Yes, I did one of these too. I’d wanted to for a while, and finally got some time. Settle in, because this is a long one.
A couple things first:
1) I had originally sat down to do a full-on “Inspiration Map” including all the stuff that inspires me – artists, writers, movies, music, Bioware games, and so on – but the list just got too long. In the end, I’d have had to either cut a bunch of uncuttable stuff, or make it all too tiny. So instead I decided to go strictly “Influence Map” and chart the people who directly influenced my artistic style.
2) Furthermore, I specifically chose only the artists that DIRECTLY influenced me, and showed images from the era in which I was most influenced by them. I could have been all fancy and thrown out names from classical art or style originators, but if I’m being honest with myself (and you) I only found those classic guys because I was following these guys here. There are a lot of artists I admire and who inspire me, but these people are the ones I looked to as a developing artist all the way back to childhood and who I actively aped and mimicked and drew from to learn.
So here we go, in order of page size (but not order of preference):
Adam Hughes: This is the big one. I have had a deep, close relationship with this guy’s body of work since I was just a kid. I can’t point to any one thing that his work taught me, because I’ve learned so much from all of it. I continue to pick up little things here and there from looking at his work. I started following him with Justice League International and I’ve watched everything he’s done since. Huge inspiration, huge influence on my style. Not only did I learn a lot from looking at and studying his own work, but through him I also discovered Alphonse Mucha, Dave Stevens, and a host of other artists who have also inspired me, but as I said above – I only found them because I loved this guy’s work that much. All credit to them I have to give first to him.
J. Scott Campbell: You’re gonna notice that basically all the guys from Cliffhanger comics are on this map. That was the time in my life where I was first really reaching out and trying to study the kind of artist I wanted to be. And in that era, I latched onto Campbell as one of my icons. Gen 13 and Danger Girl were monumental pieces of my developmental artistic life – particularly the Danger Girl Sketchbook. Seriously, I studied that thing like it was a schoolbook. Later in life when I was actually teaching comic art classes, I recommended it to kids right along with Understanding Comics by McCloud and the iconic How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way. You can see a lot of Campbell in my faces and certain anatomical bits, but also the fun-factor I try and bring to my artwork.
Chris Bachalo: Good gravy, this guy. From Bachalo, I learned a love of tiny details and pages with tons of stuff to look at. You can see lots of Bachalo in my anatomy and armor and the details I do. I loved Generation X, I loved his run on X-Men, but what I REALLY loved was Steampunk. That book was glorious. You can find whole chunks of my old sketchbooks where I was just copying Bachalo. As a kid, copying was the only way I knew of to learn an artist’s tricks and figure out why he did what he did. Then, as I grew more comfortable with what I’d learned, I put the comics away and tried standing on my own two feet. I learned a lot from that, and I still have a lot of him in my style today.
Comfort Love: What can I say about my best friend in the world? We’ve been artistic partners for what seems like forever. We started dating back in the halcyon days of 2000 and have ever since been the most consistent and persistent sounding boards of each others’ artwork. She’s the one I go to when I’m not sure about something I’m doing. She taught me tons about color – hell; I don’t think I would be able to color today if not for her. She’s just awesome. And since we’ve been literally working over each other’s art for the last 4-5 years, we’ve grown even closer in style and form. Marrying her was the smartest thing I ever did.
Mike Wieringo: To this day he’s one of my strongest “Accidental Likenesses.” Meaning I’ll often doodle a face and sit back and think “Holy cow – that totally looks like a Ringo drawing.” I was a big, big fan of his Flash run with Mark Waid, and then he went on to work on Robin - one of my favorite characters. Having one artist on two of my favorite comics back to back was awesome. As a kid I wanted to BE this man, I loved his work so much. It was revolutionary to me, when everything else at the time was so cross-hatchey and dark.
Joe Madureira: What teenage wannabe comic artist in the 90’s WASN’T influenced by Joe Mad? His run on X-Men was legendary, but when he launched Battle Chasers his style really took off. Joe was a bridge for me between the more animated guys I liked and the more realistic guys. He was also one of the most dynamic artists of his day, by my reckoning. You can still see several Joe Mad bits in my artwork to this day. I wish he was doing more work, but it’s enough for me to be able to pull out Battle Chasers and remember the glory.
Travis Charest: One of those guys I love because I could never be the kind of artist he is. I just can’t wire my brain to do the kind of work he’s capable of. But from him I learned a lot about bringing realistic touches into my work. Every time you see seams on my clothing, ribbing on my belts, buttons on jackets – even certain folds and crease styles, it’s all thanks to watching Charest’s work, particularly his inspiring run on WildCATS. I spent a lot of time trying to copy him and absorbing him into my style. Even though you wouldn’t immediately notice his style in mine, I learned a lot from him.
Kevin Maguire: Justice League International was the first comic I collected heavily as a kid. It introduced me to Maguire and Hughes, and I think because of that I have always placed a high premium on an artist’s ability to make his characters emote and express themselves visually on a page. Maguire made me want my characters to have feelings I could see, not just be the same cookie-cutter iconic faces every time. Let them risk looking silly because in the end it makes them much more human and endearing to the audience.
Chris Sprouse: I literally remember flipping through an issue of Legionnaires when I was 12 years old and realizing that I could draw lips on male characters. It was one of those “Ah-HA!!!” moments that opened floodgates of artistic discovery. Suddenly I was looking at everything more closely and realizing all these things about drawing the human figure I’d totally missed. His run on Legionnaires taught me tons, including influencing a growing love of simplistic, iconic costume design. The Legion never looked as good as they did in the costumes he gave them.
Bengus (aka CRMK): Might seem out of place in a list dominated by American comic artists, but when I saw the artwork for the Street Fighter Zero (Alpha) series, I was blown away. When I got Street Fighter Alpha 3, I literally tried to recreate his art style in my own just to figure out how he made such simple linework look so effortless and intricate. I learned a lot about clean linework thanks to this guy, and it opened me up to a whole other style of illustration.
Alex Ross: Bet you never expected this guy on my list. What I learned from Alex Ross was how to build and dress heroes in a way that was realistic but still larger-than-life. He is still the only ultra-realistic artist I know of who can still make his imagery feel epic and fantastical. He does realism without nailing his characters’ feet to the floor. He doesn’t take the “Super” out of his heroes, he just adds dimension. After Kingdom Come, I stopped drawing superhero costumes that looked like they were painted onto naked bodies and took an interest in how fabric actually works over a human form.
So there you go. These are the people most directly responsible for me being the artist I am today. There are lots of others who contributed in little ways, but these are the big’uns. This compilation was a lot of fun for me, but also really kind of introspective. As I pulled these images together, I could literally watch as my own artistic me emerged. I look at that spread and I can easily see all the pieces of how I came to be. What a fun trip down memory lane.