The inaugural panel for the 2006 Pittsburgh Comicon featured a subject that many of us take for granted and yet it’s perhaps the merit by which we buy books that we wouldn’t normally chip in for: cover art. The panel, scheduled for Friday afternoon, was to have featured two or the industry’s best cover artists (or at least most recognized), Adam Hughes and Greg Horn. Unfortunately, Hughes cancelled his con appearance at the last minute, but ‘Marvel Zombies” cover artist Arthur Suydam was kind enough to step in and talk about his experiences.
The panel consisted mostly of Q&A, with the opening shots asking why either of the artists doesn’t get involved with interiors. For Suydam, his experiences with interior work has mostly involved long blocks of scheduling, thus leaving him unable to perform any other jobs he might be interested in. Any given interior job, he explained, might take up to a year and a half of his career, especially considering the level of detail he puts into his works. Horn agreed, and explained that, when he first started, he didn’t want to turn down any job, but now that his career is a bit more cemented, he prefers to do jobs that he likes, so he can put a level of quality into his work that he can be proud of.
When asked if they receive feedback from the companies they work for in regards to sales, both Suydam and Horn stated that Marvel rarely lets them know if their covers have increased sales at all. In other companies, yes, sometimes they do, but there is always a wariness by companies to avoid too much praise in case the artist wants to drive the price up some for the next job. Interestingly enough, Horn says he gets most of his feedback from attending conventions. It’s at a convention that he finds out just which of his covers is the most popular, simply by how many people bring it up to get signed. Suydam agreed, saying that sometimes, artistry can get very prison-like, with time consuming and labor intensive work, and while he does do the work out of love, it’s only when he gets out into the world via a convention can he get an idea of how well he is received.
But how did each of the men get to working solely on covers? For Horn, he explained that the experience is a little backwards in his case.
“Normally, you get popular doing interior work, then you move up to covers,” he explained. “I got hired at Marvel just to do covers.”
Horn also noted that he would love to do certain covers, but the option to do most covers lies with the interior artist. By way of example, Horn noted that he would like to do “X-Men” covers, but those are usually reserved for the interior artist, and if someone like Jim Lee is doing interior art, you better believe that he’s doing the cover, too. For Suydam, with his lengthy career, he’s worked his way up the chain in a more gradual fashion, and while he has done interior work, he worked during a time that the same artist did both interiors and then the covers. He did note that his popularity increased as he explored different mediums that he branched off into doing more cover work than interior design.
Suydam noted that his learning experiences started with a fascination with dinosaurs at a young age, and as he drew those, he began learning from a number of relatives who were also artists, even inheriting his mothers oil paints as he began to study art further and move into the comic field. Horn also learned a lot from his mother, an artist in her own right, before finally finding “these things in the store called comics” when he was a boy. From there, he learned his trade and attended the Ft. Lauderdale Art Institute.
In response to some easier questions, both artists never quite know how much work they’re going to be involved in, though Horn joked that he’s made his career off of books destined to be cancelled (including “Elektra,” “Emma Frost” and the first run of “She-Hulk”) and Suydam was thrilled to get more work off of all the reprint covers from “Marvel Zombies,” which he was only supposed to do four or five covers for. Both artists also praised working for Marvel, because, as an artist himself, they said Joe Quesada is much easier to work with from an editorial stance that, say, an advertising firm.
Lastly, the artists were asked where they draw inspiration from. For Horn, he loves to see Alex Ross’ work, but loves to draw inspiration from fantasy artists, including artists who worked on the older “Dungeons and Dragons” covers. However, that style and his current sense of airbrushed artwork tend not to mesh too well. Suydam, however, likes to draw inspiration from older works, some dating as far back as the 1900s, to give himself a new challenge. However, he also explained that he just likes to draw inspiration from going into a comic shop and seeing what the hell everyone else is doing.
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