Monday 30 April 2012

Z is (also) for Zowie! Patrick Goddard makes it to my blog in the nick of time

I have only been paired with Patrick Goddard as writer-and-artist once, but what a gig it was - Ephrael von Stern: Sister of Sigmar for Warhammer Monthly #63. (You can read more about it here.)

When the final comic hit the stands I was thrilled to see the images Patrick Goddard had produced, particularly because he had also got to draw the cover.

Patrick's probably most well-known currently for the Savage strip in 2000AD, written by Pat Mills. However, he has illustrated everything from Judge Dredd to Sinister Dexter.

Patrick has also very kindly taken time out of his busy schedule (which includes having moved studios!) to answer my questions. So, for the last time this year...

1. How did you start out as a professional artist?
I started out a fan like everyone else and had always drawn from a young age. I’ve got an older brother who got me into comics, I tirelessly tried to compete with him drawing, growing up, and I suppose that was a great way to practise and improve.  I did the usual thing of enjoying Art in school which led me onto Art College for a couple of years (I found it a waste of my time). I’d brazenly sent a few samples off to Marvel/DC when I was 17/18 and went to the old UKCAC a few times. I had a bit of interest but looking back I was nowhere near ready at that age and ventured off to college instead. I’ve got a degree out of it, but apart from helping me become a secondary school teacher it’s never been useful. Your work will get you work rather than any qualification, my course was poor and I never really learnt anything there.

2. What was it that gave you your big break and led to what you are doing now?
After college I messed about doing a number of jobs whilst trying to make it as an illustrator/artist but got burned on a few jobs and felt if I’m going to draw for a living I might as well try something I like doing so decided to try comics again. I again tried Marvel/DC but this was before the Internet boom and I got fed up with posting stuff overseas and all the waiting. I picked up a copy of 2000AD in the mid to late 90s to see what else was out there, and was pleasantly surprised to see them using more traditional artists rather than fully painted artwork which was all I could remember being done in the 90s. I’ve never really been a fan of some painted artwork as some of it was a complete mess storytelling wise. I chanced my arm and sent off a Dredd sample to 2000AD (who was always cool to draw) and to my surprise they liked it and asked me to do a sample script and then hired me for a Sinister Dexter strip straight away (thank you David Bishop!). I wished I tried them earlier, looking back, but never thought my drawing style would fit into the comic. I worked mainly as a penciller as inking isn’t one of my strongest talents, but found there wasn’t really the work available to sustain me so ended up inking my own stuff.

3. What is your preferred method of working? Which medium suits your style best?
I work very traditionally, all pencil/ink on Bristol board. I don’t do anything digitally, but hope to get into that a bit more in the future so I’m not left behind! I can’t see myself ever not drawing on paper though, it’s the best part, but I know how much computers can help artists nowadays – and we need as much help as we can get! I love working out the storytelling and compositions best, much more so than the finishing and inking. I enjoy the buzz of creating ideas and putting them down on paper, I just wish I could fully realise what’s in my head. Maybe one day I’ll get there!

4. You have illustrated all manner of famous (and infamous) comic book characters. Which are your favourites?
I really enjoy drawing Savage and Dredd the most. Savage tests me in more ways as it’s set in the ‘real’ world and in black and white. You have to work hard to balance out the compositions to keep them interesting. I’ve been looking at some of Al Williamson’s Agent Corrigan stuff a lot recently to inspire (and depress) me. With Dredd, you just get to let your imagination run wild and it’s always fun to design ships, buildings, fashions etc. Mega City 1 is a great place to draw, although I still haven’t nailed it as much as I would’ve liked, but I’m working on it.

5. How does working for 2000AD compare to working for Black Library?
I found Rebellion and Black Library very similar to work for, Matt Smith is a great editor to work for, and I remember a nice guy called Christian Dunn who was always a tremendous help. He’d send me copies of complete hardback books to help with reference – amazing! The only downside I found with Black Library was that I never got any of my artwork back, which was a shame. I have copies, but they’re just scattered around the house after several moves.

6. What is the appeal of working creatively within the Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000 settings?
I enjoy sitting at home drawing so much that I don’t really mind the subject matter, but I was itching to draw some Space Marines at the time – they just look damn cool! Although I enjoy designing characters/settings etc, it was refreshing to have most of that work done for me already. As I said, Black Library supplied me with so much reference material I could just focus on the storytelling. Plus I’m sure the fans would’ve picked up on the slightest thing I drew wrong so the pressure was on.

7. How did you find the process of illustrating Ephrael Von Stern: Sister of Sigmar and producing the colour cover for the Warped Visions issue of Warhammer Monthly?
I enjoyed drawing the strip, although my one gripe would be that I wished it was larger – in page length and print size. There was so much scope in the script that I found I didn’t really do it justice. I had to draw some panels quite small and remember that some of them would have worked better much larger. But working with restraints is one of the challenges of drawing comics; you just hope that it turns out OK in the end. Regarding the cover, I submitted the usual 5/6 thumbnails and drew the one Christian picked; luckily it was the one I preferred as well. The colouring was done by Len O’Grady I think, and he coloured my Sinister Dexter strips. I’m really proud of that cover; it was possibly one of the first I ever had published. There was one cover I did for Lone Wolves which Christian liked and included it as a pin up in the hardback collection book as well as a calendar which was great.

8. Of which piece of work are you most proud?
I’d have to say the covers (I think I did 4) I always felt I wished I had more page space to draw the strips, to get it more cinematic. As for my other work, I’m fairly happy with some of the stuff I’ve produced, but I’m one of those arty people who believe they’re only as good as their last job. You always feel you can do better on the next one, so that’s my aim. I’ve just finished a couple of episodes of the next book of Savage. I was perfectly happy with them whilst I was drawing them, but by the time I’ve sent them off I could already see ways of improving them – some drawing, some storytelling. You just have to move on and hope to learn and improve on the next strip.

9. Is there anything you haven’t illustrated that you would still like to?
There are loads of things I’ve yet to draw. I’d still like to draw superheroes at some point, just to get it out of my system. They were the comics I predominantly followed growing up (along with Battle Action Force and Star Wars weekly), but I’m not as much of a fan of the genre anymore; most of them don’t interest me. I’m more inclined to draw sci-fi nowadays, or some nice European graphic novel would be nice. There’s so much I’d like to do, I just hope I get the chance and career to do it.

10. What are you working on at the moment?
I’ve just started Book 8 of Savage (Rise like Lions) which is great. It kicks off at full steam and I think a couple of plot threads will be coming together, although I’m getting worried about Bill’s mortality a bit, I don’t think he’ll grow old gracefully! I’ve just finished a nice double page spread of 100s of rampaging Hammersteins which has been fun to do, I mean, how can you not enjoy your work when you get the chance to draw stuff like that?

11. What advice would you give to any aspiring artists wanting to follow in your footsteps?
I think the best advice I can give is to practise, practise, practise! Especially early on, the more you draw the more you will improve – simple. I used to try and pay attention to how things work, stuff like how the body moves, the way clothes hang, how things are built. I’d also look at how directors used to compose/light their films. I wouldn’t just look at comics. As great as they are to begin with, it’s always nice to take a step out of that world to see what else is out there. I’ve seen many aspiring artists with a distinctive style/design, but have no understanding about storytelling or perspective. You don’t want everyone to be the same, but I think if you can’t follow the story at a glance then I personally think you’ve failed as a comic artist. I mean your job is to tell a story, that I feel is the most important element to drawing comics, your style and skill will develop over time naturally. I don’t have a distinctive or recognisable style; I’m more concerned about getting the story across than being flashy or cool. Hopefully I’ll be happy with my ‘style’ one day, I’ve still got plenty to learn myself – it never stops!  

Thanks again to Patrick for making the time to take part in this interview. Remember, you can check out the other interviews I've conducted via this blog post here.

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