Some context, in 2004 a young fella called Tim asked if he could interview me for something (I forget what it was for, I stumbled across this old email while scouring my archive of emails which I thought had all been deleted)
I’d just got married, my mum had died shortly after. I was working for 2000ad while working a part time day job in computers. The warhammer gig mentioned here was bought and paid for but warhammer went under just after they paid me, so it never saw print, sadly. I’ve added annotations in square brackets.
ok so last time we went over what you are doing now, so i’ve got a few
questions about how you got into art in the first place…
Oh and My sincerest congradulations on getting married…:)
1. What got you into art in the first place, and more to the point
I’ve always drawn and I’ve always enjoyed drawing – even before I’d
seen a comic. Started reading comics when I was about 8ish, prior to
this I was in a remedial reading class in school as I just wasn’t
interested in reading. We used to holiday in this caravan site (very
small, isolated place with bloody awful weather) so there was very
little to do – mum used to buy comics for us to keep us entertained.
2000AD/Warlord/Battle Action, etc. I started reading cus I had nothing
else to do and was pretty much hooked. I read anything I could get,
one year we found (my cousins and I) a bunch of Avengers comics in a
bin (Adam Warlok, Thanos, all that stuff) and that was me hooked on
superhero comics. Wasn’t long before I started making my own comics
(using carbon paper to reproduce and make multiple copies). Stopped
reading comics at secondary school (around the age of about 15) cus of
peer pressure (also stopped drawing after failing my ‘o’ level in art
at about 16) but started again at about 18 cus I’d seen a single page
of the Dark Knight Returns (this was around ’88) and that got me
hooked again – plus a local comic shop had opened and that got me
started both reading and drawing (John McCrea was co-owner of the
shop, this was long before he’d done any pro-work) – incidentally
thats the same shop Garth Ennis used to shop in (again, before he was
famous) – and where his long-standing working relationship with John
started. [Garth and I started working together around 2009 doing war comics for the most part, and that working relationship continues along!]
2. Have you worked on anything not of the 2000A.D. series lately?
Currently drawing something for Warhammer
(http://www.pauljholden.com/warhammer) and working up a proposal for a
series for 2000AD, also working on a proposal for a series for Image
comics (Image don’t pay a page rate so not sure if I’ll actually be
able to afford to do it) [The image series became “Fearless” with Mark Sable]
Any print type things or work on other books?
3. Have you lived in Belfast all your life? (I do plan to get to
Ireland one day… I hear it’s beautiful with lots of beer! 🙂 )
Yup, around the 12th of July I start getting itchy feet because you
start to see the worst in people, but a nice holiday usually sorts
that out – my wife will tell you I’m a real Belfast lad – I love the
4. Do you come to the states anymore?
Only been to the states once in 1993 [actually went to canada, and drove down to the border, crossed it into the states to go to a big retail mall and left again… ] plan to go to a San Diego comic convention at some point. I love the idea of America but find it’s currently president to be … less than palatable. [went to the states in 2006 and been a fair few times since, and boy, didn’t Trump make George Bush slightly more palatable…]
5. Are you able to do most of your corrispondance over the internet?
About 90% of it, I email artwork back and forth to editors and writers
(and some final artwork is also delivered over the internet) helps
keep the thing alive in the editor and writers minds. [was 2004 really the early days of the internet? I suppose it had really just started finding it’s feet]
6. Is there anything that you like to do before starting a long
project? (i.e. warm up excercises, doodling, quick sketches?)
I find myself doodling as a way to stop myself working – if I really
need to draw a page I just start – the doodling and warm up is just a
way for me to put off the hard work. (I will try and draw the bits I’m
more comfortable with to begin with)
7. Do you ever wish you would have gotten into another career?
I wish comics could be a career – I’m not convinced I can make it –
maybe I’d’ve had a much brighter outlook in the early 90s but at the
moment I can only see two types of artists surviving/thriving in
comics: the really amazingly good and the really amazingly fast –
anyone in between is gonna find it tough. [Still think this is true, fast or good are where you can make money, anything in between is bloody hard going]
8. Do you find working for others taxing? (I mean as far as comics
go, I know its taxing doing comp. work for others)
Yes and no. The work I’m doing for warhammer at the moment is based on
an idea I’d had for doing Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai as a comic
and I was gonna write and draw it myself but it’s easy to procastinate
and never finish something like that – whereas cus I pitched the idea
to warhammer they assigned a writer and are gonna pay me to draw it
it’s actually nearly finished (and I’m quiet proud of bits of it). [written by James Peaty, never saw print, sadly as warhammer folded]
9. Did you ever learn to do color for yourself, or does someone do it
Any coloured work is done by other people, I’m greywashing (painting
with just greys) at the moment and I’d like to maybe paint something
at some point. I do draw for a colourist – making sure there’s enough
there for them to do something interesting with the page.
10. Have you ever thought about branching out into other medium? (3D,
or perhaps sculpture? Games or animation?)
I’d like to get away from computers and do more stuff by hand – I’ve
been toying with doing some sculpting but it’d be more for my own
enjoyment than anything else. [eventually played with building a massive VR landscape that NI took to the annual SxSW festival – that was fun, but unlikely to do it ever again]
11. Did you see Judge Dredd the movie [the Stallone one]? Bring up any bad taste?
(Personally I own the movie and thought it was hilarious, in an action
Saw it twice at the cinema (was working in Milton Keynes at the time
for the Open University designing interactive multimedia CD type
things – I was on a job placement for my degree in computers, which I
dropped out of in the final year cus I thought I was gonna be a rich
comic artist …) I was homesick and had just started dating my
then-girlfriend, now-wife. The first 10 minutes are just spectacular,
and Stallone looks the part but ‘I AM ….. TH’L’W’ just sounds awful
and it’s a question of watching it through fingers from then on.
12. On a more pesonal note, are you a fan of movies? (I find I work a
lot better when I’ve got some cheesy horror film or something in the
I love movies, the quirkier the better. I Bought a DV camera a couple
of years ago with the intention of making a small movie, and I still
have that intention… it just may never happen 🙂 [readers: it never happened]
13. Have you lived in Ireland all your life?
14. Does the website get you many hits or e-mails?
I’ve no idea – it gets more hits than I expect. I did it, originally,
as a way to let people I know know what I’m up to as I’m bloody awful
at emailing people, but there’s a lot more ‘strangers’ read the
website than I ever expected. [Websites and blogs used to be a big deal kids!]
15. Who would you reckomend I go see about getting into comics?
My generic advice is to draw and draw and draw. Do lots of small press
work (Digital Webbing presents would probably be a good avenue) [does this still exist? maybe] . Get
to know some writers and work with as many different ones as you can –
you never know which of them will be in a spot to push your artwork in
front of an editor. The go to conventions and show editors and other
artists your stuff looking for advice. [still solid advice, when cons are on again]
16. Do you keep a clean or messy workplace.(I have noted that many
artists keep and extremly messy workplace)
I find it easier to start work if my workplace is very clean, but
after working for a few hours my workplace is incredibly messy, so now
I have a little ritual of cleaning up before I start a brand new page
(which means if I’m not in the mood to draw I clean up and then start
anyways – it’s a good way to overcome the initial fear of the blank
17. Do you ever come to comic conventions here in the states?
Haven’t done so but fully intend to get to a San Diego convention at some point. [Nope, never intend to go to San Diego, New York comic con started in 2006 went to that and some others, san diego looks like it would be horrible!]
18. Play video games?
I love video games, but never play them for more than 2 minutes at a
time as I’m rubbish. But I’m always amazed at the quality of the
graphics. [still amazed at the graphics even now]
19. Have any pet peeves?
George Bush, Hypocracy, National ID Cards, The General Public,
Politicians, my own laziness, Tony Blair (who, on paper, is as far
away from Bush’s politics as it’s possible to go, but in practice is
his bestest mate) and er.. there’s probably more. [sigh politics]
20. Do you ink?
Yup. use black indian ink and a brush (can never remember the
name/make of it, but it’s thin and longer than most brushes).
21. Do you draw in straight pencil or do you use a blueine lead first?
2H or 4H pencil, using a .5 mechanical pencil – sometimes I pencil
very losely (one of the benifits of inking yourself) and often I’ll
ink while pencilling (for example, I might ink a foreground figure
before I’ve pencilled anything in the background ) [as my eyesight has got worse my preference is now for HB pencils, or digital]
22. Do you make your own sheets for the pages, or you do buy from
blueline or someplace like it?
I buy 220 gsm A3 size paper pads 25 pages for about £7 sterling. [actually about £10 nowdays] And
then rule it myself. They don’t stand up to a great deal of erasing
and it took an awful long time for me to get good enough at inking to
ink on them as they’re not smooth pressed, but they’re my favourite
type of paper for pencilling on and I’ve used them for (off and on)
about 15 years.
23. Do you do your own background art?
Yup. Everything on the page is drawn by me – unless it’s coloured.
I just wanted you to know that i haven’t been to the comic store in a
long while either, but plan to get back there soon, that is in part
why perhaps i haven’t seen anything new? Sorry about that, I’ll pick
up what I can, and at the least I’m sure that my brother-in-law has
all the newest. He’s a bit of a Dredd Freak…
heh. I don’t have that much stuff out there – and what I do is UK
based. Maybe in the next few years you’ll see me all over the place
(but I wouldn’t hold your breath). [I\ve drawn a fair few things since then, it’s true…]
24. Have you ever thought about maybe starting your own company?
Er… for comics I am my own company, as all comic work is freelance
(even if you have an exclusive contract you’re still a freelance
worker). I could branch out into illustration of
magazines/advertising/etc, but I love drawing comics and I make enough
money part time that I can be choosy about what I draw.
I’ll add a question:
‘Do you watch/listen to anything while you work?’
I listen to the radio, although now I’ve got a mac I’ve started
listening to CDs again as I can get three days of music witout having
to change the CD (using iTunes). Since I’ve had broadband for years, I
use it to listen to the radio (bbc radio 1 – chris moyles show, and
bbc radio 2 – jonathan ross show) and sometimes Air America (although
it gets old kinda fast). Occasionally I’ll throw a DVD on a listen to
the commentary but I can’t watch ’em as it gets too distracting. [as I’ve aged my radio station has now shifted to radio 4, I can’t even imagine listening to radio 1 at all now. Radio 4 and spotify]
And that’s it, funny what changes and what remains the same, innit. Far more of my work is digital now, though I used a computer way back then, it wasn’t absolutely an essential part of the process like it is now. And you know, since then, I’m now at home in the middle of a pandemic with a 16 year old son and a 12 year old, things must have been so much quieter back then…