Ken Meyer, Jr. has been doing art of one kind or another since he was a kid. He started drawing by tracing comic books using carbon paper (ask your grandpa). He became interested in more realistic comics, and then in illustration and painting. He has done some short Marvel comics pieces, but most of his comic work was done for smaller publishers like Caliber and Revolutionary. Today, the lion’s share of his art is painting.
Ken has graciously to tell us a bit more about himself and his work. In the photograph, he is the one on the left…
For what age audience do you illustrate comics?
It has varied. The Marvel comics I’ve done are for all ages, while the Caliber work was more mature (but still able to be read by all ages). I have done a lot of horror art and some horror themed stories, so I guess the audience would depend on how much they could handle!
Henry: Challenge accepted!
Tell us about your latest work.
Lately, my work has been either doing altered Magic cards (Magic the Gathering is a collectible card game, and people send me the cards I have done to paint new images on them, making them more collectible), illustration for various uses, or portraits and other types of art. I also do “sketch covers,” which are actual comics with totally white covers (aside from the logo). They are made that way so fans can get their favorite artist to do drawings on the covers. I have done several Avengers (the movie character versions), and Walking Dead covers, with more to come.
Henry: Note to self: order one of these from Ken.
What aspect of illustrating do you find most challenging?
It depends on the job, to some degree. In comics, the most fun part is the initial layouts/thumbnails, where I am working out the composition of the page, what the best viewpoint for any given panel would be, etc. Considering I tend to use a lot of photos and models for reference, the most challenging part is probably getting people together and shooting the actual photos. If I am doing the strip completely out of my head, the most challenging part is probably doing any given viewpoint (worm’s eye view, bird’s eye view, etc.) correctly. Oh, and horses.
Henry: Note to self: do NOT ask Ken to paint the Riders of Rohan.
What is a powerful lesson you’ve learned?
To be honest, the most powerful lesson I learned is that it is very hard to actually make a living as a comic artist. You have to put a lot of work and time into comics, and the pay is not usually proportional to all that work (which is why a lot of people go into other fields such as animation or games). If you are in comics, most likely you are in it because you really love the genre.
What’s been a memorable experience that you’ve had?
I really love music, and several times, when I knew I was going to a concert by someone I really liked, I would do a painting ahead of time and take it to the show to try to meet the musician. It worked several times, and I met some of my favorites (Elvis Costello, Bruce Cockburn, Loudon Wainwright, Tori Amos and several others). Those were memorable for me!
Henry: And memorable for them too. That is certainly a unique way to get their attention. Well played, sir.
What advice would you give to aspiring comic or graphic novel illustrators?
The most crucial advice, and the advice you almost always hear, is just draw draw draw. Keep drawing, practice all the time, draw everything (not everything is skin tight-clad superheroes), and then draw a lot more. I had a professor who was an incredible draftsman, and he said the only reason he would be considered a better artist than us is that he had gotten a lot more terrible drawings out of the way. Of course, it helps to look at your favorite artists. See how they handle problems, the way they compose a panel and page, etc. Copy them for awhile, eventually you will come into your own style. Look at books and online sources. Draw from life. Just draw.
Do you have any favorite quotes?
“I am an artist you know … it is my right to be odd.”
― E.A. Bucchianeri, Brushstrokes of a Gadfly
Henry: It does seem to come with the territory. 🙂
Do you have any strange rituals that you observe when you illustrate?
Does painting with a chicken on your head count?
Henry: Yes. Yes it does. Best. Answer. Ever.
If you could have one superpower, what would it be?
It would be the superpower to mimic all other superpowers. If there is a void of superpowers, then perhaps the good old standby, flight. If I am feeling altruistic that day, then it would be the power to manufacture any amount of food out of thin air.
Henry: Good for you for thinking of others!
If you could have three illustrators over for dinner, who would it be?
Oooooh, tough one! I will say Alphonse Mucha (to talk about his big Slav epic mural series), Bob Peak (an illustrator popular in the 70’s mostly, who did magazine illustration, movie posters, etc), and comic artist Bill Sienkiewicz (who started in comics as a clone of then very popular realistic comic artist Neal Adams, but went to to become one of the best multimedia artists ever, and is still creating amazing work today).
What is your favorite creature that exists only in literature?
When I was young, I was a huge fantasy/heroic fiction fan, and read stuff like The Lord of the Rings, Edgar Rice Burroughs (John Carter of Mars), Conan, etc, non-stop. So, you are talking about a lot of imaginary creatures to choose from! I guess I will say the Sirens…you might drown, but you would have fun doing it.
Henry: Always the ladies’ man, eh?
What do you like to do when you’re not illustrating?
I have several activities that siphon good working time away from the desk, unfortunately. I play tennis frequently, for example. I read a fair amount (but have become selective, choosing authors I have already read a lot of, such as Stephen King, Chuck Palahniuk, John Irving, etc.), plus tons of music magazines. I would say “listen to music,” but I do that all the time anyway. I probably watch too much TV (shows like Game of Thrones, Dexter, Breaking Bad, Stewart/Colbert/Maher, and like to see as many films as I can as well. So, you can see the easel has to do its share of fighting for attention!
What would you like it to say on your tombstone?
“There was no shortage of art created, and no amount of time wasted!”
Where can readers find your work?
If you want to search in the comic book stores (which nowadays, means going online), I have a graphic novel called “Gustave, PI.” I have a few Marvel stories in comics, such as Open Space number 4, Marvel Portraits of Universe 1, and Midnight Sons Unlimited 4. Caliber comics I have done include about seven issues (and about 11 covers): Kilroy is Here, stories in the anthology Negative Burn, and many covers. I also have many covers for Revolutionary Comics (music- and sports-related). You can search out the Tori Amos RAINN benefit calendars I put together between 2005 and 2009 (as well as her tour book for the “Dew Drop Inn” tour). I have a ton of work in various White Wolf game books, mostly for the lines of Vampire the Masquerade, Demon, Wraith, etc. I have also done a lot of cards for their Vampire the Eternal Struggle series (originally known as Jyhad). The game Magic the Gathering has card art by me, mostly in the Arabian Nights and Ice Age expansions. You can, of course, always go to my website if you have a few weeks to waste (there is a lot there, but I will be revamping it soon), or other websites that have my work for sale, such as Fine Art America. I also have a DeviantArt page.
Ken will be at San Diego Comic-Con in Artist Alley table II-6.
This article is also posted to the San Diego Children’s Books Examiner.