I love that in the Western New York area there is a wealth of creators around. One such is Donald Jackson, hailing from Buffalo NY. A man who draws, illustrates, creates and so much more. I love seeing him at local conventions and he always brings such a delight to anyone who visits his booth. I had the chance to chat with him about some of his influences and what goes into his craft. Read more below.
DFAT: Who are some of your biggest influencers that got you into drawing?
Donald: My biggest influences are people that I love to look at, but I’m afraid my art doesn’t look like their style. They influenced me to get into comics because their art is so juicy. People like John Buscema, Mike Mignola, Gil Kane, Nestor Redondo, Alex Nino (I don’t know how to type the little thingy that goes over the end, it’s used in Spanish),
DFAT: Nothing like some juicy art haha. What are some other inspirations?
Donald: I am mostly love the classic artists from the Bronze age, I especially love the art from the Warren magazines like Erie and creepy. I am a collector of those old magazines. I feel that they are closely rooted to the American illustration tradition. Of course there are many contemporary artists I love to, but they seem to lack the charm of the older guys. The other thing is the old guys did not have high tech digital coloring to do all the work for them. They were much better at the play of light and shadow, the inking was more bouncy and expressive.
Of my favorites in contemporary comics I would say, Olivier Coipel and Stewart Immonen. Alex Maleev does wonderful paintings as does Isad Ribic.
I am going to commit social suicide and admit that I don’t like manga /Japanese comic art style. It’s not that there is something wrong with it, it just seems to be too feminine from my taste. I lived in Japan for a year and studied Zen Buddhism, traditional ink painting and Japanese language. I also worked for a Japanese company in New York City for two years, I have a deep love of their culture. But their comics never appealed to me.
As an art teacher who has many years teaching comic book creation courses, I am very distraught at how American kids use the easy templates to copy Manga characters and think that they are good at drawing. That is the white belt of comic book illustration, it’s OK to start there but we are not Japanese. We can be influenced by this art, but should make it our own.
DFAT: Hey you like what you like and you definitely named some awesome artists. Plus, it seems like you really take from a broad range of sources. You’re more than just a ‘comic book artist’ but who are some of your favorite characters to draw?
Donald: Yes, I am more than a comic book artist but I believe comic book illustration is the hardest Visual art form. I always joke and say comics are the poor man’s film making. You have to interpret a script like a film maker, you are a set designer, costume designer, lighting expert, color consultant, anatomy, choreography, acting, perspective drawing, Monster designer, gadget designer, I can go on and on. So I give mad respect to all my brothers and sisters endeavoring to make comics, it is a tremendous challenge. We must encourage each other.
My favorite characters to draw, tricky question. I like to draw the moody, psychological characters. I’m not the guy who is into Deadpool, my personality is more like Batman. Not that I can’t have some fun, I certainly do when I draw Caricatures. But it is most satisfying to draw characters that are psychologically complex. Moon night, the Joker, Rorschach, Hellboy, this kind of thing. Unfortunately I like the third tier characters a lot but they don’t sell as well at comic cons.
DFAT: Yes, love me some moody characters! I’ve seen your work on Batman and its amazing! One of our favorite things to ask to our geekier friends is: What’s one superpower you’d like to have?
When I was a little kid and realized that being a superhero was not a viable career choice when I got older, I settled for becoming a comic book artist. LOL! Art, Innoway, is a super power but I won’t get all corny on you. In comics, I love characters that don’t have great superpowers but are bad ass fighters. They have cool gadgets and great choreography. Superman, for example is too over powered so I find that very one dimensional. I need my heroes to bleed. On the other hand, I always thought the vision from the avengers had the best powers. He has the soul gem on his head, he can phase through walls or become super heavy and indestructible plus he can fly. I love how the vision has an existential crisis about Whether he is human or not. I think this is a good analogy for modern man.
DFAT: So, the badass-ness of Batman as a man with sweet gadgets and the existential crisis’ of Vision. Great mix! What would be a dream project to work on? What’s the differences in working on traditional comic drawing vs animation?
Donald: A dream project for me would be to have total freedom to write and illustrate my own work, have it published all over the world and made into a blockbuster movie. I have numerous scripts and story ideas on my computer that may never see the light of day. I have so very much to say, A great deal of insight to share from my years abroad and understanding of politics.
In my dream project, it probably would combine science fiction, horror and superhero genres together. I would like to do watercolor or some kind of fine art technique that is totally impractical and very time consuming. LOL! You have to have enough money and time to have that luxury. My dream project would transform the reader, it would be on the scale of Lord of the rings and the matrix, the reader would never be the same after finishing my story. This, I believe, is what great art should do.
DFAT: Anything where you can touch someone else and change their perspective things, even for just a moment; sounds like the perfect kind of project. What’s a piece of advice you’d like to give to new artists?
Donald: The advice I offer new artists would include, do not try to find shortcuts, take art classes and do the real work. There are too many hacks out there that don’t have an art education and it really shows. You will never be a professional if you don’t cross through that training. Of course it is not easy, do you think star athletes fell out of bed and suddenly we’re great? Do you think famous musicians learned how to play overnight? Here is the secret, love to draw and it will never be work. Do not ask your friends for their opinions about your art, they will always say it’s good. Ask professionals who actually can show you what’s wrong with your work. Struggle with it, the eraser is your best friend. You will never look like the artists you admire, you are not them. Everyone has their own hand writing., So it is with art style. Find your voice, don’t be a shadow of somebody else. That is against the spirit of Art. When you get some success, celebrate it before you move on to the next problem. Most people are always in progress of learning and growing, but if you enjoy the ride you win. There are so many free resources now, the books are only supplements, you need a real teacher who really knows what he is talking about. You can get that on YouTube and add a few selected schools in the country. It is still very hard to learn this craft. Don’t be discouraged though, but don’t be lazy either. Be supportive of your community, Learn and share from each other, be humble.
DFAT: All great words and couldn’t agree more. Check out the gallery below to see more of his amazing work.
It was a great time catching up with Donald and chatting about what he does so well. Make sure to follow him on his Facebook page to see where he’ll be in the area, and stop by his booth; he’d be happy to chat with ya!