Stuart Immonen has been illustrating comics professionally since the early 1990s, making a name for himself on such high-profile gigs as DC Comics’ “Legion of Super-Heroes” and “Adventures of Superman.” After an acclaimed run with Warren Ellis on Marvel Comics’ “Nextwave,” Immonen became the regular penciller of “Ultimate Spider-Man” and contributed with his wife Kathryn to “Marvel Comics Presents.”
Producing art and design for a number of clients both within and outside of the comics industry, Stuart Immonen’s an extremely busy artist to whom we are very grateful for inviting us into his home studio in Canada.
By Stuart Immonen
This probably would have been more interesting to look at about a year and a half ago when our studio was the skylit top floor of a big old barn of a Victorian house but we sold that hovel and moved into an apartment which feels like the nicest hotel room we’ve ever stayed in. Or when we were working out of an old mattress factory in the 1990s, or the hotel/bar that summer in the Muskokas … but this is where we are now. So there you have it.
This is the dog. He’s half black lab and half beagle equaling an all-around bad idea. He’s a beagle in a Labrador puppy costume. He’s the beagle some crafty commie scientist would have invented fifty years ago to infiltrate happy Canadian homes. He spends most of the day under one desk or the other. He’s Fuji… ‘fu’ for short, ‘fou’ for accuracy.
The studio is the den bump-out just inside the front door. It’s nice because there’s a fairly long hall to the rest of the joint and walking from here to the dining room is almost like being able to close its non-existent doors and consider it a commute. Moving from left to right we have the bookcase, my desk, filing cabinet, Kathryn’s desk, hound of love, filing cabinet. More on all of this in a bit but it’s worth pointing out the little enamel sign on the book case: ‘Entrée des Artistes’ as in ‘stage door’ as in ‘stupid performing monkeys work here’.
A slightly different view, just in case you were having trouble getting oriented within the cavernous space or were wondering what was on that other wall.
The one bookshelf. There is another bookshelf elsewhere in the apartment. So that’s two bookshelves. But that’s it. On top: somebody’s wooden boxshop class project holding scrap paper for the printer. A bunch of Marvel Masterpiece hardcovers behind it. An HP OfficeJet colour printer that gets hooked up infrequently, mostly for school projects and a lightbox which was a gift from the radiologist father-in-law. It was originally part of a bank of boxes for reading x-rays. There’s not too much of interest here, it’s mostly sketchbooks and old magazines, comic reference… a nice old Westclox Big Ben ‘magic touch repeater’ clock, bird calendar and bird books, Taschen’s boxed set reprints of Physique Pictorial, Wyeth on the bottom and Syd Mead and Lebbeus Woods and Steranko somewhere in the middle … draw your own conclusions.
The bulletin board holds bits of paper, which seems obvious, but the point is that it’s not really an organizational tool (no white board calendars, no phone lists, etc.) Hey! There’s a page from Moving Pictures. The desk was built to order by standupdesks.com. ("Nope! It’s OAK!") They make a fine product. The monitor is a 22" Samsung SyncMaster, with a 12"x 18" Wacom Intuos2 tablet in front of it; it’s probably technology overkill in both cases, but both work well, hooked up to a generic box with 4GB RAM and two 200GB HDDs. The lamp is a vintage Dazor found in the basement workroom of the last house. The big steel rule belonged to my grandfather the machinist– It’s a thing of beauty and accuracy. The laser printer (another HP– the 1020; a workhorse) and the tower sit underneath. There are speakers down there, too; having worked in a music store for a few years, I find that I’m better able to concentrate with some noise. When I’m not shuffling my saved music, I like to listen to Radio Nigel, WFMU, La Radio de la Mer or BBC Radio 4. Not pictured is where I sit; a steno chair from DSI on a drafting base. The foot ring could be a bigger diameter but that’s a problem for a different time; I usually draw standing up, anyway.
The Mustek A3 USB scanner on top of a filing cabinet in the corner. The scanner’s become a little fussy lately, but it gets worked to death. And for less than $200 for an 11×17 scanning bed, I can’t complain much. That’s a page of Hellcat on top. Shredder. Scandinavian teak trivet thing on the corner of Kathryn’s desk. Coffee gets made in the stovetop Bialetti several times a day. It’s drunk from Iittala Moomin mugs with equal frequency.
Kathryn’s desk, made by Offi. It’s our own tiny Vienna Secession versus Arts and Crafts super smackdown in here. Chairs are placed within punching proximity. Kathryn’s chair is vintage bentwood from Radomsko, Poland. That’s a long way from here. Did you know that’s one of the places Thonet chairs are made? Dell Inspiron, Ikea filing cabinet, a porcelain Hollow Head of a Baby, a Rio Red Swingline 747. Let’s move on.
What’s the aphorism? "A clean desk is the sign of a sick mind?" This is what’s under the hood. It’s all probably self-explanatory: scripts, ellipse templates, pencils, sharpeners, markers, packing tape, a leather glove, paper clips, erasers… mmm? Yeah, packing tape.
Photo morgue in the bottom of the filing cabinet. This thing was amassed over a period of about 15 years, and is categorized in a way only I probably find at all useful. "Stuart, do you know every single picture in this file?" "Why yes, yes I do. But I still need to check." Mentioned previously.
When we were living in Victorian splendour, all this stuff would have been in the same room as the rest of the studio. But now we will leave the comfort of the "office" for the appalling aesthetics of the
tiny laundry room storage facility; behind the door we find a metal shelf holding FedEx shipping supplies, a big box of envelopes, a box of cables and assorted electronic cak, stock of Never As Bad As You Think and 50 Reasons (still available!) as well as the only two long boxes in our possession. One contains (not all of) my work and the other does not.
Off we go to the shelter of the pantry where we find a bunch of Hollinger boxes which hold original pages, other drawings, old invitations… ephemera. What you can’t see to the right is our food stock pile for when the revolution comes.
Another piece of misplaced furniture. It’s an old type case that holds more print ephemera including some Dan DeCarlo Archie pages…
…a drawing of the Hulk that I did when I was 10 or eleven…
… home-made birthday and holiday cards…
…originals by Mignola and Stan Drake, among a bunch of other stuff that’s not as much fun to look at. The rest of the place looks pretty much like what you’ve seen here. There’s no secret room filled with toys and dvds and posters. Not even in my dreams. (There is an Xbox 360 which belongs to the 14 year old who insists that all his friends get to own Halo 3. He rarely appears in the studio because at 6′ 3", there’s just no damn room!) Actually, in my dreams we’re living in 19 feet of aircraft aluminum. Ah well.
Thanks very much, Stuart, for giving us a tour of what’s easily the tidiest studio we’ve seen yet!
Next week in STUDIO TOURS: Terry Moore!
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