Today brings yet another interview with a colleague from PDMI Publishing–today, it’s with one of our talented illustrators, my PDMI brother Vance “V-Man” Major. I don’t believe in cutting anyone short, and the V-Man had a lot to say, so I’ll just say ‘thanks, man” and get to his interview! Enjoy!
Spotlight on Vance Major
1) How did you get started as an illustrator, and how long have you been doing it? Well, I have been drawing since the 1st or 2nd grade. Stick figure He-Man drawings were what I was doing in class instead of Math and such, ha! Then, I had moved to my Grandma’s ranch my 4th grade year, and had nothing else to do besides read encyclopedias and old books. I was very interested in Mario and Zelda from Nintendo, but couldn’t afford one, so I drew the adventures I wanted to have. And then I’d go play them outside on the ranch. I always doodled, but kinda slid away from it for a few years, trying to figure out who I was. It wasn’t until around my freshman or sophomore year that I picked up on it again, at Bible camp no less! They were something to pass the time when I got bored of the services. It wasn’t until my junior year though, that I started taking it seriously, and actually had people request me to draw them things. Ive always loved word of mouth as advertsing, as its effective and more passionate than anything kinda thrown in your face. But I’ve been drawing as long as I can remember.
2) What kinds of art subjects do you like best? Honestly, I’m a big kid. I didn’t really have much of a childhood, so being a comic geek and sci-fi nerd kinda helps me relive that part of my youth. I was always fascinated with He-Man, Batman, Star Trek. One thing that I think really made me go “hmmm I want to be part of this world of art” was Norm Breyfogle’s BATMAN #466. To me, the art just jumped out at me, and the story was just so gripping. And it wasn’t about the action, it was more a “morality play,” which is how I think comics and sci-fi work. The art just added so much to the story. Exciting action is good, but excessive action isn’t. And that’s something I think is missing in today’s comics.
3) Tell us a little bit about how you got involved with PDMI Publishing? Oh wow, It all seems like a blur to me now; it happened really fast! I have an art page on Facebook and posted my art on there, trying to get noticed by someone. Not for money, per se, but just to meet more people. Im really big on meeting cool people. And one of my friends from my Facebook geek group called the PROMENADE, Virginia (PDMI Publishing illustrator and author Virginia L. Jennings), she had messaged me that I should talk to her publisher. Now I resisted, as most things that sound too good to be true usually are. I said “no thanks.” She wrote back a little later and said “Think you really should talk to them.” I declined respectfully again. She wrote back YET again and said “you SHOULD talk to them.” I said “You know what, go ahead and talk to them for me and let me know what they say, I doubt they’d be interested.” And she said “Actually they’ve seen your stuff, love it, and want you.” My mouth dropped. No joke. That had never happened to me. I see so much talent out there, how could they be interested in me? Yet lo and behold, all was true. And it wasn’t a very hard decision to come to. I had almost said no, Id rather not be disappointed, as I had in the past. But then, I figured that life isn’t worth living if you’re not willing to go out on a limb. Now, I’m not saying everyday go out on a limb, but fortune favors the bold, ya know?
4) I know you’re a comic book fan. Are you a DC guy or a Marvel guy? Well, this is really where I get my panties in a bunch, ha! I love all of the early-to-mid Nineties comics. To me, that was a great transition period for comics, they did a lot of great stories(New Robin, New Green Lantern, Aquaman had a hook) and things were in a state of change with characters. There was some history, and seeing these things which I knew were new made me want to go back and find out the differences between what was, and what had come before. I liked that it wasn’t my parents’ Green Lantern, or the Superfriends’ Aquaman, or the Burt Ward “gee golly” Robin. Things were cooler, but it made the uncool of the past, more relevant to me. Looking at things in the New 52 (Note: DC Comics’ ‘soft reboot’ of their comic book continuity, begun in 2012) they just aren’t the same characters. I don’t mind different universes, but I hate reboots. All of that time invested, lost. And bringing back the stuff my parents would have read, just didn’t appeal to me. So I am not a fan of DC much now. The live- action movies are ok; the tv shows are usually better: they are top notch in the cartoon movies. But for the books themselves….ah, nostalgia is a curse sometimes. I take my Lil Sparrow comic shopping, so I can live through her on what she likes. Ha! I’d say my favorite comic character is Robin—the Tim Drake Robin (Tim Drake was the third teenaged Batman sidekick to bear the title.) Around the time he became Robin, I was getting into Batman. The 1989 movie had come out sometime before and I wanted to see it, but had to wait for VHS(gawd that’s old.) But his character in Batman 466, really was just a good guy who helped the man who had lost his way. By the end of the book, he had helped the man and told Batman that he would make sure he got home safely. To me, the capes and masks didn’t matter, it was the heart that made the hero. And also being close to his age, I could relate, or wanted to on the things I couldn’t understand. His character helped shape a lot of how I think. As he grew older and smarter, it paralleled a lot in my life. When Bruce died and Tim was thought to maybe take over, as he was closest in the detective part, that also paralleled things in my life. So that character to me, is who I love the most. Theres a lot other cooler characters, but to me, he’s the one that got me into comics.
5) What is your usual process or routine for working? It usually depends on what Im drawing or need to. I usually will sit on a project for a bit and think about how I need to take things. I seldom proceed until im absolutely sure where I need to go with the vision. Most people try to rush it, and it really shows. I’d rather have quality over quantity. There was one drawing where I needed to go to some dark places to get the feel right for the pic. I listened on YOUTUBE(cheap plug there kids, ha!) the Breaking Bad scene “I am the one who knocks” over and over. His delivery of that whole part is just eye twitchingly cool! But with any project, you really need to be in the mood. I cant just pick up a charcoal pencil and go to work, I seriously need my diet soda bottle and some inspiring background noise. A lot of times I listen to commentaries or movie reviews, and it really makes me focus and relax. Sometimes I listen to music while I draw, stop drawing and focus in the music. When I come back to the art, I’m just in the zone! So it all just depends on what Im drawing for. Anyone can draw anything, I think. But to get the spirit of what you want, that’s what takes the most time, and I really am a perfectionist when it comes to my vision.
6) What is your favorite thing about being an artist? I enjoy reaching out to others, and showing people the world how I see it. When I can draw, its escapism that no drug can take you to. Because I’m an artist, Ive been able to reach a lot of the youth and help them turn their lives around from drugs, alcohol, or abuse in their family. Growing up as an abused kid, it helped me break the cycle that so many cant seem to break. Thru art, and showing people their potential, its not making the world better per se, but it’s helping people make better decisions and build better lives. To me, being an artist and using those talents to help others, that’s the most important thing a person can do. Money is great, but some people are so poor, all they have is money.