There is always that small flaw that only you see. There is always that tiny glitch that everyone assumes originates on their end, but that you know that it was something you didn’t deal with properly before launch. There is always that sentence that is way too long to be in the middle of that paragraph on that specific chapter. There is always the possibility of overusing the repetition technique for emphasis in a blog post.
What I am saying is that we make mistakes. We strive for perfection, but there always seems to be a bump on the road that keeps us from getting there.
Does this seem too trivial? Perhaps. Nonetheless, have you ever thought how many artists (no matter what their field is) may be keeping their work under wraps, away from anyone, preventing it from being seen/enjoyed/experienced just because it isn’t “perfect”?
Perfectionism taken to the extreme can be a debilitating trait. Instead of making you work harder and harder to make something to the best of your abilities and leaving you comforted that it is indeed your best (at least at that precise moment), it can lead to a creative block.
More than the dreaded white canvas, the pressure of getting it all the way to pure perfection will stop you from doing anything at all. So embrace mistakes. Welcome the unwanted streak of color that fell right when you were finishing up your illustration. Appreciate the fact that you know you can draw it/ write it/ record it better next time. But if you don’t start, there is no way you can improve “next time”.
I’m not saying to mess up your work for a client, I’m just trying to state that you have to own your mistakes with the certainty that they won’t be there next time. But only because you made them now!
Have you ever encounter yourself at the “it must be perfect or I won’t do it” crossroad?
Any epic fail that proved to be actually helpful?
Mid-year last year, one of my personal long term clients, Goodman Games, approached Outland about doing some work on a new series of adventures they were developing based on the new 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons.
This was a unique opportunity because we were not only handling the illustration for the book, but we also handled all the cartography, the cover design, and the interior page design. We pretty much handled the whole package with the exception of the cover art and the interior layout.
Experienced illustrator and colorist, Jeremy Mohler founded Outland Entertainment in 2008. He has been project manager at the Platinum Studios, colored for Marvel Comics, and art directed numerous projects, including an exhibit for the History Colorado Museum. He’s phenomenal at drawing personality into his characters and creating epic settings.
When did you begin to show your artistic capabilities?
It’s hard to remember just when I started drawing. I have some fuzzy memories of sitting at my grandmother’s table with my cousins drawing, but nothing really came into focus until I got to junior high and was introduced to comic books while in the Boy Scouts. From that point forward, this is all I’ve ever wanted to do.
What’s your favorite childhood moment related to comics or drawing?
This isn’t exactly a childhood memory, but getting a chance to visit the Frank Frazetta museum out in Pennsylvania while I was attending the Joe Kubert School is definitely a favorite memory. Frank has always been a huge inspiration and influence on me. I came this close to meeting Frank – we just missed him that day. But still, seeing his paintings up close was amazing.
Growing up, did you read a lot of comics or were there other activities that you preferred?
I started reading comics when I was 13 or 14 and have pretty much read comics ever since. Before that I was a voracious reader and remain that way to this day.
What about beloved artists? Any childhood idols?
As I mentioned previous, Frank Frazetta was a big influence. Larry Elmore, Barry Windsor-Smith, Moebius, Charles Vess, John Cassaday, Brom – all are favorites. There are a lot of artists I love and adore, but these popped to mind first.
I actually had the good luck to get a great portfolio review from Charles Vess and John Cassaday. Both of which were very kind and gracious. I received 3rd in show at Gen Con some years back that Larry Elmore judged. So I’ve had the good fortune to meet a few of the artists I grew up admiring.
Did you always want to work on this creative field?
Absolutely. It’s what I’ve always wanted to do, and I freely admit, it’s not always been easy. There have been times it’s really caused a lot of problems, but there’s nothing else I’ve ever wanted to do.
You’ve worked in mainstream comics as well as indie projects. Which of these lines of work do you prefer?
There are certainly advantages to both. And if the stars align and a cool project comes along that is mainstream, I probably won’t turn it down. With that said, however, I’ve always wanted to create and own my own projects. This is a big part of why we’ve been pushing Outland toward publishing.
It is sometimes tiring to always be creating artwork for other people to realize their vision. And don’t get me wrong – one of the great joys of this business is working with other creative people and I really love that aspect. But I also want to have projects and stories that I feel passionately about out there – material that I had creative control to bring to life and leave my touch on.
What made co-found your own company, Outland Entertainment?
Let’s be honest – I’m not the fastest artist out there. I found myself, at one point, in a position where I had multiple projects coming in that I found really interesting and I wanted to work on all of them. I’d managed to build some relationships with some really great artists as well and it occurred to me that I might be able connect those artists with some of these projects and help manage them – that way I can be involved without being spread too thin.
Has Outland Entertainment grown at the same pace as you artistically speaking?
I think so. A lot of the projects that Outland acquires come to us based on my reputation and my artwork. So I think it has.
What’s the best thing of having your own company?
I love working with all the different creative – the artists, writers, designers, and everything in-between. Helping coordinate these different projects and chasing down new ones is a lot of fun. And I love it when a project comes together.
Going back to your own work: illustrating, coloring, drawing,… Do you have a favorite?
It varies a lot. I like each aspect – sometimes it’s a lot of fun to color the work of other artists. Something about that collaboration can be thrilling. I also like drawing too – especially when it all comes together and the piece turns out good.
And projects? Is there one that stands out from the countless amount of work you’ve been involved with?
Probably the Old Bent’s Fort project for the History Colorado Museum. I spent a year working on that project and I think it not only turned out great, but I’m immensely proud of the work.
Why is that one different?
It might have something to do with the museum. I’m a huge fan of historical material and it was so exciting to be able to go to the museum and see, literally, life-size blow up’s of the characters I drew staring back at me. And to think that so many people have been through the museum and learned something about Old Bent’s Fort from the work we created is really cool.
From making the pencil sketch to applying the last smear of color what is your process?
No big surprises here! It begins with several layouts/sketches. These vary – sometimes it only takes one try to nail a composition, other times it takes ten.
It’s at this point I usually start looking for any reference material or images to take inspiration from.
Once the composition is sorted out in the thumbnail, then comes the drawing. This is the slog and admittedly, I’m not always the biggest fan of this part of the process. For me, it’s always more about the end product than the process and if I could skip the process, I would, haha.
After the drawing is complete (many hours later, and in some cases, weeks), I scan the image, clean it up in Photoshop. The image usually goes out to a flatter first – somebody to separate all the shapes in the image in color. Once I get the flats back, it’s a matter of figuring out the color scheme and lighting.
Do you follow a painfully strict plan or is it a more of organic process?
What I outlined above is pretty much the plan. Each step itself can be more organic though – I don’t approach color the same way every time, though the end result may look similar.
So… can you tell us what project(s) are you most looking forward in the short run?
I’m definitely looking forward to illustrating Shotguns & Sorcery. This is going to be one of the biggest projects of my life. I plan to fully illustrate the book myself and I want to go the extra mile and pull out all the stops to make this the most lavishly illustrated book I possibly can. I’m looking forward to being able to sit down and dive into it all!
Thanks Jeremy for sharing a little bit of your creative world with us!
My pleasure! Thank you Susana!
In 2013, I was contacted by Lawrence Whitaker from Design Mechanism to develop some artwork for their role-playing game book, Monster Island.
I love RPG projects, RPG’s are where I came up as an illustrator, so I always endeavor to take these on when they pop up, and this was no exception. It was a real pleasure to work with Lawrence and the project was a fun one where we got to illustrate all kinds of monsters! What’s not to like?