The man I am featuring in today’s blog is not just a talented artist, but he’s also a great example of the sort of individual that perfectly illustrates the inspirational effect that art can not only have on an individual, but also in regards to future generations as well. I personally believe that the myriad problems and obstacles that face each and every one of us at the local, state, and even worldwide level are more likely to solved if we truly instill the generations coming up with the concept that anything is possible. And the seeds of many great accomplished things have begun with little more than the dream of one who has learned to be inspired by the world around them.
I have read that early on you were introduced to the world of art by your parents. Would you please elaborate on that a little more?
Art has always been an important thing to me. I first wanted to become an artist when I saw my father draw as a child. I thought to myself… what a wonderful thing to do… take a 2 dimension surface and create a 3-dimensional object on it.
You see, I was interested in Fine Arts, first. Most people don’t know that I also paint a bit with watercolors and acrylics. Plus, my father enrolled in special programs at the Brooklyn Museum of Art. I studied painting and Japanese woodcut prints, engraving and etching. During Junior High School, I won a prize for my oil painting of Snow White and Prince Charming.
The comic influence came shortly after getting hooked on my first comic. I just loved the idea of working on such imaginative stories.
Comic books were such a sacred thing, with all that high adventure and illustrated fantasy. My first minor break in the industry was when I did a penciling job for gold key comics. Later, I wrote a Grimm’s Ghost Story for that same company entitled Tower of Vengeance, which was featured in issue number 59. That was a great feeling to do something that you really like to do. Unfortunately, their books didn’t sell to good in the New York City area. I found myself waiting for another door of opportunity to do comics again.
I know that in my youth like you with art had an incredible epiphany in regards to the power of writing and storytelling as a whole. And I can tell you that throughout my life that to this day every facet of my life has been influenced by that initial powerful realization. How would you say that art has influenced you not just in the beginning, but throughout your life?
The fever of being an artist has affected me all my life… and it’s still going on… except there was this one time that I was going to quit, but every time I tried to leave, they pull me back in. I guess I merely had small vacations or breaks. But art is all around me, I would go to movies and be inspired to paint and draw… seeing films like Heavy Metal, Fire and Ice, Blade and The Matrix played a heavy role in getting the art urges to grow wildly strong inside me.
Storyboards for small independent film projects can help to hone your skills as a storyteller. Which my fellow artists would say I was always quite vigorous at. I remember Jim Shooter saying that storytelling was key, then anatomy, while I was in the Marvel offices looking to break in the industry. During that time period I established a repour with one of Marvel’s editors- Ralph Macchio. It was through him that I was even allowed to come to their offices with my samples, ever so often. But, you should have seen the other artists that came up their… These two guys who looked like surfing bums, carried their ridiculous art in a brown paper bag. They had the nerve to trace the images from the actual comics and thought that was the way you get into comics… Boy, did they had a surprise coming. It was Bill Sienkiewicz’s wife who came out and told them to go home and learn to draw… and on good paper, preferably 2 ply Bristol board.
Then, she turned and saw me in my business suit with my portfolio, and said now, that’s more like it. I took that as a sign that I should pursue art in its forms no matter what… and I did.
What artists of the past helped to inspire your artistic aspirations?
The person who brought me back into the mode of collecting and reading comics was Jim Starlin. His run on Strange Tales showcasing Adam Warlock and his take on Captain Marvel battling that creepy cosmic madman in love with Death… Thanos.
His work was reminiscent of one of my earliest influences, The great Jack “King” Kirby. To me, Kirby was the only one who got the Fantastic Four done right. His storytelling was phenomenal. Pure sci fi and fantasy at it’s best, with great character development that can compete with any of today’s popular soap operas.
Another one of my earliest influences was Steve Ditko and his masterful interpretation of the Amazing Spider-Man And of course, my all time favorite… Dr. Strange, Master of the Mystic Arts. Creating other worlds was always done best by Steve Ditko and Jack Kirby in my opinion, everyone else just follow their lead and use them for reference. Naturally, they had their influences as well. I enjoy being inspired by them all.
Now, I also enjoy DC Comics too, for example Batman, Flash, Green Lantern… you know, the whole Justice league. And in recent years, I dig the Vertigo line of comics as well. But, now I’m really getting into Graphic Novels and books from other countries.
How did you first get involved with the world of comic books?
Okay, the next opportunity came in the form of an artist named Yvel Guichet, who currently works for DC Comics. Would you believe doing comics was a side job while I was a school teacher for the Board of Education ?
It was Yvel who took me up to Valiant Comics to meet Bob Layton and get involved with the comics industry, all over again. During this time period I worked with Rags Morales, Joe Quesada, Stan Drake, Bernard Chang, Sean Chin and a bunch of other artists. While at Valiant I also did production work on Death Mate, the crossover book between Valiant and Image. This is a little known fact since I did background inking and various other things, only those who work with me at that time would know. But before all of this, I had been doing my own underground comics and selling them at comic conventions, while still doing my Fine Arts and other goodies.
What are some of the comic book projects that you have been involved with over the years?
Since you are referring to the mainstream comics, I would say numerous titles such as, Eternal Warrior, Ninja, Bloodshot Hardcorps and Solar, Man of the Atom. After leaving Camelot, that’s what some artists affectionately used to call Valiant Comics. (funny, I thought of myself as Sir Percival, looking for the Holy grail… I guess I never found it.) Then I immediately grabbed some work with Visage Studios, they were putting together several titles and needed an inker… so there I was. But it was an ominous situation, because Tony Isabella said to me on the phone, Good, Luck, Winston… I hope you survive the experience. I didn’t know what he meant at that time, but I did a year later.
From then on, it was mostly independent comics, with companies like Cry for Dawn better known as CFD and Millennium Publications, Lost Cause Productions, etc.
It was standard practice to go out and do shows. At first, I wasn’t interested but they convince me and so I went with them. The Chicago Wizard Con was my favorite convention personally and professionally. It really had a vibe of Artist’s Alley that respected each other’s abilities. I will never forget that show.
What would you say was the comic book project that you were the proudest of?
I would say, Little Miss Strange, because my personal projects are more important to me than the stuff I did as a work for hired type of thing. Strange started as a pin-up girl. Later, I developed her became what she is today… a real bonfire Super Heroine.
Originally, Millennium Publications put out the first Little Miss Strange comic. It was a cool experience for me… considering the character has a small cult following in the New York City area. And her allies are Istharr, Nergal and of course, her pixie sidekick… Papiloma.
Now, Kronus the main villain in the first graphic novel was also part of the order of 7 priests that raised Scorpia from a child to a woman. Scorpia has explored many worlds and dimensions but in this storyline, she goes to a robot planet, a faraway place known as Lunar Primus, home of The Zod and even visits earth for a brief period. There is a second volume in the works, while the first graphic novel is available at amazon.com.
What is the thing that you’ve accomplished that you’re the proudest of?
I met Nicole at a Madison square garden show.One of her relatives was at my table and wanted me to meet her. The next day, she came and put on the costume and she became Scorpia. It was a surreal feeling…since she looks like how I draw Little Miss Strange.
Although these days, I’m just as excited about future projects as well, even though there is no live model connected to these characters.
For example, Currently putting together a collection of adventures based on a hero known as the Midnight Phantom who works in Harlem during the 1930’s. This assignment came to me by a writer named Jemir Johnson. It’s two fisted action in the style of the old movie serials… great stuff to do and one of my favorite genres to illustrate. A preview of this mystery man will be shown in an upcoming issue of Dulce de Ojo or Eye Candy the illustrated magazine, published by another artist named Preston Shuttlesworth.
I’ve done other projects for Jemir in the past while doing my other freelance art gigs. Doing a children book was also something that I wanted to do as well, so working on that too. Sword and Sorcery comes to play in the form of a novel called Changa’s Safari. This is an African based heroic adventure tale, in which I did the painted cover and interior black and white illustration for the first book. Immortal Fantasy is my anthology book with heroes that are in every genre… characters, like Pozitron, or Kotas, the dragon, who is featured on the first issue.
All of these projects and whatever else comes into my lap will be my greatest achievement. And thank you for allowing me to talk about my life’s journey in world of art.
I would like to thank Winston Blakely for taking the time out of his busy schedule for this interview. Also on reflection after learning more about how art of the past coupled with the art of several comic book legends and even your own art for that matter I think it would be safe to say that although Sir Percival was never able to grasp that grail firmly in his hands…he certainly achieved much just by being able to perceive that it was there.
Links where you can find out more about Winston Blakely:
Giveaways and Promo information from Winston Blakely
the first promo or giveaway day will be February 6, 2012.
Blog participants who have posted from January 16-February 5th
will be eligible to win.
How will this work?
3 chances to win by posting a comment on my weekly discussion
2 chances to win for posting comments on my FB home or fan page.
What kind of prize?
8 page e- book – Immortal Fantasy- featuring Kotas, the Dragon.