The following interview is part of a series that I started a long time ago, as a way to help new artists and creators get some added exposure for their work. This interview is with Comic Artist Eric Ninaltowski, from March 2018.
Eric is a professional comic book artist who also specializes in Graphic Design and Illustration. Eric got his start around 2006 penciling and inking the Hand of the Morningstar Graphic Novel published by Zondervan and Lamp Post Publications. He has also worked on the comic book introduction to the Disney XD Tv show: Mighty Med; he also illustrated Monomyth, with OSSM Comics. Most recently he worked with Rooted Chronicles on Volume 2 of their Samson series. Eric has also worked on numerous sketch cards for Marvel and DC comic sets with Upper Deck, Cryptozoic, and Rittenhouse. Other work includes character design, logo design, poster design, production design, as well as other various illustrations for different needs; websites, print, media, etc.
What’s the most rewarding aspect of your work?
ERIC – I’d say the most rewarding thing is to able to draw cool stuff. To be able to imagine it and then bring it to life. Growing up and falling in love with comics, and now being able to actually do it for a living… there’s nothing better than that as far as work goes.
What inspired you to start drawing?
ERIC – I can still remember that day during lunch in elementary school, a group of kids were drawing pictures from comics and I remember checking them out and was like, “Hey, can I join you!” And that was it, I got into reading comics and just drawing all the time from then on. That group of kids became my closest friends growing up and we’d share our dreams of making it big someday and making our own comics. I still have a picture of CABLE that I drew after John Romita Jr. from the inside front cover of CABLE #1.
What artist(s) influenced you most and why? Who is your favorite artist?
ERIC – Early on in my comicbook craze I found Jim Lee. I think about the time I got into collecting comics seriously is when Image first started. I remember walking around the comic shop and titles just jumping off the rack at me. WildCATS #1, and Deadthblow #1 were just like… OH MY GOSH what is this I’m laying my eyes on right now? It was mindblowing to me. There were others too, Spawn, Youngblood, all those early Image titles, I bought every single one. But Jim Lee’s work was what stood out to me, and it was his work that I most wanted to emulate, and if you’ve seen my work, you can still see that influence. My thought has always been, I want to be the best, and Jim’s the best so… that’s where I’m aiming.
Also, I couldn’t have made it to where I am today If it wasn’t for Mike S. Miller. I got an internship with a company he was working with real close to where I was living back around 2006 and still to this day he rails on my work and rips it to shreds! But I wouldn’t be the artist I am today if it wasn’t for all those sessions. He’s been a mentor, a friend, and just a great guy who loves what he does and loves to help others be better at, well, everything!
What comic book related project(s) are you currently working on, that you’re particularly excited about?
ERIC – There is a gentleman who I’m currently working with to bring his lifelong creation to life. There’s not much I’m able to say about it right now, but it’s seriously like nothing you’ve seen before. I only took the job, and put my creator owned project on hold, because his concept and story are just that, nothing that has been done before, and to be the one to spearhead it is pretty exciting. We’re creating new worlds on a Star Wars type scale where it’s a massive universe with huge potential for branching out into all medias.
Which part of the creative process do you enjoy most? And why?
ERIC – That’s a tough question. There are so many aspects of comics that I enjoy, whether It’s doing thumbnails to get a good page layout, researching other artists and seeing what cool new stuff they’re doing, or just doing concept designs for a new character. I think that’s the draw of comics that is so appealing, it’s like creating a movie where you’re the director, the set builder, the wardrobe guy, you do it all. You handle lighting the sets, the characters, and you do the storyboarding! You’re a one man show basically (unless you’re working with a team of guys on a comic) but if you’re doing your own stuff, you have that ability. So I think it all is enjoyable, it’s not just sitting down and drawing it’s putting everything into play and using all the brain power you can muster.
Have you collaborated with others, or do you plan on collaborating with other creators for future projects? If so, what are you looking for in a collaboration Partner?
ERIC – I did have the opportunity to collaborate with a guy named Siike Donnelly, on Monomyth, a comic I did with OSSM Comics a few years back. He along with another guy created the story and the idea, but I was in charge of designing the look of the series. The story and idea wasn’t 100% complete so Siike was nice enough to always get my input and was always open to what I had to say regarding some direction we could take or just little story ideas. We respected one another and each others creative angle so I think that was a big plus. And when collaborating it’s always nice to have someone who actually really wants to hear what you have to say. You don’t always have to agree, but to be a sounding board and a just have that ability is really fun. Also, every page layout Siike approved, and I gave him a few different options to choose from so that was fun in the creative process.
Do you prefer superhero comics over story based comics? And what’s your favorite comic book?
I think I do prefer superhero comics just because that was my first love. I like story based comics, but there’s something about the superhero comics, the nostalgia or something. Maybe it’s because deep down we all aspire to be super on a whole other level, and reading those types of stories is elevating. My favorite comic book, man that’s hard. If you really pushed me, I think I’d have to go with WildCATS, (WildCATS #5 if I had to give just one book) because it’s probably the comics I’ve read and gone back to the most. And yeah, Jim did that crazy X-Men run and did some of awesome work there, but because WildCATS wasn’t a name brand team, it was something NEW, it was ALL Jim Lee and his creative team, it was his baby, it just made it all the more awesome. The characters are all memorable, and the story was well done… Add to it the impact of IMAGE into the comics world, changing the game as it did… it’s tough, but that one holds the most weight for me. Plus it gave me my favorite character…
Who’s your favorite character to draw? Or favorite character in general?
ERIC – Favorite character to draw, I was going to say Wolverine, but the more I think about it, I really like Grifter. He’s from WildCATS for anyone who is unfamiliar, but he’s just that type of character that is just so fun to draw, and he has that cool personality. The mask, the guns, the trench coat, I dig it.
What motivates you to continue drawing day after day, and what do you consider the best rewards of your efforts?
ERIC – Great question. One, it’s because I do love comics so much, there is so much there to keep me occupied. Secondly, I might get a gig where I’m doing something that isn’t that fun… it’s just work. But then when I need that break I turn around and I’m drawing a pic of Deadpool and Spiderman in whatever situation I put them in. I have that freedom to create, and I’m not limited except by my time. Thirdly, you always have that hope that someday I may be working on my own creations and bringing them to the fans. Something from my heart, not just what’s been done before.
The best reward of my effort as an artist is seeing that picture I labored on for 8-12 hours in living color; getting the colors back from the colorist and just being like… Wow. Or slaving over a comic for a month or more and then holding the printed copy in your hand… that’s pretty awesome.
Talk about your methods of building your audience. Have those strategies evolved over time, or do you have a formula that’s worked since the beginning?
ERIC – Building an audience for me has been a slow moving feat. I’ve done the social media stuff, I’m on Deviant Art, but honestly, meeting the fans at conventions has been the most rewarding and probably the best means of building an audience for me. The people you meet and who start to follow you are the ones who are really interested. There are those I’ve met simply through social media that are great fans, but to be able to interact is something that’s really fun and unique that you can’t quite do through social media.
Is it important for new artists to seek representation, and how soon should they engage a manager or agent for their work?
ERIC – That is something that I’ve never done, that I can’t really speak to. I’ve found work through websites, and meeting people at conventions personally.
Do you agree with these statements? Please rate them in order of importance, and explain why they are important.
- Get good at drawing! ERIC – This is #1 for sure IF you are an artist who draws! Whatever it is that you want to do in the comics industry get good at it and get better and better. An Editor at a Con once told me, the Big companies have their guys they work with, and if you want to TAKE their job… you have to be as good or better!
- Submit your work! ERIC – This is probably #2 in importance. In doing this you will get the rejection the next statement talks about which will make you try harder (hopefully!), and it will also help in building those relationships with the industry guys (if you do it in person at conventions), but the key is to SUBMIT it. The best way is in person at conventions, but email works too. Do it until you get an answer! Once you do, keep submitting!
- Build relationships with industry insiders by going to cons and meeting the people who may someday give you a job! ERIC – This is #3- this is a great way to get your name out there and get noticed. It’s also tough, but it well worth it if you want to get into the industry.
- Stand out from the crowd! ERIC – #4 This is something that will help. Do be afraid to stand out, but don’t be afraid if you don’t think you do. It’s ok to do what someone else is doing if you’re just starting out. All the great artists started out drawing like their art heroes… Jim Lee, Joe Mad, Marc Silvestri, you name them, they all started out by drawing like the other guys. Just get out there!
- Surround yourself with artists who are better than you! ERIC – Depending on where you are in life this may not always be possible. If you can yes, do it. If you can go to school for art, do it, but I would recommend specializing in what it is you want to do. I went to a 2 year art school in Delware, meanwhile North of me in my own state of NJ was Joe Kubert’s school of cartooning that I didn’t even know about at the time. Know your options and specialize to save time. If that doesn’t work, get an internship!
- Rejection is simply an invitation to try harder! ERIC – This one is last, but never least… never give up!
What additional advice would you give artists looking to get into the industry?
ERIC – If you’re young, don’t waste time. If you’re old, don’t waste time. I think about all the time I drew at my desk as a kid, but I didn’t find out how much I needed to learn or do, until after Art College in regards to comics. I mean I could draw, but when I sat down and said Ok, I’m going to draw a page to submit to Marvel, it was like, “Oh my flippin’ word, I’ve never drawn a full scale comic page before!” I’ve never drawn a building in perspective like this before, I’ve never… and I was like 22-23 years old! I wanted to do this since I was like 10, and I can’t even draw a dude properly in this shot! It was a complete eye opener and I was seriously scared. There is so much to learn in regards to comics, so much to grasp, and then throw on top of that, you need to be good at it ALL if you want to get noticed in the industry! You have your work cut out for you! Don’t waste time! Don’t just know it… DO IT!
And don’t just draw the pictures in that art book you have, read it and understand it. Head knowledge will help your hand knowledge, but you can’t have one without the other.
How can people find out more about you and your work?