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Creator Spotlight: Jeremy Bastian

Our interns recently braved the wild seas to get a chance to chat with Jeremy Bastian, Creator of Cursed Pirate Girl. He made most of them walk the plank, but one returned with this great interview.

Where did the idea for the story of Cursed Pirate Girl come from?

Jeremy: I think it really boils down to my love of illustration and fairy tales.  I wanted to create an epic fairy tale with a nautical theme.  One book in particular that I grew up with was The Ship’s Cat written by Richard Adams and illustrated by Alan Aldridge.  This book really captivated me in its elegant detail, and grotesque characters.  There was a certain olde world charm to the design as well and I cherished that. Later I fell into the worlds of the Brothers Grimm and Greek mythology.  I, like the similarly named main character of The NeverEnding Story had trouble keeping my feet on the ground.  I was too busy drawing unicorns and little skeleton guys with pirate costumes and suits of armor.  Cursed Pirate Girl is just the culmination of all that practice I started in the 2nd grade.

With all those details how long does it take you to do a page?

Jeremy: Well, right now I average a page a week.  I have been extremely spoiled as far as deadlines are concerned.  My first editor at Olympian Publishing told me not to worry about deadlines, it’s the book and the art that makes it up that is more important.  This isn’t exactly the normal practice for any publisher, but he really saw potential in what I was trying to do.  I have to say I have gotten slower since the first chapter of Cursed Pirate Girl but it definitely shows in what I’m able to put into a page now.

What kind of materials do you use to produce your work?

Jeremy: The tools that work for me are these: Yatsutomo Grip 500 0.5mm mechanical pencil that I sketch and draw everything with.  A Pentel Clic eraser.  A Micron size 01, which I use only for word balloon outlines and drawing in the gutters. An Escoda Kolinsky Tajmyr series 1212 size 2/0 (aka 00) brush, this is what I use to ink with.  The ink I’m using right now is Speedball Super Black and the paper is Rising Bristol Board 3 ply vellum surface, which I get in the big sheets and cut down myself to 9″X12″.  I work on Cursed Pirate Girl at actual print size, meaning everything in the book is exactly how big the original is drawn.

How do you create the designs for your characters?

Jeremy: Lots and lots of sketching.  Cursed Pirate Girl was easy and PepperDice was easy.  The Swordfish brothers took a lot of redrawing and refining.  The idea for them came as I was writing out the script.  I wanted a pair like Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum but something more elegant, that when speaking would use a lot of “thee’s” and “thou’s” something that when reading, you could really get into the characters.  A lot of the character design is in the words they say.  I find when creating a character, if I can get some of their dialogue down and act the character out a bit, it makes the process a lot more fun.  I act out every panel, whether it’s to get the dialogue right or just to get the poses I need for that panel, it’s the best way to make it sound and look more human.

How greatly do 19th century illustrators influence you?

Jeremy: A great deal.  I have many books on Arthur Rackham, Kay Nielsen, Edmund Dulac, Gustave Dore and Walter Crane.  They are all my heroes.  And even further back in time Albrecht Durer, Hendrick Goltzius, William Hogarth, Thomas Rowlandson, Bernini, Jacques Callot and Karl Klimsch.  There was such a degree of craftsmanship back then and I am trying to recreate that as best I can.  I am completely obsessed with that world of illustration.  There is something in the line work of Dore that is so mythic and powerful I just fall into it.  And in the characters of Rackham there is so much joy and mischief I can’t help being in awe of the way he rends them.  And the details that Durer and Hogarth put into every image, there’s so much information from corner to corner.

Do you have any other projects coming out that we should look out for?

Jeremy: No, not really.  Cursed Pirate Girl takes up so much of my time I don’t have any left over.  Since the books take so long to work on, when I go to conventions I try to have something new every year.  So at the least I’ll have a new print here and there.  I also try to bring the latest page from the issue I’m currently working on to tease those who are big fans.

In an age of digital art, your style is very traditional.  Do you prefer an old fashioned approach to anything else in life, such as building a chair instead of buying one?

Jeremy: I do live in a stone cottage with my wife Emily and we raise sheep, chickens and ducks.  Emily spins the wool from the sheep fleeces into yarn and then knits with it.  And I am really looking forward to a lamb dinner someday; the rams are getting closer to the right age.  They are also giving the ewes the “hey there” look and with hay prices what they are this year due to the poor harvest in MI we aren’t looking to breed them this year, they’re looking tastier and tastier.  I would totally build my own furniture; I have even sketched out designs.  But, that would take time away from drawing.  Maybe after vol. 2 is finished.  I do chop all the fire wood for our wood stove, believe it or not that’s how we heat the house in the winter.  Propane is too expensive for a comic book artist.

If you would be king of an ocean, which ocean would you want to be ruler of and what would your title be?

Jeremy: I would probably go for the Arctic; I could carve a palace out of Ice. Emperor of the North.