Name: Nathan Bulmer
Location: Brooklyn, NY
Q: What are some of the main influences of your work? Do you have any advice for fighting creative block?
Comics, the news, everything?
For me, whenever I am having a huge creative block I like to take a walk and look at everything around me. I feel like there is at least one good joke attached to everything and I just need to find it. So, I tend to stare at random things for a while then continue to wander while pondering what could possibly be funny about it. If it’s crappy out, I lay on my futon and look at the ceiling while pondering what knowledge my brain might contain and if I can make fun of it somehow.
Q: How and when did you first become interested in art and illustration?
I became interested in drawing at a pretty young age. I was a big time ADD kid to the point that I would stand up and walk around the classroom because I was distracted by something on the wall. Concentration meds gave me facial twitches so I stopped taking those. Eventually I found out that as long as I was drawing I could sit at my desk and listen to what was going on and started to incorporate drawings into my class notes. So, I was basically drawing for 6+ hours a day while at school and decided that that wasn’t such a bad thing to be doing. I continued to be ADD and wanting to draw so I rode that wave through college and grad school.
Q: What is the first thing you do when you start working? Any warm-up rituals?
When I first sit down to draw comics I tend to draw out the panels and then sign it at the bottom. I look at it and feel like, ‘Welp, you kind of have to make something awesome now, your name is attached to it.’
My brain comes up with the best ideas when I’m not thinking directly about what I’m doing. So, I usually play a crappy game on my phone or listen to a little music to loosen up because I feel like my brain is being stimulated, but not enough that a stray thought about a joke can’t sneak its way in.
Q: Can you briefly explain your illustration process?
Unfortunately this isn’t terribly exciting. I have been doing all of my work purely with a Pentel P205 0.5mm technical pencil on acid-free computer paper. Then I drop the drawing into Photoshop and use that to darken the lines and do a little clean up. Then I use a Wacom Intous4 PTK-840 if what I’m working on needs any digital coloring. Sadly, I’ve let watercolors fall to the wayside recently. Hopefully I’ll get those back up and running some time soon.
Q: You do a ton of comics on your blog Eat More Bikes. How did that get started, and do you have any advice for others interested in web comics?
While at SVA for grad school I got serious about wanting to make comics. I worked closely with Mark Newgarden who kicked my ass (in a good way) and taught me a lot about structuring comics, creating a quality product, and creating a strong work ethic. I was also privileged to be working with and around a ton of super talented people in school, including comics folks like Scott Campbell, Brendan Leach, Josh Bayer, and Anne Emond. Seeing some of the work they were producing made me feel like I needed to bust my ass and find a good outlet for my work.
After I got out of grad school I knew I was at risk of falling out of practice and watching TV all day. I saw my friend Anna Raff working on a daily project and felt like creating a daily deadline for myself was a good way to ensure I was constantly working. At first it was just drawings and more illustration-y kind of work, but as I kept doing it the drawing aspect got pushed to the side by the comics and I haven’t looked back since.
The advice stuff is hard because I think there are tons of different things you can do and ways you can do it, and, hell, I’m still figuring it out myself! But, here are a few things that could be helpful:
-Make comics for yourself that you enjoy making. Don’t think in terms of whether something you make is going to go viral or not.
-Keep a regular update schedule. Working regularly not only helps your comics get better, but readers like something that they know they can depend on for consistent new content.
-Let people know that you’re making stuff. Hand out mini comics of your work, e-mail blogs you think would dig your comics, put your comics on the bulletin board at the local grocery store,
-Don’t pester anyone though and thank people, thanking people is always a good thing.
It can be a slow process to get people to take notice, so don’t get discouraged if you don’t get tons of hits after doing some form of promo.
There are many many other things, but like I said, some of it is just figuring out what works best for you.
Q: What was your first illustration gig?
After I got out of high school I interned at Seattle Magazine and they had a last minute blurb that needed an illustration and gave me a shot. It was something about needing to work out the brain like a muscle, so I went with ‘brain in a sweatband going for a jog.’ I never did another illustration for them.
Q: What’s a project you’d like to work on? Is there an artist you’d like to collaborate with?
I’ve always been interested in trying to work more with animation. I wish I had more time and knowledge to be able to animate some of my comics.
There are hundreds of artists I would love to work with. I’ve learned a lot working around other people whose stuff looks and feels nothing like mine. Right now I wouldn’t mind sitting around and doodling with Joseph Lambert; that dudes stuff constantly blows my mind. His style and techniques are incredible and in my interactions with him he is a nice humble dude, which also helps.
Q: What has been your favorite Ten Paces swap so far? If you had to add a theme to the line-up, what would it be?
Since I’ve only participated in two so far I’m going to go outside of those and say that I really enjoyed seeing the Heavy Metal exchange. There are some amazing pieces in that one. And I am kind of a train dork, so I would say a train theme would be pretty sweet.
Q: What are some of your favorite things to do outside of making awesome illustrations?
Collecting records, my two main collections are old soul 45s and 90’s hip-hop twelve inch singles. When I’m not working it’s reading comics, watching movies, and spending time with my lady that usually fills up the rest of my time.
Q: What are some of your favorite things about where you live? How does Brooklyn / New York inspire you?
New York is pretty insane. I love it because there is always something you could be doing. Usually you aren’t doing it, but knowing that you could be is comforting in some way. You see some pretty amazing things happen here too, it is constantly a study in human behavior. It’s hard not to find some sort of inspiration after a long walk.
Q: Which of your illustrations is your favorite so far - or if you had to choose a piece from your portfolio to represent yourself, which would it be?
I think one of my favorite pieces I’ve done is a watercolored drawing I did for an art show benefitting the relief efforts after the earthquake in Japan. I based the piece off of an experience I had during a trip to Tokyo where I met a friend for beers and ice cream then we cruised around the town on her bike. The piece shows how peaceful and nice it was. It doesn’t show the part where we were stopped by the police, but that might be a story for another time or art show…
Q: What are you currently working on? Do you have any new and exciting projects coming up?
A whole bunch of stuff I am excited about! I am going to have new comics in Suspect Device 2, the new Rabid Rabbit, and a Spanish fan zine called Migas. I’ll have art in the Pokemon: Battle Royale show (which is being put on in collaboration with Ten Paces FYI); Dustin Harbin and I are going to try and cook up something special for that. There are a couple other things in the works that will be amazing when they happen.
Q: Is there anything else we should know about you, or your illustration work?
I met Andre 3000 in an elevator once. Everything about him was so cool it made me feel bad about myself.
Find Nathan on the web: Portfolio | Blog | Twitter