Artist Elijah Isaiah Johnson illustrates with an extraordinary style of Modern meets Noir. Visit his website to see more of his work.
Thanks for taking the time to talk with us today. Could you start by telling the Soda and Telepaths readers about yourself and what you do?
EIJ: Hey, my name is Elijah Isaiah Johnson (or Art by Atlas if you’re a fan of nicknames). I’m a graphic artist, animator, producer and a couple other job descriptors. I’m currently out here in North Hollywood, CA and working on several series, courses and commercials adverts at a time.
How long have you been making comics and where did you get your start?
EIJ: Basically since I can remember. I tell the story a lot but my I got in to it after watching my brother, Aaron, make comics for me to read when we were kids, so its two answers at the same time, because it all started right then. We used to watch the old superhero KidsWB and FoxKids and Cartoon Network stuff and it all factored in to kickstarting our imaginations up to now.
In the beginning, what exercises did you employ to build up your skills as an artist?
EIJ: In the beginning, there was no method, to be honest. I drew whatever I liked, whenever I liked. Even early on my favorite things to draw were my own series that I would write or co-write with my brother, as opposed to doing random images. The most crucial exercise was just frequency and consistency. As I got older, they applied even more. Even if you draw the same, exact thing every single day, you’re going to understand that thing better and know what makes it look the way it does. You’re gonna improve. Hopefully that’s what’s happened in my case.
There’s a lot of reading material out there about drawing comics, coloring and even lettering. What are some books you can recommend to artists out there looking to get their start?
EIJ: I have to give a shoutout to the original, ultra-classic book: “How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way.” It must have been some special edition printing; it had John Romita’s artwork of Spider-Man on the cover, and one of the first assignments was tracing and recreating that cover within the book. Our uncle bought it for us on some outing almost 20 years ago (wow!). After that, Scott McCloud’s “Understanding Comics” is an essential. Everything you need to know about fundamentals is in there.
In the last couple of decades many artists have started down the digital art space while others prefer to stay in the realm of traditional drawing. Which style do you prefer and what type of gear do you use?
EIJ: Admittedly, I was a bit of a purist for the longest time (even if I wasn’t so good at even doing that, haha), and I made up my mind to stay and excel at traditional styles—drawing, painting, everything—while watching my peers (contemporaries is more accurate; I wasn’t close to keeping up with those guys) make the switch to digital art. Like most of the additions I’ve made to my work, as the demand increased, so I learned a new skill. Now I go 50/50 with a Wacom Intuos tablet and my Dell XPS 15 laptop, along with my trusty Blue Line Pro Bristol boards, dollar store pencils and Staedtler kneaded erasers. A healthy balance, I think!
What music do you draw to?
EIJ: Everything. Seriously, everything. I listen to classical music, pop music, hip hop, movie soundtracks, rock, gospel, foreign music. I like melodies and I like feelings. Whatever inspires those has my ear.
Tell us a bit about your published works. Is there a specific piece you’re most proud of?
I’ll cheat a bit and say there’s two: the first is Leaders of the Free World, written by Corey Pruitt and illustrated by myself, of course. We’re 3 episodes in and it was my first book to be featured on Comixology’s “Best of Indie” list—top 5 at one point. After that is The Formula, written by my brother, father and myself. It’s a family affair, which doesn’t happen too often—and it’s been really well recieve. Even though the interiors were made quite a while ago, it really still holds up. A lot of credit goes to the stellar team, my friends Toben Racicot, Ross Hughes and Alonso Espinoza for making it work.
What advice do you have to give to anyone looking to start a comic, graphic novel or strip?
EIJ: Just go for it. Whether you’re a writer who needs an artist, an artist who needs a writer, or someone who has both figured out but can’t find the courage to actually *start*–just sit down and go for it. Even if the first thing you make never officially comes out, once you start working on it, you’ll learn so much—and have a great time during production too, I promise!
Do you have any upcoming events or releases you’d like to promote?
EIJ: Well, we just revamped The Formula’s website and we’re going to be adding some massive additions to it in the very near future (so, eyes open!). Besides that I recently participated in a book signing for the ground-breaking Noir called the New Black anthology; featuring all black creators and over 10 stories in one big book. Huge bang for your buck and a great chance to support some amazingly talented creatives.
Thank you for chatting with Soda and Telepaths today. Where can people find you online?
Find me at my personal site (changes incoming!) of course: https://artbyatlas.net/
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