Comic conventions are an endless sea of creative talent. I began my journey onto the con scene in search of connecting with the celebrities that bring my favorite characters to life. What I’ve realized is that without the skilled individuals responsible for creating those characters and the imaginative world in which they live, I have no connection. I’ve since made it my mission to learn about the artists, the writers, the creators and all those that work tirelessly to share their passion with the world.
A Fan Feast For The Eyes
It was during my first Heroes and Villains Fan Fest (HVFF) that I noted all of the amazing artwork around me. Excited fans holding cherished pieces as they waited in line to have it signed by their favorite celebrity. To me, there is no better way to commemorate your experience than with something that touches your heart. Thankfully, Fan Fest offers an incredible array of artistic talent from which to choose. I am grateful to those that have taken time out of their busy schedules to speak to me. In return for their graciousness, I will be publishing a monthly artist feature to showcase their talents and individuality.
Brian C. Roll
Brian has been a Heroes and Villains Fan Fest guest artist since the infamous ‘snowmageddon’ event in Secaucus, NJ of January of 2016. It just so happens I was able to finally catch up with him at the Heroes and Villains/Walker Stalker combo event last month in Chicago. With several fans surrounding his table, I knew it would not be possible to sit for a formal interview but he kindly accepted my invitation to answer a few questions via e-mail. Here is a peek into his artistic realm…
Linda: What started your life on the convention scene?
Brian: It sure feels like I’ve been doing conventions forever! I had attended a few comic conventions as a fan when I was in middle and high school, but I was far more familiar baseball card shows when I was younger. Then, after college, I got a job at N.E.C.A. (National Entertainment Collectibles Association) and started working some conventions with them. It was like a whole new, exciting world opened up! At some point, I decided to try setting up a table on my own. My first convention as an exhibiting artist was the Chiller Theater Horror Convention in New Jersey in 2006. I’m not much of a horror fan so I didn’t have much art for that crowd but it was still a good experience and it motivated me to try other conventions.
Linda: I saw a breakdown of your artwork process on your website, odysseyart.net… very cool. Is there anything you would like to add? Do you ever switch it up?
Brian: I think that pretty much covers it. Early on, when I was starting to really find my style, Greg Horn looked through my portfolio and commented on how different my style was. He told me that that was a really good thing because it would stand out. So I took that advice to heart and I don’t really switch it up and try other styles. I’m constantly honing things and learning new things but it’s still all within the same style.
Note: Code 8 is a short sci-fi action feature film produced by Robbie and Stephen Amell.
Linda: Do you have a favorite piece? Why?
Brian: I don’t know if I could pick a favorite. Like most artists, I’m probably my own toughest critic so it’s hard for me to look back on things I’ve done without picking out things that I would change or fix. One piece that I still can look back on with pride is the first painting I did of Arrow, entitled “This Is My City”. From an art standpoint, I don’t think I would change anything about it, but more importantly, that piece has somewhat put me on the map and opened doors for me. It led to my working relationship with Stephen Amell, Nocking Point wines and Fan Fest.
Discovering The Drive
Linda: What keeps you motivated?
Brian: Motivation can come from a lot of different sources, some internal, some external. One is that making art and creating makes me happy. I think that’s really important. I’m also motivated to constantly learn and get better. The bills that come in the mail are a good source of motivation as well. And most artists won’t admit this, but I’m motivated by seeing people’s reactions to my work. There’s something very satisfying about seeing someone react positively to something I put lots of work into. I don’t know if you would consider this motivation but I’m inspired by pop culture. I’ll watch something and really love it and all I want to do is paint something from it.
Linda: Are you inspired by other artists?
Brian: There have been tons of artists over the years that have inspired me and I’m constantly discovering more. From Mark Raats to Mark Brooks, Paul Shipper to Terry Dodson, Ed McGuinness to Joe Madureira. The list could go on and on. I think the first time that I really took notice of the name of an artist and thought “wow, I want to see everything that he does” was Jim Lee when I bought Marvel Comics’ X-Men #1 in the early ‘90s. I was in 7th or 8th grade when it came out and I started copying his style. Everything he did was so detailed and dynamic. I wanted to be able to draw just like him.
One of the other artists that has had a big influence on me is Drew Struzan. His work on movie posters is iconic and everyone in the world knows his work even if they don’t know his name. Mr. Struzan’s compositions and character likenesses are second to none. He even has to ability to make bad movies look amazing!
When I was just starting to do digital painting, I received some great advice from cover painter extraordinaire, Greg Horn. He was nice enough to take the time to look through my portfolio at a convention and what he said has stuck with me and motivated me ever since. He told me that my stuff looked different and unique and that was a very good thing. Everyone is trying to copy styles (like I did when I was learning to draw) or make art that looks like what they think other people want. But my stuff was different and that made it stand out. It would also help me because things would be almost instantly recognizable as being my work.
And now? There really are too many artists that inspire me now to list. A lot of the artists that inspire me now, I’m lucky to call friends as well so I don’t want to leave someone off the list and make them mad! If I had to pick one though, I’d say it was Jason Palmer. I love his work, of course, but I also enjoy our conversations. He’s a master storyteller and it’s always a great experience talking to him about art or the art business or the many encounters he’s had with the actors and actresses that he draws.
Linda: Have you experienced an artistic block? If so, how do you get past it?
Brian: Artistic block can happen from time to time on a particular project. I tend to overcome it by doing a combination of things: keep working on things until you find something that works; step away from it and either work on something else or do something non-art related; look at other artists’ work to get some inspiration to figure out the issue. Beyond artistic block, I think a more frequent problem for me is low motivation on a project. I may have something I know I have to do and it’s a priority, but I have all these other things I’d much rather be drawing. So it makes that first project a lot harder to get through.
Linda: What is your definition of artistic success?
Brian: For me, success is measured by how much I learn and improve. It’s a never-ending process. I don’t expect to ever get to a point where I feel like I know everything about art or that there’s no longer room for improvement. Being able to do what I love and support my family with it is an excellent measure of success as well.
On The Horizon
Linda: Your illustrated novel project, The Circle, sounds intriguing. You indicated in an online interview, posted on YouTube, that you got the idea from a dream. Had you always wanted to do a project like this? When can the fans expect to see it?
Brian: I’ve wanted to start my own comic book studio since I was in 8th grade! So I guess you could say I’ve always wanted to do a project like this. I keep notebooks and files for all of the story ideas I have. I’m hoping that The Circle is just the first of many. Working on telling my own stories and creating my own worlds is what I’m the most passionate about. Unfortunately, it’s been slow going as I’ve been working on other projects to pay the bills. I’m really hoping to finish it this year. Whenever it’s finally done, it will be long overdue!
Linda: What does the future hold for Brian C. Roll
Brian: Certainly more Arrow artwork and the continuation of my Alter-Egos Series! And hopefully The Circle is like the Big Bang that starts my own universe that I can tell stories in for years to come.
Many thanks to my fellow New Jersey native, Brian C. Roll for taking the time to share a little bit about what makes him tick. Our paths are sure to cross again very soon and I wish him great success on the comic convention scene and on all his exciting endeavors. Be sure to follow him on social media for his con schedule and latest updates… Facebook: @OdysseyArt Instagram: @odysseyarttorch and Twitter: @OdysseyArtTorch.