Wednesday 18 April 2012

P is for PJ Holden

I came to work with PJ when I was scripting strips for Warhammer Monthly. I had written a three-page, one-trick story set in Games Workshop’s Necromunda setting (a futuristic industrial wasteland off-shoot of the Warhammer 40,000 universe) called Slavebreak!

I was hugely impressed by the amount of effort PJ put into creating the various characters for the strip, and have gone on to enjoy his work in such periodicals as 2000AD, The Judge Dredd Megazine and Strip Magazine.

And I'm pleased to say that the Belfast-based comic book creator has agreed to be interviewed for Artist's Month on So here we go...

1) How did you start out as a professional artist?

I've always wanted to draw comics, but finding the moment to turn my back on a well-paid job in IT was always difficult. Oddly having two kids pushed me into an either or choice (up until three years ago, having a computing career and comic drawing career was my life).

2) What was it that gave you your big break and led to what you are doing now?

I've had a couple of 'first' professional gigs. But the one that really kicked it off was my first Dredd that came about after doing a bunch of short strips with Gordon Rennie for various small press titles. I showed Andy Diggle (then editor) my portfolio at the first Dredd Con (in 2000) and he said he'd give me some work. Gordon then pushed a little and bang, things were off and running. Then stalling, and running and stalling.

3) What is your preferred method of working? Which medium suits your style best?

Script + pencil + inks. Anything else boils to me arsing around. I've introduced and removed digital elements to my work as the mood took, and I've done various things, like greywash. I'm never sure if I have a single set style. I think my work is always recognisable, regardless of whatever idiotic method of rendering I decide to coat it in.

4) You have illustrated all manner of famous (and infamous) comic book characters. Which is your favourite?

Dredd. I'm pretty much in love with drawing Dredd.

5) How does working for 2000AD compare to working for Black Library?

Well, it's been a while! My last work for the Black Library was waaay back in... mumble, mumble something. I enjoyed both - I'd just started my drawing career and to get work from 2000AD AND the Black Library felt like, this is it, I'm on my way! (It wasn't it, and I wasn't on my way, though)

6) What is the appeal of working creatively within the Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000 settings?

I'm more a Warhammer 40K man. I just like the absurdity of it. The over the top, grim piled on grim. It makes me laugh.

7) How did you find the process of illustrating Slavebreak! for Warhammer Monthly?

Oh er... I wish I could remember. I think I enjoyed it. Certainly it's one of my fave strips that I drew from that period. And that's usually a good sign. [That is a good sign! – JG]

8) Of which piece of work are you most proud?

The Battlefields strip I did with Garth. That's less pride in the work as much as it's pride in the overall strip. The story and subject matter where both top notch.

9) Is there anything you haven’t illustrated yet that you would like to?

Blimey, I'm sure there are lots of things. I'm not madly driven to draw certain things though - I like doing stories, and doing them well. Whether the story consists of cyborgs, airplanes or dinosaurs is less of an issue.

10) What are you working on at the moment?

Dept of Monsterology for Renegade Arts, Samizdat Squadron for The Judge Dredd Megazine and BOX for Strip Magazine.

11) What advice would you give to any aspiring artists wanting to follow in your footsteps?

Marry someone rich.

Thanks again to PJ for taking the time to answer my questions and post his pictures, more of which you can find here, along with various projects in progress, on his blog.

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