Frequently Asked Questions
What kind of paper do you use for your comics and other drawings?
I draw on Bristol paper cut to 12 x 17 with a 10 x 15 live area for drawing. I usually buy the 18 x 24 pads and cut the paper down (I get around 2 sheets from each single sheet of Bristol) I also order in bulk from www.dickblick.com. However, I like drawing small sometimes at around 9x12 (around clip board size, very easy to travel with). At the 9x12 size, I can get 3 sheets per 18x24 sheet of Bristol. I decided to draw larger for certain scenes in SPKO if it gives me more room for certain action sequences and environments. So I say practice drawing at different sizes and see what works for you. Eventually, something "clicks".
What tools do you use to draw?
I draw with Col-Erase Blue Pencils and I ink with Pentel Pocket Brush Pens. I especially love how fast the ink dries so I can work on the go if I need to. You can use the cartridges or put in your own ink. I also use a standard Sable #7 brush sometimes. For large areas of black, I use a variety of other sized brushes. I use Higgins Waterproof Black Ink for large areas of black and Doctor Martin Bleed Proof White for clean-ups. I hand-letter with Micron Pen size 5 or 8.
How did you initially begin your career?
I was a really introverted kid. I read a lot an played video games. I hated sports. My family was super supportive of that and really pushed me in the art direction after noticing that I was always doodling. I started taking art classes in the 2nd grade. When I hit junior high, I enrolled in a local art high-school called NOCCA (New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts). I hated it my first year. It was a huge adjustment to be forced to draw from observation. I eventually started to enjoy Figure Drawing and eventually gravitated towards Mixed Media pieces. I also took a strong liking to Perspective Lessons more than anything else .I'm so appreciative that I have a solid art foundation now. I think every aspiring cartoonists should draw from life as much as possible. Getting a feel for form, space, anatomy, etc. became super important to me.
I went to SCAD (Savannah College of Art and Design) in 2002. It was a huge culture shock. However, it changed me in so many ways. I met tons of artists, most of whom are my greatest friends even to this day. It’s where I really began to learn about the history of Sequential Art. It definitely gave me a good foundation. I met artists geared toward mainstream comics, web-cartoonists with a solid following online out of high-school, and cartoonists who just wanted to work on newspaper strips. It was a hodgepodge of types and I learned to “learn” something from everyone.
I started drawing a web-comic in 2004 called The Lunar Boy. Getting in the habit of drawing several comics a week really gave me a lot of discipline with a set schedule to follow. I also started attending loads of comic conventions. I was going to about 6-8 a year at one point. I love that side of the industry but I also love to travel in general. I traded mini comics with other artists and really asked lots of questions. I learned a lot from others about their experiences in the industry that way. I also got really familiar with what each publisher was putting out. I came into comics reading just superhero and manga comics primarily. I picked up a lot of independent comics when I got to college. In class, I would just listen to others talk about whatever comics they were reading. If I didn’t know what they were referencing, I just made sure to look them up when I got home (a habit practice to this day). I think being aware of what's going on currently in the industry is important for new artists. The more you read, the more aware you are. It shows you there are a gazillion ways of telling the same type of stories. You start seeing how other artists solve problems. Why did they choose this angle or that angle? How did I feel after reading this and why? That sort of thinking goes along way. I also recommend reading lots of comic blogs just to see what trends are taking place and what people are discussing.
As a rule, I always have a sketchbook nearby. If you draw to improve, you'll always evolve and become more confident in yourself. That confidence will translate through your comics and others will pick up on it. You’ll also begin to find a "voice" and personal style as well.
How did SPKO come about?
It’s weird. I hadn’t really ever thought about drawing a pro wrestling comic when I was younger. I’ve always watched wrestling with my cousin and little brother. I’ve been into it for almost 15 years now. Looking back, I’m surprised I didn’t start drawing Super Pro K.O.! sooner.
I didn't start doodling SPKO until around 2008. I kept getting all of these ideas for different wrestlers, and what sorts of rivalries they would have. ONI took notice of it early on. Several of my mini comics made their way into Oni Press' hands thanks to their artists and staff at the time. In early 2010, ONI Press let me know they wanted to move forward with publishing SPKO (probably one of the best moments ever) and the rest is history. It took 8 years for me to get "officially" published, and the skies the limit as far as what's ahead.
Your work, in both Lunar Boy and Super Pro K.O.! seems to draw heavily from manga and retro video game art. How did you develop this visual style and who are some artists that inspired you?
I played around with mainstream and other artsy styles. The current one is just the way I naturally draw. I opened my sketchbooks and saw all of these cartoony doodles of adventurers, monsters, pro wrestlers, and so on. I’ve been inspired by lots of cartoonists including Carl Barks, Jack Kirby, Stan Sakai, Dan DeCarlo, Osamu Tezuka, and Akira Toriyama. I’m also a huge fan of retro video games so I always look at old game art and sprites. I want my comics to have that classic feel to them.
What are some of the differences, for better or for worse, that you have experienced publishing both in an online serial format versus a printed graphic novel?
Well, you get some immediate feedback with the online format that can be a good and bad thing. For me, it was great initially. However, I don’t want my decisions as an artist to be dictated by anonymous readers online. I think it’s important to listen to feedback and criticism, but I want to always stay true to my vision for a project.
It’s been great and somewhat rejuvenating experience working on the SPKO books for months in private. It’s totally top secret until it’s published and I love that. You start gaining a lot of self-confidence that way. You know, not the kind you get when others build you up but that crazy confidence you achieve where you go into the next page knowing it’s going to be better than your last. Of course, there are moments of self-doubt too which I believe are just as important. It all depends on the artist I guess. But for me, I love drawing comics just for myself and then releasing it in printed form. And that’s me saying this after years of creating web-comics. I never thought I’d feel that way, but I just prefer that right now. If I ever do a web-comic again, I think it’ll be something that’s completely finished before I post anything online. That way, the quality of my work won’t suffer due to the schedule.
What does your average drawing schedule look like?
I have a pretty demanding day job so I spend all my time drawing at night. Monday- Friday, I usually come home, go running or hit the gym, and then eat dinner. I don’t get drawing until around 7pm or so. Then I just power through until around 2-3am. I can usually get a page done, penciled and inked in that time if I focus. I sleep for a couple hours and wake up at 8am to do it all over again. I catch up on sleep on the weekends. And Saturdays and Sundays I usually draw all day and take breaks at night to hang with my friends.
Do you ever get stressed out?
All the time. I’m a lot better about it these days than I was several years ago. It’s definitely tough work as a cartoonist but if you have a tenacious spirit, you’ll start to see things come together. I’ve seen my fair share of rejection letters and whatnot but that comes with the territory too. You, just get over it and move on to the next thing.
Now, I usually stress out about things that you never even think about when you’re trying to break into comics. There’s so much more beneath the surface and behind the scenes.
What are some challenges you’ve encountered as a cartoonist?
One of the biggest challenges is working cleaner since I’m naturally a pretty messy artist. This is so the toner and art director on SPKO don’t kill me!
Sticking to your guns can be tough. I think every artist has to set his or her rules early on. What will or what won’t you do, draw, etc.? You also have to take risks every now and then. It’s pretty hard to explain. But drawing SPKO was a big risk for me. It meant I had to shift gears and commit to this project for the next several years because I believed it could be something special. For ONI, it meant putting out a comic about pro-wrestling when those sorts of books haven’t been bestsellers here in the States.
I have had to learn to be extremely flexible. For example, I might need to draw a promo poster or something on the spot if I get that call or if a signing opportunity becomes available. You learn to shift gears fast. Juggling a day job has helped me with that too. You have to have good time management skills.
I’ve also learned to let go and move on to the next page, comic, whatever. I can’t dwell on my own insecurities as an artist because you have to make your deadlines. Learning to trust your instincts and feeling confident in your decision making come with time. The more you work the more you grow.
How much of your personality and experiences do you put into the character Lunar Boy?
When you read Lunar Boy, that’s the type of stuff I conjured up as a kid. I would always zone out in class, and my notebook for any subject was half sketchbook. I was just always imagining all of these crazy stories. I was a pretty shy kid, and fairly curious about most things. However, I was also very scared of just about everything: older kids, sharp objects, animals, etc. It’s weird to think about that now because the characters in my comics are usually very adventurous and ambitious. But whether you’re following Lunar Boy or Joe Somiano, you’re getting a slight peek into my world. Any cool experiences so far?
Too many to name here :D
I’ve had a chance to meet so many cartoonists that I’ve respected since I was a kid. That’s really when it hit home how far I’ve come and how much further I have to go. I’ve had a chance to meet a lot of cool pro wrestlers too including Rob Van Damn and Mickie James. Both were really amazing people to talk to. I’m hoping to get a chance to meet more indie wrestlers in the future. Who knows, maybe I’ll get a chance to step foot in a ring one day myself.
What’s on your playlist? Who are you listening to the most currently?
I always end up drawing to some bit-tunes. I love keeping some video game soundtracks going. I listen to a lot of movie soundtracks too. I listen to loads of hip-hop. I can’t listen to anything too slow while I draw, especially since I’m usually drawing for hours at a time. I have to keep it up-tempo unless I’m drawing a sad scene. I also own a lot of funk and disco. Hall and Oates get played all the time in my studio. I’ve also got Prince’s whole library of albums (I love Sign of the Times and The Gold Experience). The 70s were a great decade musically, and that vibe totally compliments my personality and what I love to draw. So I have a bunch of albums from that time. I guess I’m musically all over the place, but a true “old-soul” nonetheless. And yeah, I probably can sing every song on the radio too. And damn proud of it.
What does the future hold for Jarrett Williams?
I just want to keep drawing fun/cool/hype comics. I have all sorts of ideas. I’m going to work on toys and video games too. I think I’ve barely scratched the surface of what I’m capable of. I want to look back and see a shelf of comics when I’m an old grandpa. That’s the dream.