Welcome to another interview from The Daily Fandom; last time we did an interview with the famous comic book writer Greg Rucka. Now we are shifting gears from the rockstars of the industry to those just getting their start and deserve a bit more attention. Unlike last time, this does not have an audio component and was conducted as a written interview with Flygohr. I had the opportunity to meet Gabriele Pezzin, who is more well-known under his freelance artist pseudonym Flygohr, a few months ago.
I, myself, am a person trying to get his start in this wonderfully turbulent but amazing industry of comic books. His art and was immediately intrigued by not only the sheer amount of detail but also the emotions it evoked in me. I knew this man had to draw at least one of my comics. He was more than willing to do it. In this interview, you’ll get to see what it’s like to be a freelance artist of both comics and illustrations. It’s a difficult career path to walk, but Gabriele has managed to balance the tightrope perfectly. So let’s begin.
The Life Of A “Freelancer”
Kyle: What was the road to becoming a freelance artist like?
Flygohr: The “road” was more of a well-hidden path in the woods. It was difficult to find, and definitely not well documented. I read countless articles and read tons of books on how to start and maintain a freelancing career. However, most of the information I found didn’t fit my needs or my specific case.
Plus, in Italy, there are only well-paid pro artists or people struggling with one or even two jobs in order to afford some time to work on their art. The middle ground is very small and well contented. The internet saved me, allowing for many doors to swing open. Said doors held behind them generous clients from all over the world, specific help from forums, social media to reach thousands of people and lots, and lots of tutorials and guides on every little aspect of a freelance comic book artist and illustrator career.
Kyle: Could you explain what Figurative Arts is and why you pursued a degree in it?
Flygohr: Figurative Arts is a course of study common in high schools from any of Italy’s regions. We study art history, traditional art techniques from print to mounting canvases, and lots of live drawing lessons. I’ve always wanted to do that ever since I was a kid. There was no alternative so close to the kind of career I wanted to pursue. Then, when I was 16, I finally got access to a laptop and the internet. My family had never owned a laptop or computer until this point in time. As strange as it may sound, growing up in what many consider the digital generation.
I then slowly began to learn about digital art and online opportunities thanks to my family’s new acquisition. At that point, I put the degree on the back burner so that I just focused on improving my skills as an artist at my own pace. From this point on I began to become entirely self-taught and I proceeded to learn coding, English, web design, and social media marketing in order to grow my business as a freelancer.
Kyle: Could you take us through your drawing process, step by step?
Flygohr: It varies from project to project. However, it tends to go something like this:
The first step is I start with a draft that I have simply scribbled onto a piece of paper. While I do all of my work digitally, I find that there’s something about the paper that helps your idea flow better from brain to surface. However, I only do this when necessary. Once I have the rough draft, I then transfer my ideas into a digital canvas. Said canvases are usually Mischief, Clip Studio Paint, Krita or Photoshop – in order of preference. On this digital canvas, I do a rough sketch to define object positions, characters poses and camera angles.
Next, I start inking the line art. I usually do this in vector because it allows for scalability later on in the project.
If the page or the illustration doesn’t require color this is the final step. I add a layer of black to the image, to define shadows, vignettes or silhouettes. The effect I’m going for with this is to add atmosphere to the drawing. As I have grown up reading and observing very atmospheric creative works, this is my favorite part of any project. The next two steps exist only if the project I’m working on requires color. First, I start defining light, shadow, and volumes in each image using only shades of grey.
Once I know the definitions of the above, I can move on to the very final part of a color project. I add the colors on top of the greyscale, which helps me determine the volume and kind of color that needs to be put in an area etc. And voila, the project is done.
Black & White Versus Color
Kyle: You are willing to do color work, however, you prefer to work in black and white. Why is this?
Flygohr: There’s something I love about pure black and white. There are no gradients, no crosshatches, no chiaroscuro, no halftone patterns. I think the ability humans possess to fill in the blanks with their own fantasies, with their own mind, allows for greater interaction with the art. Or at least, that’s how I like to think of it anyway.
While drawings with lots of details, perfect lighting, and perfect material rendering are totally awesome, they won’t let your mind wander. Everything is laid out in front of you, no effort required, making your mind lazy and definitely not allowing your mind to resonate with the drawings. I want my art to conjure up something in you, make you think, and that’s what drawing in black and white allows me to do. There is just something about an untouched black and white piece of art that is evocative.
Kyle: How many projects do you usually work on at a given time and how do you manage to balance it all?
Flygohr: It depends, but definitely above average. I study productivity daily because while I would love to always draw, there are other aspects of being a freelance artist that needs equal attention. These aspects include but are not limited to bookkeeping, accounting, email, social media management, and client scouting. As long as I’m careful minded about everything, I can easily juggle between two big to five small projects at the same time. I am not always completing pages everyday but I can estimate that on average I can do two color pages to four inked pages per working day.
Differences In Style
Kyle: In your experience, what is the biggest difference in style and process of drawing sequential art versus drawing illustrations?
Flygohr: When drawing comics, I go into what I call a “factory mode”. Here, I subdivide my work into batches, going through all the steps I mentioned in the answer to question 3. and applying them to every page I need to do for a given comic. For example, I first roughly draft all the pages, I then proceed to ink all of them, I continue on to add the lettering, and so on, until I reach the final step and the comic is complete. I don’t do just one page at a time.
For illustrations, I instead take a much more focused approach. An illustration can stand alone and as such, I take the time to explore it. I mix up the steps, do more than one draft, just trying to get a feel for the piece before finishing it. Much like the old artists, a single illustration can take me from one day to many months to complete. Sometimes I allow myself to mix the two modes I have in the drawing process, but it really depends on the kind of relationship I have with the project at hand whether a mix would work or not.
Kyle: Have you had anything published either through self-publishing or traditional publishing, if not are there plans to in the future?
Flygohr: I haven’t published anything as of yet, but I will later on in 2019. I am currently working on three big projects that have the potential to get published by important editors. If these fail, though, I have a plan B regarding a comic book of my own that I want to get out through Kickstarter.
The Client & Artist Relationship
Kyle: Collaboration is at the heart of the comic book industry. How much collaboration do you do with your clients to ensure that both your visions of the project are brought to life?
Flygohr: It depends on the project, but I usually require the client to get somehow involved. While it’s easier to just pick up the script and work on it without asking questions, it is also a good way to misunderstand something or to ignore an error made by the clients themselves. I always try to get the client more involved by at least sending me some images they found related to their vision.
If needed, I will ask for script expansions, summaries, character descriptions or dialogues. Sometimes I will even ask more personal questions like their favorite movie or comic book. This way you can make sure that the client’s vision comes to life, while also building a good working relationship.
How Flygohr Manages Special Request Clients
Kyle: How do you pick your clients and do you have special requirements for projects you work on?
Flygohr: While I couldn’t do this in my early freelancing days, I now tend to pick up only projects that I like or that I care about. This is beneficial for both myself and for the client because it will ensure that I will do my best to bring the project to life without compromising its quality. Some of the qualities that I enjoy in my best clients over the rest are a good organization and a decent turnaround time. If the client and I are both working hard towards the same goal, the project will turn out just that much better. I am here to bring their vision to life and I want to be as invested in it as I possibly can be.
Kyle: Have you ever worked on a project that you wish you had done the art better?
Flygohr: The freelancing world operates on a system which rarely allows you to take two or four months off a certain project only to go back at it with fresh eyes. As a result, the answer is yes, always. Given enough time between the completion of the work and then revisiting it, you’ll always find something wrong. Whether it was something you couldn’t think of at the time or that you could have done in a different way. Sometimes you even have simply learned something new that you wish you could have applied to a certain project.
Projects & Influences
Kyle: In contrast, have you ever done a project where you are very proud of the art?
Flygohr: Well, I am always proud of what I do because I always do the best I can possibly do for each project I embrace. I am even proud of those crappy portraits I did for $5 back in my early freelancing days I mentioned. If I am not proud of something I simply delete it or start it over, even if it makes me lose time or money. No matter what the quality of the project comes first.
Kyle: What is your favorite comic book and how has it influenced you?
Flygohr: I have too much to mention here but I will try to stick to the big ones. Sin City (I even like the movies as well), Dick Tracy and The Eternaut. I love bold, background narratives flowing between the pages. I am also heavily influenced by Japanese manga, especially Blame! and Berserk. Living in Italy, I also had the pleasure of growing up around many local masterpieces, my favorite being Dylan Dog. I discovered modern American comics later in my adolescence, with Joe Madureira and Ludo Lullabi being some of my favorite comic book artists.
Flygohr’s Favorite Genres
Kyle: Who is your favorite artist and how has their work influenced you?
Flygohr: That’s a tough one. I think the most influential of them all was Moebius with his illustrations. I grew up wandering over his pieces for entire weeks like a man possessed. His art struck me in a way that is hard to define, but it made me think and that was what made him stick out from the rest. I am also a fan of Andrea Pazienza, an Italian comic book artist famous for his psychedelic, surrealistic stories. His work inspired me in a way that made me realize that if you have a story to tell, you have to, regardless of its contents. Another artist that inspires me is Yuumei, with her Fisheye Placebo. Which, interestingly, is one of the first webcomics I ever read.
Kyle: What is your favorite genre to read?
Flygohr: I enjoy reading Fantasy, sci-fi or psychological thrillers. I’m particularly interested in the works of Chuck Palahniuk.
Kyle: And finally, what is your favorite genre to draw?
Flygohr: Usually a fantasy or a noir. Regardless of genre, I basically enjoy drawing anything that is dark, grim or dirty. As previously mentioned, I want my art to conjure up something in you, make you think. In these genres and aspects, I find I’m able to do that the best.
A Special Shoutout To Flygohr
Thank you Gabriele Pezzin for taking the time to answer my questions. I wish you luck in all your future endeavors. And I hope the reading audience learned a thing or two about what life is like for a freelance artist. If you are interested in his work please go to his personal website: https://www.flygohr.com/ you won’t regret it!