Interview with Brian Atkins, Art Moderator at Comics Experience

ComicsExperience_logo Brian Atkins is a familiar face around the Creators Workshop, and you’ll been seeing him around more lately as the Art Moderator here at Comics Experience! Get to know him and what he’s been up to when ensuring that Creators Workshop participants enjoy more opportunities to become the comic book professionals they’ve always wanted to be.

Comics Experience: Can you give us an overview of your professional background?

Brian Atkins: Primarily, my history in working in art professionally is outside comics. I started off as a graphic designer. I took enough classes in it to land me a job at a graphic design shop working mostly on school mascots, rings, and shirt designs. I worked [on] graphic design full-time and drew comics at night for a couple of years and didn’t sleep. After landing enough issues with Moonrise Comics and other small press publishers to float me for a few months, I quit graphic design and made comics/illustration my full-time. I work freelance and have done comic art, character design, toy box art, children’s books, book illustration, portraits, logo design, and media property option packages since leaving my graphic design start.

CE: How did your education and training in graphic design help prepare you for a career in comics? How will it shape your approach to serving as Comics Experiences’ Art Moderator?

BA: In the graphic design field, you don’t spend much time designing. The client needs a logo yesterday, and it needs to convey everything the company is about. On top of that, the person who needs to approve it knows nothing about art or the psychology behind what you do. You spend 1/5th of your time making the design, 3/5th of your time explaining why you did it that way, and another 1/5th making revisions that didn’t need to be made. Long story short, I’ve had LOTS of practice explaining the how and why to people. The difference here is [that] the people reading what I’m saying are awesome and want to know more.

CE: What are some interesting intersections between graphic design and comics that people might not know about?

BA: Graphic design is a study in shapes and composition. Most people think it’s just font play, but it’s really about setting the right mood and getting a viewer or client to look where you want them. That more than anything has directly applied to comics. [With] each panel, you need to lay out the shapes of the characters and objects and direct the viewer to what you want them to see – all while conveying the correct mood or style. It also helped me learn that, many times, going simple is the answer. A simple solution to a design problem is still a solution. Same thing with panel layouts, compositions, or staging.

CE: What do you find most appealing about comics as a medium? What are some of your favorite titles? Creators?

BA: I found out about myself as an artist that I love telling a story. I initially wanted to be a children’s book artist because I loved the way they told a page’s worth of story in one picture. I loved the visual clues and interplay between characters that told a story. Comics are a fantastic medium for telling a story. There is a great balance between the art and the words working together to craft something compelling. A fantastic showing of this is the Fraction/Aja Hawkeye run. Wonderful storytelling. Other books and creators I really look forward to reading are Kirkman/Ottley on Invincible; I enjoy Rat Queens, Azzarello/Chiang’s Wonder Woman, and anything drawn by [Stuart] Immonen.

CE: What goals are you hoping to accomplish as Art Moderator? What are you looking forward to the most?

BA: I was really lucky to have Robert Atkins as a brother. For many reasons, but for this conversation he really taught me just about everything I know about comics. By learning and working in the field, Robert then passed on that knowledge to me little by little. I hope to pass on the advantage that I received in much the same way I got it. Some advice here and there, drawovers to explain, lots and lots of encouragement, and a willingness to sit down and explain the why. Comics can be a hard field to work in, but I find many of the creators are open to sharing and helping others improve their craft. Comics Experience exemplifies this principle, and I want to continue that.

CE: How has your work grown and changed as a result of your involvement with the Creators Workshop?

BA: When working on deadlines, it’s easy to go with what you know works and plateau as an artist. Being a part of the forums gets me thinking of how I can improve my own pages. It also reminds me of the basics as I share those tidbits with others. I can honestly say that moderating the CE art forum was just the boost I was looking for.

We’re all excited to have Brian on board. Please join us in welcoming him to the team!


If you want to make comics, write, draw, letter, and color comics, or improve as a comics creator, you’ll find like-minded friends and colleagues in our online workshops and courses. We hope to see you there!

Posted by Meredith Nudo