LUKE PEARSON ANSWERS 15 QUESTIONS WITH JULINDA MORROW
Contrary to what you see in the picture above, Luke Pearson is not a conjoined twin or a sideshow performer. He is, in fact, a very talented sequential artist deserving your undivided attention.
Luke’s work is charming, inventive and mature beyond his years. I encourage every one of our readers to seek out his comics, among which are Everything We Miss and Hilda and The Midnight Giant. You won’t be disappointed.
A gallery of Luke’s lively art follows this interview.
Julinda Morrow: What path led you to comics and sequential art?
Luke Pearson: I was, while growing up, always encouraged to draw – or at least people seemed impressed when I did and I liked the attention – so I kept it up. I always wanted to “do art” in some form. I drew loads and loads of comics as a little kid, then not so many for a long time. I never really read that many comics until I was at college and university, when I discovered the kind of comics I like now.
JM: What schooling or training did you receive?
LP: I studied illustration for three years at university. The course turned me on to a lot of stuff I wasn’t aware of before, notably Chris Ware, which was the way into most of the stuff I like now. I think that was a good thing to pick up on, as going into the course, the cartoonist I most closely associated with was probably Jhonen Vasquez. University didn’t exactly teach me to do comics in any way, though there were a couple of storyboarding classes that I really got into and I think probably paved the way for all the comics stuff after. I did come out of it a fairly competent illustrator, though, and was able to get on with doing illustration and comics work full time as soon as I left.
JM: Who, in your opinion, are the pioneers of sequential art?
LP: You can look at any point in comics’ history and find new pioneers all the time. It’s a big, long chain of people making slight changes to stuff that already existed. You could pick out a cave man, Rodolphe Topffer, Robert Crumb, Scott McCloud. Different people pioneer different bits to make whatever we currently have.
JM: How do you define sequential art?
LP: I think of sequential art as any sequence of images, I guess. I don’t think of it as comics necessarily. I cringe when “sequential art” is used consciously as an improved term for a comic, though it’s fine as a term on its own. A storyboard is sequential art, but I don’t think it’s a comic – which is why I’m hesitant to say something like the Bayeux tapestry is a comic, even though it’s nice to think of it as one. It’s some other thing that’s like a comic. I think if someone makes something and either it’s clearly a comic or they say that it’s a comic, then it’s a comic. You can usually tell what’s a comic and what’s not.
JM: Do you find that sequential art provides you with near-limitless possibilities for storytelling or do you experience it as constraining?
LP: I definitely believe in the near-limitless possibilities thing, which is why I feel like there are new pioneers appearing all the time. As much as it often feels like an insane, backwards, antiquarian art form with a limited audience and few rewards, it also feels strangely unexplored. Nobody could claim that everything’s been done. It’s interesting that the majority of artists voluntarily constrain themselves with very traditional approaches to pages, panels and style. The best artists are constantly looking backwards. That’s probably because in the other direction you get endlessly sprawling, interactive, multimedia motion comics, exploring the medium to its fullest and most annoying potential.
JM: What qualities or resources do you believe are most important for a sequential storyteller to have?
LP: I think basically you just need to have an understanding of how images work (together and alone) and you need to be able to draw well enough to demonstrate that understanding. And you also have to have good ideas.
JM: How do you approach your work process?
LP: For comics, generally, I’ll draw my lines by hand, with a combination of brush, pen and fineliner. Then I scan and colour in Photoshop. Since I bought a bigger printer I’ve started preparing my panel borders in Photoshop to save time, but I don’t know if I’ll always do that. Everything else gets worked out on the page. I’m pretty uptight and I’ll do loads of preparatory drawings and thumbnails per panel and then I’ll still rub out and redraw countless times in the final panel too. My writing process is always changing. Sometimes I’ll plan out a comic fully, page layouts and all, in thumbnail form. Sometimes I’ll break it up into what’s loosely going to happen on each page and tackle the specifics as I get to each one. In the past I’ve done that with text too, writing it properly only after I’ve gotten to the final page. Recently I’ve typed scripts before I’ve started (sloppy, informal scripts, mind you, for my eyes only). I’ve found it takes the pressure off a bit and prevents me from planning stories around things I’m comfortable drawing. Again, I don’t know if I’ll always do that.
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?
LP: I basically just work all the time. Or at least it feels like it. I do waste loads of time just clicking things on the internet and writing unnecessarily long and over-thought emails but I can’t just sit and watch a movie or walk into town without feeling like it’s a waste of time – unless I have no deadlines, which is very rare. Frequently, though, I’ll have a day where I just, kind of, burn out and can’t do anything at all. I tend to spend those days at my desk, doodling morosely and sighing a lot rather than taking the chance to unwind. I have a bit of a problem separating work from life as my hobby became my job and now I’m living the dream. I don’t know how many hours I physically draw for, but most days I’ll be in my studio from the morning ‘til one or two o’clock in the morning with a few hours out for eating and watching an episode of whatever show we’re currently watching.
JM: Was it a struggle, at the start of your career, to find work and make ends meet?
LP: I’m still at the start of my career really, I hope. I graduated just over two years ago and I’ve been working pretty much non-stop since. It actually hasn’t been that much of a struggle so far, I’m embarrassed to admit. I’ve been lucky and opportunities keep coming up just when I need them. I’m highly aware that interest could just drop off at any time, though, and I worry about what happens then. That’s probably why I have a hard time turning things down and tend to overwork myself. I think I’ve benefited a lot by being able to juggle illustration and comics […]. I spread my attention about equally between them, I think, but I couldn’t survive on the income from just one of them.
JM: What has been your most valuable professional experience?
LP: I can’t really think of one in particular. They’re all valuable in some way. Maybe some of the bad experiences have been the most valuable. Like learning how not to work and what kind of people not to work with.
JM: What inspires or informs you creatively?
LP: Everything that I do, think about or look at, I guess.
JM: What is your position on digital comics? Are they a good thing or a bad thing?
LP: They’re just a thing. At the minute I have no interest in paying for a digital comic unless it’s something I badly want and there’s no other choice; but if I were to have a reader that I like using I might feel differently. For now, I like books and I like being able to have various comics open at once on my desk while I work. But that’s just a preference. There’s nothing inherently important about comics being printed.
JM: If you were to make any changes to the industry or the market what changes would you make?
LP: It would be nice if there was just a bigger audience for comics in general, especially non-superhero stuff. I feel like I operate in a niche of a niche. I don’t know that much or care that much about the greater comics industry but I guess I also wish there was more money floating around, so that all the talented cartoonists out there who are working day jobs or scraping together a living could just do what they do best. That said, the fact that it’s a given thing that there’s no money in the kind of comics I like means that the only people doing it are the ones who really, really want to be doing it. If comics was a plausible career path I’m sure there’d be a lot more rubbish being published and it would be harder for me to get anywhere.
JM: If you could apprentice under any artist at any time in history and anywhere in the world who would it be?
LP: Probably Tezuka or Tove Jansson. Or someone like Walt Kelly or Milt Gross, someone who’d beat a load of cartoon principles and technical skill into me.
JM: What, in the future, would you like to accomplish creatively?
LP: I’d just like to make some comics that I can be proud of and that people actually read.