10 Questions for Kevin Mellon

Kevin Mellon has quickly developed a reputation as a top-notch artist, and is now making his move into writing some of his own material. You may have seen his work on GearHead (Arcana), Thirteen Steps (Desperado), Teddy Scares (APE), Ghosting (Platinum), GunPlay (Platinum), Comic Book Tattoo (Image) Antoine Sharpe, The Atheist Vol. 2 (Desperado), Hack/Slash (Devil’s Due), and This Is A Souvenir: The Songs of Spearmint and Shirley Lee (Image, 2009).

You’ll be able to see more of his work in Hack/Slash #20 (Devil’s Due). He’s also currently working on a graphic novel for AiT/PlanetLar with his Gearhead co-creator Dennis Hopeless. Plus, he’s writing and drawing a series called Suicide Sisters planned for 2010.

Kevin lives in the Kansas City suburb of Blue Springs, Missouri, which also happens to be the home base of ComicsCareer.Com. In fact, he lives just a few short blocks from where this is typed. If you can’t invite him over to house like we have, you’ll have to settle for learning more about him from his website, www.kevinmellon.com.

Question 1: When did you first decide that you wanted to create your own comics for a living?

Hmm. Either when I was 12, or when I was 26. Depends on how you look at it. I started making up my own stories and drawing them out at the age of 12 and made several hundred pages of comics throughout middle and high school. I went to the Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art for college and graduated in 2002. After screwing around for a few years after college, I was 26 and I decided I needed to actually give making comics a formal go and got to work on making comics and finding publishers.

Question 2: Who has had the biggest influence on you outside the comics industry, and how did they affect your life?

Outside? Good question. One of my good friends who has nothing to do with comics, but has always supported me in everything I’ve ever done; she’s been a constant and heavy influence and support system. Other than that, my grandmother on my mom’s side was a huge influence on my going to college and doing something with my art.

Question 3: Who has had the biggest influence on your comics career, and how has that person changed your work?

Someone I don’t know: Dave Sim. His “Letters from the President” in the front of Cerebus during the 90’s that later became the “Cerebus Guide To Self-Publishing” was so life-changing and scope-broadening I don’t know how anyone gets along without knowing at least some of the things he talks about in there.

Someone I know, met, or studied under: I don’t know that I can narrow it to one person. Phil Hester, Ande Parks, Steve Lightle, Richard Corben, Dennis Hopeless, Tony Moore, Steven Sanders, Joe Kubert, Frank Teran, Charles Perkalis, Fernando Ruiz, The Joe Kubert School graduating class of 2002, and the list goes on. There are so many people and things that have been too influential in me being where I’m at now to just short-shrift it to one person. The last two years have seen the amount of people I know in this industry grow so fast that they all have had some kind of influence.

Question 4: What do you do to recharge your creative batteries?

Walk away from the work. Sometimes the best thing can be just doing something else for a bit. Letting my mind focus on something else so I can come back with a fresh perspective.

Question 5: Describe your typical work routine.

Heh. The only really typical thing is sitting at the desk. But to generalize, I get up and make coffee and answer emails and mess around on the Internet for a few hours. I find it next to impossible to start work within two hours of getting up, so I don’t. I might watch some TV, or run errands.

After being up for about four or five hours I can usually get to work. Then — depending on what needs to be done — I will vary how I work throughout the rest of the day. If I’m doing thumbnails and layouts then I try to keep as focused and concentrated as I can, no music, TV, or other distractions. If I’m penciling or inking then I’m listening to podcasts or albums. Usually I try to find things to listen to that are really long so I don’t break my concentration by finding something new to listen to all the time. I try to take a short break every hour or so and walk around the house to get away from what I’m doing for a second. I usually pencil and ink in batches, so I’ll pencil a couple of pages a day for a week, then ink them the next week.

I try to stop every workday at a good point in my mood, regardless of how much or little I’ve gotten done. If I’m getting frustrated I’m more apt to quit sooner rather than later. Working through stuff like that only happens sometimes. Other times it’s best for me to just come back to it another day or to switch to working on another page.

Question 6: What writing, drawing, or other tools do you use?

For writing I use a G4 Mac tower and Google Docs, Mac Stickies, and Text Edit. I write for myself to draw or to convey broad notions to other people, so I don’t have any word processing software on my computer. Plus, Google Docs does everything I need at this point and keeps things way more organized than I would ever think to. Plus they add new templates for formatting all the time so there’s that.

For penciling I use blue mechanical lead and whatever .05 holder isn’t pissing me off that week. I hate mechanical pencils but no one makes good blue lead for drafting lead holders yet. For regular lead I use Turquoise HB and 2H in a lead holder since I also can’t stand wood-cased pencils. Since I ink myself most of the time now, I pretty much don’t use regular lead anymore and just pencil in blue all the time. I have some wrist problems and erasing is utter hell on them so being able to drop the blue pencil out in Photoshop is a lifesaver.

For inking I’m kind of a whore, I’ll use whatever will get the job done, but I do have a few standby tools. I’m in love with Winsor-Newton Series 7 No. 2 brushes. I had one that lasted me eight years then I accidentally snapped the handle. I’m on my third one in the course of a year because I keep losing them. I’m sure W&N appreciates the business though. I use Hunt 108’s every now and then, and have been using Hunt 107’s a lot lately. I used to use Micron 02, 03 and 05’s a lot, but the 107 is replacing all of those and with less hassle. Plus, bottle ink is pretty much always superior to marker ink. Speaking of which, I was using Higgins Super-Black and Dr. Ph. Martins Black for inking up until a few months ago. I now use Yasutomo Sumi Ink that I buy in the big bottles and then poor into a smaller container as needed.

Paper: Strathmore Bristol 300 ply Smooth. I buy the pads of 20 sheets at 14″x17″ and then cut off the 3 inches on the side to make them 11×17. I scan in my thumbnails and turn them blue and then re-size them to 10×15 and print them out myself so it’s way more cost effective to buy the pads of paper than to buy pre-lined board.

Question 7: What element of your work gives you the most personal satisfaction?

Conveying mood and emotion on the page in an effective way. Also, drawing people who look like they are alive on the page.

Question 8: What has been the most rewarding project in your professional career – in or out of comics – and why?

Each of my creator-owned things I’m working on has had it’s own new set of rewards. Gearhead was my first book, and it was also my first published work, so I guess that will always have a special place.

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?

Do the work. Nothing in this world, let alone this job, comes without working extremely hard for it.

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?

We’re all connected. We are all human and experience the same emotions, and we all go through a lot of the same things in life. It’s our nature to feel utterly alone and completely connected all at the same time. Telling stories to each other through creative means allows us to bridge both of those gaps.

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