QUICK QUESTIONS WITH Jason Groarke
WHO ARE YOU AND WHAT IS YOUR CONNECTION TO COMICS?
My name is Jason Groarke. I’ve been an avid fan of comics and drawing since I was a small kid, and I’ve spent the last few years trying to combine the two into a career. I was an artist with Longstone Comics for a bit which was great as it actually pushed me to create something, rather than doodling unproductively, and got me mixing with like-minded creatives, who all became friends.
WHAT COMIC ARE YOU WORKING ON RIGHT NOW?
I gave up a job in banking to make a go of this and have luckily fallen into storyboarding. I had a few storyboard gigs a few years ago, and that bit of experience and my work impressed the folks in Ardmore Studios last year and I got to storyboard the recent Camelot TV series. I’m currently storyboard artist on a new, big budget TV production about the Titanic. I also have a few smaller gigs lined up and am getting some commercials work. As for comics – still the great ambition. I’ve been doing some writing, and have some roughly pencilled pages which have been gathering dust for a bit. But storyboards arte like comics, and if I can marry the deadline-beating attitude to my personal projects, I’ll be on my way. I hope.
WHAT’S THE BEST PART OF MAKING COMICS?
I enjoy writing, to be honest. It’s a bit of a buzz to get an idea, start jotting it down and watch it expand into something greater. Drawing is my calling and passion. I enjoy drawing people and super-hero stuff lends itself to the dynamics of anatomy, emotional expression etc. I need to get better at environments in terms of proper perspective and placing characters in said environments.
WHAT’S THE WORST PART OF MAKING COMICS?
All the myriad, psychological barriers that can pop up as soon as you pick up a pencil.
HOW DID YOU FIRST DISCOVER COMICS?
I’ve been drawing since I was a toddler, and comics were a reference point. I remember sitting on the floor in newsagents at 3 years old sifting through all of the American comics – I was always drawn to Marvel, particularly X-Men. I also loved Star Wars, had a huge toy collection. From that point I always had a subscription in my local shop to the Marvel UK stuff. On holidays, I’d pick up foreign language versions. Being from Laois, it then became necessary to give my Mom a comic shopping list when she went to Dublin, regularly got the American issues picked up for me.
WHO IS THE BIGGEST INFLUENCE ON YOUR WORK?
A big influence was Marc Silvestri, during his Brood/Genosha/Inferno work on X-Men. His influence was then surpassed by Jim Lee. I was a bit of an exponent of the Jim Lee/Marc Silvestri style of ‘girls are beautiful, guys are powerful’. These days I let my own style out which is there when I pencil, gets lost a bit when I ink. When I draw with pen it’s different, but when I ink it tightens up. I’m inspired these days rather than influenced, by Olivier Coipel and Stuart Immonen particularly, but also people like Rafael Albuquerque.
WHAT TOOLS OF THE TRADE DO YOU USE?
Wish I knew more that I could use. Pencil and pen. Never really used a brush, scared to. Using Photoshop more and more.
WHAT IS THE SINGLE WORK OF WHICH YOU ARE MOST PROUD?
I get a buzz when I do something good, a real ‘I can do this as good as half the guys doing it professionally’ but I get over myself and the work very quickly. See only the mistakes after a while. The single work of which I am most proud remains unrealised.
WHAT IS THE BEST ADVICE YOU HAVE RECEIVED?
In relation to comics, I met Neal Adams, and he went through my sketchbook. He closed it, told me I was better off staying in banking or law, that I was too old, that I could draw but so what? That there was too much hard slog ahead of me to make it. Then I saw him again the following day and he said ‘Back again? Good. Don’t listen to anything anyone says, including me.’ Kind of cool.
WHAT IS THE WORST ADVICE YOU HAVE EVER RECEIVED?
Queued in a line to see Jim Lee at the same con, and I think I annoyed him with my sketchbook. He basically said ‘Give me 4 or 5 pages, not a book. Next!’ That was a bummer. I went to New York for that.
WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE CURRENT IRISH COMIC SCENE?
I feel I was part of it for a bit, and now I’m on the fringe again. But I’ve got plans! It’s thriving, and there is real talent involved. I would’ve been guilty in the past of saying it’s all a bit insular but it seems to be coming together as real community. A burgeoning little industry. It encourages people to have a go.
WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE HAPPEN IN IRISH COMIC IN THE NEAR FUTURE?
I’d like to see it move out of the specialist shops, see something out there in the general media. Some large-scale exposure, like the recent Blood Upon The Rose graphic. More material for kids, too. A lot of small press stuff is exclusively adult-themed. Doesn’t anyone want to draw teddy-bears? The Irish animation industry is thriving on kiddie material.
WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE HAPPEN IN COMICS IN GENERAL IN THE NEAR FUTURE?
Part of me wants stuff aimed for kids, the part that makes me uneasy when Thor calls the Silver Surfer ‘bastard’. I guess I want hard-edged, gritty work where it’s needed, and I’m not sure if the super-hero genre needs it. I guess it’s market-driven – super-hero films are aimed at a younger audience, and the comics get more complex and serious. I have no opinion on digital v. print, apart from liking the physical product and all it entails. I used to feel that way about CDs though. I like the regular fix of a new comic, but I like the collected formats when the art etc warrants me buying it. Just get your work out there I guess, in whatever format.
WHAT WAS THE LAST COMIC THAT MADE AN IMPACT ON YOU?
Comics don’t generally have much of an impact these days, but artists do. I’m a huge fan of Olivier Coipel and Stuart Immonen right now. I did pick up a trade of Northlanders which I enjoyed and gave me pointers on simplifying my style (in the hope of being more productive). Stuff like American Vampire. My problem is I sometimes never actually read the comics, just pore over the art.
FROM YOUR EXPERIENCE WHAT IS THE BEST ADVICE YOU COULD GIVE SOMEONE WHO WANTS TO START MAKING THEIR OWN COMICS? (And don’t say DON’T 🙂 )
Do. Seriously though, just bang it out. Don’t be too precious. And if you get it out, promote it. Let people know it’s there. I’m only getting work now because I went through the hassle of setting up a website. Use ICN.
ANY FINAL THOUGHTS?
Comics are fun. Have fun making them. They are also hard work, so work hard making them. I say that for the times I looked at a blank page for hours, thinking ‘I’m not enjoying this.’ Work harder and you will. I’ll let you know when my Issue 1 extravaganza is out. Sometime in the next decade.
Jason currently works as a storyboard artist and has worked on Camelot, Leap Year and Kings. As a comic artist he has been featured in a number of small press publications (Longstone Comics).
Neglected Blog: http://jag-studio.blogspot.com/ Half-constructed website: http://www.jagillustration.com/