This time around, I’ve dragged artist Ken
Wolak (which many of you may remember as the colorist on MANY
Believe me, he had no choice in the matter, I can be RATHER persistent.
BioKen Wolak has been a full time colorist for the past seventeen years. He has done work for all of the major publishers: DC, MARVEL, IMAGE, as well as many others. Some of the books he has worked on have been The Tenth, Like a Pilgrim, Tellos, Gate Crasher, The PHANTOM, KOLCHAK Tales, and BUCKAROO BANZAI. He is co creator of G.R.A.V.E.GRRRLS and has been a freelance artist/illustrator for the past nineteen years.
Lori G: Ken, please tell all the children how long you’ve
been involved with Moonstone, and feel free to translate into dog years so the
public understands just how VERY LONG you have been part of the clan.|
Ken: I would say that I have actually been around since the birth of moonstone from a “Bad Seed” (inside joke) to its full growth into Alpha male of the litter.
Lori G: Ha, ha, ha, you are SO funny Ken!(wink, wink…NOT) Since Ken wouldn’t give me an actual number, I will give one to you readers: he has been with us for eleven years, which translates into 77 years, using dog years...Now, back to questions. Ken, do you have formal training as an artist? And what is your preferred medium?
Ken: I have two years of art school under my belt and the only thing I have to show for it is this lousy T-shirt. I highly recommend that anyone wanting to be an artist first go see “Art School Confidential” now playing at your local movie theater. This movie is a crash course in what art school is all about. Then take your college fund or grant and travel for a year and just sketch your ass off. Come back, find a part-time job and do your art every free minute you have. You’ll die poor but at least you should die happy.
I prefer to paint (in oils) because that gives me complete freedom to create a fully finished work of art. From pencils to the final brush stoke, it is all me on the canvas and no one else has a say in what I put down. But I make my living working on the computer and coloring things in. And to think, as a kid I never could stay in the lines of my coloring books. Go figure.
Lori G: Ken, how did you get sucked into the world of coloring? I can’t even count the number of books you’ve colored for Moonstone and other companies, any idea how many that would be, or would you prefer not to think about it?
Ken: Actually it was with a little help from your old pal Dave Ulanski. He knew of a colorist that needed some help and mentioned my name to him and next thing you know…BAM!!!…I’m a colorist. I’ve been doing it for the past seventeen years (shoot me now) and I guess I have a few good years still left (no really shoot me right now) in me.
Lori: But I CAN’T shoot you, Joe and Dave would just KILL
me, who would we turn to in our moment of need? (Translation: we here at
Moonstone NEED Ken for coloring and production emergencies. “Emergencies”? How can there be a “coloring emergency” you
may ask? Let’s just say, it’s always
good to have a great colorist on board at all given times in the world of small
press.) Nope, instead I will ask you
more questions. What was your first
Ken: If you mean my first full book by myself, that would have to have been Robin Hood for you guys. Up until then I was doing page work on books for Marvel, DC, and Image. I would do half the book and the other colorist would do the other half of the book. This sped up the time it took to finish a book.
Lori G: Now for the million dollar question, is there a favorite book that you’ve colored for us here at Moonstone or at any other publisher that matter?(This isn’t a trick question, really, LOL)
Ken: Well, I would have to say that I’m really proud of the Buckaroo Banzai book that I’m currently doing for you. The art is amazing and there is really very little that I have to do to improve on it. I wasn’t scheduled to work on it but fate had a hand in it and I landed the gig anyway. I of course have to say I enjoy working on my own book “GRAVE G.R.R.R.L.S’ but that might have something to do with the fact that I’m in complete control of the book.
Lori G: Wait a minute, you are doing Buckaroo Banzai for “ME”? REALLY? Wow, I didn’t know that I was now the PUBLISHER! I better let Joe and Dave know that they’ve been kicked out! I know, I know you meant “you” in the company sense of “you=Moonstone.” Sorry, sorry kids, Ken just brings out the silly in me! Now…here’s another question for our friend: What are some of your favorite comics? New or old, take your pick.Any major influences out there you would like to share?
Ken: I was really never a big comic reader as a kid but I did buy a few just for the art. I was too busy drawing my own strange worlds and getting into trouble in school. I didn’t really get into them until I started coloring them. Up until then I only knew BATMAN, SUPERMAN, SPIDER-MAN, AND WONDER WOMAN. Everyone else was labeled the blue guy or the red guy or the guy with the X on his chest. It took me about a year to get up to speed on most of the characters and I’m still learning to this day. But I have always been a BIG fan of Batman and of Neal Adams Batman especially.
Lori G: Ken, you are a talented artist too, would you like to talk about something other than coloring for a few moments? Tell me, when did you know that you wanted to be an “artiste” when you were younger? Have you always been the creative type?
Ken: I can’t say that I have always known I wanted to be an artist. Unlike Picasso I never told my father that I would be a great artist one day at the age of eight.
I’ve always had art in and around my life. My father painted in his free time on the walls of our home. I can honestly say I think I’m the only kid who ever had dogs playing pool in their bathroom, a picture of George Washington painted in the front door hall way, and a 3-D Jesus Christ coming out of the wall from behind the living room couch. My brothers are all artistic as well. They have all put their talent to different uses though. One is an incredible wood worker, another was good at drawing but gave it up to be a fireman and the oldest is a sculptor and makes life size figures of famous people. Feel free to Google Tim Wolak. You should see him with his Wizard of OZ figures all over the web. I spent my entire youth trying to compete with them. I guess that’s were it comes from if you get right down to it. I always got praise when I did art and it was the one thing I’ve always been good at.
Lori G: What about non-comic related artistic influences. Is there any particular school of art that draws (no pun intended) you in? Surrealism? Expressionist? Impressionist? Any other –ism or –ist?
Ken: I am a BIG fan of the Impressionists and post- Impressionists. In my opinion if it were not for them we would have never had a Picasso. Even though he hated Impressionists and every thing they stood for. They were the first to really step out of the box and paint with passion. I can spend hours on this subject and I’m sure I would put most of you to sleep so I will spare you my longwinded reasons for why I think they are so great.
Lori: Not letting you off THAT easy Ken! Come on, give me just a one or two sentence summery of WHY you think those crazy impressionists and post-impressionists are so gosh-darn cool!
Ken: The impressionists were the first to break away from the traditional form of painting. They were more interested in painting what they saw in the moment. The play of color on objects and how it changed from moment to moment. They were trying to show the world that not all art had to conform to a ridged style of realism and story telling. If you look at an impressionist painting now it might look very soft and rather tame. But back when they were first created they caused chaos. The post-impressionists took it even farther and in some cases simplified there figures and objects down to flat colors laid side by side. They were showing us the true essence of form long before Picasso got his hands on the idea. In my opinion there work is much more important then that of Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, and Georges Braque combined. Van Gouge alone under stood the power of color and how it alone was more important in a painting then how realistic the objects looked. A painter that paints with passion is worth more (in my opinion) then one hundred painters that can paint a realistic figure or a nice vase of flowers!
See, now you have me pointing my finger at the computer screen while I type with my other hand. I knew this question would lead to no good. Curse you Lori G!
Lori G: You’ve done a few painted covers for us here at
Moonstone, and hopefully more soon! How
does painting compare to coloring or to penciling for that matter?|
Ken: Painting for covers is a lot different than from painting for art’s sake. I am an illustrator when I am doing covers and I have to think like an illustrator. I have to tell a full story or at least enough to get you to pick the book up and look inside. If you do that then my cover is a success and I’ve done my job. Panting fine art is a lot more subjective and it’s open to many interpretations. I have the freedom to create what I want and then I choose to show it to the world and you are free to love it, hate it, or just not understand it. Any way you choose to look at it the truth is I created it just for me and I’m the only one that needs to get it. When I’m doing illustrated work I have an editor that gives me input and then a story that explains what should be in the final piece. Coloring falls under the same rules.I have a story and I’m the guy that sets the mood for each panel.
Lori G: Are there a different set of rules you have to think about when you sit down to color?
Ken: (see last question for partial answer) The artist sets the mood in black and white and then it’s my turn to set the art to color. Some artists will give you amazingly detailed work were you can feel the environment just through the line work even before I put color on it. While others are more open and leave it up to me to show the reader that it’s… say a night seen or a creepy dark place with weird lighting coming for a room. In some cases there might be so much going on in a panel that I have to make sense of it all so you the reader can get what’s going on. This is the job of a good colorist.
Lori G: Something I notice that really jumps out about your
coloring is you use a different palette of colors for every title that you
color. What factors do you consider when
you decide the appropriate hues for whichever title you happen to be working
Ken: That depends on the artist and the story. If the artist has an open cartoonish look to his (or her) work and the story is light hearted and fun I might go with brighter colors or pastel colors for the book. If there is a lot of line work with lots of blacks and the story is suspenseful I will use a darker pallet to set the mood and tone of the story.
Lori G: To give our readers a more specific example, compare coloring our favorite purple-clad hero, the Phantom to coloring our favorite paranormal reporter, Kolchak!(I bet you just LOVE questions like these, hehe, that’s what I’m here for, to ask you the TUFF questions!)
Ken: Well…GASP… lets see. Again it all depends on the artist and the story. The Phantom traditionally is brighter colors just because he is a super hero and they are usually colored brighter for visual effect. Kolchak has seen a mix of coloring styles do to the different artists that it’s had. I do try to keep the colors a little more muted to give it that old TV show feel. This of course is a personal preference.
Lori G: Many of our readers may not know, but Mr. Wolak is
ALSO our “go to” guy for many pre-press related efforts here at the ol’
Moon! Can you give us a VERY BRIEF idea
of what that all entails? How did you
learn these skills and do your regret that you have said skills?
(Again, this isn’t a loaded question in ANY
Ken: I learned them on the job actually. Some of this stuff is really not taught in school and you just learn it by doing. Most companies had no idea what they were doing when the computer first came into play. You had guys at the printing companies telling us what they wanted and in some cases telling us how to do it. I run into a lot of people that were shown a specific way to do something and another person will do the same job a totally different way. You still get from point A to point B but it might just take a different route. Sometimes you learn something new and sometimes you teach them something new. In the end it’s all VOODOO.
Lori G: Wow, voodoo? Really? Cool! I hear, through the Moonlit grapevine, that you are working on a “Very Special “ Kolchak project with our very own Dave Ulanski. Can you tell us anything about it, or is at all “hush hush” at this point? I think this Gal on the Moon should get the inside scoop!
Ken: I would tell you, but then I would have to kill you.
And I like you too much to do that so lets just say for now… it’s going to be a
lot of hard work and I hope I’m up to the task. Now eat this part of the
interview before anyone sees it!|
Lori G: When we here at Moonstone aren’t overwhelming you with coloring and artistic chores, what else do you have in the works right now, besides finding the time to sleep occasionally? /p> Ken: I’m still working on my own book GRAVE G.R.R.R.L.S with my good friend and co creator Scott Licina. We are working on the new four part story that involves my favorite monster, “WEREWOLVES” that will be out next year. If you’re interested in finding out more visit our web site at www.gravegrrrls.com. Now I sound like a pitchman. (LOL) I am also working on a group of paintings for a possible book I am putting out. It’s entitled the adventures of yellow bear. It might sound cute but each picture will have a twisted meaning and it’s up to you to figure it out.
Lori: Ken, I have to ask, because I ask everybody: IF you
had one super power what would it be and why?|
Ken: Right at this moment I would have to say X-ray vision. I am dying to know what you have on under that space suit…wink, wink…followed by a sinister laugh.
My next choice would be the power to feel no pain. I’ll need that after you smack me across the face.
Lori: Hm…I will choose to ignore those last two comments… since you’ve been SUCH a good sport in regard to this interview! Truly Ken, I can’t thank you enough for taking the time to answer these questions, I know that time is at a premium for you.
That’s all for this time around boys and girls, I hope you have enjoyed my chat with colorist/all-around artsy fellow Ken Wolak. Be sure to flip to the credits page of your favorite Moonstone full-color books, and I’m betting you will see our friend Ken listed as “colorist”. If you don’t have any “Ken Wolak Masterpieces” in your collection, hustle on over to your local comic shop or to our very own Moonstone shopping cart on this here website to sample some today!
Some of Ken’s most recent work include: Phantom #9 and #10, the Buckaroo Banzai mini-series, and the forth coming Kolchak:Bare Bones TPB (he painted the cover on that baby). I believe Ken has colored the vast majority of Kolchak and Phantom comics published here at Moonstone, with a few exceptions of course since he keeps insisting that we give him time to sleep and eat occasionally. (These artist types can be SO demanding!)
Moonstone Gal out…
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Monday, May 25, 2015