Friday, October 21, 2016

Backstage Pass October: Meredith Moriarty

Hurry Hurry Hurry! Grab Your Ticket Quick!

Ghoulies And Ghosties And Long-Legged Beasties, Come Along For Your Halloween Treat!
Meet The Wondrous Weaver Of Frights And Sights,

Meredith Moriarty!

Do we have a spooky treat for you today! Boys and ghouls, take a seat with Meredith Moriarty and listen to her tales. Meredith, take it away!

I'm a graphic designer by day, comic book artist and illustrator by night, from Philadelphia, PA. I graduated from the University of Pittsburgh in 2011 with a B.S. in Information Sciences with a focus on web design and programming, but decided I'd rather do art stuff instead.

Main Project

Third Shift Society is a supernatural action comic about two paranormal investigators: Ellie, a young college dropout struggling to find her place in life; and Ichabod, a calm, intelligent man who happens to have a pumpkin for a head. Together they navigate a world full of ghosts, vampires, witches, and demons...and those are just the clients! You can find it at, ThirdShiftSociety

Other Hobbies, Guilty Pleasures and Obsessions

Video games, baking, watching cartoons, knitting and crochet. I am tremendously boring. :P

So, tell me about your early experience. How did you fall in love with telling stories in pictures?

I'm...not entirely sure. I think it was the result of impatience and vague misanthropy. Haha, that probably needs some elaboration. So I always loved reading and making up stories, and cartoons were basically my favorite form of entertainment. Animation seemed like the natural path to go down, but then I learned how much time goes into making a few seconds of content, and how many people are involved in the process, and that was a big turn-off. I wanted my picture stories and I wanted them now, damn it! :P So comics it was! Later on I discovered how nuanced and beautiful the medium could be, and I'm definitely happy to be working in the field. It's just funny where the choices of our younger selves can lead.

What media and programs do you work in to produce your project?

Photoshop and Manga Studio.

As a reader I really appreciate your crisp and colorful art style; what were your major influences as this style evolved for you? Did you set out consciously to master a specific style, or did it evolve organically from the art you were exposed to?

A little of both, I think. I grew up watching a lot of Bruce Timm's work, and I think elements of that style have definitely stuck with me in little ways. I was also pretty big into anime in my middle school years and into high school, and I sought to emulate the art of shows I saw on Toonami and Adult Swim. The results were...less than wonderful. But I think the biggest influence on my style over the past ten years has been the online art community. Being exposed to so many techniques and approaches, you can't help but be inspired!

Can you tell me about your typical day or strip-creation session? How does your work process flow from idea to finished page?

Although most of my scripts are scribbled out on notebook paper,

 the actual comic pages are entirely digital. Using Photoshop and an 11"x17" comic template, I do a quick thumbnail sketch to work out the paneling, speech bubble placement, and flow of the action. I then do a loose sketch to more fully block out the figures, followed by a tighter sketch to nail down the details. If the script calls for characters to spend a lot of time in a particular environment, I might whip up a Sketchup model to use as a base for my backgrounds. Doing this ensures that the surroundings are consistent from page to page, and it's also a big time-saver! Once I'm satisfied with my "pencils", I take the file into Manga Studio for inks. Technically I could do this part in Photoshop too, but I find Manga Studio has crisper inks, and the stabilization option is super helpful. After that it's back to Photoshop for colors, text, and speech bubbles. Sound effects are usually last. I like to make my own by drawing out the letters in black, then using layer styles to add color and effects. If only I had more interesting handwriting. :P

What’s the most difficult part of your work?

TIME. I work a 9-5 job and try to squeeze in some exercise and family time every day,
Art By Randy Coffey
 which usually leaves me a few half-asleep hours a night to work on comics.
 It's definitely exhausting, but I really enjoy it. There are some days I can hardly wait to get home and draw! 

Can you tell me about your storytelling process? Do you prefer to script your stories, fly by the seat of your pants, or somewhere in between?

Definitely somewhere in between. I do my scripts one chapter at a time, and they tend to be formatted more like screenplays: mostly dialogue with a few stage directions interspersed throughout. Sometimes I'll indicate where a page turn should be, but usually I leave it pretty open ended and figure out the divisions as I go. I rarely change the content while I'm drawing the page, but if I think of something better than what I've previously written, I'm definitely open to making edits (after letting it sit for a couple days, of course - sleep deprived me is not always to be trusted XD).

You use a lot of interesting mythology from a variety of cultures; how do you go about researching it?

There are a ton of great documentaries out there, and I like to put them on in the background while I work - multitasking at its finest! I'm also a big reader, and usually around this time of year I'll get on an "educational spooky books" kick. Last time I learned way more about the scientific origins of vampires in the European tradition than I'll probably ever need to know. :P

  Does getting mythology ‘wrong’ or being accused of cultural misinterpretation/ appropriation ever scare you off an idea?

Nah, not really. I like to use mythology as a starting point, but never set out to present my comic as an accurate guide to folklore. The characters in TSS may be vampires or demons, for example, and although they might abide by certain mythological conventions, ultimately I prefer to focus on their individual personalities and stories rather than getting hung up on their place in the folkloric tradition.

You have a wonderfully lucid way of getting your character’s personalities across. How do you go about designing a character’s personality and/or features?

Ah, there are so many books and guides that do a better job explaining this than I ever could. But there is one thing I find really helpful but don't usually see mentioned: know what your character's voice sounds like. I'm not sure it works for everyone, but personally, if I can "hear" their voice, I can write their lines, which in turn helps me flesh out their personality. I suppose it has something to do with how much our accents, vocabulary, and speech patterns are a product of our personal histories.

How much of a buffer do you like to keep?

Haha, I'd LIKE to have at least a couple pages of buffer, but the reality is closer to zero. And by "closer", I mean it's zero. No buffer. The page you see is the one I've been working on that week. One day I will have a true buffer, and it will be glorious. XD

Has anyone told you that you'll never be a successful artist and you'd be better off studying a real field and/or getting a real job?

Not exactly, but I was frequently encouraged to get a job doing something that pays well and just do art on the side. I suppose the rationale was that if the art thing takes off, you can always quit your day job. If not, well, at least you won't starve. Happily, my day job is also art related, so I guess that worked out ok. :D

What message do you hope readers take away from your work?

Hmm...I don't know that Third Shift Society has a message, per se. At its core it's a story about finding your place in the world, and I hope that resonates with my audience, but ultimately my goal is to tell an engaging story that people enjoy reading!

What keeps you devoted to telling the story you’re telling?

Latent masochistic tendencies? Haha, seriously though, I'm not entirely sure. I guess I just get really excited about sharing stories with people, and drawing comics is super rewarding. It's my creative outlet, and my way of relaxing and having fun. But I wouldn't enjoy it half as much without the fantastic support from my wonderful readers. <3

Thanks for the thrills and chills Meredith! Happy Halloween!

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