Thursday, May 26, 2005

Interview with Elk's Run artist, Noel Tuazon

Elk's Run is an incredible new series from Western Tales of Terror publisher Hoarse & Buggy. You may have read my glowing review of issue one way back when I got a hold of an advance copy; you may have seen all the amazing support this book has gotten on messageboards and from creators like Warren Ellis, Brian Michael Bendis and B. Clay Moore.

Or maybe you haven't been so lucky just yet.

If you've never heard of the series before, take a look at my review and browse around the H&B website for just a minute; this is an excellent new book that really deserves your attention. One of the selling points for me has been the incredible artwork, and that's why it was such a pleasure to be able to interview the series' artist, Mr. Noel Tuazon. Let's have a look at what he had to say.

Sean Maher: Let's start by giving our readers a little personal information. Tell me something really embarrassing about Elk's Run writer Josh Fialkov.

Noel Tuazon: Josh is a BIG fan of pan flutist, Zamfir.

SM: Now it's your turn. What about you?

NT: The most embarrassing thing about me is that I waited almost 2 hours just to get Ace Frehley's autograph.

SM: How did you become a comics artist? What drew you to work in this medium?

NT: I guess it started back in college (Erindale and Sheridan College). A friend, Dominic Bugatto, who's a wicked illustrator, introduced me to works by Jeff Jones, Mike Kaluta, Wrightson, Sienkiewicz, etc. This was kind of new to me since when I was younger I tended to care more for the characters or the book's subject matter rather than the artists of the comic books. From there I began drawing the odd strip for the college newspaper. The drawing style tended to lean more on the cartoony side. Towards the end of college I was sending samples out to editors and comic artists just to get their opinions and also hoping to get the odd assignment. Unfortunately I've yet to become a full time illustrator and still do my full time job working in a warehouse.

SM: Who's your greatest inspiration? Not your biggest influence, not the person who's work you admire or want to emulate the most. I mean the person who keeps you fired up, who fans the flames of that passion for comics. When you're feeling down and tired, the thought of them gets you back on your feet and ready to fight. We all know that comics self-publishing is full of those difficult moments, so you've got to have a secret weapon somewhere in your life. Who or what is it?

NT: What drew me to comics was that it was easier than making a movie. I guess working at a series of boring, non-art related jobs gets me still fired up when it comes to my passion for comics (and, add to that, children's books and editiorial illustration). I just don't want to end up becoming the type who does his or her 8 or 12 hour shift then goes home for a meal then down on their asses watching reality TV shows.

SM: How did you get involved in the Elk's Run project?

NT: I think it was a link on Steve Niles' web site which connected me to Hoarse and Buggy Productions. I saw their project, Western Tales of Terror, advertised and decided I should show my comic page samples in hopes that I would be able to illustrate WTOT stories. Josh saw my work and decided I would be suited for his little project, "Elk's Run".

SM: Describe your working relationship with Josh Fialkov. What's your collaborative process like?

NT: So far it's been Josh e-mailing me the scripts. I read them, draw character designs if they're needed, then it's off to doing the roughs layouts in inks. These roughs are then e-mailed off (five to six pages at a time) to Josh and Jason for evaluation. Once they're approved, it's off to the good paper (Bristol) for the final version.

SM: What can readers find in Elk's Run that they can't find anywhere else?

NT: Readers of "Elk's Run" will find no silicone breasted women.

SM: What do you think is special about the book?

NT: What's special about the book is that its "heroes" and "monsters" are not in costumes but rather in everyday clothing and settings. Plus, of course, no silicone breasted women.

SM: Is Elk's Run your first professional work?

NT: My first professional work was actually in a Cerebus reprint in 1989, which featured single page comics as backups. Other works include the two issue "Arianne" (written by Rafael Nieves) for Slave Labor and later reprinted by Moonstone Books and some anthologies (Taboo Especial, Dennis Eichorn's Real Stuff, Reactor Girl, Drawing the Line, Frecklebean Comics, Fleshrot 2, and Fleshrot Halloween Special). So, it's been off and on between me and comics within the last 16 years.

SM: What's your "day job"? How do you pay the bills while you're fighting the good fight and making comics? How do you balance the two?

NT: My day job is as a shipper and receiver for a small bridal gown company and the only art related full time job I've ever had was doing storyboard revisions for an animated company here in Toronto called Nelvana. I manage to balance the the day job and illustration by dedicating about an hour or two on the comics during the weeknights and five hours or so on weekends.

SM: Describe your process, and get into some detail for our aspiring-comics-genius readers. Everybody's got a technique that works best for them, a pattern they work with; what's yours?

NT: The technique I employ when starting on the final art is roughing out the pencils with blue non-photo pencil including the panel borders themselves. Then I straighten the borders with a ruler before going over them with a thick marker. Sometimes I'll even start inking images in the panels before inking the borders. I should note that I rarely draw tight pencils but just go straight into the blue pencils.

SM: What have been your most important resources as an independent comics artist? Influential books, sources of information, mentors, materials - what could you not do this job without?

NT: For influence and inspiration, I've looked at the works of Jeffrey Jones, early Wrightson, Kaluta, Mazzuchelli, and now within the last two to three years it's been EC reprints featuring artists such as Wally Wood, Al Williamson, Frank Frazetta, etc.. Additional books include ones on James Montgomery Flagg, Charles Dana Gibson, Andrew Loomis' instructional drawing books, and, last but not least, the drawing instructors at this small animation school in Toronto called Studio M.

SM: What is the most important lesson you'd like to pass on to other independent artists, based on your experience thus far?

NT: The most important lesson is to probably expect to do some projects for small wages or even for free. Also, keep practicing on your drawing skills even if it's only for a few hours or minutes per day. Keep away from manga!

SM: Do you have any other projects lined up after ER? If not, what kind of material would you LIKE to work on?

NT: No projects lined up for now after ER's run but I do have an illustrated story appearing in one of Graphic Classics' anthologies (Adventure Classics: Graphic Classics Volume Twelve) sometime in July. It's an adaptation of a Damon Runyon story.

SM: What is your greatest ambition in comics?

NT: My greatest in ambition in comics is to draw anything from weird fiction to even superheroes.

SM: Finally, tell me your drink of choice and name something horrible (or hysterical) that happened once when you were drinking it.

NT: My apologies for my boring answer to this one but I'm more of a water and juice drinker. As far as I can remember nothing horrible or hysterical has happened to me with regards to those drinks. Whew! I need a drink.

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