Collateral Dear John – Interview with the illustrator Lee Taylor

We spotted a nice twelve issue comic book series that explores the side of a world ‘blessed’ with the presence of superheroes that is seldom seen: that of a family forced to deal with both the physical and emotional consequences of their often destructive actions. The illustrator is Lee Taylor and the writer is Matt Nicholls!

Collateral_FrontCoverFor far longer than he can remember, Lee Taylor has been consistently churning out and developing his work through a number of DIY projects in illustration, music, and zines, and it’s through the latter that he was introduced to and joined forces with the Australian writer Matt Nicholls, a union from which he subsequently began to transfer his affinity for fluid, narrative illustration into the comic-book format, and thus giving birth to the twelve-part drama series, ‘Collateral: Dear John’.

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1. Are you planning to create your own comics/zines – as you already started to do – or work for a comic publishing company as a career?

To be honest, I’ve always been heavily into DIY, and self-publishing or self-releasing pretty much anything; it’s something that I’ve always had an affinity for, and when you’re truly passionate about something like art, I think having that very personal and intimate connection with it at every stage and level is quite a beautiful thing, so I do enjoy that involved process from concept to finished product. DIY certainly has it’s drawbacks though, with regards to limited distribution, reach, and so on, so that’s not to say I wouldn’t relish the opportunity to work with publishers, but I think I’ll always make zines and self-release music as a means of fulfilling that particular emotional requisite in my life. Ultimately though, I just love creating stuff and putting it out into the world. LarryFour

2. Who is the person that had the biggest influence on you and your comic work? Did this person have changed your work or the way you draw?

Like a great many artists I believe, there are a lot of scattered influences floating around in my visual history that have undoubtedly in some way, regardless of degree, impacted on the way I work, both in independent and published work. With regards to comic styling, Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ combined efforts with ‘WATCHMEN’ have been infinitely inspiring, particularly with the quite genius interplay of word and image, and I looked at a lot of quite messy stuff during my studies, such as that of Ben Templesmith and Aadi Salman who worked on the ‘SILENT HILL’ comics. To name just a couple of other influences, Steve Larder who writes the zine ‘RUMLAD’ has a beautiful drawing style, and for expression and sheer intensity, the early 20th century painter Egon Schiele is an all-time favourite.

3. We see that you have a unique style of drawing. It’s an oxymoron grace playing between real photo and surreal sketch! How you ended up drawing like that? Actually are you self-taught or formally educated?

Ah, that drawing style that I’ve developed is consequent to a number of things, firstly the discovery and subsequent constant practise of blind-contour and continuous-line drawings, the latter of which is an aspect quite often identified as being characteristic of my drawings; also, a good deal of life-drawing from figures, locations, or anything I can find, which, as obvious as it may sound, I think is utterly key to developing any kind of realism within drawing; in addition to these assimilated processes, and outside of the physical  drawing aspect, I just like to think I learned how to look at things in a way that I could process and transfer to paper. And yes, I am indeed formally educated, and hold a first-class degree in illustration.

4. We’re certain that you have some numb drawing periods! Well, all artists have! What do you do to recharge your batteries and reach a state of mind in order to place your pencil back on the paper?

Haha yeah, I definitely have a lot of those! I do find they occur far more often if I spend too much time at once on a single project though, so as a means of deterring the occurrence of such things, I try to keep as many creative projects going at once as I possibly can, so that if I lose a little inspiration for the comic, I can still work on zines; then if my zine isn’t going so well, I can always record or mix some music, after which I’m likely ready to throw myself back into the comic. I have an incredibly negative attitude towards my own work, and sometimes just need a break from things, so I find having a range of fields to work within keeps me focused, productive, and largely emotionally stable.

5.OK! We’d love to hear from you a description of your typical work routine.

Most of the stuff I create happens in a partly-furnished shed in my back garden, which, relative to respective times of the year, is prone to being freezing cold, or stiflingly hot, meaning that I’m often working in far from ideal conditions! For the work I do on comics, I create the textured backgrounds using a bunch of media on some stretched paper, which I then scan, and layer underneath the line drawings which are created separately. Everything else is put together digitally using GIMP, as I can’t afford pretty much anything by Adobe. For more fine art, one-off pieces of work, I do everything in one; stretch up the paper, layer my found textures, prints, images, or other paper elements, throw on my mixed media, and finally work into it with pencil for the linework. Regardless of what I’m working on, I invariably draw from life, or from my own photographs.

6. What tools do you use to create your work and what makes them the “right tools” for you? Let us know if LarryThreeyou have a favorite brand of ink or type of paper.  

Apart from my Moleskine, which I use for location drawing and sketching, I’m loath to admit that I actually couldn’t point out any favourites! Without looking it up right now, I actually couldn’t tell you what brand my current large sketchbook is. I do avoid very cheap materials though, and tend to favour relatively heavy, at least slightly textured cartridge papers, and invariably draw in 2B pencil. I buy masking tape and emulsion from DIY stores, inks and acrylic paints from wherever I can find them, and everything else is found where, as, and when I come across them. Where I fully respect the importance of using the correct tools, I’m more concerned with what I’m trying to produce with the materials, than what brand I happen to be using.

7.Which artists or creators do you return to for a quick boost of inspiration?

Inspiration comes in a lot of forms to be honest; I often have some tunes on while I’m working away in my shed, so that helps to keep me going on those long Winter evenings, and I’m always trying to discover new bands and artists to keep things fresh in my ears. Cinema is another good one; for a number of reasons, pretty much all of the films by Studio Ghibli are an infinite source of inspiration, but if I’m after a quick boost, I’ll probably have a flick through either some zines, or some art books, of both contemporary and historical works in a number of fields, that are lying around in my shed.

8.What element of your work gives you the most personal satisfaction?

Printed media. Whether printed at home or elsewhere, seeing anything I’ve worked on in print is an incredibly rewarding and satisfying experience; it’s largely what keeps me going with regards to creative endeavours.

9.What has been the most rewarding project in your career so far – in or out of comics – and why?

It’s difficult to pick any singular project, as every release of any piece of media that I’ve finished to date has been met with a great deal of personal joy, satisfaction, and above all, relief. I do think me and Matt’s comic ‘Collateral’ is well up there though, for a number of reasons: the teamwork involved, and the process of working from somebody else’s, and in this case very strong, clever, and ultimately inspiring writing; the quite professional feel that it has when printed, which is something that’s missing from pretty much all of my DIY works; and especially because it’s such a big project; much to Matt’s constant annoyance I’m sure, each issue takes me an eternity to complete, so every one down is a real milestone and great accomplishment.

10. We know your current project! Any upcoming projects?

I’m always working on and releasing new zines and music into the world, so the best way to keep up with anything I do would be to follow both my blog and my page on Facebook. As far as specific projects go though, ‘Collateral’ issue three is due shortly, I should have the sixth issue of my perzine ‘Larry’ coming out next month, another issue of my other zine ‘The Screever’ is due in June, and myriad CDs and cassettes should be coming out on my label ‘Glass of Spit Recordings’ alongside all of those. It’s going to be a busy year! LineOneTwoSmall

11. Sounds like a lot of work!  We’ve all met very talented newcomers who are working their asses off but still need and want to break through to the next level. What would you tell them? What’s the best advice you’ve ever heard given to a promising new creator? What are YOU going to do for that?

I’m quite possibly one of the least confident artists working today, and I’m inclined to assume that such a characteristic has inhibited my ability to find work, or to gain more popularity in this ‘market’, so for anyone striving to find such things, I would recommend just doing what I invariably fail to do; believe in yourself, have faith in your own abilities, and don’t let anyone or anything stop you from becoming what you want to be. As futile as it may often seem, I frequently utilise and live by the motto: ‘just keep going’.

12. Tell us about your last work. Describe it! Give us a quick glance of your partners, the writer and any other people who are getting involved with this project.

The comic I work on at the moment, ‘Collateral: Dear John’, is a twelve issue comic series that explores the side of a world ‘blessed’ with the presence of superheroes that is seldom seen: that of a family forced to deal with both the physical and emotional consequences of their often destructive actions. It’s written by Matt Nicholls in Australia, who I incidentally was introduced to through trading zines with his wife Natasha, and then I illustrate it over here in the UK. They’re actually a ridiculously productive family; Tash is a real zine-machine, and is the founder of a collective over there called ‘A Zine Thing’, and Matt writes a bunch of comics and mini-zines that he has illustrated by numerous artists. They’re amazing, supportive folk to know and work with; almost like an overseas, second family!

And now not a question! We’d love to know what do you think of eCharta as a design, as user interface functionality, as an online auction/exchanging PAPER ONLY platform. 

It’s probably become quite apparent by now, but I’m a big fan of physical, printed media, so having a place that stocks and sells such things exclusively is always going to be a pretty epic and exciting prospect. From what I can see so far, there’s a heavy slant on vintage, collectible, and memorabilia items, and the kind of things I’d be interested in utilising to form backgrounds to my work, but little in the way of contemporary artwork and comics; to my preference, with more in the way of the latter to create more of a dynamic and current creative marketplace, we could be seeing something very special indeed! An auspicious beginning though, with a lot of already quite wonderful products added to a seemingly functional and user-friendly auction site that’s already looking pretty vibrant.

In conclusion this is a remarkable comic book with its unique “curly” drawing style. I’m sure if you go in this comic book you’ll wait for the next issue. I do! You can see more about this:

KO for eCharta

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