Alex Holden is a cartoonist and illustrator. He has produced 3 issues of his mini comic series "The Magic Hour" and he will have a story in the forthcoming anthology Syncopated, to be published by Random House. Holden's work on "The Magic Hour" is something of an anomaly in comics today: a serialized, character driven story, full of inky figures. Here is his website: http://www.alexholden.com/
Here is a page from Holden's Syncopated story.
1. can you describe your drawing routine---how often you draw, how many hour per day---how you break up the day with drawing?
I do best if I wake up and start working immediately. If I have something substantial done before 11AM, it really changes my attitude about the day. On really solid days, I will work from 9:30/10AM to 1PM or so. Then I try and go outside, then get some more work done in the afternoon. I'm not a real night owl anymore. There are many days where I get nothing done, or only work a couple hours in the afternoon. But if more than a few days go by without doing anything, a subtle, crushing depression sets in. Keeping momentum going is very important, and very difficult.
2. how much revision/editing do you do in you work?
If I do a rough, a lot will change when I'm pencilling the real page. After it's inked, I'll replace panels sometimes. I use white gouache.
3. talk about your process---do you write a script or make up the drawing as you go?
It depends what I'm doing. I just did a piece for a non-fiction anthology called SYNCOPATED. I went around 5-6 drafts of mostly text because there was so much to fit into 12 pages (4 hours of interview, plus a lot of other research). After getting it all the information in, I had to hack it apart and re-arrange it again before it worked as an interesting narrative.
Magic Hour is fiction, and I've found that the best way to generate ideas is with a combination of drawing and text from the beginning. I don't like using screenplay style scripting for fictional comics anymore.
4. do you compose the page as a whole or do you focus more on individual panel composition?
I think the panel, the page and the double page spread are all important. I usually know if I am drawing a left or right sided page. But I would tend to sacrifice a little page unity to make sure that a panel contains all the information I want to impart.
5. what tools do you use (please list all)?
I've had the same Pentel .05 mechanical pencil for around 10 years. I use HB lead.
I also use a Pentel Click Eraser. I go through a zillion of the little crack vial replacement erasers for the pencil too. I use the Pentel Pocket Brush a lot. I guess I like Pentel.
Sakura Micron pens, mostly 03 and 05, sometimes 08. I like real nibs, but I hate dipping and the portable pens I've gotten always dry out and clog. I don't like wasting time worrying about equipment, so I usually just use a Micron. I've been trying to use thicker pens to force myself to simplify things. Also, I really like these colored pencils made by LYRA.
6. what kind(s) of paper do you use?
I got a big stack of Strathmore 500 Bristol (vellum finish) years ago, because I read that Dan Clowes used it. I did a pretty terrible comic on big 15"X20" pages of that, so now I've chopped them all in half and use the backs. I think that I am settling on 10"X14" as a pretty perfect size. I like the Strathmore 500 because you can erase it forever without the paper degrading. It has a great texture.
I'm pretty picky about sketchbooks, and I can never ever use two of the same kind in a row. I don't know why. I use the little Moleskine books to draw on the train. I like to have something on the paper, like the music one, or a planner. All the Magic Hour work so far has been in various sized sketchbooks.
7. do you read a lot of comics? are you someone who reads comics and then gets excited to make more comics---or is your passion for making comics not linked to any particular love for other comics?
I like reading some comics. Some artists inspire me to draw comics immediately. David Mazzucchelli, Blutch, Gilbert Hernandez, Tim Hensley, Peter Arno, Alex Toth, Paul Pope, Christophe Blain and C.F. are some people in that category.
8. do you make comics for a living? if not, how do you support yourself, and how does this relate to your comics making process?
I have lost a lot of money making comics. I bartend for a living, and I get the occasional illustration job. Bartending affords me a lot of time to not make money drawing comics.
9. do other artforms often seem more attractive to you?
Yes. Music. I spend a lot of time playing guitar. Sometimes I wish that I either played music or drew comics, because I think that I would be more successful at one of them by now, but I've come to accept that I need to do both. After my last band split up, I took a break from music for 4 years to focus on comics, but the last year has been pretty guitar oriented.
10. what artwork (or artists) do you feel kinship with?
Whenever I go to the Met, I spend a long time staring at "The Mountain" by Balthus.
11. is a community of artists important or not important to you?
I like having friends to bounce ideas off of, or to be inspired by. I drew with Aaron Renier a fair amount for a couple years, and that was very educational.
12. what is your parents/family's reaction to your work?
My parents are very supportive. I think my mom tends to like the comics/art more, and my dad tends to be more excited about music. They have a copy of everything I do, and the walls of their house are covered with extremely embarrassing high school and college works.
13. what is more important to you---style or idea?
There has to be some idea. Even someone like Alex Toth, where the story might be terrible, there are enough ideas in his compositions to make it a satisfying experience.
14. is drawing a pleasure to you or a pain?
Drawing is a pleasant struggle.
15. when you meet someone new, do you talk about being an artist right away? do you identify yourself as an artist or something else?
16. do you feel at all connected to older comic artists like steve ditko or jack kirby---or does this seem like a foreign world to you?
I don't know anything about Ditko. I'm just starting to learn about Kirby. I've been searching out a lot of Jesse Marsh, John Stanley and Alex Toth stories. I love Garrett Price's "White Boy". I have a "White Boy" page framed in my studio.
17. do you ever feel the impulse to not draw comics?
As I mentioned previously, I can get distracted by music, to the detriment of my comics.
18. do you draw from life?
Yes. I draw on the train all the time, and I draw constantly when traveling. I try to get it in whenever I can.
19. do you pencil out comics and then ink? or do you sometimes not pencil?
When making a comic, I always pencil first. I like to change things around. When I am drawing in my sketchbooks (for something other than a finished page) I almost always draw directly in ink.
20. what does your drawing space look like?