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Wednesday, January 31, 2018

INTERVIEW: Artist/Animator Konstantin Komardin

Mixed Media by Komardin
Award-winning artist and animator, Konstantin Komardin recently sat down with writer Renee Witterstaetter to conduct an interview for Nashville Arts Magazine to give a few details on his influences and his life in the art world. Growing up in Russia, now living in India, and visiting the United States once a year for signings and screenings, he gives a unique perspective on the world as he sees it.

Konstantin Komardin

Renee Witterstaetter:  Describe your introductory experience to the world of art.

Konstantin Komardin: Actually I started to draw when I was a child,  in kindergarten. I have a bunch of papers still left from my drawing when I was just a kid-- 4 or 5 years old, so even then,  I was trying to express what I had inside. Then in school I found out I really liked to tell stories , but I wasn't capable in writing to express myself the way I wanted. I was writing books, just for an excuse to draw pictures for these books. I didn't like to tell the stories by words, I liked to tell them by pictures. So when I first saw comics, I understood that this was my art, that this was my world, so I started telling stories by sequential pictures. It was something like around 7th grade when I saw comics for the first time (Editors Note: Comics were not readily available in Russia at that time.), so it was from that age that I decided to work and pursue a career in sequential art. I was making illustrations for books, covers for books, making comics, making posters for cinema, which is an interesting story... making animation, working for theater-- anywhere that you could draw--I was doing it as I got older.

RW:  What influences have shaped your art?

KK: When I was a kid, I think I was mostly influenced by cinema, because I have a lot of pictures from when I was four that I know were taken from cinema-- different images that I saw. Later I started to study art, and there are a lot of artists that influence me--that I like. I wanted to do something like they were doing. By names-- Gustave Doree, a French artist, he was an amazing illustrator and amazing artist, making mostly engravings for books, serious restoration about London, the Bible-- a lot of things. Big break through in illustration art as a graphic artist. In comics, of course I like Dana it was the beginning of soviet art, post revolutionary, creating a new sexuality, trying to find a new form and how to express it. This impressed me, because soviet art wasn't about sexuality or feeling. But  these guys they did it. In the 20s and 30's. Seroff is also a very great artist. But actually if you go to my childhood if you go to comics, what really sweep me away , I just remember this book was "Ronin" by Frank Miller, and "Circle of Blood by Mike Zeck, and "Gotham by Gaslight" by Mike Mignola. These books gave me an understanding of comic art. And then it was a breakthrough with French artists like Inki Bilai and Moebius. They give more of an understanding of cyber punk and things  out of our consciousness that they like to express. And if you come back to sexuality, Milo Manara, because he draws very sensually. You can feel the emotion. About sensuality , it's the most important thing to draw so that you can feel something, not just nakedness, but to go deep inside you, because everyone can draw a naked lady.

She came at Sunset

About the comic art, the storytelling, how they tell a story, not just to tell it a simple way, but with emotion, what I like in art actually when you can smell this art. Like there are some writers like Faulkner who can make you when you are reading a book, just smell the atmosphere. Frank Miller can make this atmosphere. Mike Zeck can, I could go through his book and it was like I was seeing a movie as I went through his book. IT was amazing. A movie on paper. Same with Mignola. So much rich atmosphere in his books. You can go again and again into this atmosphere and enjoy it. That's real art when you can go back again and again and enjoy it. Not like a movie when you've seen it once and that's enough. With a story like this you can go back again and again and feel this atmosphere and smell it. That's real art, and I never tire of going back again and again to these stories.

RW: How did you “break in” to the industry?

KK: When I stated to work on real projects, I started a comic with one of my friends, after some Russian sci fi writers, it was the 90's in Russia, a time of possibilities. We were young, so we decided to go to a famous magazine that was publishing some sci fi stories and show them our art, and it just started from there. My first jobs. Then people started to ask me to draw illustrations. It also happened that my teacher in art school,  before University, the teacher he also drew comics and we met and he was studying sequential art, and classical art, and we started to talk about comics.There was a group of them, older than us, one guy from the group who had come back form the army started to draw and publish comics, in this magazine, and in other publishing houses, organized by his friends from the army time. Because we were communicating he just invited me to draw something for this magazine. So from both sides, book illustrations and covers for this sic fi project,  and on the other side I started to draw comics. These were my first projects. From this from then I was invited to be an art director in one of the publishing houses-- publishing mostly sic fi books they could sell at that time. I was doing most of the illustrations and covers for these books. In Ekentrenaburg.

In my hometown it was too far from all the foreign influence. People in Moscow could find some comics even in Soviet times, but where I lived it was almost impossible. The first time I saw a comic, my friends from school, whose parent were working in larger cities, brought some comic magazines from there. French ones too. Also accessible in Mosocow because it was published by the communist company in France. A whole generation of Russian comic artists grew up on these. I have very few examples of comic that I get from my friends, then I met some other guys with the comics magazine, and he showed me American comics with Miller, Zeck, Mignaola, etc. We exchanged the comics, somebody would get them from somewhere, traveling, in the late 80's when I saw some of these. Later we were able to order American comics from Amazon.com-- "X-Men" with Adam Kubert. When I was working on one project and trying to make it very American style, what I saw in the X-Men books was influential. French, English and Italian works. Then came American comics for me.

Miller and Mignola were not really mainstream art to me. Kubert was more main stream.

Then when I came to Moscow, where it was mostly French comics influencing me. Expression of artists.

Sci Fi work by Komardin

RW: Are there any current trends that have changed your outlook of making art?

KK: For me its now very interesting this conceptional art. People making new reality. It's impressive, and incredibly interesting, new details, new worlds. I like to follow conceptional artists because actually a comic artist is also a conceptional artists. He's inventing his own world and he has to invite all things in his world. Nature, clothes, techniques, everything, if they are inventing their own world. Modern things on the Internet are the things I following, talking about modern reality. People who draw concepts for movies video games, etc. They just invent. Arms, tanks, cars, planes, for movies, for video games etc.

RW: How does an idea for a piece begin? What are the steps to your creative process?

KK: Actually it's for me it's coming from somewhere from beyond. Sometimes I want to draw Cyber Punk, so I want to put all these interesting cyber Punk things in one piece and it starts getting bigger and bigger and then the story comes. Most of my plots of my stories on my own, they come from a bus in India, and it was difficult to sleep on a bus going a whole night somewhere, half a sleep and half awake thinking about what's going on around  me and a plot comes to me. So I have a few stories that just come this way. Sitting and thinking, then the plot starts to reveal itself, and unveil itself. And it come very fast that I write a whole story. I don't know sometime where it's coming from. I'm not really a writer. I'm a storyteller.

But I think the most genius is when it comes by itself.

It's like traditional ways. First you have the vision of a new world that is more interesting, bending reality. Then you draw the pictures of this new world if you are working on a new project, then you are working on the characters for the story. I can do a few pages of storyboards 15-18 pages, roughed out, then I go right into the real pages, fully rendered. I never know what will be next or where it will finish or who it will finish. I think it's a little boring if you know how the story is going to end. During this work, I just invent what's going on next. Very often the subject of the story can change and the characters you draw can dictate what will be next actually. They become real. Give a new feel. And they tell you what they do or don't do. The characters become real.

Travels of Komardin

RW: What projects are you currently working on?

KK: The most hated question because it's like the most common question hated by most artists because the new project is the most important thing and if you start to talk about it, you are sharing this thing not really done, but it's very much yours and a very private thing. And it can influence on the process of making this thing, actually.

We just finished working on an animated movie about  Human Rights, and it's rather sci-fi and take place on a different planet. This movie we explain what human rights are, and where they come from. We were hired to do this movie as a teaching tool.

I'm also working on comics story, marathon project. A huge project involving a lot of artists. A huge project. Very big. Comics story, then motion comics, for mobile devices, etc.

But for me personally, I am working on a travel book as well as another animated project I have in mind.  Which I won't talk about yet.. too close to me...

Travels of Komardin

RW:  Are there any mistakes that you frequently see other artists making? If so, what are those mistakes and how do you think they can be avoided?

KK: That's a  killing question. So if I answer that, folks would want to kill me. I won't name names. I think most of what's going now in art and the movie and comic industry everything goes too much to special effects to catch up the audience and hold them, and it doesn't let them think about anything or feel anything  It just presses them in a chair in the cinema and holds them, but it's not about art again, all Hollywood movies are the same. It's all about special affects, but the plot is the same, but you don't feel what's going on on the screen. You have to feel it. You have to be involved in the process of the story and now it's all modern things in cinema and in music. All the same. Put spectators in some new reality let him be inside the story. Let him feel what's going on with the personalities of the characters, absorb it all.  Like when you are really scared or when you really start to cry with something you are seeing. These are things that are cathartic. When you feel something from deep inside of you and you believe what's going on, and it shocks you. This is why people in my opinion should go to the cinema, go to the theater, read books, so that when it's finished you feel something. You have left your reality for a bit and you have lived a whole life in these couple of hours in a cinema. Book of remark, "Three Comrades," I was reading it on a bus. I just wanted to duck like bullet was flying over me. Or for example, I was so deep inside of this movie. This, the Matrix movie, you understand this terrible reality, and you go out and you think you are not in the real world, the real world was back in the cinema.

RW:  What are your favorite characters you like to depict, and why?

KK: There are a couple to them. Sure. I really like Sandman by Neil Gaiman. I'd love to draw some of those. Neil Gaiman invents a reality that I really like. I'd really like to draw some of his characters.  Corto Maltese by Hugo Pratt, I still adore it. One of the most vivid personalities in the whole history of comic arts.

RW: What kind of stories are you looking to tell through your art?

KK: In my art I actually like to tell it depends on the time of life. All the time I am telling different storeis and using different styles. What I really like to tell is what is happening with me and my relationship with reality and other people. It can be metaphysical relationships. poetic stories that are touching me, or a relationship with a new reality.  How we can create new realities and live in these realties. We are creators by nature. We shouldn't be artists or musicians but so we can create realities anyway, everywhere. All things going on with the people. What's boiling in my brain, I'm illustrating it. I accept reality of what I'm thinking about this world. So even if I draw a funny story, and it doesn't look very deep, in anyway I just put all these things that are going on in my brain in this story. All the details. And there are layers that way.

Becauese for an artist it's how we think. It's a different way of thinking about everything. We are thinking beyond. If you don't draw you don't think, you are dead. You just stop. The meaning of life is just movement. You have to move all the time, and continue to move. If you are an artist you need to continue to draw and to move. I like to share what I've invented in my mind with people When people come and tell me it was great and they thought it amazed them or sweep them away, I feel it wasn't in vain. It's a great feeling.

RW:  In the world of comic books, what liberties and restrictions do you observer?

KK: The main thing is that you can do it alone by yourself, not involving other people in this process, so you don't depend on other people like in movie or animation. It also involves a lot of money, but to draw comics you can do it at home for nothing and not involving other people. You are the director, actor, script writer, everything. I don't see a lot of limits. Sometimes I think I need sound in this scene, but really I just become to be more involved in how I can tell a story and make this reality have a sound anyway. It's proceeded from your picture. It's not so difficult. You just have to find the proper line and the proper colors. So it is a very private thing that you can express yourself without involving too many other people.

RW:  Any advice you'd like to offer for up-and-coming artists?

KK: The main advice is that don't be afraid of anything in art. Just be bold and brave. And try to express what's in you. Deep in you. Try to find this very personal thing and try to express this one thing because it's very unique. And if you do this, people will see this and they will like it. Because notboy wants an artist to be like someone else. You can draw like someone else, but if you are expressing what's really inside of you , people will see it and it will be very personal and unique.

TALKING ABOUT: Voice Actor Neil Kaplan for 2018 Bookings!

Announcing Neil Kaplan, Versatile Voice Actor Available for 2018 Bookings! 

Fo the past four seasons, fans around the world of the Netflix animated series, “VOLTRON: LEGENDARY DEFENDER” have known Neil Kaplan as the evil galactic Emperor Zarkon.

Not to mention (although of course we ARE), Neil Kaplan is also the actor that gave voice to iconic hero Optimus Prime-- one of the most recognizable characters in animation--on the original "TRANSFORMERS: ROBOTS IN DISQUISE."

His work in animation includes playing Albus Dumbledore on “ROBOT CHICKEN”, as well as roles on “The Wacky Races”, “Penn Zero: Part Time Hero”, “Bunnicula”, “Ask the Storybots”, “Higglytown Heroes”, and more.

“DESTINY 2”, the highly anticipated video game sequel has finally been released worldwide. At the center of this epic story is the antagonist, Dominus Ghaul. The fear inducing voice for Ghaul is provided by Mr. Kaplan.

Millions of video game players & fans around the world already know him for his captivating work in Blizzard’s massive hits “STARCRAFT II” and “HEROES OF THE STORM” as the roguish anti-hero, Tychus J. Findlay, as well as Lord of the Forest, Cenarius in “WORLD OF WARCRAFT”. He is adored by “LEAGUE OF LEGENDS” fans as the voice of space dragon Aurelian Sol. “STAR WARS” fans know him as any number of humans, aliens or droids such as Skadge, Governor Adlehard, Boss Ganne, Darth Bandon and Bendak Starkiller from the video games “Old Republic”, “Uprising”, “Battlegrounds” and “Knights of the Old Republic”.

Anime fans loved Neil as Hawkmon on “DIGIMON” and continue to love to hate him as villainous Madara Uchiha on “NARUTO: SHIPPĂ›DEN”.

He has been the voice of numerous MARVEL characters in such works as: "Spider-Man: Battle for New York," "Marvel Anime: Iron Man," "Marvel Anime: Blade," "Spider-man Unlimited," "Marvel Heros," and "Justice League Heroes." His popular voices include such notables as Green Gobin, Venom, Sabretooth and Gorilla Grod!

His voice was heard for years on “MIGHTY MORPHIN’ POWER RANGERS” and he was featured voicing fan-favorite villain, Diabolico on “Power Rangers: Timeforce”. And on “Power Rangers: Time Force” he played the lovable henchman, Gluto.

Audiobook enthusiasts know him as the narrator for several books including the popular YA series, “I AM NUMBER FOUR”.

Currently, he’ is also the voice of CNNN on Chuck Lorre’s “Disjointed” airing on Netflix.

Neil is available for panels at your show, and even has a few he'd like to suggest. Custom voice work to promote the show is also possible. 

For more information, contact Renee at Pros & Cons Celebrity Booking: evaink@aol.com

"Black Panther" Cover Artist Looks Towards New Marvel Movie

New York, NY--

The Buzz on the new Marvel "Black Panther" movie has been hitting the Internet in a big way!

As one review wrote:

"Black Panther looks, feels and sounds unlike any Marvel film to date. A visual feast. Wakanda is amazingly realized, the antagonist actually has an arc with emotional motivations. Marvels most political movie. So good."

One piece by Arthur Suydam for Black Panther. 

And just as happy to see that as anyone is one of the Black Panther cover artists, Arthur Suydam.

Known for his pivotal work on "Marvel Zombies," it was Arthur's cover work on that series that helped catapult it into one of the most successful series of all time, and add to the growing zombie craze that writer Robert Kirkman continued with "The Walking Dead." (On which Suydam has also provided the frontage.)

Coupled with his work on George Romero's "Empire of the Dead," and his work on "Deadpool,"  Suydam was a natural choice for his run of work on "Black Panther," as well.

Some of Suydam's humorous turns on Black Panther. 

"I was happy to work on pieces for that character," said Suydam.  "I've always found him to be one of the Marvel characters with a great deal of depth to be explored.  And it's no surprise that he'd be the subject of one of the upcoming movies."

As to which of his many works is his favorite, Suydam says he really couldn't say. "Like every piece, the one I'm working on at the time is my favorite. But working with the Black Panther series was certainly a pleasure.

As part of his appearances at conventions world wide, Suydam often does free quick sketches for kids on Sunday.  The subject matter is wide ranging, but as Suydam notes:

"Black Panther is always a favorite."

Black Panther cover by Arthur Suydam. 

For more information about booking Arthur for 2018 appearances, contact Renee at: evaink@aol.com