International Man of Mystery, Ep. 1: Developing My Talents

Developing your talents is one of the most important things you can do on the path to self-discovery.

Credit: Art by Jim Steranko

Many aspirations have shaped my life. Luckily, I have had a lot of time to pursue quite a few — or at least do some thinking on those I would like to develop in the future.

I know that being open to many influences and ideas has helped me make connections with many other individuals along the way.

Discovering My Talent

As a young boy, most of my earliest interests seemed to center around creativity.

I remember the depictions of my school lunches and my new friends that I was instructed to do in first grade.

At the time, I didn’t think that my drawings were anything special but by fifth grade I had a teacher notice that I had a stronger aptitude for art than many of my classmates. She saw potential in my work and that I possessed a greater appreciation for working on my assignments for that class.

Part of this interest was also due to the fact that I chose to spend my social time with a small group of kids that didn’t fit into the cool scene.

We spent our time drawing characters of our own or talking about our favorites from the Ninja Turtles or the X-Men.

I was only familiar with those existing franchises through their cartoon series on TV, until I ventured into the comic book store that was connected to one of the video rental stores in my neighborhood.

Once I picked up my first comic book I was immediately hooked by the story telling through ultra-detailed, dynamic artwork and the depth of history associated with the characters that I already knew.

Drawing Inspiration

I never stopped drawing and I continued to develop my skills and receive praise for my work, but I wasn’t sure about where it would lead me or if I would find my niche.

Jim Lee’s Superman

Comics were a great influence and I wanted to continue drawing powerful figures that filled the pages of my favorite narratives, but I realized that I may never develop to the artistic level of my favorite comic book artists like Jim Cheung, Joe Madureira, Oliver Coipel and Jim Lee.

I didn’t let that discourage me. Those artists are inarguably a part of the upper echelon of the industry. They have raw talent beyond their years and they have been given the opportunity to work on their craft every day — something that I have always wanted the chance to do.

As I continued to develop my skills I became aware that the creation of comics is a multi-step process with several artistic contributors in most cases. I became particularly interested in the process of inking.

Surprisingly, I found many resources on the subject. One book in particular, Klaus Jansen’s The DC Comics Guide to Inking Comics, helped me more than anything else and I learned a lot of the finer points to inking as an art form unto itself. I dove in right away and started producing work at a blazing pace.

The DC Comics Guide to Inking Comics

My early work was a good starting point but I felt the need to get some feedback on my skill level. I began taking my artwork with me to comic book conventions.

Seeking Help Along the Way

The Artist’s Alley at any convention is the best place to find experienced artists currently working in the business and many are very approachable and readily available to talk with anyone interested in their work.

I connected with several artists — Mark Kidwell, Robert Atkins, Scott Ambruson and Doug Wheatley to name a few — that inspired me to keep working at the craft and were not afraid to give it to me straight. These artists took important time away from their own work to help me out and I took every bit of their advice and applied it to my work.

Slowly and surely, I began to find my way. I grew over the next few years as an artist and I eventually landed a gig to work on inking an original comic book.

In the next episode I will dive into that experience and what came of it.

by Ben Truby
Contributor for Multiplier Magazine

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