A Chat With: Brenna Thumler

 Hey gang!

   With August right around the corner, so are some brand new comic concepts that I've never seen before but am dying to read. In my August Previews video one comic mentioned is Sheets, a graphic novel written and illustrated by Brenna Thumler and published by Lion Forge, I scored an interview and I can't wait for you guys to meet her. 

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NAL: Tell us a little about yourself.

BT: I received my degree in illustration, but not once during college did I think I’d work on graphic novels. In fact, I actively avoided them, assuming I wouldn’t be happy with or suitable for that type of work. But sometimes fate knows you better than you know yourself, and won’t take “no” for an answer. When I began illustrating my first - an adaptation of Anne of Green Gables - it was like finding true love, a dream home, and the secret recipe for that restaurant sauce no one can replicate. Storytelling has always played a significant role in my life and my art, so clearly I was stubborn and blind. Now I can’t imagine myself doing anything else.

NAL: Walk us through your typical day.

 BT: When I’m in the middle of a graphic novel, my day starts the same as any other: with coffee, breakfast, and Sudoku puzzles. Then I dive into my work, which might mean writing, storyboarding, drawing, or coloring, depending on where I am in the process. And here I stay, hunched over my desk, with Spotify or my umpteenth run of The Office playing in the background, until I decide I should probably sleep. I do take breaks to cook meals, attend nightly Zumba classes, and play music, which are my three favorite ways to unwind! I love my job, but it’s demanding. Being an artist means being an artist at all times. It’s a powerful thing, though, to be willing to make whatever sacrifices necessary and be so indescribably passionate about something so intimidating and challenging.

NAL: Who are some of your favorite writers or artists?

 BT: Where do I begin!? Some of my favorite writers are Jodi Picoult, John Green, Daniel Handler, and Emma Donoghue. As for artists and creators, this is even harder to narrow down. I’ll say Jillian Tamaki, Vera Brosgol, Jon Juarez, Quentin Blake, and Michael Byers, but stress that there are about fifty other favorites.

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NAL: What was your favorite thing about Sheets?

 BT: My favorite part of working on Sheets was the freedom to create a world that was entirely my own, with characters that I have become so personally attached to. (They’re my friends!) I put a lot of myself into the book, but discovered, even more, growing as both a person and artist. When I complete a graphic novel project, I am shocked by how much I’ve learned and how much my skills have improved. I love knowing that there’s no end to the creative process; there’s always another level for you to strive to work towards.

NAL: What would you consider your most favorite project?

BT: Sheets has been the most incredible project I’ve ever worked on. Because it is my first original graphic novel, it will always hold a special significance. It was a great challenge that transformed both my abilities and my perspective, and I have never felt such a strong sense of purpose. Plus, it has ghosts.

NAL: If you could collaborate with anyone who would it be and why?

BT: I would love to do a graphic novel with Lemony Snicket, whether it be an adaptation of his Series of Unfortunate Events, or a new work. To illustrate his dark sense of humor and quirky scenarios would be a thrilling experience. And a visual adaptation of Violet, Klaus, and Sunny’s story would involve one bizarre, action-packed adventure after another, each in a unique and dynamic setting. Also, if the Duffer Brothers ever want a graphic novel version of Stranger Things, I’m so on board.

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NAL: If you could live in any fandom world where would you choose and why?

 BT: Is Hogwarts too obvious? My other choices would be Wes Anderson films, because my surroundings would always be color-coordinated and symmetrical, or Stars Hollow, because the worst thing that would ever happen would be Taylor Doose installing a traffic light.

NAL: Do you have any tattoos?

BT: I don’t, but admittedly, the thought of a small ghost tattoo has crossed my mind ever since I started Sheets.

NAL: Any advice for aspiring artists?

 BT: Make connections and don’t stop drawing. It’s easy to get stuck in your own little art corner, but meeting others in the industry is critical. If an opportunity to network presents itself, jump on it! And if you assume you’ve reached your maximum artistic potential, don’t. I just finished my second book and I still don’t believe my art is good enough, yet. Keep drawing every day, because there is always room to get better, and share these drawings with the world.

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I'm so excited to read Sheets! Make sure to visit Brenna on all her social media.

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A Chat With: Penelope’ Bagieu

 Hey Gang!

  One of the things I love the most about running a blog is the opportunity it presents me. I get to create fun content that speaks to myself and others like me and having the opportunity to interact and collaborate with other creators, I’d never have the opportunity to meet otherwise. Penelope' is a published French Illustrator, and her latest book, Brazen, is on the top of my to-read list. 

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NAL: How did you begin your journey as an illustrator?

PB: I've been drawing since I was maybe 3 or 4, like every kid. Drawing and writing stroies quickly became company for me, and I started making little books in primary school (my mom still has them somewhere probably). I went to an ENSAD in France, where I studied animation. After graduation, I started doing commissioned works for advertising agencies, book covers and the like. One thing led to another and a magazine I was working for offered me their last page for a weekly strip, I gave comics a try, enjoyed it and now I'm making books again!

NAL: Do you have any favorite artists or illustrators?

PB: I've been very influenced as a child by cartoons more than comics, and especially by what I thought was the art of Walt Disney but was really the creations of Mary Blair, and her poetic colorful world. Later on I discovered another woman, behind the books that I loved too, the adventures of the Moomins, that is Tove Jansson, who is portrayed in my book Brazen. And when I started reading graphic novels, women like Marjane Satrapi or Alison Bechdel  really showed me the variety of stories you could tell through comics.

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NAL:What was your favorite thing about Brazen?

PB: Reading ! I spent a year in the company of all these women who, in very different ways, strongly took hold of their fate and didn't let other people chose for them. At some point, it necessarily grows on you, it has been a very empowering journey for me, personally.


NAL: Can you walk us through a typical work day?

PB: I usually wake up very early (I have no idea why, even without an alarm on my phone, I never sleep late) and stop working early. In the meantime, I try to work in big slots, typically my morning is about emails and annoying stuff, and I keep my afternoon as a block to work on my long term project (usually a book). I work either from home on a computer, from my female coworking space The Wing when on an ipad, or from a café for the writing-only part. But I can spend weeks without being able to produce anything, and then suddenly go hectic and wake up in the middle of the night with the urge to draw. In short, I don't really have a typical work day (which is awesome)


NAL: Do you have a favorite project that you’ve done so far?

PB: Honestly, Brazen, because it led me to travel, meet incredible people, connect with a different audience, and learn a lot. 

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NAL: How would you describe your art style?

PB: I'm still improving the same art style I've had since I was three. 


NAL: What is your favorite movie?

PB: Jurassic Park


NAL: If you could live in any fictional universe, what would it be and why?

 PB: I would love to be a sibling of Wes Anderson's Tenenbaum family, live in their house, wear vintage sportswear, have a camping tent in my bedroom and be part of Margot's plays.

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NAL: Can you walk us through your creative process?

PB: I have to be frustrated not to be able to write so that I can write. So my creative process consists in provoking long periods of time when I'm away from creating, like accepting commissioned work, or going on long promoting tours. And usually, on the plane, when I have nothing else to do and no wifi, I'm suddenly crushed under an avalanche of genius ideas, 99% of which are actually crap the morning after. But the 1% I keep is usually fun, and I can't wait til I'm done with my current tasks and finally get to writing again. 

NAL: Any advice for beginning Artists?

PB: Show your work a lot, but to a very very selective group of trustworthy people. And learn to say no to opportunities sometimes.

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A Chat With: Maria Nguyen

Hey Gang!

  I'm so excited to introduce an interview with the amazing Maria Nguyen. She's an illustrator I found on Twitter, and I was blown away by her art, and I just had to find out what makes her tick, and introduce her to ya'll.

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NAL: Tell us a little bit about yourself.

MN: My name is Thuy Duong Nguyen, but I'm commonly known as Maria Nguyen. I'm a freelance illustrator living in the Greater Toronto Area with my cat Cricket and plants.

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NAL: Walk us through a typical day for you. 

MN: I usually wake up to the sound of my cat softly calling me from the foot of my bed. 

I get up and run through my morning routine.

I feed my cat and myself. 

I go out to check on the plants and just take in the moment in my garden. 

I am in my studio working until the afternoon.

I reply to emails, negotiate contracts, chase overdue payment, or go back to the garden before taking a lunch break.

I eat lunch.

Feed my cat.

I relax.

I go back to the studio and work.

I eat dinner.

I work some more. 

Feed my cat.

Run through my night routine.

I go to bed.

I think I should also add: throughout the day I am on Twitter, Youtube, Instagram, the floor petting my cat.

NAL: Who are some artists you admire?

MN: Sun Jun, Hiroshi Yoshida, Alphonse Mucha, Killian Eng, Takeshi Obata, Tan Jiu, James Jean, Ito Junji, Tessar Lo, Ness Lee

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NAL: If you could live in any fictional world where would you choose and why?

MN: I'm not sure... Probably one where I am a modern-day witch and my companion is a dragon.

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NAL: What is your most favorite project you've done? 

MN: I love working on personal projects. It's really scary and challenging because I'm making the conscious decision to try something new on my own terms.

NAL: Whats your favorite movie?

MN: My Neighbour Totoro

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NAL: Whose in your dream team up? *fictional or real-life*

MN: My cat, Sailor Uranus, Tomie, Hatake Kakashi and Ching Shih!!

NAL: What's your favorite way to break art block?

 MN: Gardening, cat petting, hanging out with friends, watching a movie/tv show, reading, cleaning up, going to sleep, eating, shower...basically anything that isn't arting .

NAL: Whats your favorite medium to use?

MN: Black coloured pencil on frosted acetate + Cintiq and Photoshop.

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NAL: Any advice for aspiring artists?

MN: Besides learning to be acutely aware of your physical and mental health while working: fill your life with things outside of art so that you can have an escape when art gets too overwhelming, practice, cherish & encourage your peers, and get yourself into a small business 101 course if you want to make a living off of art.

Check out more of her work here:

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A Chat With: Mija Vera

 Hey Gang!

  The one thing I love about being on the internet is the opportunity that it presents, to network and meet other creative ladies like myself. Mija and her sisters run a stationery company called Mind-Speaks, which is just chock full of absolutely adorable and geek-adjacent paper goods. I had the awesome chance to talk with her and I can't wait for you guys to meet her. 

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NAL: Tell us a little bit about yourself?

MV: My name is Mija! I am one of the Vera sisters from Mind-Speaks.com - I do the web and print design work for the blog. We are 3 very different girls with different hobbies but we have a huge love for everything geek and Nintendo since we were little girls!

NAL: Tell us about your business?


 MV: We run Mind-Speaks.com, we started the blog in 2010!!! I just noticed the site will be 10 years old in just a couple of years....whoa! The site started out as a way for us as sisters to communicate with each other. I was away at college and moved to another city and wanted to share my crafts I was working on and it has evolved into this DIY, crafts, recipes and local review blog between us! I have been dipping my toes into making stationery, stickers and we just threw our first event, an Usagi Birthday Bash!! We want to do more nerdy meetups, have everyone bring their handhelds and just make new friends!

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NAL: What's your favorite fandom? Harry Potter, Pokemon, Sailor Moon?


 MV: Oh man, this is sooooo hard. I love them all in different ways, but if I HAD to pick one....Sailor Moon! That show is perfect for sisters - we all could pick a favorite character and play along without fighting over who was the best scout! It also showed that not just Usagi was strong but the rest of the girls were powerful on their own as well. It really was a magical show. I was probably 8 years old when we first started to watch the DiC version on USA network. A year or two later we visited our local comic shop and found floppies of the manga. We still have them, this show was pretty life-changing. If not for Usagi and her friends we wouldn't be the magical girl obsessed sisters we are today!!

NAL: If you could live in a fictional universe, what would you choose and why?


 MV: Now, I wouldn't say Sailor Moon because lord those girls have a bunch of crazy villains to deal with on a daily basis. I think I would instead love being a student at Hogwarts! I am a Slytherin, they seem like an interesting house and fun house. I think everyone has picked up a stick and said "Wingardium Leviosa" once or twice in real life. 

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NAL: If you could collaborate with any other creative, who would you choose and what would you create?


 MV: Right now I have been making stickers and stationery sets, that was one of my dreams as a kid to work for Lisa Frank. If I could design for a planner or stationery company I think that would be my perfect dream! Stationery influenced me even as a young girl, now that I make stationery and stickers for Mind-Speaks it is a small step to be able to share my passion with others! 

NAL: What's a typical day for you?

 MV: Mornings start out at work. I work full time as a designer so when I am work I am designing for others. During any free time, I do tend to write ideas or sketch in my planner what is the next sticker or stationery set I will work on. I look forward to going home to my daughter and husband. At the end of the day, I get to design for myself. I get to turn my sketches into vector art!! If I have some time I'll sneak in some Monster Hunter gaming on my 3DS.

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NAL: What's your favorite movie?

MV: Oh goodness, I will probably always love Labyrinth. That film introduced me to David Bowie when I was probably 8 or 9. My love for Bowie was instant!  


NAL: Can you walk us through your creative process?

 MV: Everything starts out with a sketch and a list. I am a tad OCD, so list making helps a lot, the list can include the theme, color ideas, how many items to include in a sticker set. What to include in the actual stationery. I'll scan the sketches in and start to draw them out in Illustrator. I am always running my printers making test prints. I always test out the stickers in my planner to see if this is something I would like to use. All the sets we sell are things that my sisters and I love. The Dino origami set is actually influenced by my sister Kim. She works at a local museum and actually did a post on Mind-Speaks.com about making dino origami. The macaron set is influenced by our youngest sister Kat - she is a pastry chef and one of my favorite things she makes are macarons, she also did a post about how to make macarons!! I'll make one set of stickers or stationery and post it on Instagram to see if other like-minded people would like the item. 

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NAL: Do you have any pets?

MV: I have a Maine Coon name Tomo! He is probably the coolest cat I know. He is so mellow and walks around the house chirping. He is also super big and fluffy - my daughter just loves to roll all over him. He deals with it but he is 12 years old and probably wasn't ready for a toddler to try and sit on him every chance she gets.

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NAL: Do you have any tattoos? 

MV: I wish! I am so indecisive - I go through so many obsessions, if 17 yr old Mija got the tattoo she wanted at this age I probably would have some Japanese rock/visual kei band name on my arm.

NAL: If you could introduce your daughter to a fictional character who would you choose?

MV: Of course Sailor Moon, she can be girly but strong! And has a super awesome supportive girl squad - I want that for my daughter.

Check out Mija's Work here:

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A Chat With: Jenn St. Onge

 Hey gang!

  I am so flipping excited about this interview you guys! Jenn's art is beautiful and amazing, and I just want to show everyone. When I didn't think it could get any better, I found out that she and Kelly Thompson are putting out a Nancy Drew comic, with a fun cross over, and I just knew I had to have her on the blog! 

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 NAL: Tell us a little bit about yourself.

 JO: I’m Jenn St-Onge (aka Princess Jem on social media). I’m a tattooed cat mommy living in the general vicinity of Toronto and I’ve worked on comics like IDW’s The Misfits and Image’s Bingo Love

NAL: What has been your favorite project so far?

 JO: It’s hard to pick a favourite because each job has its perks/challenges, but looking back, working with Kelly Thompson and Sarah Gaydos on The Misfits was a hugely rewarding experience for me. I went into that series having not really drawn any bands or instruments but I loved the Jem comics and wanted a piece of it so badly, I put myself out there and did my best to step up to the plate! I loved getting to draw these characters I already really liked so  getting to put my own twist on them and delving into their emotional sides a bit more was a huge gift for me.

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NAL: Can you walk us through your creative process?

 JO: I’m a pretty typical thumbnails > pencils > inks > colours sort of artist, working mostly digitally with Clip Studio Paint Pro.  My initial thumbnails are super, super rough but more to just get some sort of idea down on the page, then my pencils are a lot more focused. Inks probably take me the longest of all my steps, as I tend to get very involved in every panel I work on and tend to be a perfectionist, but I can genuinely say that all my work submitted has been to the best of my ability (even if it was to the detriment of my sleep schedule haha)

NAL: What drew you to the Nancy Drew Project? (Pardon my pun)

 JO: Kelly Thompson and I had pitched a separate comic idea shortly before Nancy Drew that unfortunately didn’t get picked up, so we were already in a conversation about collabing together again on a new comic. Dynamite approached Kelly with ND and she approached me, so I was very on board. I read the books as a kid and Nancy has been at the back of my mind for a while to do a 2010s version, so things just kind of worked out in my favour!

 NAL: Tell us a little about Nancy Drew (If you can) What will be different in your comics?

  JO: If you are unfamiliar with the character, Nancy is a teen detective who solves a wide variety of mysteries with her friends, Bess, George, Joe, and Frank. She clever and resourceful, and although her original mid-century sensibilities didn’t resonate with me 100% as a kid, her tenacity stuck with me. “Teen detective” was a very appealing job title to me as a kid/preteen, so I feel this Nancy is a bit of an extension of that daydream for me. We didn’t want to completely change the spirit of any of the characters in our take, so they are still very recognizable as themselves, they are just in a more contemporary setting with personalities that reflect that update.

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NAL: What’s a typical day for you?

 JO: Get up, go on Twitter/email on my phone (bad habit, do not recommend), make food, play outside with our German shepherd/care for pets in general, reply to emails, actually start work

NAL: What’s your favorite movie?

 JO: I’m bad at this question but in no specific order: Howl’s Moving Castle, Grand Budapest Hotel, Shaun of the Dead, Last Unicorn, and Big Fish.

NAL: Do you have a fandom you hold dear? Harry Potter, Pokémon, Digimon etc.

 JO: A few years ago I would have said Harry Potter, but since the controversy around the casting decision in Fantastic Beasts and not super cool stuff Rowling herself has said, I’ve chosen distanced myself from the books. I’m currently a big fan of Adventure Time and Steven Universe, along with Zelda and Bioshock.

NAL: Do you have any advice for beginning artists?

JO: -Try to balance improving your basic art fundamentals as well as developing a style that you like, as both are very important for creative longevity
-Be open to jobs but don’t take jobs just for the sake of taking them if they don’t relate to what you actually want to do with your art. It’s better to work for free for yourself developing your portfolio than to waste time and energy on projects that don’t relate to your future goals
-Build a network of peers at a similar level to you, not just established artists you admire, and have open lines of communication with them in case you are unsure about a client or a contract, or just want advice
-On that note, be very careful with contracts and do your best to read them through thoroughly/multiple times before signing. Don’t be afraid to ask questions on things you’re unsure about; if a client is unwilling to answer contract questions, that is a big red flag on them, not a sign of unprofessionalism on you.

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NAL: Who are some of your art role models?

 JO: My cheating answer to this is that if you’re looking for new creative types to follow, check out my Twitter follow list because it’s very full of cool people.To name a few, I love Naomi Franquiz (Misfits City), Marley Zarcone (Shade: the Changing Girl), Sarah Graley (Kim Reaper), and Babs Tarr (Motor Crush)

 NAL: What in your opinion, is the best way to break art block?

 Jo: Draw fanart or something generally fun for you that is a short turnaround time so you can at least get something out of your system!

NAL: Do you have any pets?

  Jo: I have many pets haha, my husband and I have an all-black German shepherd and a bunch of rescue kitties!

NAL: Do you have any tattoos? If so of what, if not what would you get?

 JO: I actually have six tats right now! My first tat is a Majora’s Mask design at the base of my neck, I have a floral/kitty half sleeve, a VFD ankle tat, a coffee/witchy thigh piece, a kitty skull forearm design, and a Sailor Moon side piece. My next job that I’m wanting to do is to extend my half sleeve into a full sleeve; it has portraits of our cats in it and I want to update it to add our newer fur babies.

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NAL: If you could live in a fictional universe, what would it be and why?

 JO: I’m a big Adventure Time fan so I’d love to explore the Land of Ooo! I like the series’ fantastical approach to a post-apocalyptic world and there just seems to be a lot of really cool, diverse places to see. Alternatively, if I could just visit somewhere not commit to living there, I’d want to explore Rapture from Bioshock (I am holding out hope that one day a VR version of the game will be made so I can just go walk around the city)

NAL: Who is your dream team up? Your art and “Insert here” writing?

 JO: Okay the artist question was hard, this one is even harder. Maybe Sam Maggs, Kate Leth, Vita Ayala, or Cecil Castellucci? I try not to close myself off to options for collaboration, there are a ton of people I even haven’t met yet that could be a match made in heaven!

You Can Find Jenn at the sites below! Make sure you give her some love!

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A Chat With: Robert Hack

 Hey Gang!

  I am so honored to bring you guys this interview today. I am talking to none other than THE ARTIST OF CHILLING ADVENTURES OF SABRINA!!! I am literally bouncing as I type this I am so excited and honored by the opportunity! I hope you guys enjoy learning about Robert as I did, and Make sure to give his social media all the love!!

NAL: What's your favorite project?

 RH: So far, it's Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. it is the perfect combination of all the thing I like to draw. It's a grindhouse/horror homage, a period piece, and it's brilliantly written by the awesome Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa. But honestly, I've stumbled into working on so many dream projects over the last few years: Sabrina, Doctor Who, Dirk Gently, James Bond, Batman and Superman, and pulp stuff like The Shadow... I am keenly aware of just how stupidly lucky I am.

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NAL: How would you describe your art style?

RH: "Pulpy", I guess. Retro but Modern?

NAL: Sabrina's Greenlit for 2 seasons, who would you like to see in the cast?

RH: Talented actors. I can't wait to see who joins the cast, and what they do with the material. 

NAL: Who are some of your favorite artists?

RH: There are literally too many. Alex Toth, Mike Mignola, Al Williamson, Johnny Craig, Denys Cowan, Wally Wood, Jack Kirby, Alex Nino, Jackie Ormes, Dave Stevens, Francesco Francavilla, Ron Sala, Dan McDaid, Terry Beatty, Trina Robbins, Pete Morisi, Jordi Bernet... and I'm going to stop there before I name people all day. 

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NAL: What inspires your art?

RH: Deadlines and not wanting to get evicted. ...Oh, and stuff like old pulp magazines, paperbacks, movie posters- I collect so much of that stuff. I should not be allowed to have an eBay account. It's like I'm building a museum of sleazy retro awesomeness around me. 

NAL: Walk us through a typical day for you?

RH: My day starts late. I have no love for mornings. If I don't have to be up, I'll skip them altogether. So, I get up in the afternoon, check the mail, open whatever came from eBay and head upstairs to my studio to work. Depending on deadlines I can be working 12-20 hours a day. 20 is rare, but it happens sometimes when I'm on a really tight deadline. I frequently get emergency cover gigs that have to be done overnight, and as daunting as that can be, I do love the challenge. Now I do slip away to eat, tweet, and exercise, ut a lot of time is spent at the drawing board. Typically I'll work until 6 or 7 AM and then back to bed. When deadlines aren't as immediate, I can even watch a movie, attempt to have a social life and go to bed at a more reasonable time, like 5 AM.

NAL: Do you have tattoos? If so, do you have a favorite? if not, why not?

RH: Technically yes, but actually no. I once stabbed myself on the tip of a crow quill pen and gave myself a permanent dot on my thumb, but that accidental tattoo doesn't really count and I haven't really considered getting a proper one. 

NAL: DC or Marvel?

RH: BOTH! All the comics! All. Of. Them. I never grew up with that debate. All comics were awesome. I grew up devouring any comics I could find. From the local library or yard sales or comic shop cheap bins. I read everything and loved it all. 

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NAL: Favorite Movie?

RH: THE THIRD MAN.

NAL: Any advice for beginner artists?

RH: Keep drawing and never give up. Literally, that is why I have any kind of career. I saw so many friends (who were WAY better artists than me at the time), just quit. If you need the structure, go to art school. If you know that isn't for you, skip it. But always be drawing, always be learning, always strive to be a little bit better with every drawing. it took me about a decade not to suck, try to beat my time.

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