James Burns is an Atlanta-based cartoonist whose credits include Detached, Daemon Process, the recently published Real Magicalism anthology, and the weekly comic strip Grumbles which is published by Atlanta’s Sunday Paper and is also available on his website.
You can find out more about James Burns at his website jamesburnsdesign.com/comics/.
Question 1: When did you first decide that you wanted to create your own comics for a living?
I started producing comics after I has a scary brush with blindness, as explained in my first comic, Detached. I always wanted to make comics, but never has a story to tell, until then.
Question 2: Who has had the biggest influence on you outside the comics industry, and how did they affect your life?
My wife, who taught me that life was full of possibilities.
Question 3: Who has had the biggest influence on your comics career, and how has that person changed your work?
Jack Kirby. Not just for stylistic reasons (which I love), but because he worked in the industry for over 50 years, raising a family, and putting food on the table. His story is also a tragedy; the lack of recognition he got as a creator, something that is just staring to be corrected nowadays.
Question 4: What do you do to recharge your creative batteries?
Read comics. Just draw.
Question 5: Describe your typical work routine.
I have my weekly Grumbles comic to produce, my ongoing comics work, as well as my illustration and graphic design business.
Question 6: What writing, drawing, or other tools do you use?
I write in a simple word processor. My scripts usually consist of a rough outline and scene descriptions, since I’ll be working from my own stuff.
I pencil my roughs on 8 1/2 X 11 scrap paper, scan it into Photoshop, clean it up, and blow it up 150% onto two sheets of paper, oriented horizontally. These I tape on the back of standard comicbook bristol, and using a lightbox, I do my pencils from that reference. This I scan into Photoshop, again cleanup any big mistakes, and take it into Manga Studio for digital inks. I export from Manga Studio back to Photoshop where I layout the pages, add type, and add color or tone.
I have a series of tutorials on my comics site.
Question 7: What element of your work gives you the most personal satisfaction?
Question 8: What has been the most rewarding project in your professional career – in or out of comics – and why?
It’s always the last piece of work you produce. In my case, that would be “Real Magicalism,” an 80-page anthology I created featuring the work of a buncha folks. It was cool to try to ‘rassle a group of creative folks together and try to produce a cohesive book.
Question 9: We’ve all met very talented newcomers who are trying to get their first professional projects. What’s the best advice you’ve ever heard given to a promising new creator?
Don’t wait to be discovered – start doing the work now. If you’re a writer – write. If you’re an artist – draw. Everyday. Without excuses. Learn your craft.
Question 10: Time to get philosophical: What’s the most important “big idea” that you’ve learned in life – in or out of comics – and why is it important?
Life is short. Time to get to work on what you love.
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