Monday, April 2, 2012

Alverne Ball, An Artist With The Write Perspective


ARTISTIC/DEVELOPMENT
As it relates to your earliest memory as an artist, did Art choose you or did you choose Art? The Art of writing that is, explain.  I think writing somehow chose me.  When I was a child I was told two stories that I believe had a great bearing on me wanting to write.  One was a story about the extinction of the Dinosaurs and the other was the fall of Lucifer.  Those two stories were told to me with such imagery that it sparked my imagination.

What were your earliest inspirations and influences that introduced you to art/comics/writing? I got into comics late.  I picked up Spawn at around 16 or 17 because of the awesome toys.  After I discovered Spawn, I of course discovered this whole new world of stories that were being told.  One of the first writers in comics that actually inspired me was Garth Ennis.  His work on the Darkness led me to find some of his other works and after reading his stuff, I was more determined than ever to write comics.  In high school, I went so far as to take an after-school beginners comic art class, even though I can’t draw a stick figure, but early on I knew that if I was going to write comics, then I needed to understand what artists saw when they looked at a page.
  
And who are your influences now and what about them are inspiring?
Garth Ennis will always be an inspiration in comics.  I’m liking what I’m seeing from Brandon Thomas, the writer of the Voltron series from Dynamite and The Many Adventures of Miranda Mercury from Archaia.   He seems to always be thinking how to push the boundaries of storytelling, which is something near and dear to my heart when it comes to writing comics.  I’m also loving Mike Raicht and Brian Smith’s writing in the Stuff of Legends; it’s just pure simple storytelling.  Outside of comics, I’m influenced by writers such as Flannery O’Conner, Walter Mosley, Michael Connelly, Charlie Netwon, Charles Johnson, and most importantly Alexandre Dumas, just to name a few.

Of the influences that are artists/writers, do you admire them as a fan or do you really study their style/expression?  I admire mostly as a fan.  I’ve learned that every writer has a voice and you need to admire one’s style but at the same time you, as the writer have to find your own style of you’ll just end up sounding like the person who you admire.  I think when I first started writing comics, I tried to sound like Garth Ennis, but then I realized that the dark humor that he creates on the page is his alone and that if any humor I create must come naturally or it doesn’t feel real.

How important is it to study your art?
I think studying one’s craft is like breathing.  If you’re a writer then you have to write.  I’m not saying you have to write a book, an article, or anything of that nature but if one is to call him/herself a writer then they should be writing.  We study those that came before us to understand how they paved the road, and then we can build our own road that leads down its own path.

What are some books that are on your personal shelf?
Too many to name, but I’ll try.  The Secret History vol 1 and 2 GN, The Rex Mundi GN, Jinx GN, Middle Passage, Go tell it on the mountain, The three musketeers, The collected stories of Flannery O’Conner, The Poet, The Godfather, Black Noir, Devil In A Blue Dress, Crime and Punishment, The best short stories by black writers, The completes works of Edgar Allan Poe, American Skin, and so many others.

Are there any titles that you are currently reading?
I’m reading Charlie Newton’s Calumet City.  A in-your-face, no bull crime story that keeps me saying, “I want to write like this”.

When not doing commissions for clients or working on your personal projects, how do you keep your skills sharp?  By reading and then challenging myself to either write in a different medium or to write in a different genre.  I love a good challenge.  I think when you challenge yourself to write outside your comfort zone you can look at your writing and discover where you’re strong at and where you’re weak at.  This can be valuable information that can help you build on those weaknesses by utilizing your strengths so that your weaknesses aren’t so easily seen.

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? 
I have a unique name, which I believe makes me stand out from the crowd.  I love having a unique name because then I don’t feel as if I’m anything like the next person, I’m not part of the all-encompassing matrix, if you will, even though I know I am.  Having that unique feel is something I think that unknowingly finds its way into my writing because I’m always discovering new ways to have my characters be a bit different from the next character, yet be relatable through the actions and emotions that we all experience in life.

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 have a room in my home that is my office.  Behind me is a large bookcase filled with every book that I seem to cherish for whatever reason.  My desk is made of a large slab of drywall that is built into the wall.   It’s covered with so many college bound notebooks you’d think I was John Doe from the movie Se7en.  Over my computer, tacked to the wall, is a laminated print out of Wally Wood’s 22 panels that always work and two pages about camera angles from an ancient issue of Wizard magazine.  On the other side of the computer is a copy of the Chicago Manual of Style, a copy of the elements of style, a dictionary and a thesaurus.

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?
I’ve found that I now like to listen is blues, especially instrumental Blues, Jazz, or Classical music.  I tend to listen to John Mayer or Nina Simone if I’m going for something moody.  If I’m writing action I’ll listen to Fuel or Disturbed.  But mainly I’ll have a lot of 90’s grunge/alternative rock playing on Pandora as I write.  But I guess it all depends on what I’m writing and how I think the music will influence the scene.

What techniques & tools do you employ to bring ideas to life?
I use nothing but a pen and paper as my tools and then later I’ll of course type it all up.  When writing comics I’ll draw out the layouts at the top of pages so that I have an idea of how I see the story coming together.

How would you describe your writing style or artistic technique?
I couldn’t even begin to try to give my writng style a name, but I guess you can call it ‘old school’ if you want because I write everything down in a notebook, but it’s the only way I feel connected to the work and the worlds that I’m creating.

It's 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 guess you could say the day I began to look at this writing thing as a profession was the day I told myself that my starter novel was no longer for practice, but a novel I was bent on finishing and that I wanted to write another one.  That day things changed for me because I was determined to make writing a life or death thing.  If I got paid for it then that was an added bonus, but for me it was more about knowing that I was doing this with as much heart as I could give and that no mater what— at the end of the day— If I knew I gave it my best shot and didn’t make it then I could live with that.  After that decision some things fell in place and I was hired to write a few graphic novels, some comics, and now I’m being paid to write an article or two, so there’s a thin line between being a hobbyist/professional and I think the only difference is how much one is willing to sacrifices than the other.

In the beginning, what was the most challenging aspect of working freelance?  Trying to figure out how to convince other people to pay you for your writing.  It’s still a challenge and I have to say that a lot of opportunities I’ve had have come from me randomly emailing or reaching out to a company or editor knowing that I might not ever hear from them.  But if you never shoot your shot you’ll never know.

How have you changed since, as they say, 'Going Hard' doing your art for pay?  No, I tell people all the time I’ll never change.  Sure I’m getting paid here and there, but I just signed on to write a 4 issue zombie comic for a small press publisher with the hope of making some money off it, but the reason I signed on was because the concept is really cool and it’s a challenge to write something I’ve never written before.  I love comics and I’ll always be writing and producing them first for the love of creating.

What types of commissioned projects do you prefer to work on and why? For example favorite genres.
I don’t have a preference, but I love to work with people that come to the table with an open mind, especially if you’re hiring me to write then you’re essentially hiring me to world build and that takes a lot of effort and time so if you’re open to suggestions on story then it makes it easier to communicate those suggestions or to point out various storylines that could really push a project to the next level.

Do you have set commission rates or are they negotiable on a project-by-project basis?
I have some set rates.  For writing I start at a minimum of $25 dollars and that’s negotiable, but it all depends on how much creating I have to do for a story.  When I’m project-managing comic and graphic novel projects for clients it’s a flat $50 per completed comic page

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
A single word or phase is all I need to stimulate my imagination.  Usually something as simple as the name Virginia Wolfe creates for me Virgin Wolf and then the rest of the story starts to find its way into my head.

Describe one gratifying moment, where a client was extremely satisfied with what you had created and how it had impacted them?
Recently, I just finished writing and project managing a series of comics for a client and he was so impressed that he sent my wife and I out to dinner to celebrate since we couldn’t be at the launch party he was having.

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? 

Right now I’d have to say that it’s Virgin Wolf, which is set to be published this August by Silver Phoenix entertainment.  Virgin Wolf was a tale that kinda found me.  I was walking and the poet Virginia Wolfe’s name popped into my head and almost instantly I saw this story about a female werewolf hunter, but I didn’t quiet know what it was about until I started doing research on a historical American story that I remembered reading about in my social studies books as a kid.  All of sudden pieces of the story started to come together and then I started reading Alexndre Dumas an African-French writer and creator of such works as the Three Musketeers, the Count of Monte Cristo, and the Man in the Iron Mask and I knew that I wanted to pay homage to a writer that I never knew had an African ancestry, and one who has been greatly reused in entertainment with no mention that he was in essence black.


What are some of the most immediate follow-up projects?
I have a kickstarter campaign (http://kck.st/GGc4wn) to try and raise money for my choose-your-destiny graphic novel entitled, Dime.  It’s the story of Private investigator Eddie Puss who is hired by a wealthy socialite to find the murderer of her husband.

Then there’s Zulu, a 4 book 44 page mini-series that follows the life of a young teen named Lazarus Jones who becomes possessed by the great Zulu King, Shaka Zulu, and discovers he has mythical powers as he combats an evil corporation that’s threatening to destroy his city.

Lastly there’s Palm, a 4 book action/assassin story about a young Sicilian woman who becomes a trained killer in order to track down an American mafia boss for killing her family. 
 
Talk about the difficulties of being an independent artist and the hurdles you've overcome to produce and publish your own works.
The hardest hurdle I think in being an independent artist is believing in yourself and worth of the work that you’re producing.  As an indy writer, the hardest part is finding co-collaborators who are willing to work for no money, but maybe for half ownership of the copyright.  This is where I guess negotiating and really showing the artist that you’re dedicated to getting the project done at any cost is where I’ve been successful at, but I’ve also had to bite the bullet and work with less experienced or less enthusiastic artist because ultimately I believe in what I’m producing and I believe that there are readers out there waiting to hear my voice on the page.

What is your preferred medium for your stories; comic book, graphic novel, animation or movie?
I like all mediums.  Some work better than others.  I guess comics will always be my first inclination, but I try to let the story decide which medium I’ll write in.

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? 
I’d love to do a Blade story.  I’ve already got this 4-issue mini-series kinda planned out in my head.  The story would follow Blade killing vampires of course until he comes across a band of kid vampires, you know, like a lost boys meets lord of the flies type of kids and he can’t bring himself to kill them so he enlists the help of a vampire turned priest who has created a sort of sanctuary for wayward vampires.  The whole twist of the story I guess would come when it’s revealed later that one of those kids that he spared becomes his greatest enemy and really tares down his world and forces him to look at his own humanity and if holding on to that humanity is worth the lives he could have saved if he hadn’t spared that child.

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?
I work with a number of artists from all around the world so having the option to be connected to the world has given my creative process an outlet.  It has also allowed clients from different parts of the country to find me and for me to contact various publishers outside the country who may be a bit more open to hiring new writers or welcoming a new voice.

Here are two questions about event presentations, conferences, fairs etc. 
What are the conferences that are on your yearly schedule to attend?
As of now I don’t have any really that I’m looking to attend because of financial reasons and because 2012 is the year I release all of the work I’ve been stockpiling for the last two years.  With that said I’ll be attending C2E2 and Wizard World Chicago.  I’m hoping next year I’ll be attending at least 6-8 cons.

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?
Go in expecting nothing and you’ll probably come out with something.  By that I mean if you plan to pitch rehearse it and know the project from front to back, but don’t expect a publisher to jump all over it and want to publish it.  At best if you receive a business card then follow up, but know that at some point you may be left to do it yourself and that’s okay as long as you’ve shot your shot.

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? 
I think from a writer’s standpoint art is a reflection of our society. Our existence is based upon what we share with one another.  Entertainment in all its facets is about connecting a reader, viewer, or listener to the world in some form.

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? 
Extremely important.  When I was in elementary school I had a music teacher that would play Scott Joplin, B, Louie Armstrong, and all the greats in classical and jazz.  Now I was never a good student in her class but later in high school when I had to take music as a course I aced it.  Why?  Because I was exposed to the music in and her class and even though I never knew it I absorbed all that music and retained it for later use.

Whether it's the concept of Six Degrees of Separation or Its A Small World, the culture 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?  I’ve never been really big on joining groups, but if someone was to invite me to one I’d probably join to see if there was something I could learn.  Oh, wait there’s this one group of acebook called black comic writers, so I guess I am part of a group.

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?
You can read scripts, short stories, excerpts from novels, and even read some pages from some of the comics I’m writing.

What impact would you like your art to make on the world?
I’d hope to one day hear from a young writer that something I wrote inspired them to want to be a writer.  I think that’s the greatest compliment one can ask for.

What are your favorite quotes or philosophies of life that help you improve as a person or artist?
This quote I’ve always lived by “every man has but one destiny and in that destiny is his ultimate fate” Veto Corleone from Mario Puzo’s the Godfather

“”While you sleep I write” – me

“No rest for the wicked” - me

Is there anything else that you want the readers to know, feel free to elaborate?  No, I think they’ve heard enough from me.  Thanks!
 
That's it for now. If you or any visual artists or writers would be interested in an interview, be sure to contact me via one of the links below:
Be sure to connect with via:

360BEYOND@gmail.com

Stay Creative,
Pharaoh


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