Up & Coming: Evan Bryce

Up & Coming: Evan Bryce

Evan Bryce

While some of us may be delighted by the biggest and the most popular in the world of comics, we all realize that for every popular book, writer or artist there has to be a beginning. While there are many ways to success with each story finding its own route, there is one attribute that can be found in each one: talent. Up & Coming is a regular feature at Newsarama.com that seeks out the next generation of comic creators and profiles them today.'

He calls himself an artistic Macgyver – I'm not completely sure what that means, but I have a good idea. Artist Evan Bryce has begun to make a name for himself in comics via the web, with an entry into the October 2008 Zuda Comics Contest, and a currently running series about President Obama with Dean Trippe called President Awesome. Based in Texas, he's also done some work in the print comics world doing coloring and pin-ups on such titles as Astounding Wolf-Man and Crime Land. He displays a lot of potential -- a mix between Jim Mahfood and Craig Thompson, but with his own vibe I can't quite describe.

Good thing I found Evan and talked to him about his work. Read on!

Newsarama: Thanks for talking to us, Evan. What do you do for a living right now?

Evan Bryce: My day job is teaching high school art. I teach Art I and Drawing II, and it's a great gig! I sit and work with my students every day. Sometimes I'll change tables and sit with different groups, others I'll tack some art up on a wall and start painting. I feel like its good because I can show them that I'm not above working with them. Most people have this image of teachers sitting at their desk, detached from the students. I feel like that's the wrong message to send, so I'm in the trenches making art alongside them. It's really important to constantly be creating work.

NRAMA: Where can people look for your comics in the near future?

EB: I actually have a lot I am working on right now. I just finished a story for Popgun Anthology Volume 4 written by David Hopkins (Astronaut Dad). My friend Dean Trippe and I just launched an online comic about Barack Obama called President Awesome. It's a one panel a week strip about our current president and current events as well as his place in pop culture already. I'm also working on a couple more anthology stories, and always looking for more opportunities.

NRAMA: I know a little bit about your comics career so far, but give us the full tour.

EB: When I was doing color flats for The Hunger, they had switched companies and were collecting it in a trade. For the trade, my friends Chris DiBari (The Warriors) and Jose Torres (Leviticus Cross) let me do a back-up at the end of the TPB...unfortunately the publisher lost the dialogue, so it ended up with bunch of pictures and no context. So that was my first sequential work. After that I did a fun story about time traveling in Negative Burn with my friend Joe Keatinge, followed by a lot of pin-ups in books such as Crimeland, Astounding Wolf-Man, Brit, and Supermarket. Then I did a Zuda comic in the October competition, Hammer Sound, with my friend Doug Wagner. It ended up at 3rd place, but it helped me find the direction that I want to take my career and really understand what skills I needed to improve upon. That pretty much takes us up to the present, where I just finished the story with David Hopkins for Popgun Vol. 4, and the recently launched President Awesome.

NRAMA: Do you have a dream project you'd like to work on someday?

EB: I have a creator owned project I'm working on little by little right now in my freetime, but in terms of established books, I'd love to work on anything that Robert Kirkman writes! Kirkman's writing inspires this raw energy and these great creators are always working with him. Cory Walker and Nate Bellegarde really were two of the artists that made me decide I wanted to make a serious go at becoming a comic artist. Their styles are so fresh and Cory's work with Kirkman still boggles my mind.

I'd also love to work on a Luke Cage comic, in the old style gear. That would really be amazing to me, he's such a strong character, and has a lot of possibilities. Spider Man would also be fun. I love drawing characters with a lot of kinetic energy. I've drawn enough 'talking heads' for a lifetime, so any chance to really show action sets something off inside me. I really feel the need to go over the top with action just because I don't get that many opportunities to draw it!

NRAMA: Did you go to school for art?

EB: I actually started off college going for Comm Design (Graphic Design), but a lot of it was about typography and things dealing with high stress deadlines. I did some soul searching and decided that wasn't for me, so I changed to Art Education. I went to the University of North Texas, and they weren't super keen on comic illustration, especially the drawing and painting program. So for years I'd learned to hide my comic style as I was developing it. But I lucked out because I ended up with a few professors that were supportive of folks that did comic art. My anatomy professor really embraces comics, but made sure that I was learning proper proportions and classical techniques. Being in a situation where I was forced to learn in two styles (traditional and comic) really helped me to begin cataloging visual information so I could move away from reference. More than anything, college was my testing ground for various techniques. I have hundreds upon hundreds of drawings and failed coloring attempts that cover a very wide range of styles.

Ultimately, I owe a lot of the way I self-critique and create art to my watercolor professor, the late Rob Erdle. He was a great man, who knew how to get into your head and pull out your true style. One of the most daunting things is to see a blank page, and he prided himself on forcing you to try really non-traditional, spur of the moment techniques. He wasn't afraid to throw lacquer onto a 25 dollar sheet of watercolor paper and then tell you that your assignment was to make it into something successful. More than anything, that taught me that getting better as an artist wasn't making each line perfect, but instead how to turn something ugly into something beautiful. 'Artistic MacGyver' training is the way I like to think of it.

Something that I've been asked a lot is where I learned color theory, and it wasn't in school, that's for sure! I learned it on the streets! Ultimately, the comic world is like this vagabond collective of knowledge, and through a few conventions you can learn more technique and theory than a year or two of college. My friends and I used to (and still do) go to conventions and set up shop in front of Brian Stelfreeze and just listen to him for 6 hours at a time as he would paint and talk color theory. I was doing color flats for a comic called the Hunger during the end of college, and doing flats really helped me learn a lot about how colors look next to each other, and what effects you can use with Photoshop. When you don't have money to pay someone else to color or ink your work, out of necessity you learn new skill sets, and ultimately grow to enjoy them.

NRAMA: Is working in comics full-time your goal, or what do you see for yourself in comics?

EB: That's a good question! I'm just not sure right now, I love teaching, and find that I enjoy the mutual respect I have with my co-workers and students, the structure associated with the job, and more than that...HEALTH CARE!!!! I honestly feel that if I was in a good situation and was getting good paying gigs on a very regular basis that were really intriguing and creatively fulfilling for me, I'd take a few years off to work purely on comics. Right now though, I have a lot of freedom in what I choose to work on, as well as control over stylistic choices and balancing deadlines. Just like anybody else I have those aspirations to work on the big named characters. One day I'd love to get the opportunity, so I just keep plugging away and doing the best work I can. I just want to enjoy what I'm working on. That's why I love making comics, because it's fun. So I always try to put myself in situations where I am working on enjoyable characters. I feel like the real world is depressing enough, so much like the movies I enjoy watching, I want to have excitement and a lot of upbeat and humorous situations in the projects I work on.

It is great having two worlds to play off of so that I don't get bored at either. If I was just spending all day working on comics I would worry that I might just have too much time, where I would second guess myself or get 'artist's block.' My schedule right now is going to work, then come home and work on comic art. Weekends are used for working on art and sometimes go to live-art shows to paint. It sounds crazy, but keeping moving allows me to constantly be in creative mode. If I had the time to rest, it just wouldn't be the same...

NRAMA: And lastly, inspiration. What initially prompted you to get into art?

EB: Art has always been a large part of my life, more than anything, comic art. My dad let my brother and I read his old comics like Conan and Iron Fist and Power Man, X-Men, Spider Man. I really loved it all! My mom is an art teacher, and she didn't force me into art. I was actually thinking of becoming a psychologist for a long time. I wasn't the best artist growing up, but I loved to draw a lot. Though I did win a contest in Kindergarten for the Children's Museum's Indianapolis 500 contest by drawing a mulit-colored dinosaur!

I was always hiding drawings under my notes in class and working while the teacher was talking. I just kept drawing more than my friends and noticed one day I was getting better at a faster rate, so I just kept pushing. So, by the time I was at the end of high school, I took two classes a day of art and ended up with about hundred pieces at the end of the semester (I'm not kidding). The progression from week to week was pretty great, I felt as though if I just kept pushing, one day I could be as good as all the artists I looked up to.

Twitter activity