Many of our readers here at ComicAttack.net may not know that Ken Meyer Jr., our Ink Stains columnist, is a well published artist throughout the comic book and gaming industries. He’s worked on comics and art pieces for numerous CCG’s and RPG’s like Magic the Gathering, White Wolf, Dune, and so many more. Not to mention his work on album art and the many, many commissions he’s completed over the years. The man is one of the unsung artists of geekdom.
Today we honor Ken by checking out his top 20 art pieces, hand picked by Ken himself, complete with a brief description on what went into creating each one!
1. At Rest
This piece is one of my best and came together relatively easily. It was a commission for my friend (and writer of our graphic novel, “Gustav, PI”), Malcolm Bourne. Malcolm is a very nice British fellow and knows virtually everyone (and has an art collection to die for). I used a fellow student I knew at the time who made an incredible model. She has really beautiful eyes…beautiful everything, really, and was great in front of the camera. I found a reference photo of the Scottish coast that just looked amazing and something got me thinking about a winged girl (not an angel, sorry), colored the same as the birds surrounding her…and looking as if she was resting after a long journey back to this, her home. It is watercolor, and about 20 x 10.
2. An Eye For an Eye
I did this painting for a couple of reasons. I was in a foundations class (Color Theory) and we had to do a piece using a complementary color scheme. Now, before going back to college (at The Savannah College of Art and Design), pretty much everything I knew was self taught and intuitive…I didn’t know a tangent from a hole in the ground, and my understanding of color was far from complete. I wanted to do a painting that would blow the class away, plus a convention was coming up for which I wanted a new piece to be done in time for…later, it ended up on a cover of Negative Burn. It was also my comment on 9/11. The model is Anissa Granados (now Gray), someone who I used a ton and was a great model. I still have this painting, if anyone is interested. You can also see the small black and white piece I did first as part of a role playing game book assignment that this painting sort of sprang from. Watercolor, about 20 x 30.
3. Sunday Morning
This is a very old painting, probably around 1990. It is of an old girlfriend and I like it primarily because of what is not there and the looseness of the painting style. The title has some personal significance for me. At the time, I shot some photos of her and they were all really overexposed, but I really liked the way they looked and was able to get this one painting out of the batch of photos before we broke up and she wanted them all back. Watercolor, about 14 x 18.
4. Bruce Lee
This is significant because it was my very first published piece of art, way back in 1975. I had been corresponding with artist Brent Anderson for awhile, having first started writing to him while he was still a fan artist doing work in the fanzine Venture. Brent was (and is) a great guy, and was a really good artist even way back then. I wish I still had all those letters he sent on some really well illustrated stationary…those were the days! Brent wrote to me (this was long before email, folks) and told me there was a chance he could get this published and to ‘not go apeshit.’ I have a feeling I actually did go apeshit. I only recently found out the reason he thought he could get it published is that the convention book it ended up in (Baycon, in San Francisco) was one in which he was serving on the committee for. Brent inked the drawing for me, which obviously made it far better than it would have been otherwise. I still have it.
Another large and complicated painting, this one took awhile to do, as you can probably figure out for yourself. It has a pretty complicated composition and background. The model was great, I used her a fair amount in other work (she goes by the name “Fierce Sonya”). My favorite part of it is the leather dress…one of those things that just turned out better than I could have hoped. The various elements that make up the background all worked well too, but it was a complicated piece to do for sure. The theme I was trying to illustrate was the various masks we wear to live our lives. It was done for an album cover, but the band broke up before it could be used. Story of my life! Watercolor, about 20 x 12.
6. Kids on Both Coasts
This is one of my favorite paintings of my two daughters, Riley and Avery, done about 2006. It was a hard one for me, because it was acrylic on canvas, and I had done very few paintings in that media up to that point. I later added an oil glaze to the sky to lighten it up a bit, as it was originally more like a storm brewing sort of sky. The coast on the left is San Diego, where Riley was born and we spent about 10 years, and the coast on the right is Savannah, where we live now. I was very happy in that I really captured the girls personalities and also integrated the backgrounds satisfactorily. Oil/acrylic, about 48 x 24.
7. Father and Son
One of many paintings I did for White Wolf Games…it has to number in the 100’s, between all the books and cards. This is one of my favorites because I think the background is very interesting, even though much of it is in shadow. I shot reference of an actual father and son for this piece, on a chair like what is pictured, and added the various background elements from other sources. Light and shadow are one of my primary focuses and interests in painting, and this piece shows why. This was done in 1992, watercolor.
8. To Survive
Another White Wolf piece, one of the very early ones, and one that seemed to resonate with a lot of people (judging from print sales way back then). 1992, I think, and watercolor of course. The model was one of Anissa’s friends, a big batch of people I used for that art back then.
9. Bell Helmets
This was a big complicated piece for a big client. I had a great art director, who sent me tons of reference material…didn’t have to search for a thing. He sent a layout as well, but I changed it a lot. I am showing both versions because originally, they wanted Steve McQueen as one of the central figures but found out later they did not and could not get the rights to use the image. So, I did a new face (a bike rider whose name I can’t recall now) and replaced McQueen with it digitally. I also made a few other small changes they requested. I still have the original, which is watercolor and 20 x 30. This was used for a DVD of the history of Bell Helmets, and a small poster as well. I was really satisfied with how this turned out, and it hearkened back to all the illustration I loved in the 80s.
10. Jeff Buckley
One of a few paintings I have done of one of my favorite musicians, Jeff Buckley. A present for my wife, just as big a Buckley fan, it’s watercolor and ink, 20 x 30. Instead of using one of the (at that time) widely viewed photos of him that were available, I took pictures from the television of a videography I had that I don’t think many people had seen at that time. I think I captured the slight sadness that I saw in his soulful eyes. A huge loss when he died so young. I was talking with his mother at the time, and she told me it was going to be in a film that was being made on his life, but I have no idea if it ever made it in.
11. Tori Amos
Ah, Tori…people think I have a fixation on her, and I do love her music (especially the first two albums), but all of the art I have done of her has been on request or for a benefit calendar I put together for a 5 year span. This illustration is the first I did of her, and was for a magazine a friend of mine was publishing at the time called Axcess. I really liked the way it turned out, and someone else did too, as it ended up on a bootleg CD! I also did a piece for a tour book of Tori’s at the request of friend and artist Rantz Hosely (who introduced Tori to comics and because of that, Tori became friends with Neil Gaiman). The many wonderful images of Tori that my fellow artists did for the RAINN calendar can be seen on my site. You will see images by me, and much more amazing artists like Christopher Moeller, David Mack, C. F. Payne, Mark Summers, Mike Kaluta, Dave Dorman, Craig Elliott, Daren Bader, Larry MacDougal, Terese Nielson, Bill Sienciewicz, Christophe Vacher, Rebecca Guay, Boris Vallejo, Julie Bell, Charles Vess, Joe Jusko and many others. This piece was watercolor and about 18 x 24.
For a period in the early 90s, I did a slew of covers for the now defunct company, Revolutionary Comics. I was living in San Diego at the time, and their art director saw a U2 piece that was in the San Diego Con Art Show and liked it. He contacted me and told me to meet the guy who ran the show, Todd Loren. I had to meet him in a Subway, because I guess the office location was secret or something. Tragically, a few months after that, Loren was murdered and his father took over the business. From then on, I dealt with Jay, and he gave me tons of work. I did musicians, sports figures, even an Image Comics creators cover. This Metallica is one of my favorites for a few reasons. First, I was able to keep the likeness of the lead singer, despite it being a very extreme expression and half his face being a skull. Secondly, I played with multimedia, being enamored with the work Dave McKean was doing on the Sandman covers at the time. Watercolor, acrylic, wires and screws, about 10 x 15.
13. Springsteen on the Beach
This was another class project, done for a caricature class, and also using the production methods of illustrator C. F. Payne. It’s a many layered process combining watercolor, acrylic, oil, colored pencils and pretty much anything else you want to throw in. The center area with the blue is meant to be the area seen from the cd case, and then it folds out into a poster. I don’t know if that aspect of it is particularly successful, but I like the piece as a whole, and caricature, though difficult, can be really fun. This piece is still available, and is about 15 x 15.
14. Hamster Triumphant
Comic Attack readers might have already seen this one, as Clint and the rest of the Hamsters have gotten some good press and attention here. The two issues of this mini series was the first real comic work I had. It was also the longest and most work intensive, especially considering I had a full time job at that point and was having to work a fair amount of overtime as well. I missed a few deadlines and you can actually see notes in the margins from Eclipse editor, Cat Yronwode, castigating us for missing the deadlines. It was a really fun book to do, writer Don Chin was funny and fun to work with, and I got to inject my own humor into the book as well. Being a huge fan of illustrator Bob Peak, I did this cover as an homage to his famous Apocalypse Now poster (the previous first issue’s cover paid respects to Frank Miller’s Dark Knight cover). There’s nothing quite like seeing Marlon Brando as the transvestite crime lord of Bangkok. Still available, watercolor/pastel, about 12 x 17.
This is one of many covers I did for the Caliber series, Kilroy is Here. I also did the interiors of several issues. This was the first continuing series I did, and this is one of the better covers. I combined shots of myself as Kilroy, a girl I used for an earlier issue’s interiors, and a background of a battle scared European landscape. Watercolor and still available, about 10 x 15.
16. The Spirit
One of many paintings I did for the San Diego Comic Convention program book. That year was a celebration of Will Eisner’s The Spirit, and I wanted to do something really good, having been a fan of it for a long time. It was printed in black and white, so this may be the first time some of you have seen it in full color. The background was laborious and detailed, but I wanted as complete a sense of realism as possible…though the Spirit is pretty darn high in the sky! Still available, watercolor, about 16 x 20.
This is the first Sandman painting I ever did, and was done for the San Diego Comic Convention Art Auction, where artists paint and draw on a stage while an audience watches…not the easiest thing to do, but I got used to it. This one went for the most money any of my pieces ever did…just went downhill from there! Watercolor, 20 x 30. I did many Sandman themed pieces after that as commissions.
18. Kilroy is Here
One of my favorite Kilroy stories, as far as the art goes, is this one, the first I ever did. It has a really dark mood, and at that point, DuoShade paper was still available and used a fair amount by artists working in black and white. For those of you that don’t know what that paper is, it is a specially treated drawing paper. It has faint blue patterns (lines, dots, etc) printed on the paper that turn black when a chemical is applied, You get the same affect as zip-a-tone, but more organic looking, since you can apply it with a brush. Ah, those were the days.
19. Spidey (Digits a Plenty)
This was the first Marvel job I ever got, so it was a pretty big deal for me. It was done for a pin-up book called Portraits of a Marvel Universe. I used myself as a model for the body and arms and my friend and artist Scott Benefiel as the model for the face (and the arms clutching the head). All in all, it worked together pretty seamlessly. I think it is a pretty arresting image and illustrates one of my favorite periods of the character as illustrated by the great artist Gil Kane, when Spider-Man had six arms. The editor asked us to choose a few of our favorite Marvel moments to illustrate and that one was at the top of my list. Watercolor, about 10 x 15.
20. Project High: Goodwill
This is the first page I did of my auto-biographical strip, Project High. It is the most succinct and probably the most effective in every way. It’s funny, I never thought I would end up back in Savannah, but here I am now. When I was taking classes at the Savannah College of Art and Design, I walked by the very project I lived in way back then to get to the Sequential Art Building. A strange feeling he first few times to be sure.
Be sure to read Ken’s monthly column, Ink Stains, celebrating the fanzines of the 60s, 70s, and 80s. Also, visit his website, kenmeyerjr.com, and don’t be shy to request a commission! His e-mail is email@example.com.