What's The Buzz? An Interview with SCAD Sequential Art Professor Brian Ralph

Updated: Apr 30, 2021

This last week, the SCAD HoneyDripper team arranged to interview a SCAD sequential art professor, Brian Ralph, about his experiences in the industry as a comic artist.

Interview conducted by editor of SCAD HoneyDripper, Lauren Rogers.

What drew you into comics? Has it always been your passion?

I saw comics as an underappreciated art form, and that was attractive to me as a kid - there seemed to be something exciting going on and most people didn't know about it. It felt edgy and dangerous. I started with superhero comics and then found alternative and underground comics. Finding new artists and discovering this rich history of art that I had never seen, that got me hooked. There also seemed to be a door wide open for me to be able to make comics as well. All you needed was a piece of paper and a pen, access to a photocopier, and you could be making your own comics. I found that very exciting.

What is your favorite project you’ve created/ had the opportunity to work on?

My first book was entitled "Cave~In." It came from such a pure place, a passion for moving a character through an environment, an interest in communicating with an audience. I wasn't concerned with any financial gain or commercial success. I just wanted to make an ambitious story, I wanted to try to make something special. Drawing each page was exciting.

How did the process work in selling the TV rights for your comic Daybreak?

Daybreak was in comic stores and a director named Brad Peyton found it. He tracked me down and we had a great phone conversation. I think it was a two-hour phone call. We talked about the book, and what he thought he would like to bring to the story. I loved his ideas and was really interested in collaborating with him. I approached collaboration as a way of expanding and approving upon the story, or at least allowing more artists to delve into that same universe. I approached it with an open mind. I'm glad I did, Brad felt comfortable bringing his expertise and enthusiasm to the story and took it to new places. His production company pitched it to Netflix and then it became an even bigger production!

Do you have any comic recommendations?

I've been really excited to rediscover Tove Jansson, the Finnish artist that created the Moomin family. She was such an amazing artist and writer. I've been fascinated by her black and white ink drawing, and was really influenced by her landscapes when I was a young artist. I've delved back into her stories and art recently and even if you don't read her novels you'll get a sense of her storytelling from the imagery. The fundamentals of inking and placing characters in lush environments are all there to learn from. But most importantly, I just recommend always looking and searching for new art and influences. Not just from comics or the industry you're in, but for everywhere. Being a detective on the hunt for new ideas you can bring to your own work. Don't be complacent. Don't get visually lazy.

How difficult was it to break into the industry? Do you have any advice for recent graduates?

No it wasn't difficult at all. But, I don't mean to sound smug! It's all in how you approach the business of art making. You need to be prepared to do it yourself. Set up your own gallery show, publish your own book, manage your own brand. Don't wait for someone else to acknowledge your work. Invest in yourself, make work that is important to you. The industry will take notice.

Is there any advice you wish you could go back and tell yourself now that you have experience in the industry?

Early on it's exciting to just be acknowledged and receive affirmation. So you'll begin to say YES to everything. Just because it feels good that someone likes your work. But don't worry about saying no and focusing on projects you feel you can accomplish, achievable deadlines, work you are excited about. Your client or editor will be happy, you'll be happy. Don't stretch yourself too thin and overwork yourself. Focus on work you want to be making, the ones that fit your aesthetic and vision.

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