February 24, 2012

Interview with Patricio Clarey - Artist on Archeologists of Shadows.

This interview originally ran on Comics Bulletin.
I recently had the wonderful opportunity to read and review Archeologists of Shadows Volume 1. While reading the book, I was captivated by the unique artistic vision of Patricio Clarey, and I had to find out some more about his background, his process and what's next in his career. Even though English is not his first language, he was kind enough to answer a few of my questions.

Daniel Elkin for Comics Bulletin: I don't know if you read my review of Archeologists of Shadows, but I was absolutely blown away by your work on it. I've read a little bit about you on the AOS site and what you wrote in the back of the book, but I was wondering if you could tell me a little more about your background as an artist and whether or not you always wanted to work in comics.

Patricio Clarey: After I graduated from fine arts and moved to Spain, I worked on building a series of projects for four years, writing scripts and creating conceptual art for a motion picture I had an idea for. Because of my lack of skills, means and tools, I had to put those projects away and reconsider what to do from scratch and from a more realistic point of view. It was at that moment, being as honest as possible with myself, when I realized that my major skill is drawing. Then I met writer Lara Fuentes and together we began to work seriously on making comic books.

CB: How did you get involved with writer Lara Fuentes and what attracted you most to AOS?

Clarey: Lara and I met working at a publishing company. She was the editor and writer of a magazine and I was the graphic designer/illustrator for a different magazine. We both had similar interests in art and culture, so we decided to collaborate and work on various projects together. We created Faith Creative Factory with the purpose of building a platform that puts together all the personal projects we are involved in. She writes and I draw, so the possibility of making comic books was a natural choice.

AOS is the first work that we focused on in a more serious way, and we knew from the beginning that we wanted to make something epic encompassing an entire universe of characters and environments. When we began working on AOS, we wanted to really challenge ourselves to create something where we can draw upon all our experiences and everything we have learned about writing and art.

CB: What is your working relationship with Lara Fuentes, and how would you describe the creative process?

Clarey: Lara and I live together, so Alix and Baltimo [the characters from AOS] are always on the table. In the creative process, we have a first step in which Lara and I expose our concepts or ideas in an abstract way, and slowly we begin to rationalize and mix them, creating the basic structure of what the story should be. After that, Lara begins with the details of the story in terms of plot and script while I begin the first series of conceptual illustrations to define the aesthetic tone of the book and its characters. Once the comic book is outlined, we begin to work very intensely, trying to finish one page every day.

CB: How would you define the artistic style of AOS?

Clarey: That is a difficult question. I believe that AOS won’t stop being an experiment until it is all consumed. The process is a collage made by different techniques in order to achieve a more powerful image. The second volume looks better than the first one, and that makes me think that the sixth book is going to be better that the five before. But you can never know that; you try to apply all the things you have learned and hope that it will result in an improvement of your own style. For good and evil, AOS needs a level of production design quite large. And we are far from being able to eat and pay the rent thanks [income from] to our books. That’s why we haven’t had the chance to invest some money and our whole time and energy in the production of AOS.

CB: You're quoted as saying that you stumbled into the art style for AOS when you "took pictures of all the objects of my bathroom, and... made a Photoshop composition with them that achieved amazing results." What was the impetus for doing this in the first place?

Clarey: The impulse was born from the need to experiment. I believe that sometimes a strong interest in art and technology has been a double-edged sword for me. Although it has helped me to achieve great artistic results, there are just so many different software programs available that appealed to me. This allowed me to have a good understanding of many styles and techniques, but I ended up not specializing in anything. That made me realize that I didn’t have a well-defined aesthetic style, so I began to look for a style of my own that I’d love. That’s when I began to experiment a lot, then eventually I found it and it had been in my bathroom all that time.

CB: You've cited comic book artists like Alex Ross, Dave McKean and Simon Bisley as influences. What do you feel you've taken from their work and how have you incorporated those lessons into your own artistic sensibilities?

Clarey: I could spend entire months admiring and studying the techniques of these artists as well as others like Marko Djurdjevic, Gabriele Dell'Otto, Adi Granov and Aleksi Briclot. What I admire the most about these artists is the will and professionalism they put in their own work and how they have gone a step further expanding the limits of the art in comic books.

I always thought that if someone pays you $100 for a drawing of a tree, you have to make a good tree drawing. If someone pays you $50,000 for a drawing of a tree, you have to deliver a detailed dossier of the entire realm of tree possibilities with a chromatic range of the different types of trees. When you make a comic book -- when you are drawing a story you believe in, even if you don’t get paid at all -- you must take it as if you were being paid millions, and you don’t offer [merely] hours or months of work, you must give your body and soul.

These artists have proven that things can be done better, and they have raised the standards for the rest of us.

CB: You've also cited the influence of films like Star Wars, Blade Runner and The Matrix on your art. What do you think you've garnered from their visual styles?

Clarey: I believe there is a link between the archetypes of all those movies, and they are a very important part of the fantasy universe. Somehow they are part of the learning process of many generations, and they have become the foundation and inspiration for the future of fantasy.

CB: Can you walk our readers through the process of creating a typical page for AOS?

Clarey: First, we build the story in broad outlines, identifying the different locations, the moments of greater tension and counting how many pages every event should have. Lara works a chronological time line of the story and builds the skeleton, including the panels and finally the text for each panel. We sketch every panel very quickly to see if what’s written will work in the illustration, and we always leave an open margin in case something changes at the last minute.

CB: Would you ever be interested in working for one of the major American comic book publishers, and, if so, is there a particular character you would like to put your own spin on?

Clarey: I would love to make a graphic novel for Marvel or DC. I’ve always thought that they wouldn’t be interested in my graphic style, but I have a few illustrations of superheroes drawn in the traditional way on my website with pencil and colored in Photoshop. My next goal is to make an illustration of a very dark version of Spider-man.

CB: Where do you see the future of comics going?

Clarey: I like to think that the best is still to come, and that a new wave of renewed expression has to rise in these times of remakes, sequels and prequels. It seems that publishers have a hard time making space for real innovation, and they don’t take risks due to economic conditions. Of course, there are exceptions, small independent publishers that are brave enough to bet on new people, doing different, original stuff. I hope the future of comics lies on them. But it seems to me that, for the most part, the comic book industry is looking back, and it doesn’t happen only in the comic book universe. [When] we all look for a comic, a movie, a song or a video game -- anywhere in the world -- we are looking for something new and better, and sometimes it seems that the market is delivering this in smaller and smaller doses.

CB: What's next for you?

Clarey: We have just begun to work on AOS volume 3, and we expect to have it finished by July 2012. We want the third volume to be stunning and revealing, so there is a lot of work ahead for us. We are also working on some single-issue comic books, which allow us to distance ourselves from AOS between volumes. AOS is a long run, and we don’t want to end up mechanized ourselves.

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