Dark Horse artist Patric Reynolds is one talented artist…and a damn funny guy to boot. And he is only beginning.
I will preface this interview with saying Patric Reynolds is a friend of mine and fellow former classmate at the Savannah College of Art and Design’s Sequential Program, so I am somewhat biased when I say I see great things in store for this nutjob. He will deserve any and all accolades he receives, for several reasons. One, his work is already very good, much in the vein of realistic artists such as Bill Sienkiewicz, Jason Alexander, Duncan Fegredo, and Alex Maleev. Two, because he has a very commendable work ethic. He does not settle for “just ok” work and does not dictate a limited amount of time for any given job. Three, because he gambled it all on going to SCAD to further his dream of working in comics, not settling for the previous “Plan B” of teaching high school. And four, because he is a damn nice guy, very self-deprecating, always on the lookout for ways to help his friends, and possesses a wicked sense of humor.
I also have to add that we do talk about the Sequential department at the Savannah College of Art and Design a fair amount and that, to some, this may seem like too much of an “inner circle” sort of conversation. However, I am trying to do two things with this (aside from entertain). First, I want people to know that college can be fun and a learning experience at the same time (if you can afford the cost). Second, I hope to interview several of the professors mentioned here (in addition to Tom Lyle, who has worked on Spider-man, among other titles), so it operates as a sort of teaser as well. I hope you find it interesting and not too obscure. To see art and read about the Sequential program at SCAD, go here.
I conducted this interview over the Facebook chat engine, with some additional information gathered via email, since Patric had moved back to his native Utah recently. We started waaaaaay back, in the prehistoric times of his youth….
Comic Attack: I read that while in grade school you drew tons of dinosaurs.
Patric Reynolds: Sure did.
CA: I think most kids, especially boys, are interested in dinosaurs. As a child, did you see movies with effects by Ray Harryhausen, and want to do that? Movies like Valley of the Gwangi, for example?
PR: Hell yes. One of my favorite movies was Clash of the Titans, I really was more fascinated by the giant scorpions and the two-headed dog than the humans. Also, I loved the Sinbad movies (particularly the fight between that dragon and the cyclops). I even still like that skeleton fight scene in Jason and the Argonaunts. But I hated the way that scene [in ...Titans] ended. They all just fell over a cliff? Pssh. Whatever…
CA: Oh yeah, those were huge in my childhood; Jason and the Argonauts, etc. I did a sculpture of the creature in 20 Million Miles To Earth…the “Ymir.”
PR: The Ymir? never heard of it…. NETFLIX!
CA: Yeah, he started out out tiny and grew and grew until he was huge. Probably a silly movie, but when you are a kid, you don’t realize that…they just look cool.
PR: Everything is cool when you’re a kid. Hell, The Last Unicorn was cool until I was 20.
CA: So, when you were in high school, did you have any teachers that fostered your skills in art, encourage you, etc?
PR: Yes, when I was in grade school, I think teachers had me draw to keep me busy, and from lighting the the classroom on fire… I had far too much energy.
CA: Yeah, I can understand that…it hasn’t changed.
PR: HA! in high school, Mr. Case was one of those quintessential art teachers who you knew held all the secrets, but would always be so damn cryptic when he’d answer you or give advice that you were forced to do something out of your comfort zone just to understand the guy. But, I wouldn’t say he pushed me so much as he made me want to know more. Gradually, I become more self-motivated in this way. He really did make me want to find out things for myself.
CA: I had two art teachers in the 11th grade or so. First, an old lady by the name of Mrs. Cornia, kicked me out of class because of a cartoon I did of her in the school paper. Then came Mr. Gray, the perfect “it’s us against the system young bearded guy” sort of teacher. So, getting kicked out was a good thing.
PR: Mr. Case knew I could draw, but up until then,I was just drawing wiley cartoons (squirrels, Ren and Stimpy knock-offs, etc.) But he wanted to see what I could really do with it. He turned me on to sequential art and McKean’s Arkham Asylum, actually.
CA: Great place to start.
Now, you grew up in Utah. I cannot remember if you told me if your family was Mormon or not.
PR: Nope. We’re sans-Mormon.
CA: Did you feel you fit in to the general fabric of society there? Not being Mormon can definitely have its drawbacks there.
PR: Funny you should ask…
Um…I should preface this by saying that no one should be judged by what they have decided to be right for themselves, and it’s the decisions that people make that can create a positive and negative environment, not the system of beliefs themselves.
CA: Of course.
PR: …now that we’ve got that out of the way, it was tough. I wouldn’t say “oppressive,” but…
CA: I would say, perhaps, “exclusionary.”
PR: Oh sure. I really felt like an outsider, which was only exacerbated by the fact that I was a tall, lurpy, insecure teenager.
CA: I should interject for the readers, the strange coincidences Patric and I living in some of the same places without knowing each other.
PR: Do it! I gotta think of something smart to say anyway.
CA: One day in a SCAD class, when I told Patric that I also had lived in Las Vegas (after already telling him I had lived in Salt Lake City), Patric asked sarcastically, “Are YOU my dad?” (I should add also that his father had disappeared early in his life, causing him a few health problems.) It’s just too strange a coincidence.
PR: Yeah, I almost forgot about that.
CA: At that time, you had told me that your father wasn’t around much, right?”
CA: I was just trying to establish the scenario why you had even sarcastically made that comment about me being your dad.
PR: No worries, I get you.
CA: How many siblings do you have and what do they do now?
PR: Oh, I was going to talk more about the Utah thing, if you wanted.
CA: Go for it, man, I would like for this to be more than just a ‘”what pens do you use’” sort of interview.
PR: To backtrack, ‘exclusionary” is a good term. I had a hard time with it. Some of my friends would use our friendship as leverage to try and get me to be a part of the church.
CA: Yeah, I had several friends who would show me the binders they used on their missions to try to convert me. To this day, whenever I see two young guys in ties riding bicycles, I say to myself, “Mormons!” And I do so with affection.
PR: Missionaries would follow me home as a boy… asking questions about whether I was making the right life decisions as I walked away.
CA: I will say also, that almost all of the ones I knew were darn nice people.
PR: I know! I even got approached by missionaries in Vegas. I told them I knew the drill, then offered them a beer. This actually fueled my artist direction in high school. I started making comic pages that featured outcasts (homeless people, myself… I even illustrated a few pages of John Gardner’s Grendel).
CA: Every once in awhile some will come to our door and I will tell them where I lived, talk a bit, and then tell them I am agnostic and they should spend their time more fruitfully with someone else
OK…so, your siblings….
PR: I have a younger sister, two older brothers I grew up with, and another younger brother through another parent’s marriage.
CA: What did they end up doing professionally? Are they stand up comedians like you?
PR: Hah! They’re much funnier than I am. My sister is a civil engineer who specializes in hydrology, working on the water tables in Philadelphia. One of my older brothers is a residential DSL line installer. My other older brother does web design and marketing. And my younger brother is a graduated high school student.
CA: Onto college…I remember, when I was at Weber State and the University of Utah, I heard (too late) that Utah State’s Illustration program was top notch. How was that program for you?
PR: Utah State is nationally known for its illustration program, one of of the best in the country. But, when illustration Champion Glen Edwards left, then program disappeared and it got absorbed by graphic design. Luckily, I was one of the last students he taught.
CA: Did you learn many practical skills there at Utah State?
PR: Yeah, I was there when lots of things were on the verge of going digital. While there, I learned how to draw and paint, basically, and find a voice. This is where I picked up most of my watercolor, oil paint, mixed media,and collage skills. Hell, I even learned how to do printmaking!
CA: Were they aware of people like McKean and Sienciewicz?
PR: Um… not really.
CA: This would have been about when?
PR: Late 1990′s/early 2000s. See, there, people mostly focused on making “pretty pictures.”
CA: The Bernie Fuchs and Bob Peaks?
PR: YES!, but more so Gregory Manchess and Bruce Wolfe. In classes, almost everyone was going for basically immaculately rendered images that almost always involved wildlife or an attractive girl doing something subdued and beautiful in a abstracted background.
CA: Hell, I could look at Manchess all day long.
PR: Yeah, he’s the N.C. Wyeth of our time. I knew I could never have the rendering skills of most of the other students let alone Glen Edwards. So, I experimented a lot, with media, with composition… I started making “sequences.” I’d be painting a model then I’d add frames to the images, trying to tell a more complete ‘story’ about the person…no one knew what the hell I was doing.
CA: Sequential was probably pretty foreign to most of them.
Like you, I have a huge appreciation for Sienciewicz in general and his Hendrix book in particular.
PR: SIENKIEWICZ! Yes, I was enamored with his work. Still am. That was the problem. Bill’s great. I met him at HeroesCon last year. Really cool and accessible.
I focused waaaaaaaay too hard on trying to be a multi media badass that I didn’t try to learn how to tell a story. And I was doing something different, so no one could really help me. Until I went to SCAD.
CA: How did the first few weeks feel at SCAD? [The illustration above references a house Patric lived in for awhile in the worst of neighborhoods, with gunshots going off regularly, and so much more that I can't print here.]
PR: Oh God. I was sooooooo nervous.
CA: What was your first class, do you remember? I bet you talked a mile a minute!
PR: Strangely, I rarely made any attempt to socialize or even make eye contact…in fact, one of my first classes was with you; Grad Studio I! I had just quit my teaching job, left my house, moved 2300 miles away and I DIDN’T KNOW ANYONE. It was kinda scary. I literally had nothing but my own two hands and my terrific family.
CA: Yeah, I remember being really impressed with how much you gambled. And, because of that, how much you had to believe in yourself, in your potential.
PR: Well, I don’t know if I necessarily believed in myself, but other people sure did. John Lowe, YOU. Not a day went by that I wondered if I made the right decision.
CA: Let’s talk about some of the professors. I left feeling incredibly impressed with almost every single one. [To see a few Sequential professor bios, go here.]
Let’s start with then department head, John Lowe.
Mr. Boom voice.
PR: HA! YES!
CA: A born leader.
PR: Like he was eating a handful of roofing nails ALL THE TIME!
John Lowe has the unique talent of giving you his complete and undivided attention, no matter how busy he is. He definately recognizes not so much talent, but people who are really able to want to help themselves. He really went the extra mile for people like that.
CA: Yeah, and he has so much going on all the damn time.
And how about Paul Hudson?
CA: The warrior priest.
CA: The guy is the epitome of the Renaissance Man.
PR: Thor. Wait…Bob Ross’ and Thor’s love child, totally dialed into his craft.
CA: He has worked for NASA, the FBI, Disney, among others, and can draw pretty much any dinosaur (or human or other animal) from memory…FROM THE INSIDE OUT.
PR: Yeah, every damn cell, real or imagined.
CA: And he has the most incredible amount of humility as well.
I remember him saying something like, “the only thing separating me from you is that I have done more bad drawings than you.”
PR: Yeah, I was too busy trying to sculpt that f*cking half-sized model of ourselves to notice, though.
CA: We will have to show pictures of ours…I have mine still (see below, and keep in mind it’s about 2 feet tall and damn heavy).
PR: That’s right. Mine’s actually been disassembled…his ass fell off.
CA: OK, next up: Dove McHargue, another incredible procreator (John Lowe also has an impressively large group of kids).
PR: Yes, he has the most adorable little set of triplets you’ve ever seen. You can tell he is a really good dad. His kids love the hell out of him.
He’s a great musician, too, does all the songs for the sequalab podcast.
CA: Dove McHargue is the guy you want as your instructor if you feel pressure, are worried, etc…he will set you at ease like few others, and he has incredible enthusiasm for comics AND his students. He is also a fellow admirer of Duncan Fregredo.
PR: I think a lot of our professors are these “reniassance men,” they just have so much bottled creativity and skill that they have to let it out in many ways…drawing just won’t cut it.
CA: OK, last one for this interview, writing instructor Mark Kneece.
PR: “AWWWWWWW, no one wanted to come to my party…”
PR: So, no one shows up to class one day. Mark goes, “AWWWWWWWWW…no one wanted to come to my party,” and makes the sourest droopy droop face ever.
CA: His specialty.
CA: Mark is very good at making a point, helping the student to learn, sometimes without the student even knowing it, because he was just so entertaining. [To see a review of his - a fellow SCAD prof Julie Collins - graphic novel, Trailers, go here.]
PR: Yes, he made me actually learn how to put a cohesive thought together. If any y’all can read any of these responses, thank Mark Kneece.
CA: He is patience personified.
PR: He is just such a sourass that you can’t surprise him with stupidity.
CA: You mentioned Paul Hudson’s Drawing for Sequential; was that your hardest class?
PR: Um, yes…well, most workload intensive class.
CA: What was your least favorite class while at SCAD?
PR: Oh gawd, um…Contemporary Art/Art Criticism, easy.
CA: Because of the subject alone?
PR: I ain’t no art historian, dammit!
For contemporary art, the instructor was waaaaaaaaay too harsh, and I think expected the students to be professional art critics. The material was pretty dry and impenetrable. Art criticism seemed just like a retread of contemporary art.
CA: Yeah, I think that class is mainly to teach you how to talk about art intelligently.
PR: Which I never will. But I got to know Duncan Fegredo, Jorge Zaffino, Alex Toth, R.M. Guera, etc. I had never known of these guys before I got to SCAD. Also, I’ll say Doug Tenaple. I really dug “Creature Tech.”
CA: What did you get out of the workshops you did as a requirement of the program?
PR: Well, through preparing presentations, I had to really think about why I was doing what I was doing, why I was doing things a certain way. When you teach things to people, I find you actually learn more about the subject.
CA: Good point…sometimes having to talk about what you do clarifies it more for yourself.
PR: When you teach something back to someone, you have to make yourself understand it better first, you have to know it better than your students. But, those workshops got a bit redundant after awhile. I was pretty pissed that NONE of my professors in the classes that I was preparing the presentations for ever showed up.
CA: Did you actually feel your being older than most of your fellow students (aside from me) had any effect on you at all?
PR: Oh hell yeah.
CA: I have a feeling you were much more responsible about your assignments than some of the other students.
PR: Yes, well, I had been through a lot more shit, too.
CA: I felt the pressure of having to be “better” because of my age and experience. And there were some damn good artists in that program! At the same time, I was consciously trying to not appear to think I was better (which I didn’t). I mean, I had just experienced more failure than most, like Hudson said.
PR: Oh sure, I get you…more humility as a result. Sure. By this token, I was less likely to take things for granted.
CA: Yeah, you had given up probably a lot more than many other students and had more riding on it, more likely to take advantage of more learning opportunities.
PR: RIGHT. I knew what it was like to not have what I wanted for a looooooooong time.
CA: And you probably appreciate your position now much more than you would have if it had come easier and sooner.
PR: Without a doubt. I think in your mid-twenties,you’re supposed to be grown-up, but most people aren’t…you keep thinking you’ll get second chances with things, but in your thirties if you still have this mentality, that’s gonna be a problem.
I’d like to talk about technique for a short bit. Obviously, you are influenced by realistic, but experimental artists, like Sinciewicz. And like him, you like to use a variety of materials in some of your work. Do you have a favorite media, and also, one that you want to do more of, but haven’t?
PR: Watercolor is the most forgiving and rewarding. If I’m patient enough. But nowadays, I have the most experience with crowquill. Now its almost second nature when I draw with it. But I was initially trained as an illustrator, and I cut my chops on oil paint. However, I haven’t painted in oil in years. My homemade glass palette collects dust. But there’s this lushness that you just can’t get with any other medium. [To the right is a page from the never finished Stormchasers, from Desperado Studios, using crowquill, plus watercolor for tones.]
CA: Speaking of that, I know you like to use very loose pencils and then do most of the actual work in the inks, right?
PR: Yep. actually, I’ve been told that my pencils are surprisingly tight, but they’re just contour line drawings. This is a good observation, because I then do a lot of improvising over the tight pencils with inks.
CA: You feel like you end up with livelier work I assume…and it keeps it interesting for you?
PR: Yeah, pencils are just a foundation, just guidelines that I can follow, or not. I mean, I gotta know where the limits are before I can bust through them.
CA: Do you want to do licensed work with likenesses and such, or any specific sort of subject matter in comics? [To the right you see Patric's representation of the main character from the HBO series, Dexter, done to benefit the CBLF.]
PR: I just want to draw comics… ANY comics. But with licensed stuff, I tend to get more criticism from people on forums when I don’t nail the likenesses of characters they know. Sometimes trying to nail a likeness really slows down my momentum on a page…hate that. [Below you see a series of page sections from Patric's Abe Sapiens one-shot from Dark Horse, showing both pencils and inks. Notice the perspective lines around the ambulance, showing that the artist is not cutting his corners.]
CA: Are there artists working in comics now that work in your sort of style that you really look up to? Aside from Bill, that is.
PR: Jason Alexander, although I haven’t seen a lot from him lately [he is primarily painting for galleries now - Ken]. I really like Zezelj, but he’s a bit more graphic (design-wise) than I am. Leonardo Manco, Alex Maleev. Oh, and Sean Gordon Murphy. Really nice guy…gave me portfolio advice, responded to my e-mail and gave me a nice critique.
CA: Have you been on any panels at cons yet?
PR: Not yet. I’m supposed to be at ComicCon doing a signing for Dark Horse, but no news on me being on any panel.
CA: I will give everyone a heads up: if you see Patric Reynolds’s name on a program listing, don’t miss it…because, if nothing else, it will be freaking entertaining.
PR: They probably don’t want to turn me loose in public in front of a microphone just yet.
CA: I was in a small room on a two man panel on painted comics with Dave McKean, if you can believe that. It was very…uh…daunting, to say the least.
PR: My god. I shat myself just reading that.
CA: The crazy thing is…I would say something and he would disagree…he would say something, and I would disagree. Judging by career results…I would listen to him.
PR: Huh? Like what?
CA: One point was clarity in storytelling. I felt the artist should be as clear as possible without being boring…and he thought the reader should have to work a bit…stay engaged, I guess. I can see his point.
PR: But if you’re make the reader work too hard, they’ll close the damn book.
CA: What are the peripherals of your work habits composed of? Background music? Television? Considering how much you are into music, I would imagine the former. [Below you see an early preparation sketchbook page for Patric's John Coltrane story, done while at SCAD. Below the art you see a visual graph of the story arc, helping to pinpoint the 'beats' or high points of the story.]
PR: Tina f*cking Turner. Best song to do ANYTHING to is “The Best.” Seriously. Play it. You’ll think you can punch a bulldozer in half.
CA: While we are on the subject…name your top ten musicians/bands.
PR: oooooooooooo….this is fun. In no particular order…Pearl Jam, John Coltrane, Led Zeppelin, Muse, The Black Keys, Bruce Springsteen, OutKast, Kings of Leon, Massive Attack, Lovage…and The Rolling Stones, man!
CA: Back to the production of art…do you try to keep a regular schedule, or do you work in spurts?
PR: I work whenever I have to. I work until I get a page done, however long that takes me. Then I stop, and do it all again tomorrow. I have to keep a schedule for a deadline, so that usually means a page a day. If I take a day off, that means I have TWICE as much work the next day…yikes! But when I’m not working, I have a hard time staying motivated to draw.
CA: I think that is something new artists don’t realize…you have to be a real workhorse and you have to do it on schedule. [Below you see a few pages and covers from the recent Dark Horse Serenity: Float Out comic that Patric worked on.]
PR: I’m pretty good at being told what to do.
CA: If someone (like myself) never saw Serenity, how would you explain the show, its attraction, and the related stories by DH?
PR: Well, I remember someone telling me that its a western in space, populated almost entirely by Han Solos. By that, I think it means that every character has a very palpable charisma, and they always seem to be trying to get themselves out of trouble using their quick thinking and flinty resourcefulness. They’re trying to eke out their survival on the fringes of the “frontier” of space. Much like another Dark Horse title, B.P.R.D., not a single character is superfluous but it seems like you always are always trying to find out more about them. But Serenity has a very western feel to it…the show could have very easily taken place in 1875. Even the action sequences feel like they could have been a part of High Noon or 3:10 to Yuma. There’s just that gritty, dusty feel to how the scenes move back and forth. Do yourself a favor a go watch it.
CA: What was it like working with Patton Oswalt?
PR: It was quite a ride. At first I was pretty intimidated. I mean, its Patton-freaking-Oswalt. He’s probably the most listened to stand-up comedian on my iTunes. But, Patton was very positive and encouraging. His brain’s always running. Even when he sent me comments about the Serenity pages, he’d spice it up with something witty (like when he told me one page would look better with the Herculoids duking it out in the background). This really helped ease some of the pressure.
CA: Did you find it hard to resist talking The Fan or his stand-up nonstop?
PR: I haven’t seen The Fan yet, but I’ve been meaning to because I’ve read some pretty good reviews. Plus, I’d get to see Patton being a dramatic actor, instead of a comedian. For me it always a thrill to see people outside of their element, trying to add facets to themselves (like Jim Carrey did in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind). But, I HAD to mention how much of a fan I was of his comedy, and that I was currently listening to Feelin’ Kinda Patton when I was drawing the pages. I mean, the guy makes me laugh my ass off, he deserves to know that. After I sent him a batch of pages, I told him I about about choked from laughter when I heard him lay into a retarded heckler on his Werewolves and Lollipops album. I thanked him for that experience, and he said “whoa… that’s surreal, man.” I think that was the only time I really nerded out on him.
CA: Did you have much direct contact with him?
PR: Every time I sent off a batch of finished pages through e-mail, I had to “cc” about six different people, including Patton. He’d reply with comments after every e-mail, so.. yeah. We had some pretty entertaining e-mail conversations.
CA: Does he plan to continue writing comics on a regular basis?
PR: Not sure. He has written for comics before (particularly JLA) though. I hope he does, because he’s pretty damn good at it. He’s really good at dialogue and quickly establishing strong character relationships. I’ll definitely be reading whatever he writes next.
CA: What would you say are the best things about working with DH?
PR: That they always got my back, and they always take care of me. For instance, even though I had to abandon a project part of the way through due to a rewrite, my editor, Samantha Robertson, still made sure I got paid for that work anyway even through it won’t show up in publication. Also,they really really want me to succeed. Its like they give me an education on comics while I work for them. While I was doing Abe Sapien: the Haunted Boy, Scott Allie was really trying to get me to sell the action and make it fluid. He wanted my figures to show the same kind of effortless athleticism that Jack Kirby and Frank Frazetta had in their figures. For me that’s kind of difficult because I can’t really shoot reference of that…Frazetta and Kirby’s figures have a confidence and inventiveness that is tempered by their mastery of anatomy. A camera can’t make figures that extraordinary. Scott knew that if I was going to be drawing more comics, I had to make the ordinary believably extraordinary. He had me redoing certain panels until I got the action right, sometimes multiple times. I’m glad he never gave up on me. And they’re very accessible. Anytime I have an idea or concern, someone is always on the ball with a reply. Even the people who do regular work for them (like Dave Stewart and Marc Andreyko) are just really cool and supportive. I love the hell out of Dark Horse.
CA: Did you feel you had everything on the line with your first DH work?
PR: I feel I have everything on the line with EVERY job that I do for Dark Horse. But, a lot this has to do with my personality. I feel like every job could be my last. I mean, they don’t have to keep giving me work, so I think that I have to knock everything out of the park. You never get through paying dues or having to prove yourself, I think. I try not to do anything that isn’t my absolute best. I think this is how good reputations are built.
CA: Do you have any plans of finishing Stormchasers for Desperado?
CA: And you need a deadline to really work, huh? An assignment? You don’t sit around just creating for yourself?
PR: No, not so much drawing on my own. This is a FULL TIME job, and then some. You can’t just clock out after 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 hours… you gotta get shit DONE.
When its done, then I can stop.
CA: Can you talk about any projects on the horizon, comics or otherwise?
See Patric’s work on the Dark Horse website and on his page here. He is also on Facebook, so search for him!
Ken Meyer Jr.