Interview with Benjamin Read and Chris Wildgoose
What is the most challenging thing to draw? Not just as far as Porcelain goes, but in general, do you ever find yourself struggling with something?
[Chris]: Porcelain-wise the most difficult thing I found to draw were the Hounds. As much as I loved Gog and Magog those damn things were such an odd shape and I was so worried how readers would receive them, because they are an odd mix of bear and tiger. Generally, I don’t tend to struggle with the biggest of artist woes… Horses! I have to work hard to get in a nice curve in a building or a circle viewed from an angle, but I’m working on that!
Are either of you perfectionists? Has that ever turned out to be a challenge when trying to complete a project?
[Ben]: Yes, and yes. Next question! Yeah, we’re both a little obsessed. There’s been a lot of eleventh hour tweaks to get stuff just-so. However we’re both realists. A deadline’s a deadline, and sometimes you just have to stop and move on. A painting’s never really finished and all that.
[Chris]: I think our very process of going constantly back and forth throughout the creation stages shows you how pernickerty we can get! But as Ben says we do realize that somethings just have to move on. Otherwise we’d still be working out all the kinks now!
Chris, Ben had a little input on what you drew, did you have any suggestions or involvement as far as the story goes?
[Chris]: Ben will often heed my feedback. I didn’t have many big changes to really add to the story as I think Ben had nailed it. I had more of a stamp on the culture and structure of things, such as the location design and sometimes little finer details such as unspoken relationships between the urchins or say a moment being silent rather than having dialogue. Nothing that really changed the course of the story.
Can you tell us anything about your current projects? Do any of you have a “dream” project? Something you would love to do but you haven’t had the chance yet?
[Ben]: Ooh, loads – I’m doing an all-ages book with Laura Trinder called Night Post, which is about a postman who does the midnight round for the supernatural community. Chris and I have the first book of our sci-fi odyssey Butterfly Gate coming out soon, and we’re in the middle of our next big book, Briar, which is another trip back into fairy tales at our own curious angle. I’m writing another film too.
As for dream project, I think I’m doing everything I want to be. More time would be nice. I’ve got a book about European folklore I’d love to have the time to do. Then there’s the novel, of course…
[Chris]: As mentioned by Ben just then, Butterfly Gate and Briar are both in the works at the moment. Both are so exciting, I can’t wait to see what people think of those. I’m also doing a little short piece for a Horror anthology out later in the year and have a couple of guest spots in an indie comic series called ‘The Pride’. Hopefully, somewhere in there, I’ll get some writing done myself too.
What is unique about your style of art? What made you choose this particular way of designing the worlds that you bring to life?
[Chris]: I’m not totally sure what makes me unique just yet I don’t think. I still feel very early in my career and have miles to go so I find it hard to say what makes me stand out. Maybe my detail and that I really like to animate the characters and make them act out their lines. As for the design approach, I think it’s a very instinctual thing. I tend to go with the flow and try and draw on a lot of cultures and influences I’ve had.
Have you ever done commission work? What was the oddest thing anyone has ever commissioned?
[Chris]: I love doing commissions, often gets me drawing characters I’d never think of sketching. The weirdest thing is possibly a sketch of an old man riding a giant fat hog, but that was my idea!
[Ben]: Met on a battlefield, found a common cause, and decided to stick a flag in the ground and make our stand. That’s certainly how I remember it anyway. Now I get to make comics with some of my best friends and people seem to like them. I have no complaints.
Occasionally I draw little sketches for Chris. It always seems to make him laugh. I have no artistic pretensions whatsoever.
[Chris]: A true story! Yeah we met through working on a film Ben had written. I was the concept/storyboard artist and I was asked to go to the set to help physically make a costume I’d designed. When we met in person we just kind of clicked. I think Ben found a perfect human he could mock and poke with a stick, whilst having said sad creature draw his crazy whims.
Who’s your hero when it comes to writing or drawing? Is there anyone that you would love to work with and you haven’t had the chance yet?
[Ben]: In comics- Gaiman, Moore (natch). Prose, the list is endless, currently A.S. Byatt, Alasdair Gray, and I’m re-reading Iain Banks and have just been reminded how extraordinary he was. To work with, loads, but I think UK artist Simon Gane’s work is jaw dropping and I’d love to write something for him.
[Chris]: Comics wise, I’m constantly referring back to an artist named Dylan Teague. He’s been an unwitting mentor and has helped me out a few times when I’ve felt unsure, plus his art is of the finest quality in comics I’d say. Outside of comics I’m constantly referring back to artists such as Arthur Rackham. The man was a down right illustrative genius.
I’m a big fan of Patrick Rothfuss. He’s a current writing hero of mine and I’d love to work with him on anything. On the comic front, I’d love to work on anything by Mike Mignola or any kind of spin off from the Hellboy universe.
Any advice you could give to aspiring writers and illustrators? Or artists in general?
[Ben]: Whatever it is you do, do it a lot until you get better at it. Absorb everything in your medium that is being done by people who are already good. Repeat. There’s no shortcut and the process never really ends.
[Chris]: What he said. I find it surprising whenever I get asked this because I’m so new into the field myself. But nothing is truer for our kind of craft; if you want to get good you need to practice, practice, practice and especially when you don’t want to.