Hello my name is Damian Willcox (follow me on Instagram, Facebook, and visit my website!) and I’m from Calgary, Alberta, Canada. My job is software design (UX), and my unrelenting curse that refuses to release me from its icy talons of unending creation and torment is comics and art.
I started drawing in the back of my schoolbooks around grade 5, and never really figured out how to stop. Later on, I decided not go to art college, but instead, go to a college RIGHT NEXT to an art college.
Two Related Points of Interest :
- I never thought I wanted art to be a job. (still true…i think)
- Side benefit of getting cheap art supplies across campus at the adjacent art school proved to be a wonderful thing.
damian vs painting
In college, I knew nothing about painting – so I bought a bunch of acrylic paints and forced myself to figure it out. I really enjoyed acrylics and especially liked the fact that mistakes could be painted over and tried again – this was easier than the ink drawings that I was also doing, and not like the transparent drawing inks I was using around this time either (watercolour-like, but permanent as they contained shellac and could not be reworked, etc).
damian vs comics
Perhaps more notably, it was around this time that I began making comics – barring the “RoboBill” series I made in grade 8 involving the lead character of RoboBill who was a combination of Robocop and Saturday Night Live’s Mr. Bill character (all issues are nowhere to be found and likely lost in a move back then).
I began a series called “dorkboy” in college and have kept making and self publishing my comics in print and web for a bit more than 20 years (yikes….pauses….questions life choices…continues writing this article).
The majority of this time was focused on pen and ink, technical pens, linework and lettering and not too much colour.
I had more or less stopped painting for many years to focus on comic work which prompted encouraging comments from family members such as “whatever happened to those nice paintings you used to do?” and from coworkers “I knew you did cartoons, but I didn’t know you were an artist” upon seeing my old acrylic paintings….and herein lied the problem with my first foray into painting: I never combined my cartoon/comic work with painting.
damian vs watercolour (a love story)
About 5 years ago, I decided to do something I hate – learn watercolours. I had only seen fruit bowls and flowers depicted with watercolours, and so really didn’t know how to fit them into my art world. They seemed difficult because, well… they are difficult.
At the same time, following the age old adage of ‘Misery loves company’ I also decided to do something else that I hated – learning the traditional cartoonists tool: inking with a brush.
It was an unholy union of self inflicted pen? pain? as I attempted to learn to control the feather touch unwieldy line weights of a brush pen for my inked line work while at the same time combining watercolours into my artwork without mudding everything into oblivion.
Fast forward a few years and I LOVE brush inking and watercolour – it is by far my preferred tool and medium at this point. Of course, this combination of watercolour and ink is less welcomed by watercolour purist communities, so I was really happy to discover Charlie’s “World Watercolour Group” recently that welcomes all watercolour users!
With my newfound combination of tools, I continued making comics, but also began some outdoor sketching/urban sketching which was a nice counterbalance to my cartoon work and I believe helped strengthen aspects of it.
damian vs process
My approach to my work varies…I either use VERY light and loose pencil to layout an idea or no pencil at all as I like my ink lines to not be “traced” over pencil, but have their own spontaneity. I often will ink first (Kaimei or Kuretake brush pen fuelled with waterproof Platinum Carbon ink cartridges – or use technical pens or fountain pens with waterproof ink for simple linework/lettering), and then watercolour over top. I have tried several brands, but primarily use Holbein and will sometimes use a few Daniel Smith colours.
For outdoor sketching I sometimes mix it up – watercolour first, ink later, or ink first and watercolour later. For my cartoons and comics I always ink first.
damian vs inspiration
I guess my main inspiration is usually comedy – I like to start with an idea that feels funny or clever, or might inspire a bit of emotion in people….or at the very least if it does in me, then I want to bring it into existence. Inspiration can come from anywhere so I tend to carry notebooks and scribble down ideas on post-its, or capture them on my phone, etc and turn them into cartoons, comics and so on as soon as possible.
I also have a tendency to see how far I can take a joke…and then take it WAY beyond that – because of this, I end up with self forming ‘series’ such as my collection of Egg pieces as part of World Watercolor Month, and Zilla cartoons which ended up having a sub series where I injected the Zillas into multiple classic works of art.
Another huge influence is the traditional art of Japanese wood block prints – I think this is mostly due to the fact they most closely resemble what I hope to aspire to with ink and watercolour with their brilliant colours and dark line work.
I don’t know that I will ever be a good artist, but my main focus is to keep making art, comics, etc that people can get something out of…and as soon as I finish one piece, don’t linger over it, but just move on to the next one and hopefully improve as I go.
Creating art and comics also serves as an important stress balancer I have found over the years – sometimes artwork created vs stress received is proportional and other times inversely proportional. Regardless, I can’t stop, and have no intention to.
Thanks very much Charlie O’Shields and Doodlewash for featuring me as a guest artist – a hugely unexpected and very appreciated honour.