Interview with Illustrator Jason LenoxMarch 29, 2014
Recently I got a chance to chat with Jason Lenox, an artist from Pennsylvania. We talk training, his Kickstarter, freelance work and of course, comic books.
Jason is based in State College Pennsylvania and has been setting up his booth at comic book conventions for the past few years. A lot of his work involves illustrations for role-playing game source books. Some people may have seen his work and some haven’t, but Jason is having what could be described as a “break-out year” with the coming release of his second book of artwork.
Are you doing this strictly freelance or are you working for a company?
Right now I’m just doing freelance jobs as they come up. I don’t have a regular job for any large scale publisher. I have a normal day job working for a local paving company.
Do you have any formal training or is art something you picked up over time?
I took private art lessons as a child from kindergarten to grade 12, several hours a week with a professional artist in Lancaster. I also went to The Governor’s School for the Arts for gifted children in 1992 and I went to college for Business. In the late 90’s I put down my pencils and didn’t really do much art but I picked it back up again around 2010.
How important is Kickstarter for you in terms of exposure for your art?
I think Kickstarter really does two things: the first obvious benefit is that you raise money from people which really empowers you to do your projects. The second I’ve noticed since this is my fifth time using Kickstarter, is that you may have 30 people give you money but also you have hundreds if not thousands of people now aware of your work. It’s a huge backend marketing aspect that at first I never really thought of until I went to comic book shows and talked to people who were aware of my work that I never thought would have. I think it’s really important just for simply building awareness of your work. Even the old Kickstarters that I did years ago are still there on the internet like a permanent record. I found that people that I meet go back and read the old Kickstarters too, so I really credit the company [Kickstarter] with not just the monetary benefit but also marketing and creating a real awareness.
Your goal on Kickstarter is $450. What will that $450 get for you in the end?
I’ll tell you, I’m not the most handy person when it comes to using high end graphics software. Most of what I do is by hand. So knowing that I have a weakness and wanting to have a professional looking book, I reached out to our local technical school where I know some of the art teachers. I said that I am doing this project and needed help from a student to put this book together. I worked with a student named Aaron Wharton and I’m using that money to pay him for his help. We’ve been working on it for the last five months for about five hours a week. For him it’s a portfolio piece and he’ll make some money for of it. Also, we are going to sell one page of advertisement and I’ll use that money to get a small print run made. The advertising will allow me to have a print run of about 60 books. After that I have a printer here in town reprint them when my stock gets low.
Is your goal to work creating your own comic books?
Right now I’m really just having fun doing my art as a hobby. If I could do it full time and make money at it that would be awesome but I don’t think right now it’s a realistic possibility. I’m just really into making stuff that I like and that I’m into. When I was a kid, I wanted to draw comic books full time but I’m really just into doing art that I want to so I don’t think it’s for me at this point.
What comics are you currently reading?
Actually, I’ve been reading a lot of Japanese Manga; Jormungand, Attack on Titan, Dorohedoro, Battle Angel Alita and Gantz. Those are the ones that I really love and I read religiously. I also love Darkhorse’s Conan. I think they have done a great job for the last ten years on it with both the writing and artwork. They’ve had some really talented artists and I’ve really enjoyed that book. I’ve also been reading all the old Judge Dredd books from 2000AD. They’ve been reprinting them in yearly volumes that are about an inch thick. I’ve also been reading the Manhattan Project from Image and another I would recommend to any fan is The Transformers from IDW. You look back on the old Transformers from Marvel in the 80’s and they were pretty bad, but the job they are doing now from the artwork down to the story is really great, so if there are fans of The Transformers reading this, I can’t recommend that enough.
For an aspiring artist, what is the best way to get his/her art out there while keeping the cost down?
The biggest thing you can do is just to make prints. The big things for artists to sell at comic book shows has always been prints. For example, if you draw a picture of Spider-Man either colour or black and white and make a print, it might only cost you 25 cents. At a show you could sell it for anywhere between five and twenty dollars depending on size and reputation. Pick some of your pieces that you really enjoy and make some prints of it. Eventually you can graduate up to books. The technology that is available now is huge especially with Kickstarter you can get a professional looking book printed for a low cost. I suggest also for any new artist is to start with really small shows that maybe only run one day just to get your feet wet. Then you can graduate up to the larger ones. I started off doing small shows, selling prints, then I went to the New York Comic Con and just walked around for 3 days talking to people. I talked to professional artists and had them review and critique my portfolio. I also looked at other peoples booths to see what they were doing in terms of artwork and how they setup their booths and I took a lot of notes. I just started doing larger shows in 2013 with Wizard World in Philadelphia and that was really successful for me. I credit my experience in the smaller shows for that and all the notes I took watching other artists.
One thing that Jason kept stressing in other parts of this interview was the need to look at what other people are drawing and try to do something different. He used the example of Doctor Who which in his observations, many people at conventions were already doing. He spoke of the importance of making artwork from topics that he personally enjoys and he feels that the results are better when he is doing something that he really likes.
Thanks Jason, we want to wish you good luck in the future and we encourage everyone to connect with him and his work. You can visit his site, Kickstarter, Facebook and Twitter below.