While I was set up at both Wizard World Chicago and Ohio this year, I had the pleasure of making the acquaintance of one of my new favorite talents in the comic book industry, not to mention, a hell of a nice guy. His name? Gavin Smith. Unfortunately, when you’re at a con of this size there isn’t really a lot of time to network and or socialize. That’s always one of the downsides to working in the industry. However, if you want to make it in this business, you have to make time for that kind of stuff. Now the upside to cons like this is that you always come across that one creator who goes above and beyond the norm to fit in time with fans and other members of the community. Gavin Smith is that creator. You’d never know that he’s a future household name. And I’m not just saying that. This man is talented beyond anything that you usually see at these kinds of shows. As optimistic as I am about the comic book community, I’ll admit that I tend to walk past a lot of booths and wonder “what is this person doing here?” Admit it, we all do that. Listen, everybody wants to be somebody, and we all know that you have to play the game to get to that point, but you also need talent, or you have to at least convince people that you have it. Luckily Gavin Smith just has to sit there and put up his prints. He doesn’t have to say a word. There’s no convincing, begging, selling of crap work on twitter to pathetic sheep who want to know someone famous. There is only his work and the fact that he happens to be awesome. Trust me, if I hadn’t been working for a legendary silver age artist at the Cincinnati Comic Expo, I would have spent more time at Gavin’s booth. Which I intend to do at every show where he appears.
But before I bore you to the point of peeling back your fingernails just to feel something, I’ll tell you that I had the pleasure of sitting down with him recently and asking a bunch of revealing, personal questions that we all want to know the answers to. And he didn’t even try to get out of answering them. What a guy! And the interview went a little something like this:
Gavin Smith: I get inspirations from a lot of different things. Sometimes I’ll see a movie, read a comic, or hear a song that will get me pumped up to draw. I also like to listen to WTF with Marc Maron, and listening to him interview artists about their passions really gets me motivated to work as well. Anyway, I think this question was supposed to be about some artists I really like. So here’s a list: Joe Kubert, Brian Bolland, John Paul Leon, Steve McNiven, Sean Phillips, Neal Adams, and Kevin Maguire. I could probably make this list really long, but those guys are near the top. Lately I’ve been looking at a lot of 50’s and 60’s Illustrators like Coby Whitmore and Robert McGinnis.
EM: Where did you study art?
GS:I attended the Joe Kubert School from 2008 until 2011.
EM: What are your goals?
GS: My short term goals are constantly evolving, depending on projects. I set day to day goals with my workflow and I always want to meet my deadlines. My long term goal 7-8 years ago was to break into comics, but now it’s become to be able to just draw for a living. I’d rather be doing that than anything else in my life. I went full time with it a little over 2 years ago and I haven’t looked back.
EM: What have been your regular practices to help you get to where you are today?
GS: I’m not totally sure? I feel like I’ve been lucky to get some of the jobs I’ve gotten in my pretty short career. If I had to pin it down, I get my work done on time, try to be easy to work with, and try to push myself with each new job.
EM: You have a very classic style, what helped you develop that?
GS: I’ve been told that a lot lately, and it’s definitely not a conscious thing. I usually just try to draw to the best of my ability, and make my work look like it’s set in a credible world. Maybe it’s because I still ink traditionally? I still use a brush and quill and whatever else I can use to make a black.
EM: Do you prefer your work more in pencil and ink, or do you feel that it isn't really complete until you add color?
GS: I guess it depends on the subject. Most jobs I take, I’m usually hired to pencil and ink myself. Then I send it off to a colorist. I usually only color my prints, and the occasional cover or pin-up for other books. I guess I don’t have a preference, but it’s always exciting to see a colorist’s take on my lineart. Tim Yates, a Kubert School buddy of mine who colors me on Accelerators, always makes me look like I know what I’m doing.
EM: Who are your favorite characters from the comic book universe to draw? Why?
GS: I always like when people commission me for something other than Batman to draw. This past Wizard Ohio, I got some really fun ones like Mysterio, Green Arrow, Phantom Lady, Ultron, and Starman. The characters I’ve never drawn always end up being more fun, because I haven’t overused all my stock poses. I get a lot of Groot and Deadpool as well. I’m not a huge fan of Deadpool, but he always ends up being pretty fun, because I try to come up with a good joke situation to put him in. For example: I did a drawing of Deadpool in a giant ceramic pot, having ripped Groot out from the root and I had him singing and dancing that Jackson 5 song that they used in the Guardian’s movie.
EM: Are there any exercises that help you prepare for a day at the drawing table?
GS: I try to leave myself a little bit of a page to finish each night before I go to bed, that way I can wake up and jump right into work. Then I can get into a flow and work on more pages until I run out of steam. Sometimes I’ll take my sketchbook to bed with me and do some cooldown drawings.
EM: How many shows do you do a year?
GS: I have no clue! Each year I do more and more. This year I did quite a few… at least 20. There are so many new shows popping up all over the country all the time and I’ll probably do some new shows in 2015 that weren’t around last year.
EM: Now that the convention circuit is almost over, what's been the best show for you in 2014?
GS: I think New York Comic Con was the best this year. I’ve always liked that show, but this year having The Accelerators trade come out just put it over the top.
And there you have it, folks. It looks like if you can manage to have the drive, talent, and everyday practices of a professional like Gavin, you may just be able to make it. I’ll admit that he’s inspired me. Hopefully this will help you get back on that horse too. And don’t forget to stop by his booth at any one of the shows that he’ll be attending next year. I guarantee it’ll be worth your time. And I’m sure Gavin would be happy to see you. Just tell him that this interview made all the difference (I would usually put a winky face here).