Mixing It Up: An Interview With Donna A. Black

On of the newer artists to burst on the scene and make a big splash is Donna A Black. Her unique style really sets her apart and I have really enjoyed the work she has done. I asked her about her creative origins and some of the books she has worked on.

You have such a unique style. What is your art background?

I trained as a photographer and went to college to study media studies. I was always into drawing and painting and only got into photography through taking reference shots for me to paint later at home as a teenager. Though I really got into cameras and old school photography and had my own darkroom where I experimented a lot with colour and lighting. I started drawing over my photo experiments too in the darkroom, with paint and chemicals. This was before I had digital software or even a DSLR camera. Which would come later. I had always been a huge comic book fan from an early age, and as a child had stated I would be a comic book artist but life took me a different way to get there just. I worked as a photographer for many years and had very successful art shows including well received solo shows in Ireland and England.  I done commercial work as well and worked taking photos for local bands and as the scene photographer for the lesbian magazine DIVA. But I was gradually getting ‘bolder’ with my photography and experimenting more and more. And soon enough my work was more mixed media than photography. I started having art shows showing my new work and felt good that it was also getting well received and this gave me the confidence to take the step in moving completely over to mixed media artwork and painting and drawing more each day. For a while I did covers and posters and more shows getting to know my own style again, when I decided I wanted to pursue my childhood dream of working in comics. I was worried for awhile my work was too stylised, but I soon realised that was one of my strengths. And that’s where I am now!

When it comes to comics, are there any creators whose work you looked to for guidance on how you would layout a page? I imagine the process is a bit different to most artists.

When it comes to layout I was always into any comic that was unusual or broke boundaries, books like Arkham Asylum (Dave McKean), or 30 Days of Night (Ben Templesmith). I always like the more fine art style and layout too. 

What is your process?

This really depends on the art I’m working on, as my process changes depending. I usually sketch out what I’m drawing first before adding paint and ink traditionally or digitally, then I use digital software to add more details and texture, I use clip paint studio and artrage and a photo editor for added effects and lighting. I use photo and photo collages too under or over paintings, or just colours and tones from them. There isn’t a medium I haven’t integrated into my work at some point. 

The first work of yours I saw was in Sector 13. How did that come about?

I met the Sector guys at a comic con and started talking to them, I got in touch with them and went down to one of their social meet ups. We talked about finding a story that would fit my style and when that story came up, Peter (Duncan) from Sector 13 sent me it. I definitely think I will have further stories to illustrate with the Sector 13 guys in the future too, I would call them friends now and enjoy working with them. 

Your first full issue was Soul Of The Sea. I’ve always liked Roddy McCance’s stories. He is great at capturing a feeling or mood. I think your art is really enhances the mood of the book. Is this your kind of story? What was it like working on this issue?

The Soul of the Sea is very much my sort of story, me and Roddy actually had a discussion about old school spooky ghost horror stories and how we both loved them but didn’t see them as much as we would like as most horror is gore themed. So we decided to make one together. Roddy is a great writer and I had worked with him in other comics and really wanted to work with him again and when I got the first draft of “The Soul of the Sea” I was hooked and so honoured to be the artist on it. The Soul of the Sea was my first full comic and it will forever influence and shape my work now and in the future. Plus we still have the next issues to do which I can’t wait to work on. 

The next book you worked on was a bit of a change. A gothic fairytale, Fargo The Giant, by another great writer, Ray Roche. Did the subject matter change your approach?

Oh yeah, a comic that kids could read was a change haha, I was worried my style was too dark but then I remembered how most fairytales I grew up with were dreamy and creepy at the same time and I could work with that. When I read Ray’s writing and the characters he had described I asked my young nieces and nephews how they saw them in their heads to give me an inside look on how a child would imagine that world. So definitely some credit to them! They gave me notes and I built the characters from that and bounced the ideas off Ray. I am happy how it came out and love that my nieces and nephews have a copy of something they helped create. 

Are you working on anything new?

I’m working on a few projects at the minute. 

I’m working on a graphic novel with the great writer Evgenij Iosjpe called “The man who Faded away” a genre bending comic about loss, identity and illness. I am also working on a horror sci-fi called “Magda” by another great writer Dustin Nelson, about a woman called Magda who can see things others can not… I am also working on some anthologies and short projects as well as my own horror comedy that I am writing myself.  I also have some new projects starting in 2020. 

One last question: what would your dream book be?

My horror dark comedy is going to be my dream book, I hope to make more than one and do a few anthology volumes of my stories and art. I will have full control and can get as “freaky” and “strange” with my words and art! Basically me letting loose, even more than I usually do. I have had people say they’d be very interested in this idea and would read it so I feel confident and exciting about doing it. Other than that I would love to do an X-Files comic or an Aliens.