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To Better Know a Renegade: Artist Nyco Rudolph

Sean Tonelli - Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Good morning, good afternoon and goodnight,

Welcome to the first in our series profiling the creators we have the pleasure of working with. First up is Nyco Rudolph, illustrator on our next book When Big Bears Invade (on sale May 2017), an all around nice guy and phallic ghost connoisseur. Nyco's a busy gentleman but I managed to slowly wear him down. After much persuasion, and a series of long and in-depth Facebook messages, I was able to string together something resembling coherence. So sit back, relax and get ready to know you're next favourite artist. 

Sean: How did you get started as an artist?

Nyco: I've been drawing since I was old enough to hold a pencil, but I got my professional start doing gig posters and album covers for the local music scene here in Winnipeg, MB. One of the first friends I made when I moved to WInnipeg was starting up a thrash metal band called 'Nailbrick', and he asked me if I wanted to hand draw a poster for their first show. And it just kind of snowballed from there. The cool thing about doing band artwork is that there's at least four or five people in a band, and most musicians play in a few different bands. So my name got passed around pretty quickly. My favourite part about doing all these gig posters was seeing my art hanging in public all over the city.

Sean: You have a really distinct art style that I am in awe of. Who are some of your inspirations?

Nyco: People have said I have a very "comic book-ish" art style, but the funny thing is that I didn't really read any "comic books" during my formative childhood years. I think I discovered Tintin when I was around 8 or 9 though, and I quickly became obsessed. I definitely appreciated artistic simplicity over detail and drama. Herge was a master at conveying so much with so little. I also really loved Calvin and Hobbes and the way Bill Watterson was able to capture such motion and energy in a still frame of art. I still love these books, but I would say my current style of art owes way more to Will Eisner's 'The Spirit', and the original run of "Mad Magazine", which I discovered at just the perfect time in my teenage years.

Sean: I know it's a bit taboo, but would you share some of your creative process with us for... science?

Nyco: Because of my love of history and appreciation for architecture, most of my work is reference-heavy. But I also have a child-like adoration of anthropomorphic animals and dinosaurs. Because of these two factors, most of my work has a thoroughly researched framework and foundation before adding in the more fantastical elements. The best example I can give is working on "When Big Bears Invade", which is about bear kaiju destroying Canada. 

For this book, I roughed out thumbnail sketches of all 16 spreads and blocked out where the bears would be and where the cities would be. Once I had rough layouts for each city, I would focus in on one particular city. Google Earth was instrumental in helping this book become a reality, because it granted me the ability to adjust the "camera angles" that would help me pick out all the individual streets and landmarks in their respective cities. I also culled the internet for hundreds upon hundreds of reference photos, for particular landmarks, or specific police cars, or to look up reference photos for the dozens of celebrity cameos that are hidden within the book. The audience will be the ultimate judge of whether my creative process pays off, but I feel like there would be something missing if I didn't spend as much time recreating these real-life Canadian cities as I did designing the giant bear monsters who come along and destroy them.

Sean: Any upcoming projects that will help keep your family fed and you off the streets?

Nyco: The book I just finished with Alexander (Finbow), titled "When Big Bears Invade" is sort of set in the same alternate universe as my next project. "When Bears Invade" my first solo book, meaning I will be providing all the art, as well as writing the script. The book will recount the "real life" story of Canada's disenfranchised bear population staging a military coup after WW2 and taking over the country. Right now I'm finishing up the script and digging up reference photos of real Canadian cities from the late 1940s, in an effort to recreate what our country would have looked like back then. I'm also indulging my love for our military history by researching old military bases and decommissioned equipment and vehicles, many of which will appear in the book. I'm also working on adapting an original character of mine, "Ghost Dick", into his own anthology-style, horror/comedy comic book. After debuting a few prints at comicons across the country, more and more people have been asking for a backstory or an explanation, so I'm going to give it to them. I'm also working on a couple of projects with writer Bess Hamilton. The first is a graphic novel about a world-travelling cryptozoologist, and the second is a graphic novel based on the exploits of a band of female spies during the second world war. It may be a bit of a longer wait for those last few projects, but When Bears Invade should be out in Spring 2018!

Sean: There's a lot of different approaches to creating art. What are some of the 'tools' you have found helpful when drawing Ghost Dicks?

Nyco: Ever since I was a kid, I have always loved the satisfaction of dragging a pencil or pen across a blank sheet of paper and creating something out of nothing. As a child, my eye gravitated towards "clear line" comic art and I found a lot of inspiration within the pages of Tintin and Peanuts. As a result of that, my favourite childhood drawing tools were a simple mechanical pencil and tech pen. It wasn't until getting a little older and discovering Will Eisner for the first time that I fell in love with the brush. I remember at first trying to emulate some of Eisner's signature brushwork in my own art using a mechanical pencil and surprisingly, it didn't really pan out. This would have been in my late teens, around the same time I began to realize I was probably going to need to invest in a heavier paper stock, since most of my old art was drawn on printer paper. I did a little research and found out that comic pros used 11x17 bristol board for most of their illustrations, so I picked up a bunch of that and I invested in some Windsor Newton watercolour brushes to start practicing my brush work. I'm still nowhere near where I'd like to be in terms of skill, but I just love using a brush so much that it doesn't matter. Inking with a brush is so much more fluid to me than inking with a pen, and I find that my linework is so much more expressive. 

I also don't know where I'd be without my trusty lightbox, or my super thin elastomer eraser, which works and looks like a retractable pencil. It's tiny and it allows me to perfect tiny details like eyes or faces on people who are an inch tall on the paper. 

I've only been using Photoshop for the past three years, but it has also been vital to my growth as an artist. At first I viewed it as a "necessary evil" in the process of art reproduction, but there have been so many different techniques I've discovered and incorporated into my trademark style. Retro paper textures, faux screenprint effects, and anaglyph 3D just to name a few. I love the feeling of ink and paper way too much to ever give up drawing traditionally, but I definitely love using Photoshop for the new heights it can bring my original art up to once it's done.

Sean: What's your creative soundtrack? Y'know, what gets those pens dancing on the papers?

Nyco: Soundtracks are one of my staples. Usually composers who are loud and bombastic like Hans Zimmer, Alan Silvestri, Jerry Goldsmith and John Williams. Sometimes I'll put on specific scores depending on what I'm drawing. Nothing gets me in the mood to draw dinosaurs like the original "Predator" soundtrack or James Horner's "Aliens" score. If I'm not listening to movie soundtracks, I'll go with something that gets my blood pumping, but is also familiar enough that it won't distract me from the work that's at hand. Mostly Bruce Springsteen or Tom Waits.

Sean: Advice to up and coming creators/rivals?

Nyco: My advice to other artists is to always be working those creative muscles. I stopped drawing regularly in my late teens and didn't pick it up again until I started drawing gig posters and t-shirt designs in my early 20's. And in those four or five years, my artistic skills stagnated and atrophied from lack of use. I didn't notice until I compared a piece of art that I did in high school with my first gig poster, but there is a noticeable difference in quality and technique. Being an artist isn't like riding a bike where once you figure out the basics, you're set. It's a discipline that only rewards you upon repetition and practice. So make sure you stick with it. 

Also, give up on achieving perfection. There is no such thing. There are plenty of artists who will tell you that it's all about embracing the journey and challenging yourself. Which it turns out is true, but that's not what I needed to hear when I was younger. My biggest mistake as a younger artist was treating every single commission and piece of art like it had the potential to be a game changer for me. But I believed this to the point that I was constantly second-guessing and scrutinizing every single line I drew on the page. It took me much longer to finish any piece of art than it rightfully should have, and for nothing. Because when I look back at the last decade, there isn't one single piece of art that served as a "big break" or got me recognized by a totally different audience. It's only through producing lots of work that not only do you discover your strengths and weaknesses, but also that you begin to develop a following of people who can't wait to see what you do next. So don't be afraid to roll those sleeves up and get down to work.

After this question Nyco said he was done and then blocked me. I've been trying to message him ever since. So if you guys talk to him can you just-- can you just tell him 'hello?'
You can find more of Nyco's work over at his website and you can purchase When Big Bears Invade HERE!