Canadian artist Justin Currie has studied graphic design and illustration to develop his craft. His first published book: Prince Harry, a biography themed title from Bluewater Productions, is due out soon. CBI recently caught up with Justin to discuss his career in comics…
JMH: Where were you born and raised?
JUSTIN: I was born in Winkler Manitoba, and raised on a farm outside the village of La Riviere where I grew up with 4 sisters (Jessie, Jenny, Japser and Jordan), 1 brother (James), a dog named Winston (after the Ghostbuster) and a small army of farm cats. It was a 10min bus ride into the closest town with a school- where I spent the bulk of my time doodling.
JMH: Tell CBI about yourself…
JUSTIN: My parents received many report cards to the tune of “Justin needs to spend less time drawing, and more time paying attention”. Thankfully I didn’t follow this advice too closely. I’m currently a concept artist for a Video game company as my day job, as well a stake on various freelance illustration projects after hours and head to as many Comic Conventions as I can to sell prints of fan art and personal work.
JMH: How long have you been drawing comics?
JUSTIN:…about 5 months now. The Royals comic with Bluewater Productions will be my first published comic- I have worked on some sequential story projects here and there, but mainly my experience has been with children’s books, concept art for video games, and prints to sell at comic cons
JMH: How did you break into the industry drawing comic books?
JUSTIN: In the last couple years I’ve been attending comic conventions, hanging out in artists’ alley, which is one of the best places to meet other artists and make contacts. After seeing my work, one particular local artist encouraged me to send in my portfolio to a couple comic book publishers, so I did, and shortly after I was signing contracts with Bluewater.
JMH: Do you have any formal art training?
JUSTIN: Throughout high school I was constantly doodling, and picking up any how-to art book that came within reach, upon graduation I moved to Winnipeg to take a 3 year Graphic Design course, I was blown away by how much design theory integrated and improved upon my Illustration. After school I worked in the Design industry for a brief time, working on logos, poster, websites, etc. but I was getting more and more illustration work on the side- eventually my dream came true and I was picked up by a local video game company as a Concept artist.
JMH: Who are your artistic influences?
JUSTIN: The big one would have to be Bill Watterson’s “Calvin and Hobbes”, they are big heroes and influences of mine. Currently I follow dozens of artists online, everything from concept artists (Feng Zhu) to the incredibly stylish Cheeks Galloway, Ashley wood is another big one (my favorite thing to draw would have to be a girl and massive robot combo). But I’m always surfing through artists and blogs, gathering styles and techniques. Also, my Mom is an artist, and she has always been very supportive-\buying me art books and drawing supplies for every birthday and Xmas, Indefinitely would not be drawing for a career without her, and the rest of my families support.
And Lego. Gotta give a shout-out to Lego, the stuff taught me how to use my imagination as a kid.
JMH: How do you focus when drawing?
JUSTIN: Green tea, and overly loud headphones- I’m a big fan of listening to movie scores when I draw, composers Clint Mansell (Requiem for a Dream, the Fountain) and John Murphy (28 days later, Sunshine) are particular favorites. I also find the competition factor between artist is a great motivator, I’m always learning and striving to improve because I know that the second I slack off, other artists will leave me in the dust.
JMH: What types of technology do you use to draw?
JUSTIN: My current setup includes a 21ux Cintiq (a big screen you draw straight on), and a 24in iMac desktop. I used adobe illustrator CS4for all my current work- which is not a program most artists tend to use, but my Graphic Design background really got me into vector work.
JMH: What was the first comic book you ever read?
JUSTIN: My Grandma used to work at the drugstore in town, and every comic book that didn’t sell, had its cover ripped off for a refund, and from there- the coverless comic would go to my dad. So at a very young age I discovered a massive trunk in our attic filled to the brim with 70s/80s Marvel and DC amazingness. I cannot recall what I read first, but I really loved that trunk of coverless comics.
JMH: Do you read any of the new comic books that are being published today? If so, which ones?
JUSTIN: I grab my comics based on the artwork, so my trip to the comic book store always yields a wide selection of random stuff- every now and then I grab a tradeback for the story, but mostly I’m on the lookout for impressive artwork
JMH: Print vs. Digital. Your thoughts…
JUSTIN: More of a preference than a contest… It really bugs me when people make claims that one is better than the other- they are just mediums. They both 100% depend on the artist wielding them, so for me, I prefer digital, but that only means I’m more comfortable working digitally.
JMH: What other mediums or genres have you drawn for?
JUSTIN: Mostly in the graphic design realm, a couple children’s books, and now it’s more and more comic and video game related art
JMH: What project are you currently working on at now?
JUSTIN: I’m pretty busy at work with environment and character design for a upcoming kids game/online isometric rpg, on the side I have just published my first children’s book, and am starting into a second one.
JMH: What future projects do you have in the works?
JUSTIN: Lots of comic cons coming up- so I’m always working on new prints to sell, I’m also involved with a local Sketch night, so we have a couple colab projects on the go, my friends and family always keep me busy with little jobs as well: I’ve got my sisters wedding invites/programs to design, as well as a buddies T-shirt design for an upcoming Kegger party… all kinds of fun stuff on the “to-do” list. I’m also always thumbnailing personal pieces that I hope to have time to complete when free time comes my way.
JMH: Do you have any words for aspiring artists?
JUSTIN: Its all about the mileage- ask any artist who’s established, and they all give you the same answer- practice practice, practice. Always strive to get better, never be satisfied with what you know, be eager to learn more etc.
I believe that your best piece of artwork is always the next one, so start chasing the artwork
JMH: Justin, CBI appreciates your time. All the best.
JUSTIN: Cheers mates!
About the interviewer –