For me finding an artist to illustrate my books proved to be a challenging task. But, don’t get me wrong it wasn’t impossible. And it isn’t impossible. The way I figured it – if the monetary means are assessable, obviously hiring an artist to bring your stories to life can quickly become a reality. Unfortunately, financial setbacks are a major common denominator for guys coming up in the industry and many projects fail to see the light of day because of them. Again, I repeat, it isn’t impossible; it’s merely a challenge – one that if we are determined enough, like any other hurdle, can be overcome.
When I first wrote Russ 5377 back in 1999, I was the artist on the project. Why? Because for me, it was the most cost effective way to get my property in the hands of the public. Why was it a mistake? Because my skill level or talent in the art department, wasn’t up to par with the artists that were publishing books at the time. Still, wide-eyed and full of gust and naivety, I forged on. I printed 500 copies of a book that hadn’t had all the kinks worked out yet (to put it mildly). And I paid for it! Literally and figuratively. Printing books isn’t cheap. And because it was my debut project, we printed that bad boy in color! So literally, I paid for it! Figuratively? The reviews were in, and although the public seemed to enjoy this fresh tale of a young man without knowledge of his past who must save his friends from the grasps of a demented scientist, the critics ripped the art. As a young aspiring artist, reading that rattled me to the core! It left me with doubts, angry and with questions. Should I pursue this? Am I good enough? Do I know what I’m doing? Why is this guy being such an @&&#*le? Needless to say, that killed any aspirations this guy had of being the next Michael Turner (may he rest in peace).
Two things happened the day I read that review! I never drew an entire book again, but ironically enough, it still made me determined to continue! It angered me into “prove this guy wrong” mode and here I am today about to release the graphic novel of a book whose artwork was once called “garish and gaudy”.
Lesson learned, I tell ya! In 2008, after revisions to the writing, I went out looking for a talented artist to take over the artistic duties on Russ 5377. What I found was an entire studio! But before I tell you about Big Cat Studios, let me back track a bit. I had toyed with the idea to continue drawing Russ, but every time I sat down to do it, that damn review haunted me and I’d put the pencil down. In the five years since I released the book (I officially released Russ5377 Vol. 1, No.1 in 2003), I had conversations with a couple of guys who loved the story and wanted to draw it! Unfortunately, things never panned out and I was again left with six scripts and no artist. Now, remember how I told you the reason I drew the book myself was because I couldn’t afford to pay an artist? Well by 2008, I finally realized that if I wanted my book to be done right, I would have to go into the wallet and hire an artist! And I did!
In the summer of 2008, Russ 5377 went international! Through the magic of the World Wide Web, I was introduced to Brian Barredo. Brian runs a studio of very talented artists in the Philippines called Big Cat Studios. He and I went back and forth via emails and he was excited to begin work on my book – as was I. Negotiations went very smoothly and within a couple of weeks we had drafted a contract we were both happy with and Russ 5377 #1 went into production. Brian and his team understood my vision and their follow through and the communication was something that I didn’t expect would occur so effortlessly – after all, I had never had a verbal conversation with them, but yet the book was coming out the way I wanted. Every time I opened an email from him, I was in awe and inspired to press forward with the book. It was a feeling that anyone who’s ever set his or her sites on achieving a goal know what I’m talking about! And I’m not just talking about a promise to “go to the gym”, going a few times and then quitting. No. I’m talking about something bordering an obsession, where the mentality is “it WILL get done! It WILL happen!” And it has! I am happy to report that the book is complete! That the graphic novel that has been in production since 1999, will finally see the light of day! In it, I’ve provided pencils of the layouts Brian and his team did for me, concept art that other artists did as well, and even a few pages from Russ’s first incarnation – illustrated by yours truly. Of course, now the challenge is finding the financial means to print the book, but I think I have a way to get that done. Getting this book into your hands has become an obsession remember? So stay tuned kids!