Artist Scott McFadden’s work on Clown Commandos showcases his energy and enthusiasm of his craft. Scott recently stopped by CBI studios to talk with publisher John Michael Helmer about his career in comcis and his current projects…
JMH: Where were you born and raised?
SCOTT: I was born in Austin, TX. Moved around a bit, but spent most of my teen years at Lake Travis outside of Austin. Now I am living in Dallas, TX.
JMH: Tell CBI about yourself…
SCOTT: I am now a freelance graphic Designer. Made Advertising my career and currently live in Dallas with my wonderful wife Allison. I spent a lot of my youth drawing and creating art. That lead to studying art and making it my career. It’s a tough business and can be stifling to the creative spirit at times. So I find myself looking for other creative outlets from time to time.
I have a home studio so I get a lot of fun working with sound shapes (writing songs) and basically just blowing off some steam by playing some tunes with the acoustic guitar. I have also done a lot of script and concept writing. My art, music and writing background have all come together to co-create the Clown Commandos Digital Comic. All of my favorite passion into one project. It has been my side hustle/obsession for the past few years. With our release last September on iTunes, it has been a whirlwind to try and balance it all. But… what is life without doing what you love, right?
JMH: How long have you been drawing comics?
SCOTT: I have been drawing since I was a child. I remember my mom teaching me how to shade objects and make them three dimensional. Wow… that changed the game real fast! I became more of a mimic. Trying to recreate an image or photo as close to reality as I could. I tinkered with drawing comics, but never could leave the nest of references and photos. Then I became a designer and started to hire talented artists to do all the skills that I left on the sidelines. Since then, I have really let the blade get dull. They may not be pretty, but my pencil sketches get the idea across.
The key is to find a talented artist. I can honestly say that comic artists impress me the most. They truly bring out what is in there mind to a blank canvas. Then a whole new world is created! How cool is that? We use a different artist every couple of issues. That way it is always fresh and is a blast to see your characters come alive in different styles. We have a Clown Commandos style-guide that the artists use to keep our characters’ personality, yet they put their own style on the concept. We have worked with artists in the states and abroad. It makes issues new for us too!
JMH: How did you break into the industry drawing comic books?
I would not say that we have “broke” into the business yet. BUT… we are giving it all we can and having a blast doing it! Hoping with a bigger fan base I can dub myself, “in the comic biz” until then we are going to keep cracking them out and having fun doing it! But we could always use more fans!! Check us out at www.clowncommandos.com.
JMH: Do you have any formal art training?
SCOTT: I was always in art class in high school and then went toUNTfor an Communication Arts degree. I had a lot of formal art classes that were required and that lead into the design classes. More type. Less drawing. But always with a creative direction. It was pretty natural for me to take on the lettering for the comic. Working the type in Adobe Illustrator then compositing it all in Photoshop. Kind of like the day job. I use a lot of the great comic font foundries out there and then use my design background to tweak the fonts for the best results. It is fun to make the characters dialog come to life with great type design. Plus, all the SFX lettering can really bring the frame and story to a new level.
JMH: Who are your artistic influences?
SCOTT: Too many to name. I truly get inspired almost everyday by something new. Whether it’s a great designed poster or a fantastic new artist that I come across. There is soooo much great stuff out there. It is a joy to seek out something new all the time.
I’d have to say that my go-to reference is probably Danger Girl by Scott Campbell. Of course the story material is great on many levels, but the way he tells a story, visually, is almost like the storyboards for movies. And the type design to me is greatness. So much expression in each font and how it really communicates the tone and inflection of the characters’ voices.
JMH: How do you focus when drawing?
SCOTT: Well, the best thing for me when I am designing is music. That can get you in the zone quick and keep you there! Genius list or pandora work great because you can say in the same vibe and not have to change or pick a new CD.
JMH: What types of technology do you use to draw?
SCOTT: Everything is digital for me. I use a Wacom tablet with Photoshop and illustrator. This works great on the comic because we can do some cool tricks to the transitions of the frames. Like blurring one section of the frame and flipping to an in-focus frame which gives the illusion of a rack focus. We also cut out objects and then they appear in the next frame. All simple, but tells the story better when you go thru the frames.
JMH: What was the first comic book you ever read?
SCOTT: Tough to remember, but I would have to say Spiderman. Even back then I found a connection of a normal guy that just happen to have super powers. You could really put yourself in the story. I think that is the magic that Stan Lee created.
JMH: Do you read any of the new comic books that are being published today? If so, which ones?
SCOTT: I do. I really like the quality of graphic novels with the great paper and vibrant printing. One of my favorite titles right now is The Walking Dead. What a page turner! Some of the best story surprises and great character development. Nothing better than a great storyline with characters that you get to know and love. And they are not afraid of killing off some from time to time.
JMH: Print vs. Digital. Your thoughts…
SCOTT: Well…. this is something we hear all the time. There is nothing at all the can replace the great textural feel of paper or a great book. There is something magical about it. But I find myself being so cautious with trying to keep it in perfect shape–the usual read once with kid gloves then back in the bag and packed away for safety. That is why I like digital. But I don’t look at it as a paper verses digital, but rather as just another medium.
When I travel, I can pack tons of comics on my iPad and not worry about damaging anything. Plus, you got a built in night light and the art is so vibrate on the screen. Truly beautiful. I’m a big gadget guy, so I’m always looking for the next big thing.
When we started out, we produced a preview comic and really struggled with how to get it out there. When the iPhone with apps came along the light went off. Let’s put our comic on that! Instead of scan and pan that is done with most comics out there, we designed the comic specifically for the iPhone. The art is formatted for the screen. We use story driven transitions to tell our story–like flips, pull-outs, push-ins, fade-ins, continuous pan shots and many more. Unlike sequential art, the reader does not know what is coming next in the story until the next frame is swiped, making it a fun and surprising.
Plus, we are the first digital comic to use sound effects in our comic. All our SFX lettering have a sound hit with it. We are now going back and adding VO to all our dialogue boxes. We call it “digital talkies.” It brings another layer to story-telling and a lot of fun to read (and hear!). I say embrace both media for what they are and enjoy them both.
JMH: What sources do you use for a cover image?
SCOTT: We use a transition trick that starts tight on one part of the shot, then slowly zoom out to reveal the whole image. For instance, starting tight on a characters face, then revealing the full image to show that they are in a tight spot. Then we fade in our logo and tint the image to green. Pretty cool when you flip thru it. Just like traditional comics, we try to find a dramatic moment in the issue to use as our image. We do try and pull references from pop culture to add a funny layer to it as well (like an homage to the Matrix where our characters are throwing Happy bombs instead of bullets).
JMH: What other media or genres have you drawn for?
SCOTT: Mostly, through my work in advertising, I would draw some simple illustrations. Usually I work with type design (logos, type treatments, etc.). This made it an natural transition into comic lettering and SFX typesetting.
JMH: What project are you currently working on at now?
SCOTT: Definitely Clown Commandos. It is our pet project and is quite a process. We work with many artists from around the world, directing them from pencil to full color frames. Then we take that art and manipulate it for our story.
We both have home studios so that comes in handy for the foley work, sound effects and dialogue. We then add all this into the app program and submit it to iTunes.
JMH: What future projects do you have in the works?
SCOTT: Mainly expanding Clown Commandos. We have art developed all the way into next summer, so now it is a matter of putting the rest of it together.
JMH: Do you have any words for aspiring artists?
SCOTT: Always trust yourself. Do not fall into the doubt of other peoples opinions. Push and challenge yourself all the time. And if you think you can do it… do not let anything get in the way!
JMH: Scott, CBI appreciates your time. All the best.
Thank you! We are very grateful for your interest and time on this. We really enjoyed it!SCOTT: Go check out our app in iTunes if you get a chance. We hope you find it enjoyable. clowncommandos.com. You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
And remember, those suffering from coulrophobia (fear of clowns) need not be afraid. Clown Commandos only strike fear in the hearts of bad guys!
About the interviewer –