I have been a huge fan of Chris Williams since the first day I saw Summons online. I happened across some stuff of his after reaching out to Bob Salley and I’m more than glad that Bob turned me on to him because Summons is in my top pull list, especially for books of a supernatural nature. Chris was kind enough to indulge my silly questions, I’ve never been artistic, not even a little, and I have no clue how great artists like him do it.
Ian: When did you first start drawing?
Chris: It sounds cliché, I’m guessing, but I’ve been drawing since I could pick up a pencil. Seriously, as soon as I developed motor skills, there I was with 5 chubby digits, grasping a pencil.
Ian: What was the first major piece you did?
Chris: “Major” is a relative term, right? How do I answer with out sounding like a self-important jerk? I used to make my own original comic books on loose-leaf paper when I was in grade school. My first real completed comic was of a character named Skull-Render. Don’t ask me to explain the premise or what I was even thinking. Just know that it was dark and brooding and… nonsensical.
Ian: Did you have any education? A mentor? Or are you self-taught?
Chris: Well, my dad was also an artist so I benefited greatly from his knowledge. After I graduated high school I got my BA in Animation & Media Arts at the Art Institute of Philadelphia. I learned a lot on my own before then, but college helped a lot (especially nude model studies, heh heh).
Ian: Ah yes, every nerds dream, the nude models. Yet another incentive for educating yourself!
Ian: I’m no artist, I admit that straight away, but even a guy like me knows a painter has a favorite brush, what sort of tools of the trade do you use?
Chris: Pencils, Bristol board paper, an incline desk, laptop, scanner/printer, and occasional ruler if I’m in the mood to be accurate (haha).
Ian: Do you have a particularly favorite tool?
Chris: Gotta have my pencil. Usually I favor an F graphite pencil, but lately I use HBs, which, ironically, are really just regular #2 pencils. Some artist, huh?
Ian: Well I suppose its not the type of pencil, its how you use it!
Ian: Can you go through your creative process for us? How do you envision a project, start to finish?
Chris: Ultimately I start out doing a rough sketch (sometimes many) with a non-photo blue pencil. Then I go over the sketch with an F or HB graphite pencil until the lines are clear and fleshed out. After that, I scan the drawing into Photoshop and make any necessary adjustments that I may’ve missed. From there, I’ll export the drawing to a fellow inker and/or colorist, depending on what the piece calls for.
Ian: Do you have any words of advice for aspiring artists?
Chris: DON’T. STOP. DRAWING. Get good. Real good. Then surround yourself with equally good, if not better, artists to keep up the motivation to excel. And never underestimate tenacity and discipline. In the real world, sometimes you need more than just talent.
Ian: Do you create anything outside of the comic world, paintings, sculpting, make up/cosplay, or anything other than drawing?
Chris: Aw man… I did a few clay sculptures in college and worked with a few other mediums like paint and pastels… but by the power of Greyskull, they will NEVER see the light of day.
Ian: Who are some of your favorite artists, besides yourself?
Chris: Jim Lee. J. Scott Campbell. Joe Mad. They are the holy trinity of modern comic artists to me, ha ha. There are a ton of others, like Ed Benes, David Finch, and even Akira Toriyama of DBZ fame, but the first 3 have shaped my style immensely.
Ian: Let’s switch gears a little bit, you’re not just an artist, you’re also the writer/pencil/letterer on your book Summons, can you tell us a little bit about Summons?
Chris: Imagine the entirety of all magic in existence being contained within one ancient book and suddenly that book has gotten into the wrong hands… who would you trust to retrieve the book and save the world as we know it? An ageless wizard, a teenage demon hunter girl and a werewolf detective… that’s who.
Ian: Where did the inspiration for Summons come from?
Chris: I was really into Image comics in their early days, so I was highly influenced by all the heaven & hell themed titles they were putting out at the time. If you read Summons, you’ll see shades of Spawn, The Darkness and Witchblade. Heck, there’s even a bit of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Final Fantasy.
Ian: I certain agree with shades of Spawn, and the other Image titles and I feel like your art is on par with those legends.
Ian: Can you explain a little bit about the Summons world?
Chris: In Summons, the world is enveloped by an invisible barrier called the Supernatural field. It’s the catalyst for all supernatural activity on earth (Vampires, werewolves, ghosts, goblins, etc). The book of Summons (an ancient text that everyone is after) has a bunch of spells that can unleash these forces on earth. So it’s all about who can get the book first and what they intend to do with it. A lot of different dimensions will be introduced in the series as well, including a new take on Heaven & Hell and the realm of all your favorite Summoning beasts.
Ian: I’m putting in as many pics of Summons as possible because the characters, as well as the beasts and demons, are downright awesome.
Ian: Being the writer and main artist how do you see through an issue from start to finish? Do you focus on the story first then put together the art or do you let the art put together the story?
Chris: I really do whatever best suits the story and the time frame. But since I’m both the artist and the writer of my own story, I can sort of switch up my process at will. Generally, I’ll do a rough outline of all the plot points and sketch out the pages from there. I rarely put together a full script, unless I intend to pass it along to someone else. Sometimes a story can come together in a much more organic way if the script structure is a bit loose.
Ian: What sort of challenges do you face trying to write and do the art for a book?
Chris: The main challenge is time management. Either job on its own is a big task (that’s why there are artists and writers exclusively, I imagine). But I just love the freedom so much I guess that I’m willing to put up with the hardship. It can take a while for a writer and artist to sync up. That’s one thing I don’t have to worry about (haha).
Ian: Planning any spin off series from this universe? Would you be up for it or do you think it should stand alone?
Chris: I want to focus on building up the main universe of Summons first. But I’m sure there will be some characters and teams that stand out more than others. I kind of want to see how people react to the story overall before I pick out any spinoff material. I do have some things in mind, however.
Ian: Are any of your characters based off real life people, if so who and is it a challenge to draw them different from how they really are?
Chris: That’s the million-dollar question, isn’t it? I think you’d be hard pressed to find a story that doesn’t have characters based off of real people in some way or another. Having said that… I plead the fifth, (hahaha)!
Ian: I have a feeling anyone that needs to know already does! haha
Ian: Do you have any aspirations for more than just comic books? Do you hope to get Summons out to a TV or movie audience?
Chris: I think Summons would make an awesome animated movie/series and videogame. I already have so many ideas, since I have a small background in animation. Who knows what the future will hold if Summons does well enough?
Ian: with the lack of serious or more adult driven animated movies I would absolutely love to see a Summons animated movie.
Ian: Tell us a little bit about the others involved with your book and how did you find them?
Chris: Danielle Alexis St. Pierre has been the cover colorist on the first 2 issues of Summons. Victor Bartlett colored the interiors for the Summons #1 (both artists have done work for Zenoscope comics). I’ve worked with other great artists as well, but my mainstay is Jake Isenberg. He’s inked for IDW’s G.I. Joe & Transformers, and he’s inked my lines for about 5 years now. He makes my pencils look way better than they actually are, (haha). And to think, I’ve yet to meet any of these guys in person. I met them all on Deviantart.com. The Internet is crazy.
Ian: Yes the internet is amazing! I owe everything I do to social media, and aspiring artists take note, Deviantart is the place you want to network and meet other artists.
Ian: What are some of the more interesting lessons you have learned making comics?
Chris: Learn to do as much as you can on your own. That’s the number one lesson I’ve learned. It carries over into so many areas. If you can draw, you can direct any pencil artist. If you can color then you can direct any colorist, and so on and so forth. If you can do everything that’s required to make a good comic book, then your collaborators will trust you a whole lot more. And that just makes the overall process go a lot more smoothly and efficiently, in my experience.
Ian: What are some comics you like to read?
Chris: I was following All New X-men for a while, as well as Ultimate Spider-man. Now I’m reading Invincible. It’s literally the only comic I’m reading these days. And I’m fine with that. It’s freakin’ awesome.
Ian: What are your thoughts on print vs digital?
Chris: I think, ultimately, that digital is the future. Digital comics are just way more practical in so many ways and they’re not going anywhere. It’s just reality. I fear for shops, but if print will ever have any staying power, I believe it will be in graphic novels.
Ian: I understand the thought, especially fearing for shops as they seem to be dropping like flies. I do hope that somehow print survives in some way and I see a few die hard’s working to keep it alive.
Ian: How do you feel about sites like Comixology?
Chris: I love Comixology. I can’t wait to see Summons on that site. Which will be very soon (hint, hint. Wink, wink).
Ian: Can you explain a little bit about your failures and successes with crowd funding sites like Kickstarter?
Chris: I actually had a successful kickstarter (called The Summons Project) in May of 2014. I exceeded my goal and was able to fund issues 2 & 3 of Summons (I’m working on #3 currently). It was a big learning experience and I instantly gained over 200 fans. I recommend Kickstarter to anyone who’s got the ambition and the time for it.
Ian: How does a successful Kickstarter help in the comic making process?
Chris: If anything, it helped keep me organized and focused. I had already created my first comic before I got started, but my kickstarter campaign forced me to focus on the nuts and bolts of my story and how it would appeal to a large audience. And I think I’m a better creator for it.
Ian: What is some advice you would give to someone looking to crowd fund?
Chris: Look at other successful projects and emulate what they did. Set a goal that’s reasonable and do the mind and leg work necessary to bring your project to life. Consider as many costs as possible and incorporate them into your funding goal. And don’t underestimate the power of good ol’ fashioned advertising. It’s easy to rely on online marketing alone, but if you want to make the best impact your first time out, take advantage of all kinds of marketing. Hit the streets and get the word out!
Ian: Are you working on anything other than Summons?
Chris: Not at the moment, but I do have a bunch of projects waiting for their turn. This includes web comics and maybe even some manga-style graphic novels. There’s a lot I’m looking forward to when time permits.
Ian: When can we expect to see more from you?
Chris: Summons #3 will be out in a few months. And with it will come a whole lot of cool promo art!
Ian: Where can fans get a hold of your books?
Chris: You can always find links to the purchase the latest books on the Summons Facebook page, Here.
Ian: Where can fans get a hold of you?
as you can tell from the pictures Chris is an amazing artist and Summons has seriously colorful and wonderful characters. I would like to thank Chris for his time and being so candid with his answers. This has been a great interview, I really hope that creators, both artists and writers, take notes. I also urge anyone interested to check out Summons 1 and 2 before 3 comes out, just to catch up, and to be on the look out for not only issue 3 but for Summons debut on Comixology.