Eastbourne resident and celebrated British comics artist Chris Weston has worked in both the US and UK comics industries, collaborating with Grant Morrison, Warren Ellis and Garth Ennis, and will take part in the first Brighton Illustration Fair this weekend.
What’s your connection to the East Sussex region and Brighton in particular?
I moved to Eastbourne, 25 miles east of Brighton in 1979 at the age of ten. I never managed to achieve any sort of “escape velocity” and have remained in the sun trap of the South ever since. Eastbourne’s a lovely place to live but it has been nice to have somewhere a bit more exciting like Brighton on the doorstep.
Can you briefly elaborate on your creative process, mediums used etc? Do you strictly take the traditional route (pencil/inks) or do you also dabble with digital art?
I still create my art traditionally, on paper with pens… despite my younger colleagues’ insistence that I purchase a Cintiq. My work has been very photo-based up to now, but as I get older I can feel myself moving away from using photo reference. My work’s becoming a bit looser and messier as a result.
You have collaborated in the past with three of the greatest British comics writers working in mainstream American comics today (with Grant Morrison on The Filth, Warren Ellis on Ministry of Space and Garth Ennis on Enemy Ace).
How did the process change from writer to writer? Was it always full script or ‘Marvel Method‘?
Garth always presented the tidiest scripts: complete, finished & hand-typed on a vintage type-writer.
I tended to get my scripts from Grant via fax, and they weren’t always complete, sometimes the dialogue was missing or would be rewritten after I had done the art.
Warren tended to send pages of script in fragments, a page or two at a time, and I would be pretty much drawing the art at the same time as he was writing the book.
None of them used the ‘Marvel Method’. Personally I think any artist who draws a ‘Marvel Method’ script should get a co-writer credit as he or she are involved in the telling of the story.
In which case was your contribution more felt?
The Filth and Ministry of Space felt very much like co-creations and I had a big input on the finished projects; a total free hand in the design & the world-building. Subsequently, I don’t think the reading experience would have been the same if some-one else drew it.
I don’t think I can say that for Garth’s work, which was much more reference-derived. It was very much a work-for-hire situation, with little creative input from me. On both the books I did for Garth, Johann’s Tiger and Enemy Ace, I was a last minute replacement for other artists who would probably have done a better job than me, had they been able.
You have worked as a conceptual artist on high profile Hollywood projects like The Book of Eli and the aborted live-action Akira movie; is this something that came by chance or is it a field that you are genuinely interested in?
Creating art from movies was always one of my long-term ambitions, and I only wish I had pushed myself in that direction earlier. I’m a huge film fan, and fascinated by the concept art and storyboard process that helps movies to get made. I think I can trace that right back to Ralph McQuarrie’s amazing work for Star Wars.
Do you mind being part of a larger creative machine where your contribution to the final project is almost anonymous?
You definitely need to suppress your ego working in films; far more than in comics. I’m not there to realise MY visions for the film, I’m there to serve the director and drag out the imagery he sees in his head. That can be a long & frustrating process, but it’s far better paid than comics and sometimes I get to go work abroad in the company of famous actors, so the trade off is worth it.
But I like to keep a foot in both camps, and returning to the creative freedom of comics can be a real tonic after the intensity of working on a film.
Are there any future movie projects that you can share with us?
Yeah, I’m involved in two exciting film projects… I can’t say much about them, but one is a period gangster movie and the other is a prehistoric epic!
Your limited prints show a passion for classic ’70s and ’80s sci fi movies.
I’m showing my age I guess. Yeah, I do love old sci-fi films, but even more I loved the hand-painted, non-photoshopped posters they used to sell them. It’s great fun to try and recreate that type of art.
You seem to be fascinated with bringing a certain realism to classic British science fiction comic heroes, like Dan Dare, as well as American Golden Age comics characters (most notably in Marvel’s The Twelve).
Darwyn Cooke recently voiced his dismay of being typecast in a similar role, thus limiting his opportunities as a freelancer in the market; are you afraid of being typecast or is this a role you gladly take on?
I LOVE classic British sci-fi comic heroes like Dan Dare, so I relish any chance to work in that area. I think my days drawing super-heroes may be over, however. I appreciate that people like them, but they don’t stoke my creative fire any more.
Five things/people inspiring you/your work right now:
1. Mad Max: Fury Road… possibly the most enjoyable night out at the cinema I’ve had since I was twelve. I literally can’t stop thinking about it.
2. Karl Fitzgerald, who was supposed to be my apprentice, but who has ended up teaching ME far more artistic tricks than I could show him. than I could show him. He’s going to be a big name.
3. BBC 6Music, a constant companion to my creative process, drip-feeding me with classic rock and modern indie music.
4. Rob Williams, my current favourite comic writer, and one whose outlook and humour mirrors my own. I need to work with him more!
5. Exercise. I’ve recently decided to improve my lifestyle, health-wise. I visit a chiropracter regularly, cycle more, walk more and have even begun a small exercise regime in the morning. I feel much better for it.
Obviously, the greatest comics creator of all time is…
Jean “Moebius” Giraud. He had a thousand different styles and techniques, and was a master of all of them. Despite his vast array of styles, they were all unmistakably his. His ideas are flawlessly rendered and are simultaneously quirky, mischievious, spiritual and soulful.
Any current/future projects and events you can share with us?
Oh, the usual madness: various film projects I can’t talk about; doing some more Dredd with Rob Williams, hopefully some new creator-owned stories, more silkscreen prints and commissions… the usual madness!
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