Fantasy artist Patrick McEvoy is not only extremely accomplished but also a greatly generous person that invests part of his limited time to help others improve. His art is highly energetic and interesting. Let’s have a look into Patrick’s world!
Patrick give us a little background information about you. How did you become interested in art?
I was always reading comics from a young age, and drew characters from there. I just loved it all from a young age. Then when I was around 11 I started discovering some of the great fantasy/genre illustrators from the 60’s and 70’s, such as Bama, Frazetta and Steranko (and of course I’d already seen Steranko’s comics). They inspired me to want to learn more about this “art” stuff!
You have worked in different areas in the art industry, what attracted you to become a full time illustrator?
My first long-term career was as a programmer, believe it or not! But at some point I realized I was wasting my time in a job I didn’t care for and I got back into art, pretty much teaching myself everything I needed to know about the craft of illustration.
Since I was getting into professional art rather late, I approached it very logically. I already knew computers and programming, so I concentrated on doing art with the computer, and also learning “Director”, which was a program used a lot back in those days for computer animation and interactivity. (Basically like Flash, but without the vectors and much more solid).
This paid off pretty quickly, as I got jobs working in the game animation industry right off the bat. My very first big professional gig was as an assistant storyboard artist for Lee Marrs, a wonderful comics artist/writer who at the time was an A.D. for game company 3DO. Then I landed a few jobs as a freelance animator and I was off and running!
After that I became an Art Director, working at a couple of different companies that specialized in educational games (“Edutainment” they used to call it), and I did that for several years.
Finally, about 5 years ago, I decided that I should really go back to my first love, illustration. I had been doing some illustration work on the side for a few years before that, and at some point I just said “it’s now or never” and took the leap!
How did you land in your first jobs for great companies as Wizards or Marvel?
Well, with all of the companies I’ve gotten to work for (also Sony, Blizzard, and many others!) it’s largely been a matter of putting together good portfolio pieces, tailoring my submission to what I think the company will need, and (very importantly) being professional and timely when I do get the job, so I have more of an opportunity to do work for them in the future!
But I can’t rule out networking! I think at least 75% of my jobs (including my long-term gig with Marvel) have come about because I have contacts with other artists, either personally or through online art groups. Taking Marvel as an example, I knew Scott Johnson through Gutterzombie and Ninja Mountain, and I’d also met up with him at the Chicago Comic-con one year. So when his A.D. at Marvel said they needed more artists in the marketing group, he knew me, knew that I could do the work, and had seen my track record. So he was confident in passing my name along.
That sort of thing happens all the time. You NEVER know when a contact will come through, so make as many as you can. Of course, it helps that I really like to talk to people, so it’s maybe easy for me to get to know other artists. But even if you’re shy or don’t easily talk to strangers, it’s a good thing to try to overcome that. Networking is key!
Once you have your sketches approved, how do you choose the palette to set the mood for each piece? Do you think about this before starting your sketches, during, after?
This is different for every piece. Sometimes I know the colors almost first thing when reading the brief, and sometimes I’ll play with colors after the entire drawing is done and I’m in Photoshop. Or somewhere in the middle! I just let it happen and it usually works out.
But I DO always like to start with one main color, which I roughly slop in over the entire background with slight hue and value variations. That way the entire picture has one mood and temperature to start with.
What do you think are your greatest strengths in your artwork? And your weakness?
Strength – probably my ability to come up with a good story, and an interesting point of view for my compositions.
Weakness? That’s hard to narrow down, I have so many! Probably dynamic figure poses – I always feel my characters are a bit too stiff.
You give art seminars in MacWorld, would you mind explaining a little bit what are they about for those of us that cannot go?
Well, I did the one at MacWorld Expo this year, which was kind of expensive to attend (they charge a lot for the seminar track), but I’ve also done them at comics conventions, including San Diego Comic-Con last year. And in a few weeks (April 3, 2010) I’ll be doing it at WonderCon in San Francisco, and it’s free with the regular admission to the con. So that’s a little easier to attend!
I describe the seminars as a “cooking show”. That is, I show a piece being created from the ground up – sketching, drawing, color blocking and rendering. But I’ll do just a few minutes on every step, then “put it in the oven” so to speak, and skip to the next step. That way I can concentrate on big ideas and important techniques, rather than too much time just rendering.
As an ex-art director, what attracts you to a piece? What should an artist do to impress you?
Really, it all comes down to the job you are hiring for. If an artist has what’s needed for THAT SPECIFIC job, then he or she will have an important advantage. And that’s something you never really know as an artist when you send in your submission. That’s why it’s good to remember that a lot of getting jobs is just luck – do you have what’s needed right then? But the important part is to always be ready to do great at a job when it is assigned to you.
After a job is assigned, the main thing is professionalism. That’s what keeps an AD coming back for more work from you. And that professionalism encompasses many areas: hitting deadlines, good communication, and living up to the quality of work in your portfolio. It’s all important.
Tell me about Ninja Mountain, what is it? How did it evolve?
That came out of a group of artists who all knew each other online, mostly through RPG.net. They just decided to put together a private forum where they could share ideas and information without the prying eyes of the outside world! I was invited in a year or so after they began it.
You can find out a lot about the early days of NM on the interview show we did for Escape From Illustration Island.
What about Ninja Mountain Podcasts?
Well, I started that, pretty much. I just decided I wanted to do a podcast, and here I was chatting with folks on Ninja Mountain all the time, and it seemed perfect for a show! A bunch of really good artists, from all over the world, who already get along well, and have a lot to say about art. As it turned out, we’ve had a pretty good run (over a year now!)
For more info on the subject, check out the blog post I wrote about the origins of the podcast here.
Tell us about your graphic novel.
Starkweather: Immortal, coming this July from Archaia. Written and created by David Rodriguez, and one story in the book is written by fantasy legend Piers Anthony. It’s going to be a hardcover graphic novel, with 138 pages of comics story and some other art, as well as Piers Anthony’s original prose story.
This book started as a standard comic book, with a story set to run for five issues and then be collected. But after we did issues 0, 1, and 2, the company took a hiatus to reorganize (one of the partners left) and there was a year and a half break in the series.
By the time we came back, it didn’t really make sense to do the last 2 issues of the story arc as newsstand comics, because no one would remember they were reading it (we feared), so we decided just to finish up for the collected edition and skip the comic book versions. That also freed us up to change the story a bit, and add a few more pages.
I’m very happy with how it’s come out, and I’m really looking forward to its release in July! Find out more, and see an excerpt from issue 0, here.
Why the name Megaflow? And Ninja Mountain?
Ninja Mountain I have no idea at all… Megaflow is a term my favorite sci-fi/fantasy author Michael Moorcock uses for the space between all the alternate realities in his multiverse. I liked the sound and meaning of that so … there we go!
How do you find the time to do it all!? Please, let us know!!
Not much sleep. Not much at all…
Where can your fans find you? Will you be doing conventions?
Also, you can hear new episodes of Ninja Mountain almost every week here:
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Patrick is an amazing artist, always willing to go the extra mile to help newer artists get a step up. I’ve found his advice invaluable and I’m honored to have been able to meet him in person and see how he works first hand. Also, his fashion sense is fantastic. 😉
Years ago when I first began to freelance I ran into Patrick on the Epilogue gallery and recognized his name from a product that we were both in – I said hi, and ever since then he’s remained a person that I not only look up to, but love to speak with. He’s helpful and has great artistic insight. Even to this day, I refer back to wisdom and knowledge that Patrick taught me in those early years. I owe him a great deal of thanks!
Patrick McEvoy is a machine. An art making machine. Not a coffee machine or Xerox machine. More seriously, Patrick is one of those really well grounded people who it has been a pleasure to work with, and one day I’d like to buy him a pony.
”Patrick is one of the friendliest and talented illustrators that I’ve bumped into since Ninja Mountain set it’s roots deep into the core of the earth. His vast knowledge and unwavering humour keep me listening to the NMS podcast week after week.. now, what did he say to me the other day.. oh that’s it.. he’s the ”idol of millions and Emperor of Awesome!!”