Nicholas Francis a manager of the web and mobile services for a community hospital in central New Jersey which employs my creative side in terms of branding, user interface and web design.
Tell me about yourself?
I am a manager of the web and mobile services for a community hospital in central New Jersey which employs my creative side in terms of branding, user interface and web design. I also maintain a part-time freelance client base which includes everything from logo and web design as well as some illustration work. Outside of my career I am married to an amazing partner, we have a dog and no children. We both like to go to spin class, walk our dog and find novel places to explore when able.
Tell me about your work experience?
My first commission was revising my local high school’s marching band logo at 16. After college, I interned at Square Soft, Inc. colourizing and cleaning up background concepts for a westernized action RPG tentatively titled Hilaria: The Twin Flames. Outside of the internship, I was creating a pitch with a friend for an animated series about some of our experiences in high school\ early adulthood. (We even managed to get an interview at MTV studios to pitch our concept in early 2002 but nothing came of it.) This was near 9/11 and so shortly after the events of 9/11, the internship was disbanded. I felt disenfranchised by all of this and decided to return to school for IT, and I completed a Bachelor of Science in 2009. I retained taking private \ local clients throughout my life which continues to this day.
At what age did you start doing work and developed a love for artwork?
I have loved art for as long as I can remember. My earliest art memory was creating a stoplight out of coloured construction paper in kindergarten.
How did you develop a fondness for artwork?
This is a surprisingly tricky question to answer as I have never known a point in my life where I did not love art. I do not always love the artistic process or the business aspect of maintaining a client base. I often hate how critical I am of myself and work but not a day goes by that some form of art is not in my life or on my mind.
Did you study artwork? If yes then from where?
I attended and graduated from The Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Arts in Dover, NJ from 1998-2001 with a focus on cinematic animation.
From where did you learn this?
In Kubert, I learned the full stack of the comic illustration process including comic layout, life drawing, illustration, inking, colouring (traditional and digital) and comic panel handwriting. For my second and third years, I entered their (no longer available) cinematic animation program where we learned traditional animation, from storyboarding, keyframing, inbetweening, audio and lip-syncing, etc., that culminated in one minute fully animated senior year project piece!
Why did you choose art as a profession?
I came from a private middle and high school program that involved a lot of mental and physical abuse. Art and video games quickly became my escape and, in a way, all I knew as my experiences left me very isolated from potential friends\ peers. Attending Kubert and being thrown cold turkey into a world of (typically older\ more experienced) artists only further reinforced my love for the craft.
Who are your biggest influences?
Stephen Gammell and Gary Larson are my earliest influences. Stephen’s illustrations from Alvin Schwartz’s Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark series piqued my interest in horror and just were professional works to aspire to. I did not initially appreciate Larson’s work in his Far Side comic series for its artistry but over time my appreciation grew for what I call the “imperfect consistency” of his comic illustrations which have an attractive (and often hilarious) charm all their own.
Another early influence that had a more direct impact on my artistic development and interests was Duane Loose. I was a huge fan of the BattleTech board game series having collected several “technical readouts” from the franchise (books that contained information on the various armoured vehicles players could use). Many of my favourites were illustrated by Loose and in reading these books as a teen I had my first “I want to be a black and white (comic inking) style illustrator for game manuals!” moment.
Later influences include Mike Mignola of Hellboy fame. If I could ever achieve half the talent of Mike, I would be set. Anyone that can lay down what appears as a handful of inked lines, a splotch or two of shadow and create these characters is beyond professional, they are elite.
How do you become a successful artist?
Consistency is key. Like Larson, some may label his art technically poor or atomically inaccurate, but it is his consistent style, effort and sense of humour that forged his success. Ongoing education, particularly in business development and management, is also critical. Many “technically adequate” artists have found success through knowing how to navigate the artist\ client relationship and negotiating a living commission \ wage\ salary. This is a skill set I was not aware this field required (or I was too inexperienced to grasp whenever my professors or more experienced peers would bring it up) until many years in. I needed to learn that we deserve to be paid for our work.
What makes you good and different from others?
Like everyone, how I have processed and chosen to act upon my various personal and professional experiences have led to what sets my work apart (if at all). My struggles and experiences have honed what I feel is a jack-of-most-trades skillset steeped in retro vibes and my often dark \ hyperbolic humour.
What does your art represent and does art mean to you?
My art is a visual manifestation of my mind’s various ruminations and thoughts combined with my experiences and interests. Whenever possible it represents my sense of humour or a feeling to bring representation to what I perceive to be less discussed social cues, interactions, areas of interest, etc. I want my art to be a world-building experience much like literary, film and gaming works can be.
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