Interview conducted on August 27, 2009
To any struggling artists out there who are so desperately passionate about their craft, whether it be drawing comics, writing or filmmaking, yet occasionally allow their current situations to bring them down and make them feel like their lifelong dream is slowly slipping further and further away from reality should take the story of comic book artist Freddie Williams to the heart. His road to success is nothing short of inspirational, for it proves that if you’re talented and passionate enough, your chance will one day arise regardless of how you come to it.
While attending San Diego’s world renowned Comic-Con International in 2005, the then Hallmark Cards employee submitted a portfolio of his artwork, along with thousands of other aspiring artists, to a talent search hosted by DC Comics. Despite the odds, DC liked what they saw from Freddie Williams and contacted him, which resulted in the artist signing an exclusive contract with the comic book empire in 2006. And that, my friends, is one man’s dream come true thanks to passionate dedication and a confidence in one’s own ability.
Since then, the 32-year-old's expanding resume has included drawing for DC Universe franchises Aquaman, Robin, The Flash and the Final Crisis Aftermath: Run! series. Yes, things are pretty sweet for Mr. Williams and to make them even better, his book The DC Comics Guide to Digitally Drawing Comics is hitting the shelves today (September 1, 2009). In it, Freddie gives helpful tips and discusses the many advantages to drawing comics digitally, a format that the young artist strongly prefers.
A few days ago I had the privilege of interviewing Freddie Williams where I asked him a few questions about the new book as well as his current and past work and what lovers of the comic book world can expect from the busy artist in the future.
Adam Krause: Straight out of a fanboy’s dream, you broke into the comic book world by submitting a portfolio of your artwork at 2005’s Comic-Con in
Freddie Williams: It wasn’t about confidence or just throwing caution to the wind, it was more that drawing comic books is all I’ve wanted to ever do, it has been my life’s dream. So I was willing to do whatever I could to break in! I was confident in my passion to draw comic books. I only hoped DC would see that ambition, drive, and love for comics and that they would give me a chance. Oh, and I’m still a total fanboy, too!
AK: What was your artistic background and training like? Did you always know you wanted to illustrate comic books?
FW: There has never been a time where I didn’t want to draw comic books. So, in my life - everything I have experienced has been through a filter of “how can I use this for comic books.” It really has been my only goal. As far as training, I owe my essential foundational training to one of my best friends, who taught me the basics of gesture drawing and drawing with shapes. I learned the rest in the school of life, i.e., I am mostly self-taught. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that I gained a much deeper understanding of Adobe Photoshop with my past work at Hallmark cards.
AK: Because I’m a huge fan of all things Batman, I know you best for the artwork you’ve done with DC Comics’ Robin and I thank you for being one of the few artist out there that didn’t draw Tim Drake like a total wuss. Did you keep that in mind when first illustrating the comics? If not, what were your intentions?
FW: I have always liked Tim Drake, so I wanted to treat him, and the drawing of his character, with respect. He has become his own man, growing out of the role of the sidekick and into a hero himself. So that was always in the back of my mind when I was drawing him.
AK: You are currently working on the “Final Crisis Aftermath: Run!” series for DC. Could you give us a quick overview of the story?
FW: Right now, on my computer, I am wrapping up the sixth and final issue of
AK: This project gave you an opportunity to draw The Human Flame, a DC Universe character that few people have had the privilege of drawing. Did you find the challenge to be easier because of the lack of previous work done on the character?
FW: Yes, to get to change the Human Flame, molding him into our idea of the monster he becomes – has been great. Matt and I really liked the idea of going buck wild with the Human Flame and turning him into a force to be reckoned with in the
AK: Was it the chance to completely reimagine a character like The Human Flame that ultimately led you to working on “Final Crisis Aftermath: Run!”?
FW: The idea of working on such a freely creative project was a big draw, and working with Matt Struges was a plus, I love that guy! To be able to put our own spin on an existing character, one that hasn’t been around since the ‘50s is a real treat.
AK: A widely known fact about you is that you work almost exclusively in the digital format and on
FW: Advantages to working digitally? Wow, how much time do you have? Yes, there are many advantages. Once you get past the learning curve, working digitally is faster, more accurate, and more versatile! Advantages like those will revolutionize how comics are created. I go into depth with those and many other advantages in The DC Comics Guide to Digitally Drawing Comics, so check it out!
AK: Is this something that any aspiring artist will be able to do or is there expensive programs involved and complicated processes that will just make some people think sticking with the traditional and simple pencil and paper is just easier? In other words, how do you address any negative remarks to this digital format?
FW: I address a list of pros and cons in the book, the higher upfront cost for software and hardware being one of the only “cons” to working digitally. In the DC Comics Guide to Digitally Drawing Comics I use Adobe Photoshop, which is a cross industry standard for most computer graphics, and is what most comic colorists use already. The price tag may be a little daunting, though much of what is taught in the book can be created in a lower end (and much less expensive) program called Photoshop Elements. Something to keep an eye out for if you are on a tight budget and just want to test to make sure the digital workflow is right for you is that sometimes Adobe has free trials on their website http://www.adobe.com/.
Drawing digitally is an entire skill set in and of itself. Aspiring artists will be able to try their hands at this, though they must still have a good sense of design and perspective of anatomy and storytelling before they get into the digital workflow. The digital drawing technique is a skill set in addition to the hand-drawn skills they are currently learning or using.
Working digitally is not for everyone, but most artists will find it liberating and exciting. Invest the time and money up front, and most comic book artists will in turn create better art (that can be tweaked until it’s perfect) as time-saving shortcuts by automating repetitive or mundane tasks.
AK: How does it feel to have gone from struggling artist just a few short years ago to becoming one of the comic world’s foremost experts on this new emerging format?
FW: In a blushing tone, I must admit that’s a loaded question, my friend. To answer it would suggest I agree with the compliment contained within it, thank you by the way. Let me just say that I am thrilled with drawing comics. This has been my lifelong dream and to be able to not just share my art but my knowledge on working digital as well is very exciting to me. The process will continue to grow and change and I am glad to be a part of it.
AK: Besides the upcoming book, what else can fans expect from you in the next year or two?
FW: After I finish up this last issue of
Upon release of the DC Comics Guide to Digitally Drawing Comics, on my site: http://www.freddieart.com/, I will be offering some helpful video tutorials that go hand in hand with the some of the methods and techniques I write about in the book. My site will also offer an ever-growing toolbox of actions, templates, and scripts called “DiGi-
The DC Comics Guide to Digitally Drawing Comics is available now and can be found at your local comic book stores and book retailers.