KAGAN MCLEOD ANSWERS 15 QUESTIONS WITH JULINDA MORROW
Kagan McLeod is a freelance illustrator and comic book artist.
Kagan’s epic graphic novel, Infinite Kung Fu, is an 11-year-in-the-making, 464-page symphony of martial arts madness. His art is full of lush brush strokes closely akin to those that characterize Chinese calligraphy.
A gallery of Kagan’s inspiring art follow this interview.
Julinda Morrow: What path led you to comics and sequential art?
Kagan McLeod: It was a no-brainer for me; I’ve always liked drawing and storytelling so it’s a natural fit. I never really tried to get work in the industry; I just did my own comics as side projects. Comics are so much work you might as well be doing the stuff you really like if any at all.
JM: What schooling or training did you receive?
KM: I went to Sheridan College for Illustration. I’ve got no degrees or fancy titles.
JM: Who, in your opinion, are the pioneers of sequential art?
KM: I don’t think I’m qualified to have an opinion on that (other than the Egyptians). I’m really picky about comics, so I don’t read a ton. I’m not informed enough to give a good answer.
JM: How do you define sequential art?
KM: Any series of images that tell a story.
JM: Do you find that sequential art provides you with near-limitless possibilities for storytelling or do you experience it as constraining?
KM: The only limits are your own imagination and skill level as an artist. Maybe time would be a limiting factor, I guess, because the medium really requires a lot of it. But I haven’t dreamt up anything yet that I think couldn’t be done with sequential art.
JM: What qualities or resources do you believe are most important for a sequential storyteller to have?
KM: Other sources of income. Discipline as well, because comics are really, really easy to NOT do.
JM: How do you approach your work process?
KM: The process of making sequential art is so long it always feels daunting at the beginning. You hit little milestones as you complete panels and pages, and then chapters. The driving force for me is always to be able to read the final work as it’s meant to be read, panel to panel, all nice and finalized. It never comes out the way you imagined it. Actually, when I imagine comics I’m working on it’s all very cloudy, so the excitement comes from committing ink to paper and making it real. The blank page causes the most mental anguish, and after the pencil or sketch stage everything is smooth sailing. I can go on autopilot and just ink and finalize.
JM: How many hours a day do you work? Are you uniformly productive on any given day or more productive on some days than others?
KM: Probably eleven hours a day, with a four hour dinner and possible nap break in the middle. I think I’m uniformly productive but there’s definitely many times when I’d rather not have to think and work. Sometimes mindless inking and colouring is bliss.
JM: Was it a struggle, at the start of your career, to find work and make ends meet?
KM: I got a job right out of school in the graphics department at the National Post, so I always had a steady income that allowed me to start my own personal projects and build my own client base on the side. Making money solely from comics is too terrifying for me.
JM: What has been your most valuable professional experience?
KM: Probably working in the newsroom. Working with lots of different editors and designers on any given project with really tight deadlines – and knowing your work will be in print the next day – hones an artist quickly. Artistic skill is only part of the job.
JM: What inspires or informs you creatively?
KM: I really like Golden Age illustration. I’m currently reading a lot of non-fiction stuff to get ideas for fiction comics I’ll work on some day. History, science…that kind of thing.
JM: What is your position on digital comics? Are they a good thing or a bad thing?
KM: They’re great for getting a wide readership and cutting out expensive middlemen. I hope people are figuring out ways to make some money with them at the same time. Even if you only do comics for the love of it, they do take a lot of time and you have to… you know…pay for food.
JM: If you were to make any changes to the industry or the market what changes would you make?
KM: Bring back hologram covers.
JM: If you could apprentice under any artist at any time in history and anywhere in the world who would it be?
KM: Maybe Albert Dorne in the ’40s; Dean Cornwell in the ’30s; Leyendecker in the ’20s; Howard Pyle in the 1880s.
JM: What, in the future, would you like to accomplish creatively?
KM: I just want some more nice, fat books under my belt. There’s something cool (and a bit narcissistic) about making a book and leaving your individual artistic stamp on it, whereas a lot of other creative mediums are necessarily group efforts. Those group efforts are great, but it’s fun to be able to keep total control of really personal projects in ways that animators or movie directors can’t.