Monday, 4 October 2010

Sci-Fi Art Now Creator Interview: Tim Perkins

A stunning double page spread from Tim Perkins Worlds End


Tim Perkins is comic and concept artist, designer and writer who I've known since my days at Marvel UK, back when I was editing Doctor Who Magazine and Tim was inking pencil art by John Ridgway (who also features in SciFi Art Now)...


SciFi Art Now: Tell us a little bit about yourself and some of the work you have done.


Tim Perkins: I'm an international comic and concept artist, designer and writer based in the UK. I'm married to Margaret with two grown children, my daughter, Joanne, who recently married the love of her life, Toby and my son, Simon. We have several pets, including a little Yorkshire terrier, Bentley “Bogtrotter”, who spends pretty much every hour with me, at my side. He even has his own Twitter page.

As a comic artist and writer I have had the privilege of working on comic characters as diverse as Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, Transformers, Thundercats, Doctor Who, Judge Dredd and Postman Pat, for such illustrious giants as Marvel Comics, DC Comics, 2000AD, Defiant, Tekno, Fleetway and IPC, amongst a great many others.

As a graphic and product designer, my work has been seen in print and merchandising since 1980 for innumerable clients and as a concept artist and designer my work can be seen around the world in a great many theme parks from the UK, through Kazakhstan to the Middle East.

As a concept, storyboard, story, layout, background and colour key artist, designer and writer my work has also been used as inspiration for film and TV projects.

Nowadays my work is split between working on projects for my own publishing and merchandising company, Wizards Keep Limited, lecturing, and commercial commissions. My current work in progress is my graphic novel series; Worlds End – Volume 1 – The Riders on the Storm

SciFi Art Now: What tools do you mainly use to create your art?


Tim: I still work traditionally when drawing and use 0.5 and 0.7 mechanical pencils using blue Pentel leads. For inking, I use Pro Arte “Acrlix” Series 202 brushes, usually sizes 1 & 5; Rexel pen nibs (Ref: 1068A) and Hunt mapping pens (Ref: 9407); and Faber Castell PITT artist pens sizes S, F, M, and B

I rarely use Rapidiograph pens anymore, preferring to use permanent, fine line, marker pens to rule borders and the like. I use Higgins "Black Magic" ink.

For painting, I use all manner of brushes, although have a small set of those, which I use all the time. Paints I use are:Artist Quality Windsor & Newton Watercolour paints (for Watercolours), Windsor & Newton "Galleria" Acrylic paints and Liquitex Acrylic paints (for Acrylics) and for oils, Windsor & Newton Artists Quality Oil Colour paints.

Software wise, I use CS2 suite (Photoshop, etc) for graphic design and some of the early production methods, like flat colours and some SFX and Corel Painter IX more for the painterly effects.

I am using an oversize A4 Wacom Intuos2 stylus and tablet these days - the work area is 210mm squared. I've had it for at least six, or seven years now and wonder how I achieved anything previously working, as I did, with a mouse, not a stylus.

SciFi Art Now: What prompted your current choice of production method?

Tim: I didn't start to look at using computers until 1994 when I bought my first one, which was inadequate for producing artwork on, but which enabled me to train myself to use a computer.

The switch to using computers for graphic design and also the start of my producing colour art on them as well occurred in 2000, when I first started work at Morpheus Animations. I saw the market shifting towards more digital content and found I needed to begin working digitally to work for certain publishers.

By the time I had come to terms with this, I found I had made the switch, with commercial work, at least, to digital art, although I still draw traditionally in pencil even today.

[There is a lot more information in on Tim's FAQs section on his website].

SciFi Art Now: What inspired you to become an artist?

Worlds End by Tim Perkins
Tim: I suppose there have been a lot of influences from within my family as a young child, which in hindsight would inevitably have meant there was a big chance of my following comic art and stories as a career route. My parents both read stories to me and invented new ones too, as did my Grandpa Perkins.

My Uncle Bob used to draw cartoons of the family and stuff with me when I was a kid and my Uncle George was also able to spin out a yarn, or two, so the storytelling has always been present in my life in one way, or another.

The fact my Mum and Dad were so influential in my seeing so many annuals and childrens books and especially my Dad with comic books early on in my life again meant it was inevitable they would have a major influence on my career choice.

I am told that even as a really little child, I was always drawing and some of my earliest memories are of both drawing and reading the books and comics from back then.

I started to notice there was one guy whose work I always liked the best and that was Jack Kirby and his influence is still with me, as far as layout and storytelling is concerned, if only subconsciously.

Jack’s work had it all for me, power, majesty, movement, dynamism, humour, happiness, sadness, and a cosmic all-awareness, as well as a sense of wonder and inquisitiveness and most of all fun!

There's no mistaking the Kirby language and nuances in both his artwork and his prose too. The instant you see a Kirby work there is no doubt it is his. His trees, his rocks, his water, his castles, his characters and their garb, along with everything he drew are his alone and bigger and craggier than life and yet so symbolic in their depiction, almost like a shorthand. His Kirby Krackle adorns all manner of cosmically powered SFX and his people ooze with sheer power.

There followed other artistic and literary influences, many of which are in my Hall of Fame on the website, as I continued to soak up the creativity of a great many different writers and artists like a sponge, something I continue to do even now. I just love looking at all the wonderful artwork and stories out there.

SciFi Art Now: What was the most useful piece of advice you were given when you began learning your craft?

Tim: [Comics artist] John Ridgway is probably the most influential in his advice to me early on in my career. He took great pains to help me look at my work and hone my storytelling skills. I have always seemed to have a knack for creating off the cuff, and/or with a word, title, or phrase and that is something John continued with me, as far as storytelling is concerned. If anything he certainly made me look at as many different ways to do something as possible. It is something which has stayed with me and something I try to pass on to my students on the Fantasy Art Unlimited course.

Big Barda penciled by Jack Kirby,
inks by Mike Royer
SciFi Art Now: Which artists most inspire you?

Tim: As I have said Jack Kirby was the biggest influence followed by the guys in my Hall of Fame, like Barry Windsor Smith, Will Eisner, Nestor Redondo et al and John Ridgway and a great many others, such as John Buscema, Bernie Wrightson, Frank Bellamy, Richard Corben, Joe Sinnott, Gene Colan, Gil Kane, Mike Noble etc.

Even guys today wow me with their stuff and that for me is an important thing - not to lose that spark to be able to appreciate all manner of different styles and techniques for what they are and enjoy them to the hilt.

Then there are the SciFi artists like Roger Dean, Rodney Matthews, Peter Jones, Chris Foss, Patrick Woodroffe, Bruce Pennington, Melvyn Grant and John Harris, amongst others, whose work cannot but inspire and has done so for me since I was in my teens.

I guess for me it's the quality of work I am looking at and inspired by, the sheer level of craftsmanship and draughtsmanship achieved, as well as the level of storytelling, whether that is sequential, or a single image.

Chopper for 2000AD. Pencils and inks by
Colin MacNeil, painted by Tim
SciFi Art Now: What is the appeal to you of science fiction as an inspiration for some of your work?

Tim: For me, Science Fiction and Fantasy have always been the very best ways of telling stories which although futuristic in one way, or another, reflect the world we live in today with all its many facets and fears and joys and celebrations. In comics the stories which I loved the most were always based in SciFi, which is why when I was chosen to be a part of this book amongst the fantastic line up of very talented creative folks, I was so pleased.

I've always loved the work I have been involved with the most when it was a SciFi story.

It is with that in mind that I guess I have always tried to pick up work with some kind of ScFi element in the stories. It hasn’t always been possible, but that brings me to Wizards Keep, which I set up for this very reason, so I had a vehicle with which to both tell my stories and create the art for them, without the obvious publishing and editorial corporate constraints I had experienced before doing so.

My latest work in progress, which will be completed in the next few months is my Worlds End graphic novel, which I am billing as a Science Fusion book, crossing SciFi with Fantasy elements, a kind of Star Wars meets Lord of the Rings.

This has been an absolute dream for me to able to produce and is the first time I feel I have really been able to show what I can do. It has afforded me the privilege to be able to draw some of the many wonderful scenes floating around inside my head for all these years. Epic Vistas inspired by the spirit of SciFi.

SciFi inspires people of all ages and of both sexes in many different ways. Scifi has certainly played its part in moulding me as a creative person and I hope my new work can continue in that fashion and inspire a new generation of folks, as well as those already in love with the genre.

SciFi Art Now: Do you have a favourite piece of work or project you have worked on?

Phage - Shadow Death
Tim: The best work of my career is certainly my latest, Worlds End and has sated many desires I have had to produce work of this kind. I have been a part of a lot of SciFi storylines before, such as all the 2000AD work, like Judge Dredd, Rogue Trooper, Universal Soldier, Chopper, Junker, Zippy Couriers, and Shadows, etc and Open Spaces for Marvel Comics, Plasma and War Dancer for Defiant, and Phage – Shadow Death for Tekno, but never with the full control to do what I have with my new work.

Worlds End has enabled me to show my storytelling skills as well as my artistic and design skills alongside a totally focussed vision of the worlds playing out their parts in the story. It is the first time I have fully took on the roles of world creating in every way, something I have not been able to do working as a team player amongst others whereby you are playing out someone else’s ideas, fantasies and dreamscapes.

I have been able to control every aspect of design and story playing the parts of concept artist, designer, script writer, lighting engineer, costume designer, makeup artist, casting director, voice coach, product/craft/prop designer, and planetary world builder, again a first for me in publishing.

I thought I would share the opening words of the story - This is how the saga begins:

“On the third planet from the outer rim of the Squatsretch system lies a world untainted by evil. its myriad inhabitants going about their daily lives without worry or fear…”

“That is until today…”

The basic premise is of an entire civilisation's invasion fleet infesting a small, quiet, unassuming planet intent on Terra-forming it and it is up to a small band of misplaced characters to stop them. The fate of a world lies in the hands of a wizard, his familiar, a young boy, a girl and the mystery of Worlds End. Are they enough to stop the myriad forces from the depths of outer space...?

I am having great fun with the characters and their stories and the response from fans and pros alike has been wonderful and I cannot wait to see it in their hands for real.

SciFi Art Now: In your career, have you had any bizarre experiences while creating your art?

Tim: When we first moved house some years ago I was working in another of the rooms at the back of the house, at the time, and I had left the front door open to unload the car and bring in some stuff I had been out to buy. This took me a few minutes to do.

Upon entering the studio I heard something shuffling about at the back of the room, behind the drawing board. I popped my head around and startled a large grey cat, which had obviously sought refuge whilst I had the front door open.

In turn it startled me as it leapt out from behind the board, leaping first across the fax machine I was using back then, deleting the messages I had not yet listened to. It then scrambled across my drawing board, which sported my artwork for the comic I was working on at the time, entitled Traffic and sent the Bristol boards sprawling across the floor of the studio, before leaping to the top of the stairs.

It left in a hurry, helped in kind by my own efforts to eject its evil form from the premises. The only thought as I returned to the studio was exactly that of remembering what I had read of Roger Dean and his cat experience! [Some of the clouds in one of the Yessongs album inside cover picture are actually reworked paw prints caused when the artist's cat walked across a drying painting. One paw print is still clearly visible in the final painting - Ed]

Luckily, when I looked at the pages, despite having walked all over them, the pages were quite okay, to my relief, but I never found out who it had been that had contacted me and left the messages.

Although I have seen the cat since, strangely enough, he has not repaid the visit.

SciFi Art Now: What most frustrates you about being an artist?

Tim: I can’t really say I am frustrated as an artist, as I love what I do and feel very privileged to have been able to pursue a career as I have in this way working alongside some of the most talented people in the world.

I suppose if I do have slight peeves with being an artist the first is the constraints placed on you as an artist, but I understand the reasons when you are working with the Intellectual Properties of corporate companies.

Another is the search for the ever elusive perfect illustration and story, which I doubt I will ever achieve, but then that is also part of the fun trying to arrive at that particular destination.

SciFi Art Now: What keeps you going despite the hopefully occasional frustrations?

Tim: It's the absolute need and not a desire to produce work. When I am not being creative I find myself being creative in my thoughts. You just can’t switch off being creative; it’s a big part of who I am.

In another, more practical way, there's the simple fact that we earn money through our work and like all folks that survive in this world through an ability to earn a living in some way, so too we earn money in this same way – in other words we can either work and earn money, or else starve.

That is not even a thought with me on a personal level though and I cannot think of myself not doing what I do, so I suppose life and my family and friends and this wonderful world and the vast, uncharted universe full, as it is, of its many and varied wonders are the things that inspire me.

Who could not be inspired by a world in which we see three suns and a myriad planets in the skies, and where the ships sail upon methane oceans, whist the hulls are bombarded by sulphuric acid rain.

I hope from the above sentence that you can hopefully see that Worlds End will be FUN-filled!

SciFi Art Now: What advice would you offer to anyone starting out as an artist?

Tim: I always pretty much say the same things: Draw, Draw, Draw, and then Draw some more.

The only way to continually hone your drawing skills is to practice all the time. I still sketch all the time and I have worked professionally now since 1980. I know a lot of guys in the field and they all continually draw all the time. You can never draw too much. Absorb as much information as you can. Study from as many "How to" books and other sources like museums and comics and photographs, etc, as you can. Art courses can always help.

Try to remember these five simple rules and you will be part way to achieving your goal:

Learn from everyone and realise no one has all the answers, we all have pieces of a jigsaw that when put together are greater as a whole. Study lots of different artist' work in lots of styles.

Copy no one else, but find yourself by learning how many different people work and develop your style over time with the amassed knowledge. Try to imitate these styles, not to merely copy them, but to try to understand how a particular look or effect is achieved by other artists and begin to develop your own style. This will always shine through in time.

Look for things, which repeat in both positive and negative connotations and through these reoccurrences find things to both embrace and things to avoid at all cost.

Be willing to bend, but not break, a lot of what we do is down to compromise and team play, not ego. That said be true to yourself when it matters, this is easier to do with experience under your belt.

Work hard – seriously be prepared to work harder than you can imagine and be willing to sacrifice a lot of your personal “normal” time to producing artwork and/or stories. For every minute you spend doing so you get closer to the goal of being good enough to work as a professional. For every minute you neglect to do so, someone else is doing exactly that and now stands above you in the line up to the publisher’s doors.

Most of all, however, practise, practice, practice.

Again, there's more information on the website and I am always willing to discuss things in more depth and help students via email. Folks just need to realise that this can only be done within the time frame that I am free to do so, with work permitting and it may take time to receive answers and comments, but rest assured your patience will pay off dividends and I will get in touch as soon as I can.

SciFi Art Now: Tim, thanks very much for your time and answers to our questions.

• Tim is an official guest at the Malta Comic Convention 2 Website in October

• Tim's Official Web Site: www.wizards-keep.com


• Tim's Official www.wizards-keep.blogspot.com


• Contact Tim via: tim@wizards-keep.com

• Mail can be sent to Tim Perkins c/o Wizards Keep Limited, 11 Walton Crescent, Blackburn, Lancashire BB2 3TQ UK

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