A Quick and Painless Interview with Jeff Bracey

The SoulExodus #1 cover artist and indie comic painter on the rise gives some insights.

Published in part in SoulExodus #2

Q: Overall, was there one particular series or creative team thatfirst turned you on to reading, and then ultimately drawing comics?

A: I think John Byrne and Chris Claremont got me hooked with X-Men back in the day. John really influenced my early art style. His stuff was so realistic and detailed. It was just so much better than anything I'd seen before. Of course Chris's run on X-Men in those days was nail biting stuff.

The only other team's to have as much impact were Marv Wolfman and George Perez, and Alan Moore and Steven Bissette.

Alan and Steve in particular helped reintroduce me to horror in comic form (I'd thought it had died out). Its was so adult, intelligent and unapologetic that I immediately fell in love with it. I didn’t know that comics could have that kind of intensity!

Every artist has that one or two individuals who they can say they
look up to, and who's work got them hooked on what they do, the way
they do it. Who would you say are your major artistic influences,
both initially, and currently?

As mentioned before John Byrne was big with me. A lot of the classic Marvel guys were: Romita's Jr and Sr, John Buscema, Kelly Graham. Guys like that.

Once I rediscovered horror Steven Bissette, Bernie Wrightson, Kyle Hotz, and Kelly Jones took over.

These days I'd have to say I look back at Tim Vigil's work a lot. Here was way ahead of his time. I study Ben Templesmith cause he's a master of mood. Andy Braz is a phenom!!! He's just as close to perfection as you can get! Jay Fotos, the way that guy paints, he should be doing his own books!!! And of course there's Alex Ross. He proves that you can be "old school" and still make it big in this business.

Last but not least is Josh Medors and Ryan Ottley. I've watched them develop in the last 3 years from good artists into guys I KNEW had star potential!! These guys never cease to amaze me! Josh in particular is always experimenting. The guy is fearless! Instead of getting really good at one thing, he keeps trying style after and changing techniques! If I had half his talent I'd consider myself lucky.

Is there anything relatively non-artist or comics related that you
could say influences what you do?

Martial Arts. I often like to have this sort of balance between sudden explosive motion and that quiet meditative moment that comes right before it reflected in my work. Movies, music and books also play a big roll in my artistic process. And of course, there's that over active imagination of mine that's always saying, " What if this happend..."

I know you're primarily a brush painter, but I also know that you dabble in ink and airbrush. Describe the media and tools you're most comfortable using and how you decide on what to use and how.

Its true I'm "old school" when it comes to painting. I use a number of brushes and 2 or 3 different air brushes, but I'll also use anything that produces the effect I want...including the computer these days. Yes all you digital bastards have corrupted me ha, ha.

I was very resistant to digital painting, but I've seen so much beautiful artwork created on the computer. I’ve come to appreciate it for what it is…a tool. A very useful one at that.

On a typical piece of artwork, without necessarily giving away any "trade secrets," what would be the major points of your creative process and/or technique?

I do a lot of air sketching. What that means is I'm drawing above the paper trying to get the idea that's in my head out. That’s usually the hardest part. It can take a few minutes to an hour, plus its looks strange if you happen to see me do it.

I do very loose thumbnails because I've found the first time I put any effort into a piece that's when the best picture comes out. I’m never as satisfied with trying to recreate a detailed thumbnail.

Also I’m one of these guys who works backwards. I don’t establish my background first when painting, I go right into the figure and let him determine what’s going to happen with the background. It can be troublesome technically, but I prefer to let intuition and inspiration be my guides.

What factors contribute most of all to the consistent growth and improvement of your style and technique?

Other artists, without a doubt. There are some many great artists out there, both mainstream talent and undiscovered guys on the web. Just when I start to think I'm hot stuff I'll see something puts me back in check but also sets the bar a little higher for me.

It was a lot of contests on the Spawn boards and all the great artists there that really pushed me into pushing myself and my paintings. Thanks to the web, the pushing will never stop, because I've got a pretty mean competitive streak!

Describe your dream project, comics related or otherwise in terms of story, content, and possible collaborators.

I'd love to do a Godzilla story. I'd like to put my spin on a lot of things but stay really true to the Toho stuff. My Godzilla would be a real horror book though, really scary stuff.

I have the same thing in mind for the Hulk. I'd like to explore real down and dirty rage. The Hulk could easily be frightening if Marvel had the balls to take that kind of chance. Maybe a Marvel Knights line....

Steve Niles is already doing a bunch of stuff with an idol of mine...Rob Zombie!!! Rob is pretty much everything I wanted to do in life: he's a rocker, movie-maker and doing comics! He's absolutely brilliant!

What would you say is the most difficult part of your creative process?

Getting started. Getting the composition just right is so fatiguing sometimes, but the end result is always worth all that mental sweating.

What would you say is the most fun part of your creative process?

Watching it come to life a little bit at a time. I should take more "in process" pictures. That and seeing it fully realized, the finished product. Of course no piece of art is ever finished. I have to make myself stop before I over work it.

Aside from the awesome inagural cover for SoulExodus you put
together, what else are you working on that our (hopefully by the time
this is printed) loyal readers can look forward to?

Currently there's nothing concrete. I’ve got new stuff in the works with Silent Devil Productions, but that’s taking a back seat to a couple of big projects the company has coming out. Dracula vs King Arthur and Runes of Ragnan. And I must say I don’t mind it at all, as you know Runes has a big online fan base, and Im just glad I was able to help them find a company to produce the book.

In the future though Im going to be working on a web comic with Silent Devil called Mr. Nova. Be prepared for anything with this! Mr. Nova is one sarcastic and opinionated s.o.b. It’s a story of limitless posibilities and nothing is taboo. It will be fun to flex the more comedic side of my brain with this story. If it does well enough you may be seeing a full-blown comic in the future as well.

I’m also inking a one shot for Silent Devils called Ja Tan. Although currently on the back burner as well, its a great story with lots of drama and action. This is my second inking assignment and I'm loving it. Inking is a blast! I’m working on Taki Soma's art and she's really terrific. We've developed a great rapport. She has a lot of trust in the decisions I make while inking.

On a completely unrelated note...as previously mentioned, you have some martial arts training. What famous martial artist would you most like to "take on?"

I suppose everyone wants to fight Bruce Lee. You know you'll get you ass handed to you but to experience the man like that it would be worth it!!! I'd also love to go against Jackie Chan. I have a very strong sense of humor and loved doing physical comedy when I was involved in the theater. It would be a dream come true to do a funny fight scene with him, just improvise like crazy!

To any young aspiring painter, if you could give any one piece of good advice, what would it be?

Practice! The only way to get better at anything is to keep doing it over and over! Also being self taught I advise others who cant afford school to go to Books A Million or a similar store. There are dozens of books on styles and technique. I probably have a $40,000 education on my bookshelf.

Lastly if you can make to comic cons DO IT!!! Getting immediate feedback from art directors and other painters/artists cant be beat. I’ve been lucky enough to talk to Brian Stelfreeze every year for the past three years. He's incredibly generous with his time, and has helped so many aspiring artists. He's helped me improve my game significantly! The man is just awesome! I cant say enough good about him.

Finish the following sentences:

1. The most important thing a good artist should be is:

Honest. Honest with yourself and with your clients. Know what you are currently capable of. Don’t promise more than you can deliver. Be professional and never compromise your integrity.

2. A good writer/artist team should first and foremost be:

Open Minded. Artists and writers have a tendency to fall in love with their own work. Both have to be open to new ideas from the other. That's when I think it becomes a true collaboration.

3. The hardest part of any artist's job is:

Doing it when you just don’t feel like it. Some days you just don’t have the muse, y'know? The inspiration and the energy just aren't there. But like Greg Capullo once said, you have to make yourself do it. If you're going to do this for a living you have to be dedicated/disciplined. Act like you have all the energy and enthusiasm in the world. Fake it till you make it. Soon the energy will come back and it ill take wild horses to pull you away from your drafting table.

4. Comics, as an industry are:

Fluid. I think comics despite the many problems over the years will continue to grow and adapt like some Darwinian creature. I've watched the industry go through many changes in the past three decades. Experimenting, failing, succeeding and experimenting again. I love graphic story telling. It’s been with us for thousands of years. Look at cave paintings and you'll know what I mean.

Comics make take a beating from time to time, but they will always be with us.

Thanks again to Bracey, for his time, patience, and insights.

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