CBI staff writer Hal Hilden recently spoke with fellow Canadian and comic-book penciler Cesare Tatarelli.
Hal: Where were you born and raised?
Cesare: I grew up in a suburb near Montreal (LaSalle), and went to high school there, but I was born in Ndola, Zambia, that’s Africa. My father had emigrated from Italy and met my mother in Cape Town, South Africa. We travelled some back then because he worked on the railway, first as a fireman, you know, the man who shovels the coal into the boiler? He eventually became a driver. Back breaking work to hear him tell it. We emigrated to Canada in 1967.
Hal: How long have you been penciling comics?
Cesare: That’s not an easy question to answer. I work almost exclusively digitally, so all my pencils are still in the box. I even sketch on my computer and cintiq tablet, unless I’m on vacation, then I’ll use stone knives and bearskins. And I also ink my own work, again digitally, so I’m not a penciller per se. But the short answer is, I’ve been trying to crack the nut for the last 8 or 9 years.
Hal: How did you break into the industry?
Cesare: I met Karl Kerschl. Nicest human being you’ll ever meet. He sort of took me under his wing, well, he let me hang out at his studio, introduced me to some people, and encouraged me to practice, forget about ‘getting-in’ and just draw it because I loved it. I was and still am a voracious student of the medium. And again, the short answer is, I responded to an ad in the talent search forum at Digital Webbing dot com. and got the job.
Hal: Have you worked with any small press or start-up comic companies prior to your work with Bluewater? If so, how did that turn out?
Cesare: Let me give a shout out to JayDee Rosario of Unstoppable Comics, who gave me shot at his flagship title “Stormchasers”. I poured my heart and soul into it. Unstoppable is still working hard and their work is looking great.
Hal: Personally, I’ve worked with at least a dozen start-up [take the industry by storm] comic companies, only to see them all fizzle out or fade away completely. It wasn’t until Red Leaf, still a very young company and going through growing pains, that I realized that indeed there was a comic-book imprint out there that would give me a chance to publish some works.
Hal: You were recently approached by Red Leaf Comics to do some work, and it appears that a cover [or two] may be supplied by you. Is this something you will continue to do as your penciling career advances?
Cesare: Definitely, if I’m earning a living doing comics then I’m going to drag as many people along with me for the ride as I can. If start-ups think my work help can them garner fans, then I’ll do what I can to help out. Also, I love the flattery.
Hal: I ask because often when creators turn pro, they tend to forget about the minor-leagues of comic-books, that being the indies and fanzines, small presses and the little guys, creators who pony-up their own funds to produce comics because quite frankly, they are either not good enough, or are not given a chance from the ‘big’ companies.
Hal: Do you have any formal art training? Have you taken any classes or courses?
Cesare: I studied design in University, so there were some traditional type art classes. The occasional live drawing classes, but nothing intense, much to my regret.
Hal: Tell our readers what you have had to do to get your art to where it is today?
Cesare: If you clock 10 000 hours at the drawing table, your art will improve to a point where you will begin to derive some sense of satisfaction and people might start paying you for it. I’m at about 8500 hours now. Don’t get me wrong, I love drawing, but the results are only now beginning to satisfy me. But during the process, you have to be open to criticism, and truthful with your self about how ‘good’ you really are. You must also study, not memorize, but look at all the possible things that will make you a better artist, including ‘how-to’ books, anatomy books, think Bridgeman, Hogarth, Loomis, good comics, (bad comics), and different kinds or art as well. And draw from life, pun intended. Good drawing is about observation, not just mark making.
Hal: Who are your artistic influences?
Cesare: You mean restricted to the comics field? Off the top of my head, because there are tons, Neal Adams, Bryan Hitch, and right now I can’t get enough of Ivan Reis. Other artists watch that guy draw at conventions, he has such a beautiful aesthetic and mastery over anatomy. Like Adams in his hey day. Hitch works the camera like no one else and his figure drawing is only matched by his backgrounds. The guy’s a work horse.
Hal: In your opinion, who are the ‘hot’ artists right now?
Cesare: Lenil Yu pops to mind right away. Love his stuff too. But I don’t really know frankly. I don’t know who the readers clamour for. But I think I know who the superstars are, Hitch, Lee, Yu, Bermejo…..
Hal: How do you focus when penciling?
Cesare: Ha. I like to multitask, I usually play a movie while I’m working, movies I’ve seen many times mind you. LOTS of sci-fi. But I do have a routine. I like to look over some comics I think are awesome for about half an hour, and once my juices are flowing, I start to work, I’ll pause for the great scenes in whatever movie is on take a step back from the work and once I’ve sufficiently chided myself I’ll dive back in.
Hal: How long does it take you to create 20-pages of art?
Cesare: At least a month, but that’s inking too, and not just over rough ‘pencils’, even though I’m inking myself I tend to try to get everything right before I ‘ink’ the work. So that’s like nearly drawing everything twice.
Hal: What was the first comic book you ever read?
Cesare: Impossible to answer. Do other people actually know? It was probably Richie Rich or something like that. First superhero? Probably Batman.
Hal: Do you read any of the new comic books that are being published today? If so, which ones?
Cesare: They’re expensive, so I’m pretty picky. Right now, I’m reading a lot of Captain America, not all the titles, but Steve Epting is awesome, and he’s done a lot of Cap. Aquaman (Ivan Reis!), Batman, love Invincible, Walking Dead (trades only, that book would kill me as a monthly) , Just finished Superior, but the book that I just love is Boom Studio’s Planet of the Apes. It’s just a beautiful Book, Carlos Magno and so true to original franchise.
Hal: Name a few characters or franchises that you’d love to draw for if given the opportunity?
Cesare: Well, I want a shot at IDW’s Star Trek,, but they passed on a 22 page TOS original story I did. Put a lot of work into that pitch. I would do Batman given the chance. Bluewater does Logan’s Run, I would enjoy doing that too. I would do a Spidey book too.
Hal: Name a few fellow creators that you would love to work with?
Cesare: Mark MIllar, Grant Morrison, off the top of my head. All Star Superman is one of the best things I’ve read in the last ten years or more frankly. Love Quitely too by the way. And Ultimates Vol 1 and 2 are just incredible achievements if you ask me.
Hal: Print vs. Digital. Your thoughts…
Cesare: Both, comics have to find a way to be less expensive but I’m already inclined to be looking for digital versions of books I want right now, not next Wednesday. But I still love picking up a few things at the shop on Wed. I would like print comics to stick around for the time being.
Hal: What other mediums or genres have you created art for?
Cesare: I’m a graphic designer, does that count? So nothing else really. I’ll do face painting at kid’s b-day parties if asked nicely!
Hal: What are you working on right now?
Cesare: Karl Keschl is part of a studio here in Montreal, I’m working on a project with them. It’s creator owned, a Sci-fi thing, no capes (maybe some capes). I’m not at liberty to say more, but I’ll let you know when they’re ready. I was really thrilled when they asked me to participate.
Hal: I understand that you have another passion besides art? Can you tell our readers a little bit about it?
Cesare: I love building Starships. There I said it. I try to complete one project a year, and am currently working on 3 foot model of the Star Trek motion picture Enterprise. It requires patience, which I can muster, but my quest to master the craft continues.
Hal: Final Question….Toronto Maple Leafs or Montreal Canadiens?
Cesare: Always have been a Habs fan. But I’ve learned to love hockey so I’m not just a Habs fan anymore. Loving the playoffs this year.
Hal: Thank you very much for your time Cesare and I will gladly purchase any comic that contains your fantastic pencils….