MRun: Simon, you are very talented colorist. Also painter. When’d you decide you wanted to be doing this?
SG: Thanks very much. Yeah, I’ve pretty much always been a painter of sorts. My parents got me watercolours, acrylics and all manner of art supplies while I was growing up. I was the only artistic one in the whole family I think. It’s a bit of a tragic story, but my nan was always very supportive of me due to the fact that my Uncle (Mother’s brother) was the artist of the family, but he passed away in his early 20's, just before I was born, and I think that seeing this reflection of him in myself really motivated my family to support me in his honour in a way. I ended up being that 'art' kid at school and through college, and just always kept with it. I tend to be a very creative person in terms of ideas and concepts, but much more technical with my practical work, almost like a draughtsman rather than an artist (many teachers said that to me). I left education not knowing what I wanted to do, ended up working in retail and the tertiary job sector, until I got a tablet in my mid 20's as a little gift to myself (I was still using oils at that time, and struggling with motivation due to cost of supplies and the time things took). I just wanted to try out the tablet, but had no scanner at the time so took a piece of line-art from John James (Doctor Fate I think it was), had tons of fun with it, and it just spiraled from there out of a hobby interest!
MRun: Your pages and covers display pleasing understanding of color. Additionally, you studied at the University of College and assembled a degree of Fine Arts. Did they expound big color theory in these classrooms?
SG: I'll be honest, education taught me nothing about colour theory. School education was more about me doing what teachers wanted so I could get the grades and make them look good. college was a little better, but was more concerned with finding a medium for me to work in. university was kind of a spur-of-the moment decision for me... I really just wanted to get out of my home town and start doing something. I ended up doing a course which was more concerned with the perception of art in the mainstream. A lot of history and theory work, trying to understand the POV of audiences and artists, and the bond that’s created between them with respective works. I basically majored (in the UK we don't have majors) in Conceptual Art and the modern movements dating from the Futurists (always had a deep love for works with a more abstract nature as they deal so much more with colour). The whole aspect of me learning colour theory is ongoing I guess, I still make mistakes (a lot), but mostly I've just learnt to be critical of myself and really look at what I’ve done and spot my own errors. I picked up the Hi-Fi colour books and the DC colour guide a year or so into colouring digitally, they were great for cementing ideas I had already from experience and common sense. I recommend the Hi-Fi books to any up and comers, especially for the technical side of things, the DC book in my opinion gives a much clearer take on colour theory though. Feedback is also important, from peers, pros, and amateurs alike. Taking any advice in and applying it to see if it works is always a good approach to colour theory.
MRun: You’ve said that you started “creating comic book covers to express the concern I had of the narrow-minded middle class parent generation (from a personal angle), using misunderstood art pieces as my vehicle for explaining my point."1 What did you mean by that?
SG: I was a pretentious art student... I couldn't help myself haha! It was all about how my parents didn't recognize 'art' unless it was in a gold frame and contained a subject that was “safe.” I wanted to try and spoof that whole opinion with a merging of comic books (so not “art” to my parents), the modern arts (relying on the currently controversial Tracey Emin and Damien Hurst, and looking back to the founder of the ready-made, Marcel Duchamp), and then bringing these into a more traditional context. I basically made a very classic looking gallery for my final show, putting up all these classic frames filled with concept driven comic book covers about contemporary artists my parents didn't understand. It was aimed very much at the lower working classes (where I’m from) who didn't have the patience to understand that art doesn’t have to be “pretty”! I think I said “middle classes” by mistake!!
KRONK: Who was your most influential educator?
SG: Hmmm... At university, no one. My course was a constant battle to explain your work and validate your motives. My previous college years introduced me to a great tutor, one of those guys that could lay out 3 lines on a page and make a statement (I only remember his name being John!!). Just incredible. I mean, I’d come out of school with a pretty big head on my shoulders being an “art kid” and getting good grades, then going into an environment that makes you face the prospect that you're not that great is enlightening. That’s where I really developed a passion to progress I think. Having real feedback, real competition (I’m very competitive in everything) is very important to me. I can take a criticism just fine, and if need be, argue it back, but being able to absorb the input of others is integral to progression for me.
MRun: Before you became main colorist for IDW’s Snake Eyes series you got to have worked alongside John James. Was that the big break?
SG: I worked closely on John's lines for quite a while, but John handles his own colour work perfectly to suit his style, so for me I had to find an artist that “needed” me for colours. I stumbled around for a while looking for artists until I found Robert Atkins. My first real “breaking in” piece was Robert Atkins’ Wonder Woman con sketch, which Robert then approached me about selling as prints. It all just went from there, with Robert throwing me the odd commission and always putting me forward for gigs. He got me my first official gig doing the cut scenes for DCU Online, and then later on getting me to apply for Snake Eyes. He's been my greatest supporter outside of family, and I couldn't wish for a better penciller to work with. I've said it to Robert before, but if I could draw as well as I'd like... I’d draw like Robert!
MRun: Before IDW did you labor freelance for many minor publications?
SG: Yeah, I did a small share of Indy work. Got burned like most newbies with some back-end deals and late/non payments. I worked on a book called The Lonely which was a great concept about the evolution of mild superpowers through emotional trauma caused by societal pressures (for example, prostitutes are strong to deal with aggressive customers, homeless people got telepathy to spot the most approachable and charitable passers-by etc. etc.) Nothing happened to this book though. Paid me fine, but then it just died out at the end of issue 1. I then worked on Savior for Quarterstone Comics, which was great. Nice friendly editor and creative team, interesting story, but I got offered Snake Eyes midway through issue 1, and being a pretty slow colourist I had to leave that book... I still chat with the team and give my opinion when it’s needed, but they know what they are doing and the pages so far look amazing!
MRun: When did you originally decide to branch out into the forest of sequential arts? And did you have the support of your tribe?
SG: I'm a comic book fan, always have been. My house is stacked full of comics and books on comics. It was kind of bound to happen really. The jump to colouring was just out of pure fun and enjoyment and I was getting enough offers that whilst working a full time management job, I was having to turn stuff down in my colouring endeavours. My main avenue of support comes from my girlfriend of almost 10 years, Olivia, without whom I would be homeless in a gutter probably (she's amazing). My parents and siblings are supportive, but have no interest in comics, its more about them recognizing my commitment to it and being supportive of that than the actual work. Which is fine, as I don’t take feedback from close friends or family as it’s too biased for me. comics don't have a huge market in the UK. We have shops and a large appreciation of the comic book genre, but it’s rarely seen as anything short of childish by most adults, even kids don't read comics from what I see. It’s a shame, but it’s something that’s slowly being brought back into the mainstream through other mediums, such as book/TV/movie tie-ins, and licensed properties. It’s on the rise, and that can only be a good thing.
MRun: Have you ever considered doing what Alex Ross does as a painter—making your work available online for immediate purchase? Ugh.
SG: I would love to, but for now the digital medium has really taken hold of me. I can’t see myself going back to traditional mediums for earning money...the time it would take me to re-learn certain things would have a massive impact on my income which I can’t afford to risk right now (first baby is on the way!!). I'm a huge Alex Ross fan though, and to be able to work like him would be a dream... but for now, just getting to work on a Spider-Man title will suffice (that’s my childhood dream).