Monday, April 4, 2011

The William Satterwhite Interview - The 360BEYOND Show

Here is my second interview of some of my favorite artists. WILLIAM SATTERWHITE is his name and he is a designer and internet consultant as well as an artist and comic book creator.  I must also say he is an accomplished web-comic publisher, more on that later but for now. Ladies and Gents here we go...


ARTISTIC/DEVELOPMENT
As it relates to your earliest memory as an artist, did Art choose you or did you choose Art? Explain.
The art definitely chose me, I’ve been drawing for as long as I can remember. I can’t even remember when I first started drawing to be honest.

What were your earliest inspirations and influences that introduced you to art/comics/writing?
I got into comics in the early 90’s, right around when the future Image guys were starting to make a name for themselves at Marvel with Todd McFarlane and Erik Larsen on Spider-Man, Jim Lee and Whilce Portacio on X-Men, Mark Silvestri on Wolverine and Rob Liefeld on New Mutants/X-Force- those were the comics that hooked me and made me want to do comics, the work those guys were doing at that time was so amazing. Of course, later on when they went to form Image it was an inspiration to see that the creators could actually do their own thing- back then I didn’t quite understand all the dynamics involved but I could understand that when Spider-Man could pass from Todd McFarlane’s hands to Erik Larsen’s then to Mark Bagley’s, I kind of understood that creators were basically disposable to the companies who owned my favorite superheroes. That’s something that has always stuck with me.

And who are your influences now and what about them are inspiring?
As I’ve grown older over the years my tastes have kind of gone old school and I’ve become more of a fan of more old school artists- I’ve always had an appreciation for a lot of the legends like Jack Kirby, John Romita Sr, Steve Ditko and John Buscema but when I was a kid it was mostly like just a “respect your elders” kind of thing I guess, I was so into the glossy and over-styled Image era stuff that was just so flashy. As I’ve outgrown that phase and learned more about the actual craft of comic art, I’ve become an actual fan of the “classics” and others from the Golden and Silver Age- Wally Wood and a lot of the other EC artists, Lou Fine, Alex Raymond, C.C. Beck, Jerry Robinson and more. When I was younger I would look at the old school art and think it was boring and wonder where all the cool details and lines and stuff like that was but now I understand that stuff is all secondary to the actual craft of the drawing.

Of the influences that are artists, do you admire them as a fan or do you really study their style/expression?
Both really but I suppose I’m more of a fan, it’s always kind of exciting when I come across some “new” piece by one of those old school artists that I’ve never seen before and just geek out.

How important is it to study your art/writing?
It’s very important but at some point I think doing is more important than just studying. I think a lot of would be creators spend too much of their time studying the craft to the point where they don’t take the step of actually doing something for fear of messing up, they fear failure too much. The problem with this is that the best way to ensure you can succeed at anything is to fail at it initially as failure serves as inspiration for improvement if you really want it.

What are some books that are on your personal shelf?
I’m a big military history buff so outside of graphic novels and TPBs, my bookshelf is mostly WW2 and Civil War books.

Are there any titles that you are currently reading? I haven’t really bought monthly comics on a regular basis for a long time, I was an early adopter to the “Wait for the trade collection” concept. Part of it is not having a comic shop close by, for the last 10 years or so, I’ve been kind of stuck in a no man’s land where the nearest comic shops require road trips. If I happen to pass by a comic shop on some other journey I’ll run in and pick up something that looks like it might be easy to get into like the first part of a storyline or something but for the most I just order TPBs off of Amazon.com if a story catches my eye and seems to have been well-received. Yeah, I’m one of those guys whose helping put comic shops out of business :).

When not doing commissions for clients or working on your personal projects, how do you keep your skills sharp?  For example, but not limited to: Advanced Art/Writing Classes, Doodling? Exercise?
This is one area where I really struggle, I don’t really give myself enough free time to do anything like that, if I’m not working on the webcomic or a design project, I’m working on marketing and promotion. I guess if you consider my role as both a publisher/owner as well as artist, you could consider all the time I spend on Google and various blogs as things to hone my skills in marketing and things like that.

Self-expression and self-identity are closely related, if you have a nickname or unique name what does it mean to you and to others? And does that name reflect in anyway how you approach your art?
My trivia friends like to call me Rainman just because of all the otherwise worthless historical facts I have floating in my head that I can recall at a moment’s notice, I guess this comes into play when I include little minutae in the comic that I assume fans will pick up on but probably don’t- I guess I take it for granted that everyone pays attention to every little detail of everything they read, that’s just the history geek in me.

WORK/STYLE
Give us a description of your Creative Lab or Studio where you work and how is the environment a co-creator or partner in ultimately what you create?
I work in a pretty cramped space so it kind of helps keep me at my desk, I don’t have too much room to get up and walk around much or anything like that. I have a dual monitor setup with my laptop and the monitor for my old desktop, it works really well for multi-tasking and doing two things at one.

If Art can save the world, then that makes the Artist a Superhero; and every Hero needs theme music.  Name the song or songs that you listen to for inspiration as you create?
Kanye West has long been a favorite, mostly because I relate to a lot of his music on a personal level. Last Call off of College Dropout is particularly inspirational, just following along as he tells his story. Drake is really cool too, I really like this song Closer To My Dreams off one of his mixtapes. I’ve just recently (literally within the last few days as I type this) got into Childish Gambino a/k/a comedian Donald Glover, if anyone out there doesn’t know, he’s a crazy good rapper on top of his comedy and acting. It might just be because it’s new to me but I’ve gotten a lot of energy just feeding off of all his music I’ve download (check his music out at http://www.childishgambino.blogspot.com, he’s got two mixtapes and an album up there). Just like with Kanye, I just feel a real personal connection to a lot of his lyrics and his wordplay. I also like to listen to a lot of Jay Z, I just get lost in his flow.

What techniques & tools do you employ to bring ideas to life? Within the last year I’ve made the switch to complete digital creation, I draw and color everything in Adobe Photoshop with a Wacom Intous3 tablet and letter the comic in Illustrator.

How would you describe your style or artistic technique?
I try to keep things simple nowadays, perhaps too simple sometimes

Its been said that the difference between a professional and amateur/hobbyist is that a professional gets paid for what they do more often than not.  What was the tipping point where you transitioned from being a hobbyist to a professional?
I think that’s pretty much the best definition, reaching a point where someone is willing to give you the validation of paying for your services/work and you yourself are willing to accept the responsibility that comes from that. For me, I started my design business about 5 years ago once I became confident that my skills could benefit others and that I could reasonably meet a customer’s expectations.

In the beginning, what was the most challenging aspect of working freelance?
Customer service, it still is to this day. It’s hard to remember that the customer doesn’t know what’s going on in your head and in your world when they’re there and you’re here doing your thing, you actually have to communicate to the client what’s going on.

How have you changed since, as they say, ‘Going Hard’ doing your art for pay?
I’ve learned from some early mistakes in taking on too much at one time if I can avoid it. There are still some times when I get caught with too much going on but I generally try to avoid those situations because I now know better.

What types of commissioned projects do you prefer to work on and why?
I like to have as much control as possible, I generally prefer a client giving me an idea of what they want, any tings that they absolutely want and then just getting out of my way.

Do you have set commission rates or are they negotiable on a project by project basis?
A combination of both, I use set rates to serve as a starting point and then making adjustments for the particular project and all that goes into it.

What really stimulates your imagination to the point where your ideas pour from your subconscious onto the paper and you look up when the flood is over and you’re like WOW!
Did I create that?  Give me an example of what that piece of art may have been.
Trying new things or introducing new characters/concepts. The first two completely digital pages I did for Stealth, it was such a new experience I just went at it and ended up producing what I think are two of the best pages I’ve ever done-



Describe one gratifying moment, where a client was extremely satisfied with what you had created and how it had impacted them?
It wasn’t even a job at that point but still in the consultation stage, but I once stayed on the phone with a client for about an hour and a half just explaining everything she wanted to know and giving her all the information she needed to make an informed decision before she actually hired me (or anyone for that matter, she could have easily went elsewhere). She was extremely grateful I took the time to answer all of her questions and more.

SOUL/ART                                                                                                                                                In terms of personal projects, what is the Flagship creative project for your company and how did you come up with the idea for the concept?  Feel free to elaborate to any detail you wish.Stealth is basically my take on the classic teen hero/vigilante idea, a bit darker than one might expect from a typical teen hero book but light at times as well. It stars a high school senior named Allen White who gains amazing powers after an accident that should have taken his life and follows along as he does the whole balancing life as a superhero vs being a regular kid thing- I’ll freely admit upfront that in terms of the basic core concept, the comic isn’t trying to treading any new ground and has never been intended to do so. Instead, I’ve always put more of an emphasis on the actual stories and the characters- things might feel familiar on the surface but I want the readers to dig deeper. 

Who are some of the other creative artists/partners, if any, that assist or have assisted you in the creation of your product/project? Dave Amorando, creator of his own webcomic Lightning Man (http://lightningman.backpagecomics.com) has been a good buddy, we had a Stealth/Lightning Man crossover story that he ended up doing most of the work on and I can always count on him giving a good word of encouragement. I’ve had a couple of guest pages by Julian Herring (Merkuri3000 from Herotalk) and Jamar Logan and some folks have hooked me up with pinups- Kris Mosby, blackstar123, James Mason (Mase) and Julian again among others. That more than anything is a boost just in terms of inspiration to know that other people out there want to draw my character. I don’t think people really understand that doing a webcomic is a different animal than a print comic- with a print comic a creator doesn’t need to receive any kind of feedback because the only feedback he needs is you putting your money down for the book. It’s the exact opposite with a webcomic, I’m not asking people to pay anything (unless they want to buy a poster or book) so I rely on any kind of feedback as a fuel to keep things going. I can look at webstats all day long but that doesn’t tell me how people are feeling about what I’m doing.


If you could bring your project to the big screen, who would be some of the actors and roles you’d like them to play?
Right now I’m wondering if a 28-year old Donald Glover could indeed reasonably pass as a high school senior so I can start a #Donald4Stealth campaign. On a more realistic tip, Tristan Wilds from 90210 would probably be my top choice right now. One of the things that’s always bothered me as I’ve done Stealth over the years is the relative lack of young black actors who could play in a Stealth movie. I actually put together a cast for a hypothetical Stealth movie about a year and a half ago- http://stealthcomic.com/2009/08/21/stealth-casting-call/, I’ll have to think further about an updated version.

What are some of the most immediate follow-up projects?
I have a couple of things in the initial planning stages but for the most part, I probably only have time for Stealth for the foreseeable future.

Talk about the difficulties of being an entrepreneur/independent artist and the hurdles you’ve overcome to produce and publish your own works.
The biggest difficulty is time, for the most part I’ve had a regular 9-to-5 job at the same time so it’s hard juggling projects when you only really have half your time available.

If you had to choose which medium of expression to use for your stories / images which would it be comic book, graphic novel or animation or movie?
Television. I like to give Stealth kind of a soap opera-type feel as opposed to being “just” a superhero comic and I think it would really work best in an episodic format played out over a long season with a large overall story arc that plays out over the long run with smaller individual stories told throughout.

Here’s a fun question.  Name a mainstream project/character or an independent project and/or character that you’d love to work on or revamp and what would you do to put your twist on it?
The Question, I’d like to take the character back to his true Ditko roots as a guardian of truth and reason. I’ve actually created my own vision of that kind of character but having gotten around to any stories yet. Captain Atom would be another Ditko, again going back to the basics of the original character.

For the independent artist, as one who does commissions and/or personal projects, how has technology affected the way you are able to do business or make progress on your art?  For example, but not limited to: Finding Clients? Artistic Collaboration? Getting work done?
Everything I do is on my computer, from the art itself to marketing online. I think it’s vitality important for artists, especially independent artists, to maximize technology and all the tools that are available to them

About Merchandise, what types of products are you hoping to create or produce in the future?
I have a couple of posters available at http://www.cafepress.com/stealth1, I putting together a trading card set as well, hopefully I can finally get that finished to put out this summer.

Here are two questions about event presentations, conferences, fairs etc. 
What are the conferences that are on your yearly schedule to attend?
This is the main area I’ve dropped the ball on, I’ve never attended a comic convention as a creator. I’m hoping to get around to Onyxcon (http://www.onyxcon.com/) this year and would definitely like that to be a regular event along with Dragon Con.

What advice do you give to aspiring artists of all mediums about the importance of events and how do you prepare to maximize your potential at these fairs?
It’s definitely important to get out there and push your product.

Artsentience (To recall details of what, when and where you were when you created the art piece.)
Stealth. Tell me about this concept, who/what it is, what it means to you and take us back to the situations, feelings and times you experienced during its creation..
I first came up with the concept that eventually became Stealth shortly after graduating high school myself but it was really different back then, I just had Allen finding kind of a symbionic alien battlesuit and becoming a superhero just because (what else are you going to do with a symbiotic battlesuit). The major characters, Allen and Ashley, were there but the actual hero concept was different, I still have the original comic and have thought about putting it online just to show where Stealth originally came from but it’s pretty bad. I re-worked it around the time I started college and had the first “issue” (back then I planned on actually publishing it…somehow) done around 1999 and went online with it in 2001 after seeing a couple of guys doing online comics (we didn’t call them “webcomics” back then J), notably Jamar Logan and his comic Demon Universe along with Jimmie Westley and his Tribal Science. All along, my basic idea was just to do a modern teen superhero comic that combined elements of conventional superhero comics with the kind of teen shows that were so popular back then like Buffy and Dawson’s Creek and stuff like that.

LIFE/EXPRESSION
On the idea of Art Imitates Life or Life Imitates Art, is the role of Art in human existence a catalyst for behavior and community building or is Art a mirror to reflect the world of what was and what is?
Art is a reflection of what is/was but in doing so, art does act as a catalyst for change in showing where change needs to come and serving as an inspiration.

Due to budget cuts for schools, classes and after-school programs, primarily in black and Latino communities, the youth are not getting exposed or are exposed to very little physical education and the arts.  How important do you feel the arts are to the lives of the youth?
I think the arts are very important, especially for young kids. Ideally, I’d like to see artists encouraged to open up their studios and workspaces to allow kids to actually experience things firsthand. Not to get political (as much as I love discussing politicsJ) but I think the entire educational system needs be completely overhauled to emphasize a system of apprenticeship where professional artists (or doctors or lawyers or whoever) can take kids in and let them learn and experience things directly from their hands.

Whether it’s the concept of Six Degrees of Separation or Its A Small World, the culture or communities we belong to are smaller than outsiders know.  To bridge the gap between yourself and your peers, do you belong to any artist groups or forums, if so which ones?
Not really, just Herotalk nowadays. I used to frequent a lot of the Yahoo Groups like Blacks Comics and Emeyesee but Herotalk has pretty much taken over. I used to be a regular at each of the various incarnations of Brian Michael Bendis’ Jinxworld boards but gradually lost interest as a lot of the older posters faded away and more (and more and more and more…) newer fans came in- I generally prefer smaller, more tightly knit communities over larger ones.

Now to bridge the gap between your art and the public at large, give the name and address of your sites and forums where people can see your creativity and how people can get in contact with you for commissions and/or to follow your work?

Stealth webcomic- http://www.stealthcomic.com

What impact would you like your art to make on the world?
I just want somebody somewhere to enjoy what I’m doing. If I can know that something I’ve done puts a smile on someone’s face or makes them say “that’s pretty cool!”, I’m happy.

What are your favorite quotes or philosophies of life that help you improve as a person or artist?
"One man with courage makes a majority"- Andrew Jackson

Is there anything else that you want the readers to know, feel free to elaborate.
To all the creators out there, create something. Don’t just think about it or talk about it, go out there and actually do it!

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