You’d be forgiven if you think of Matt Kindt as a breakaway success, since the “slow and steady” approach that’s defined his career so far looks like a sprint to the finish line with the explosive success of MIND MGMT from Dark Horse. Educator and author Travis Langley (Batman and Psychology) sat down with Kindt in a marathon 90 minute interview panel with the enigmatic creator on March 30th as part of the Comic Arts Conference at WonderCon. This “Focus” series event revealed just how long a road it has been for Kindt to reach his current level of exposure and fandom with MIND MGMT, a comic series about the dark legacy of a government spy agency staffed by agents with psychic abilities.
Kindt, who says he’s probably been best know for his graphic novel SUPERSPY prior to MIND MGMT, had an unusual experience with comics at the age of 7 or 8 years old that left a big impression on him and still continues to influence his work. Reading Frank Miller’s DAREDEVIL, he ploughed through an entire issue where Daredevil visits Bullseye in the hospital, now paralyzed (following his murder of Elektra) and repeatedly pulls the trigger on his gun at the murderer. The issue itself consists of Daredevil speaking to the comatose Bullseye with almost no action at all, and as a kid Kindt thought “What kind of crazy superhero stuff is this?”. The heavy, odd dialogue and the “threat” of the unloaded gun, Kindt said, “made me love comics”. After a period in the 90’s when superhero books weren’t “capturing” Kindt’s attention anymore, he had another epiphany after discovering Daniel Clowes’ series EIGHTBALL at a con. He immediately felt, upon reading the issues, “This is the kind of comics I want to do” and an indie sensibility was born. Enter the years of hard work and learning just how to produce comics with his own particular voice.
Kindt’s education in fine art and painting, still evident in his comics work, influenced him tremendously in making comics, he told Langley. To “know production” and “have control of every part of the process” of making comics now serves him well, but as an art student at Webster University, he “kept comic books a secret”, since they were not considered an “art form” by his instructors. The most rewarding skill he acquired, Kindt explained, turned out to be print-making. Even though it’s not a “discipline directly related”, its application to comics proved invaluable. “It helped me think about color and composition”, he said, and through print making he acquired one of his key concepts when it comes to making comics, “movement in production”, a phrase his print making instructor used that “still haunts” him. For Kindt, “movement in production” means not being “precious” about a particular stage of production and reminds him not to “hold onto things” but keep his comics output moving. It results in the fairly profound productivity readers see today from Kindt.
Another benefit of studying fine arts, Kindt said, was to “learn about everything” and learn to make art before learning to make comics. Learning to make comics from observing comics is fine, he assured the audience, but it is “limiting the scope of how you think about comics”. Kindt, who’s known for his use of watercolor and tirelessly inventive design of marginalia in his work, is a pretty good living example of his point. By bringing in tools and tricks learned in other art forms, he expands awareness for readers and creators about what the comics format can do.
Kindt told Langley that he started off self-producing mini comics after attending ‘zine shows and first learned there about the common saying that a comics artist has to produce a thousand pages before they really produce one good one. The idea stayed with him as he watched his page count climb over the years. Inspired by autobio comics, he started producing them, meanwhile working his “boring day job”. “Every job was boring to me if I was not doing comics”, he confessed, and added that for him, “Everything has to have a dual purpose”. He worked in cinemas and bookstores to get discounts and continue to explore new artistic influences as part of his “dual purpose” of producing comics.
After graduating from college, Kindt worked at a “small design firm” and “hated it” despite the fact that it was art related. The “cubicle” environment depressed him and so he would speed through his required work and then “blatantly write comics after the work was done”. He rather ingeniously drafted and planned the comics while at work, so once home, “pages were ready to draw”. Kindt’s answers during this part of the interview were particularly funny as he broke into detailed narratives, but the most memorable vignette concerned using company color photocopiers to produce his comic covers after hours. “I don’t recommend this”, he warned regarding this strategy. Using special, thick paper for the covers, Kindt patiently kept copying despite the fact that the printer would jam every few copies. Finally, one cover “melted to the copier”, imprinting the drum of the copier with the cover image, including his name in clear script. After panicking, then realize there was simply nothing he could do about it, he knew he was “screwed” and left it. He returned to work without saying anything about it, watched the copier being repaired, and waited for the shoe to drop. It never did. His employers, for whatever reason, decided to turn a blind eye.
The job provided “motivation” for Kindt due to his profound desire to get away from an office job. He knew at the time, he said, “I’ll never be happy”. He was aware that he needed to “either fail or succeed at the thing I wanted to do most”. “Mocking” copies up at Kinkos at twenty dollars a piece, he printed 20 books and physically took the books to Dark Horse, Top Shelf, and Fantagraphics booths at a show in Chicago. By this time, Kindt had moved beyond autobio comics because he was getting a sense of “horrible feedback” from spending all day at a job he hated and then writing about it again in his comics. From making a list of things he wanted to draw, he concocted stories to allow him to do it. The list, he said (to laughter from the audience) included pirates, elements of old radio shows, and circus freaks. After handing over the hard-won comics to publishers, Kindt was more than amazed to receive a phone call at home. For Kindt, he still remembers the call as his “greatest moment”. Top Shelf wanted the book, “just as it is”. Ironically, the only change they wanted to make was to the melted cover.
Kindt went on to learn a host of lessons in an uphill struggle to make a living in comics, from realizing that collaboration was just not his thing, to challenging himself (never again, he said) to create an entire graphic novel without a single narrative box, resulting in a 300 page tome, to the realization that with his book SUPERSPY, he had finally reached his 1000th page. Just on time, SUPERSPY took off in ways his previous critically acclaimed works had never managed to achieve.
Langley then led Kindt into the spy-obsessing portion of the interview, one which provoked a great deal of enthusiasm from the audience. Kindt, surprisingly, said that his espionage-based current work MIND MGMT, is not “really about spies”. He confessed that spy literature and film formed an early influence on his life from a family-bonding trip to a drive-in theatre to see MOONRAKER onward. The travel-writing aspect of spy novels were what Kindt found particularly appealing, churning through all the works of Ian Fleming as a teen. When he reads spy books or watches films now, however, he has a particular strategy in mind. He’s deciding what he’s “not going to put in books” since they’ve already been done by a process of “elimination”.
Kindt’s books now, and increasingly, show his obsession with “gadgetry” to the point that even close personal friends in comics (he mentioned Cullen Bunn and Jeff Lemire as examples) tease him about it, but it’s all part of the “physicality” and “interactive” aspects of printed comic books that appeals to Kindt. MIND MGMT is Kindt’s first fully serialized work where he is functioning as both writer and artist, and he’s taken advantage of that fact to emphasize the capabilities unique to print books, loading the inner covers of the comic, for instance, with extras for fans of spy lore. MIND MGMT contains features like a “field guide” format to its borders, Kindt explained, as if the comic is being presented within a field guide for secret government agents. Kindt also revealed that he’s particularly passionate about the role of covers in printed comics as the “very first page of the story” that has to function and work as simply a cover but also “work in a narrative way”.
Though the question and answer period was generous and wide-ranging, covering his artistic processes, research for his books, and upcoming plans for MIND MGMT, Kindt’s passion for printed comics became a particularly hot topic. Working on a monthly book that is available in digital formats but contains incentives for print collection helps “get people back into shops every week”, Kindt explained, and may lead to readers discovering new books they like along the way rather than simply waiting for trades. He’s not averse to digital formats, he assured the audience, and reads many comics in digital format, but as a designer he’s concerned that “digital should be designed to be digital” and is not a fan of simple relocation of formats without attention to detail.
I asked Kindt, as the final question of the panel, what psychic powers he would like to have if he could somehow acquire them. His list was as down-to-earth as the hour and a half chat he shared with WonderCon goers: remember peoples’ names and be less oblivious. “I’d make the worst spy”, he confessed, “I can’t remember anything”. All a ploy to throw fans off the scent? Hearing a portion of the full story behind Kindt’s seemingly meteoric rise makes something clear once again about working in comics: it entails work, work, work, and more work, but it also demands commitment and passion. It’s not an easy combination to emulate, but for Kindt it’s been the only way to be truly happy.
Photo Credits: All photos in this article were taken by semi-professional photographer and pop culture scholar Michele Brittany. She’s an avid photographer of pop culture events. You can learn more about her photography and pop culture scholarship here.
Hannah Means-Shannon writes and blogs about comics for TRIP CITY and Sequart.org and is currently working on books about Neil Gaiman and Alan Moore for Sequart. She is @hannahmenzies on Twitter and hannahmenziesblog on WordPress.
Time is ticking away - Christmas vacation is slipping away. But, I'm enjoying looking at the New Year, trying to plan how I can fit everything in that I want to do - especially art. As it stands, I will be the featured artist at the Town Center Gallery in October and I've got to get busy producing new work. Although it's a smaller-town member gallery, I'm excited about having a goal to work for. And, I'm really delighted to be taking steps back into the more "fine art" world - it can only enhance my illustration. I'm inspired by new ideas that I look forward to pursuing - I'll get more into that later.
Today, I carved out an hour OUTSIDE of the house, no less, to do a little sketching. I'm wanting to do some small still life paintings to get into the swing of things and play around with my new and improved understanding of acrylics (thanks to the mural).
OK Santa Maria locals - can you guess where I went by these items?
Anyway, during my break I've been addicted to watching previous seasons of the PBS series Art 21
on Netflix Instant Watch. It has reawakened my interest in fine art and all of the discussion that goes with it that I miss from college (although I can't say that I took proper advantage of the opportunities for such discussion back then). I'm going to dust off my many sketchbooks from back then and see how my ideas have changed since then. Maybe I'll post more on those thoughts soon.
Okay for Now, by Gary D. Schmidt
In Schmidt’s latest novel for middle school readers, eighth-grader Doug Swieteck has many cards stacked against him. He’s got a mean older brother and a liability for a father. He’s just moved to a new school. He can’t read. He gets in fights. The principal is after him. The coach hates him. He doesn’t have a decent coat or a warm pair of shoes. His mother is sad and long-suffering.
Yet the satisfaction in this story comes not from the bad guys getting their due. Instead, the satisfaction is much deeper and broader—it comes from the reassurance that the inner self is always and truly free. In Doug’s story, this deliverance is aided by the kindness of strangers and by the gift of fine art. In author Gary Schmidt’s capable hands, its light shines right out of the pages of the book, making every day look like a fresh new spring day.
The fine art in this story is a book of John James Audubon’s Birds of America that Doug finds in the local library. Each chapter in Okay for Now is faced with a different plate from this book, and in each chapter, Doug uses that plate to further understand his world—this bird was falling and there wasn’t a single thing in the world that cared at all (the Arctic Tern) and that’s what the picture was about: meeting, even though you might be headed in different directions (The Forked-Tailed Petrel). A librarian—one of the kind strangers in this book—sees Doug’s interest in this book and encourages him to make his own drawings of the plates. The librarian’s critical analysis of these plates and the part they play in Doug’s story make a good reading experience into a sublime one.
I highly recommend this wonderful book for middle school kids of both genders and for adults who like a good story.
After much pushing and encouraging by my teacher and friend, I got through the brick wall. She is finally finished!
|"The Red Ribbon"|
The challenge for me, more than the skin, was the background. Architecture, for me, is using the other side of my brain. It's angular, mathematical, and stiff. Gorgeous, but stiff. The figure is the opposite...at least when drawing.
I did, however, adore researching and looking at all the beautiful patterns, and the patterns are what held my interest, even if just a tiny bit. It is hard for me to see no plant life or anything organic other than Rahab herself. Definitely something different.
I'm curious as to what I'll do next in this class. Still have a few weeks to go. Maybe a troll? ;)
|"The Peaceful Troll" - Sketch|
My two dearest art friends, Candace
, both said Monday how they like my Grumpy Troll
. After talking for a bit I was inspired to do more. I decided to do one opposite of the grumpy and designed the Peaceful Troll.
He encompasses a lot for me. As most of my work does.
He represents my dad (who has long curly silver hair and is, in my eyes, a strong nature man), Candace's love for squirrels, spring time love, autumn oaks inspired by Natalie, the Celts, and the highlands.
I'm not sold on him sitting quite yet. They are such massive beings that it takes a bit to wrap my head around how they fit into their surroundings.
I am looking forward to this one, even if his pose changes, which it most likely will. :)
I recently had the pleasure of standing in front of this painting. I love Impressionism and Woman with a Parasol
has always been my favorite painting from Monet.
Isn't it something? It's everything about it.. the mood, movement, subject characters, light.. I could go on and on.
I was standing very close to it for a while until a guard looked at me with unfriendly eyes, LOL.. I wasn't going to touch it of course, just wanted to see up close the thickness of the paint and the tiny strokes and tried to imagine what Monet saw while working close to it and then standing far. I'm no fine art painter, but I imagine the only way to paint an impressionistic painting is to get close to it and step away far from it.
Anyway, I finally sat down to contemplate it and came to me how close fine art is to children's illustration at times. I know there are many debates as to what is what but I think the main difference is illustration in general has a commercial tint to it, there is usually a purpose for its use. But if we take that a side there is really no much difference.
Of course style and subject matter has a lot to do with this but take Matt Phelan
for example. He is one of my favorite author/illustrators and he is a master of making you feel with his art.. His strokes say tons and his illustrations are ethereal.
© copyright Matt Phelan
© copyright Matt Phelan
I'm not trying to say illustration and "art" are the same but to realize that sometimes they are standing very
close to each other. I just love that. :o)
What do you think?
This was the theme of an illustration conference I attended on Thursday and, to be honest, it took me a while to work out what was meant by it.
Perhaps a more straight-forward term might be 'artistic integrity', because the conference revolved around the extent to which illustrators, whose work is by definition commissioned and art-directed by a client, can maintain their own 'voice' within the work they produce and to what extent we need to sustain private, non-commissioned work, to keep sight of who we are as creatives.
There were two illustrators speaking: Simon Spilsbury, whose work you will remember from the recent Cobra ads, and Andrew Foster, who caused some controversy with his commission to paint the windows at Liberty (top image).
It was particularly interesting to watch Simon drawing on the spot for us, explaining how his ideas evolve, starting with quick, simple sketches, which then spark visual associations, and suggest ways to link two different concepts together in a single image, as with this Comedy Festival poster.
A third speaker was Ben Cox from the CIA - no, not that CIA, but the Central Illustration Agency, who represent a vast and diverse range of illustrators, from Carol Lawson (above) to David Hughes (one my personal favourites):
It was lovely to be allowed to sit all day and be bombarded by a continuous stream of exciting illustrative images, and the debate afterwards was thought-provoking and hopefully inspiring to the many illustration students in the audience.
The conference was the first one arranged by Frazer Hudson, editorial illustrator and lecturer at Hallam University, but plans are already underway for next year's, so it
I've finally started my winter painting for 2010! Off to a slow start because I'm busy with other deadlines but here it is. "Into the Atom Age"... which was from a sketch I had and was going to make a graphic novel about it but there was another idea that was way more pressing. I'm coming to the last stretch of doing the art for that and thinking about a few other stories I'm working on.
As always, this painting is available as a print on www.imagekind.com along with a bunch of other art that I do. Check it out!
Happy Easter you guys! To celebrate spring I've created these two Abstract Variations. Sunshine and warmth are on the way people! Hal-ay-lu-ya!
OK, I know you're bored with me banging on about my holiday now, but there's a nice story I want to tell, before we move on.
During our first day on Procida, strolling the streets, getting the lie of the land, we peered through the open door of a massive old church. Inside, instead of the usual icons and statues, were slender, wooden easels, bound together in groups, displaying watercolours of the island. We went in for a nosy.
The work was lovely and, in a back corner beyond the paintings, an incongruous huddle of sofas and armchairs snuggled together around a rug. We were welcomed enthusiastically by two men and, in broken English, they explained that the elder, Enzo Campanino, was a painter and lecturer, his companion, a poet.
The exhibition was part of an Artists' Collective they had recently formed on the island, including musicians and writers, as well as painters. We were later joined by a pianist, although unfortunately she spoke no English at all (and my Italian is more or less limited to buon giorno).
Well, I couldn't resist it: I whipped out my sketchbook (ever the show-off) and showed them the drawings I'd done in the mountains. That was it: we were shown to the comfy chairs and presented with cake and glasses of Lemoncello (the delicious local tipple). I was given a huge guestbook and asked to do a drawing of Enzo.
I did my best (the pressure of proper portraiture is always a bit daunting). In return, Enzo gave me a lovely watercolour sketch as a memento:
I came away feeling wonderful. The exchange of work and ideas is such a lovely thing to share. Hello and thank you to Enzo and the artists of Procida if you are reading this!
A title to keep you guessing, eh?
Well, 'Mouldy' is fab author/illustrator Chris Mould, currently Artist in Residence at Dean Clough, a gargantuan, restored carpet mill, now a business and arts complex in Halifax. That's Chris above, in his studio space at the mill.
I absolutely love Chris's drawings, so it was wonderful to visit Dean Clough on Wednesday and see his room wallpapered in spidery, biro roughs.
The day came about because Chris invited author Caryl Hart and myself to give a short talk about our work to students on an art and illustration course, run by painter John Ross (he in the befittingly arty beret!):
After lunch, Chris took Caryl and myself on a tour of Dean Clough's galleries, introducing us to other Artists-in-Residence, who very kindly showed us their studio spaces and work in progress.
I was particularly taken with the gorgeous colours and textures in Doug Binder's paintings (his space was filled with that lovely oil-paint smell that reminded me of my Grandad's painting shed):
It has been a very busy, but smashing week: Monday in Nottingham, Tuesday in London (more later), Wednesday in Halifax and, as you read this, I will be at Ireby Music Festival in the Lake District. This time I will be in the audience for once! I packed a sketchbook though...
By: Steve Morrison,
By: DIANE SMITH
Blog: DIANE SMITH: Illo Talk
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|Studied this period in college - LOVED IT!|
These past few weeks have been a whirlwind of planning, ordering supplies, phone calls, emails...but it looks I will have full classes, or near full, for the first installments of my art class series for kids. I've putting A LOT of time and thought into it, in spite of the fact that the decision to go forward was only made a few weeks ago. I hope people are as happy with the classes as I am.
|"Twittering Machine" - Paul Klee|
I've been on a search for reasonably priced reproductions to add to the few I've saved over the years - not an easy task. But, I think I've found some options. In the process of all this, however, I found myself back in the midst of some college art school feelings and memories. It seems so long ago...but then again, it doesn't. I can still smell the linseed oil and turpentine in the studio classrooms.
Anyway, that's when I was thoroughly drenched in the world of "fine art." I started to think about how I used to be able to frequent galleries and museums around L.A. - I'm especially missing the museums - there's nothing like seeing good work in real life. Books and prints can never seem to capture the whole impact of an artist's work. It's just not the same.
It's been fun browsing through all of the images available to view online (though not necessarily purchase or copy). It's made me remember how much I enjoy looking at GOOD art. For me, that mainly means representational work (not always, though - everything shown in this post are images I like). I do enjoy some abstract work, but it's hard for me to get excited about a giant gray square or drippy paint splatter
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We have an exciting lineup of guest authors this week on Book Bites for Kids, our LIVE radio show at blogtalkradio.com.
Monday, our guest will be YA novelist, Anne Gray, author of Rites of the Healer.
Sumach Press (Gray’s publisher) says, “Anne Gray creates a fascinating alternative world where the descendants of interplanetary colonists have built their society in a rich fusion of advanced technologies and ancient traditional ways of life. Sixteen-year-old Dovella is an engineering apprentice of great potential and talent, though her true vocation is for healing, for which she has a rare and extraordinary Gift. In four days, she is to go through the most important ceremony of her life, the Rites of the Healer, to join the ranks of the Healer’s Guild.”
On Tuesday’s show our guest will be Sally Rogow, author of They Must Not Be Forgotten (Heroic Priests and Nuns Who Saved People from the Holocaust), and Faces of Courage (Young Heroies of WWII).
On Wednesday, children’s author C.S. Larsen drops by to talk about his books and stories for children.
Stacey Kannenberg, coauthor (with Linda Desimowich) of the Let’s Get Ready series of books for young children and their parents is our guest for Thursday’s show.
On Friday, we’ll be talking with children’s author Rita Milios.
Listen to Book Bites for Kids LIVE every weekday afternoon at 2:00 (CST) or call in and ask questions or make comments by dialing 1-646-716-9239.
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I'm terribly obsessed with mermaids and doodle them on a constant basis. I even completed a plywood painting of one for the art walk last year. Perhaps I'll do one each year until I have 12 and publish a calendar? I know this is quite a horrible photograph but this particular mermaid is on a canvas I'd never dream of scanning... it's just too big! I'll update you on this as I have time to work on it (which these days is less and less).
And alas... here is my favorite studio lamp - bought at a thrift store for $8!
* A side note for those who have been inquiring about this year's artwalk: I decided not to do it this year opting for a holiday with my family.