, or whatever the hell else a kid thinks about. Eventually I graduated high school and was quickly rejected from Mass College of Art. I soon became a retail music store dude for years to come while hitting Chicago Wizard world and San Diego Comic Con. It was there through networking that I was able to get my foot in the door with comics and the rest is history.
2) How did you start out in art and what is your official training?
I worked summers as a muralist in Boston starting when I was 13. There I learned a lot about graffiti and fine art, and it strengthened my ability to see my art as a whole finished product, rather than relying on someone else’s’ vision to complete the colored part of it. As far as digital coloring goes, I learned what I know from Dash Martin, Danimation and the TwinCruiser guys that used to do Warcraft stuff. I also picked up a bunch of tips from other artists on penciljack.com. Aside from that it was kind of a hit or miss learning process to get to where I am today.
3) Talk about doing murals and all the strange jobs you’ve had.
Doing murals was a trip. It was like a crash course in color theory. And if you do a bad job, it’s there for everyone to see. It’s helped me be really comfortable with public art.
I had a very brief period working for Starbucks. Those were the meanest people I’ve ever worked for. I remember being new and taking peoples orders. I think someone ordered a Cafe Mocha or something like that. So I marked the cup CM, thinking that was right. WRONG, apparently that meant Caramel Machiatto or something close to that and they smacked the cup out of my hand and stomped on it when it hit the ground. I was lovingly yelled at to do it AGAIN.
Working in a music store was by far the best though. Tons of free live shows, free music and all the time to screw off that I wanted. Sure I was underpaid and my bosses were assholes that screwed me over every chance they got, but guess what? Hey, wondering where all those box sets went off to?? That’s right, they’re in my dvd collection now, suckerssss.
My book is also available through there stores now, heh. My final job was doing chalkboards for Wholefoods, which I was also not loved for my creativity. You can check that stuff out on my flickr account.
4) How did Aqua come about?
Well, I was looking to do a book for Image. I was working on a book with Benito Cereno called Guitarmageddon, which we’ve officially parted ways on (But not the end of our collaborations). I was looking at my deviantart page and noticed my buddy Sean “Cheeks” Galloway had done sort of an “Artist Wanted” post for his friend Mark Smith’s new book. I sent an email out saying I was interested and Mark emailed me back the same day.
First off I was surprised that Mark knew my work already, and I was stoked to find that he wanted to work together. Originally it was going to be this other book about space. But very early on Mark was just showing me a list of names he had thought of for new books, and Aqua Leung was one of them. I quickly dropped the current project and came on to Aqua to develop it with Mark and we got down to creating the characters and scenes for the book.
5) Tell us how did you approach the concepts and designs for Aqua Leung?
Well, I wanted to pull from a lot of 80′s cartoon designs and color schemes. The original vibe I got from the project was a Saturday morning cartoon show. And my best memories are definitely from that era. I think it was important to kind of stay with the very Rome looking norm that Atlantis is usually depicted in, as it kind of makes your brain accept the setting, but then you can get away with doing characters who’s design and look are kind of a radical departure.
6) How do you go out laying out a page? You usually print out the script, doodle on the script, then do layouts, and then pencils and inks?
Yeah, I would take the script print it out, then just break it all down on the sides of the page like I used to do on my classwork notebook in middle school. I picked up that process from Ed Mcguiness, who was nice enough to give me some of his early Superman scripts years ago when I met him in Boston. I got to see how someone who did it efficiently for a living translated the script to art and his panel and design sense.
The penciling stage for me is very brief. I spend maybe 4 minutes on a page (I’m sure it shows, hah) and the rest is all letting the inks breath life into it. I don’t feel like I can draw the saw line twice and keep the energy of it. So rather than waste it on pencils I just use them as a skeleton to build the characters on top of.
7) What have you learned from Aqua Leung that will change your future process? Will you pencils and ink straight through from now on?
I’ve learned an awful lot about print. It’s something I just could not have known going into my first book. I think being so hands on with every aspect of creating the comic will always help me in the future, because none of it is a mystery to me anymore.
I also more or less found myself as a comic book artist. I really didn’t go back and redo anything from the early pages of the book (Drawn in 2005), because while it stings to look back at them, I left them there because it sort of marked my beginning, and it sort of goes along with the character Aqua growing up as the story progresses. It’s very fitting and I’m still proud of it.
At first working on Aqua things went a bit slow but towards the end you hit a stride with 60 pages in 30 days and did some of your best work. What was your secret to this?
Yeah, I think figuring out which process for me worked best took a long time to get down. I was also working at Wholefoods and a music store a lot, so I didn’t have a lot of free time to do something for, ya know, free. I also had a hard time finding a colorist that understood me.
Jacob who colored Hector Plasm was originally attached, then a friend of mine Robert from DA until we eventually settled on Russ. Somewhere after issue 1 things slowed down script wise, as I remember I was taking time to do some commercial work, and you were developing Popgun. Towards the end though I had my working method down, I had moved from Boston to Austin and I quit my day jobs. So it was like an explosion of free time that enabled me to just draw all day and get things done finally.
9) Tell me about the process of coming up with the cover?
For my very first published cover, I wanted to go all out. I also wanted to flex my coloring skills, so I wanted to draw something massive. I thought, man, this cover is going to get around, and ultimately make people pick the book up and flip through it.
I drew and colored the cover in one day. Again, being low tech, I just taped the two pieces of paper together, did some semi quick pencils and off I went inking away. I got lost in all the little wrinkles in the Millennium Turtle’s face and kind of zoned out.
It felt like I was just doing some sort of Vernon Reid crazy noodle’n guitar solo for hours. With the colors I think I used just 3 layers. The turtle, Aqua and then one for the eels. That way I could make sure to contrast them enough and make a few tweaks later. And there you have it, cover magic!
10) What equipment do you use?
Well, for paper I’ve been using either Eon boards or the boards I get from Image, which are a little heavier but still really nice. Inks I started using Speedball, but eventually switched to Winsor & Newton. My friend Dash Martin told me to try out FW so that’s next on my list.
As for my brush, I used a Winsor series 7 size 2. Although the first 40 pages are inked with a size 3. For pencilling I was using those non photo blue pencils, because I liked how soft they were, but at the same time broke constantly. I have this great fear of the tip of the pencil breaking off and hitting me in the eye. So I eventually transitioned to a blue mechanical pencil.
For coloring I use a PC, (YEAH THAT’S RIGHT PC HATERS.) with CS3 and a Wacom tablet to color.
11) What does your work day look like in terms of your work schedule?
I wake up now around 10am, make some coffee, answer emails and do Internet update type of stuff sometimes for 2 hours. Then I script some of my new projects like Party Bear, or Maxy J. Millionaire for a bit. I usually only spend an hour on those. Then I’m either penciling coloring and inking for the rest of the day until maybe midnight. Then I switch back over to email mode until maybe 2am. I do this maybe 6 days a week now.
12) What gets you excited about Aqua Leung and why should people read the book?
I hope that the book comes off as a labor of love. When I look at it, I can see all kinds of growing pains and evolution. I hope our personalities show through in the writing and art. I’m excited because I have a whole universe of characters to play with now, and the stage is set for the rest of the series.
13) Will you approach your next project the same way?
Yes and no. I want the art in the Aqua Leung series to mature with the character while keeping it all grounded in the cartoony style established in the first volume. My own projects explore much different writing themes and formulas. So hopefully readers will check out some of the non collaborative books that I’m doing, and come in expecting something very very different.
14) You are a trained colorist as well. What was your approach to working with Russ Lowery?
Russ is the man. He was super easy to work with, and didn’t get mad at me for being a control freak when it comes to colors. I couldn’t have done Aqua Leung with a colorist that wasn’t going to do something that wasn’t in the same vein as my personal work as a colorist.
For each chapter I would write up descriptions of each page with colored sample panels or photo ref. I would then hand them off to Russ and he did his thing. I would then take them back and instead of trying to explain some changes I would just retool the file until it really had the look I was going for when I first drew the page.
As I think of a page from inks to colors when I start it. In a few rare cases in Aqua I actually colored some of the book due to early previews and time constraints. It’s interesting to see the transitions. Check out pages, 21, 36, 95, 125, 134, 165, 166, 167 and 180. Oh, and obviously the cover.