Colour Cred: An Interview with Triona Farrell

Triona Farrell recently hit another career milestone, colouring Runaways for Marvel. I asked her about choosing projects, her process and colourists getting credit for their work and more.

You have worked on quite a variety of comics at this stage. I was wondering attracts you to particular projects?

There’s a whole host of different reasons I work on different projects. Art with lots of space for me to work on is a big plus, so I can do something creative. Artists and Writers that I’m familiar with and like working together, such as Dylan Burnett or Dan Watters are a big plus, as I can trust them to do a good job and be fun to work with. And if the project interests me such as Nancy Drew or Goosebumps, it’s also a major plus. There is a financial aspect to my choice as well, but all and all, the right choice of projects instead of taking the first well paying one that comes along is so important in your comics career.

I am really interested in the colouring process. What is your process from reading the script?

What I usually do is print out the script and go page by page, highlighting important bits such as ‘cape has to be red’ or ‘cloudy night’ so I don’t forget. Sometimes I’ll write in ‘must be blue’ etc. so I don’t forget what kind of story I was trying to tell with colours. What is most important is understanding that in every panel there focus of attention, and build the scene around that. A good example is below. Nearly everything but the main team is highlighted in bright colours in this shot, as this is a in-depth conversation highlighted by Greg Pak in the script. As a result, I used a colour hold in the background to draw attention back to the kids. This doesn’t always hit the mark, but it’s a good rule of thumb to understand what the writer is trying to highlight the most in a scene.

I really loved the cover to Half Past Danger: Dead to Reichs Issue 3. The cherry blossoms were beautiful. What was the process for that cover?

When I first opened that cover, it really reminded me of the Japanese woodblock paintings. As a result I tried to keep the colour rather muted, with a strong texture on top of it. I really wanted to emphasize the brightness of the cherry blossoms, so they ended up being the most saturated bit of the cover. So as not to overpower the Cherry blossoms, I put a colour hold on the far background. There’s also a colour hold on the blossoms, but it’s amazing that a colour hold can be a highlighter, or something to mute a palette. It pretty much came together after that, with just a few tweaks to the palette. I think Stephen may have came in after that and had one or two small notes regarding the two figures, but beyond that we were both very happy with the result.

You’ve worked on a few creator owned books. I’m thinking of Mech Cadet Yu in particular. Is there more creative freedom for these kinds of books? You were on board that book from the beginning.

Creator owned books can actually both creatively free and quite tight in expectations. Greg and Tak both had a visual idea of what they wanted for the book, MECH CADET YU, which was already my style. In another case with a creator owned book, ROSE, I’m given free reign with only a few notes and plenty of space to work with. In contrast I have worked with many licensed books that simply let me do whatever I wanted. tend to find that the bigger licensors tend to be more fussed with the art then the colours. I can’t say for complete sure though, that’s just my experience. It entirely depends on the team, how long I would’ve been working on the book etc. For example at first there was many changes to my pages for Mech Cadet Yu but my colours have become tighter in that time and I think there’s more trust in me in using the correct palette/rendering. All and all, being a colourist is about managing expectations sometimes. You want your own creative freedom, but in the end, you’re there to do a job and work around other peoples’ idea and compromise.

Having worked on everything from creator owned to Doctor Who, what are the book(s) you’ve worked on that you’d particularly like readers to take a look at?

Personally I’d really recommend Half Past Danger, it’s a really fun book and Stephen’s writing is top notch. Beyond that I’d tell you to pick up everything I do (ha).

You have recently been announced as a guest colourist on Runaways. What was that experience like?

It was very daunting. Matt Wilson is a terrifically talented colourist, but luckily he was on hand to give me a few pointers and some of the original pages so I could pretty much replicate the style. I learnt a lot very quickly. When working with a new publisher, it’s a little scary at first as you scope out how much leeway you get, what they want, how much the writer/artist is involved and etc. But I think I pulled it off fairly well for following a massive talent like Matt. The Marvel editors and the team were very welcoming with plenty of on hand help and references, so I definitely was not thrown to the wolves at the very least.

There has been a lot said about Art Cred. I think this applies to colourists too. Do you think colourists are getting more credit now?

It is definitely better then it used to be, but we still need to push for more. Personally I think it’ll slowly improve in time. The prevalence of colourists being left out of Art Cred discussions has a lot to do with an older generation of comic readers and creators simply not understanding what colourists do and their importance in the industry. As a newer generation slowly take over, it will get better (one can hope at least). My experiences still haven’t been great, with some of my reviews attributing my work to the artist or forgetting me entirely. However I can’t think of a single creator that hasn’t really respected what I do, which is a great sign!

What do you think of the emergence of so many colourists from Ireland?

I personally feel it’s got a lot to do with the easy access to comic book creators in Ireland. We’re all very close and small in this community, so it’s easy to go up to someone say like Jordie Bellaire or myself and ask ‘hey, how do I do colouring in comics?’. Colouring comics is actually one of those creative careers that has very little information around it. There’s no general how to guide on how to colour, beyond a few different youtube personalities. Someone typing it into google would easily be overwhelmed, but having someone direct you to specific information is so very helpful. It probably also helps that Ireland has a great base of talented young folks in it.

You’ve worked on a lot of dream projects, is there anything left on your bucket list?

Right now, not much is left (ha). I’d love to work on something like Ms Marvel, or Spiderman. Runaways was one of those books I read years ago and thought to myself ‘I want to work on this.’ so that’s one off the list of many things I want to do in life.

What do you have coming out next?

Not much I can talk about, but definitely pick up Nancy Drew from Kelly Thompson and Jenn St-Onge, coming out in June. It’s absolutely amazing.

The Half Past Danger Volume 2 hardcover, which features Triona’s colours, arrives in stores today.