Hire This Woman: Artist Nen
In the overwhelmingly male comic book industry, it has been a challenge for some editors and readers to see the ever growing number of talented women currently trying to make a name for themselves. With that in mind, ComicsAlliance offers Hire This Woman, a recurring feature designed for comics readers as well as editors and other professionals, where we shine the spotlight on a female comics pro on the ascendance. Some of these women will be at the very beginning of their careers, while others will be more experienced but not yet “household names.”
Painter Nen has primarily worked on things like trading cards, gaming art, and character designs, but is currently working on her own fully painted graphic novel, Iscariot. Nen is also a graduate of Savannah’s College of Art and Design with a degree in Sequential Art.
ComicsAlliance: What is your preferred form of creative output?
Nen: My preferred media is watercolor and my preferred output is illustration. Currently, I primarily work as a character designer, costume designer, and character illustrator for tabletop games — lots of fantasy stuff with some of my own stylistic twists thrown in to make things unique. I’m also pursuing a lot of cover and pinup work for comics and novels at the moment.
CA: Do you work on paper or digitally? Why?
N: I work traditionally through my whole process, except for some of my larger paintings where I sketch things small and blow up the original sketch to a massive size, just to save on time because of time constraints of deadlines and such. I typically will sketch an image, tighten up the pencils, ink it pretty tight in red multiliners, and then paint on top of that. There’s something sterile about painting and drawing on the computer that I just couldn’t get myself to accept. Nothing smudges. You don’t get any paint or ink under your nails.
CA: What’s your background/training?
N: I started peddling art at conventions when I was 15 years old. As soon as I graduated high school, I started showing my work in galleries. Back then, I was doing what everyone called Low Brow or Shock art, but I was mostly just juxtapozing the beautiful with the grotesque. Lots of intestines in those days.
After three years, I got into Savannah College of Art and Design and got a degree in Sequential Art. I learned a lot about storytelling there and I honed my painting skills on my own while I did it.
CA: How would you describe your creative style?
N: I like to create new things, new people who populate new worlds. I somehow manage to balance extreme imagery with subtle character cues, and I still balance the beautiful and the grotesque in my paintings. I always like to make things a little bit ugly. My paintings are a careful combination of meticulous detail and the barely controlled thrown watercolor backgrounds.
I guess I like to combine opposing concepts and ideas.
CA: What projects have you worked on in the past? What are you currently working on?
N: Recently, I illustrated a card game called Shinobi Clans by Posthuman Studios that’ll be coming out in August this year, debuting at GenCon in Indianapolis. It’s already available for pre-order online. I also contributed a few illustrations to Project Paradigm by Eschaton Media which has been on sale since August 2013.
Currently, I’m working on a few paintings for a gallery showing that I want to pursue. I’m also working on my personal project, a graphic novel called Iscariot, that’ll be watercolored from cover to cover, written by myself. It’s a surreal horror book about two Asian-American girls, Roger and Locke, fighting over a heart transplant. It deals a lot with what happens to girls as they grow up, broken families, and internal cultural oppositions.
In the near future, I’ll be illustrating a source book for Pantheon Press (title not yet known) and several other tabletop projects. I’m also in discussions about cover work for a comic, so that’s exciting too!
CA: Approximately how long does it take you to draw a 20-page issue?
N: It takes me around 20-40 hours to put out a promotional character illustration for a card game or source book, but my full on paintings can take up to 100 hours, with my high end paintings (around 2’x3′ or so) can take 150-200 hours. I like to design my pages in double page spreads, so it maybe takes around 40-50 hours for a two page spread, but it really depends on how involved the page is. That’s from thumbnail, to pencil, to ink,, to paint.
CA: What is your dream project?
N: Iscariot has been something that I’ve wanted to do for years and years, but only recently have I found myself to be mature enough to handle the subject matter appropriately. I used to work on a project with Sloane Leong called Maschinell and I would love to team up with her again someday when we both have the time!
CA: Who are some comics creators that inspire you?
N: I grew up on the work of Yoshitaka Amano and I’m still very influenced by him. I also really like Hiroaki Samura. They’re both very expressive. Brom’s character designs have always been inspiring. Menton3’s dark haunting paintings are always in my mind. Templesmith’s impulsive, quick work is something that will always be inspiring to me. Other artists I like include Egon Schiele, Etsuko Miura, Takato Yamamoto, Hans Bellmer, and Elizabeth McGrath. The clothing designs of H.Naoto really influenced me when I was young, but now the design work of Alexander McQueen is what I aspire to
CA: What are some comics that have inspired you either growing up or as an adult?
N: When I was like 9, I used to trace every page of every issue of Uncanny X-Men. That was back when Joe Mad was doing it. It was right around the time my father died. Before then, my dad had collected X-Men cards with me–I still have stacks and stacks of them. So I guess that’s what I turned to after that. I grew up reading Battle Angel Alita by Yukito Kishiro and Rumiko Takahashi’s Ranma ½. In my adult years, it’s been mostly painters and concept artists, but I really love Blade of the Immortal by Hiroaki Samura. Chew was also a fantastic book. Menton3’s Memory Collectors is a gorgeous book as well.
CA: What’s your ideal professional environment?
N: A large, wood floored studio with lots of huge tables, room for my easel, tons of light, and a magical cup that refills with coffee whenever I want.
CA: What do you most want our readers and industry professionals to know about your work?
N: I’m always looking to do something fresh and exciting. I’m unflinching and unafraid of the dark parts of the human psyche, and I really like exploring those nooks and crannies where people don’t like to go. I’m also really happy just painting pictures of ladies in fancy dresses. I just really like painting, and as long as I’m painting, everything is good.
CA: How can editors and readers keep up with your work and find your contact information?
If there is a woman you’d like to recommend or if you’d like to be included in a future installment of this feature, drop us a line at comicsalliance-at-gmail-dot-com with “Hire This Woman” in the subject line.