Contracting The Hit: An Interview With Bengal, Artist of Naja

If you stopped by the site yesterday then you probably saw our interview with Naja writer JD Morvan. Well today I have an interview I did with the artist of Naja… Bengal! A few reminders though, Magnetic Press is giving away a Slipcase Hardcover of Naja so check that out here. On with the interview!-- Dustin: The artistic style for Naja is very distinct, but what were some of your influences for your style and in particular your coloring which is vibrant and beautiful.

Bengal: Hello, and thanks! Well, for the colors, it's a mix of many things I learnt and tried in the past. I've been working with several medias in the past, long before having a computer. Then I learnt how to work digitally, mostly during my time as a video game concept designer and mostly on Photoshop, but then I discovered Katsuya Terada's work and I read somewhere that he was using another software, painter. So I taught myself how to use some tools in Painter 7, back then and I used it for about a decade - the goal was not to use the same palettes & hues as Terada sensei (and I'd need to be a hundred times better to get any close to his skills), but rather have this smooth rendering of the brush I love so much.

I'm now working almost exclusively on Photoshop CS6 though; I love some of its tools and UI.

Dustin: Additionally, where there any influences in the way you presented the action? Either comics or film perhaps?

Bengal: I think it simply comes from the humongous amount of manga I read. I almost only read manga. My brain being a kind of sponge, it ended going for an energetic style of storytelling, which is what I prefer. Having said that, I'm "traditional" in spirit; I like simple rectangular panels like in European comic books, so my way of doing is a mix of standard, boring paneling in which I try to render the action with only working the camera angles and the energy i can convey through the pencil.

Dustin: How much research did you have to put into the different cities and locations that appear in Naja?

Bengal: A lot actually! That took a huge part of the work time overall, although I ended up doing not so many panels with cityscapes as i thought I’d have to. And since I couldn't afford visiting all those countries (I wish!), I gathered photos from everywhere - some were directly used as reference for some panels.

I also tried to give "local ambiances" to the different countries, not sticking to the documentation only, but adding more vibrant colors to give each place we visit a more stereotypical ambiance. Like Bogota, for example, JD had an amazing documentary about the prison (real one!) we depicted in the book, but everything was rather grey in it - I worked more saturated yellow & turquoise tones to warm up the place. Like you'd do in a movie (I think of "Get The Gringo" from the top of my head, for similar palette choice, or any movie in Mexico or Cuba really hahah).

Naja 3D - final

Dustin: What was it like collaborating with JD Morvan?

Bengal: Comfortable. We know each other since a long time, and he's giving me a scenario without too many indications so that i can choose my own camera angles, and he knows i usually come up with something that works for him.

I like that.

Dustin: When it comes to the action were you basically on your own or did Morvan supply key elements that had to be in place?

Bengal: Hmmmm... some of both. of course JD gave me key elements: Every action that takes place has a reason to be, plot wise, so I had to follow his scenario panel by panel - but as for the pace, the paneling, the angles, I was rather free - he would have corrected me anyway if something really didn't work.

Dustin: What’s something you want the reader to notice or take away from the art while they’re reading Naja?

Ideally, I’d love to have conveyed all the energy I can through the pages. My goal on Naja was to give it a not too sophisticated, detailed drawing, to keep an almost manga, action oriented pace to the story. Events happen fast.

Now I regret not having done better, graphically. What I thought was pretty cool in the economy of detail actually passed as lazy, I realize that now. But I hope we put all our good intentions in the pages. I believe we did.

I made some progress since and I hope my next albums will be richer - but again, what author is ever satisfied with their art, right? -- Well I thought Bengal’s art was amazing on Naja so be sure to check it out for yourself. If you liked this interview then again I would encourage you to read my other interview with the writer of Naja JD Morvan. If you’re interested in Naja don’t forget that the final order date is coming up so get your pre-order in to make sure you get a copy of Magnetic Press’ debut. Lastly I’d like to thank Mike Kennedy and Magnetic Press for setting the interview up and Bengal for taking the time to talk to me about his crafter and the series.

For more information on Magnetic Press, visit their site!