Bill Nichols’ Prescription:
Comics 10ccs of Barb Kaalberg
What inspires you to create and keeps you going?
The love of this crazy industry and the people in it. I had to leave for personal reasons back around 2000 and I missed it like a phantom limb. It wasn’t easy (by any means!) to come back in 2014 after 15 years of being out of the game, but comics is like the chickenpox virus – once it’s in your system, it never really leaves.
Do you have a set routine?
Not really. I work when I have pages, which don’t always come in an orderly fashion, and schedule it around whatever RL is throwing me at the moment. I work better under a deadline, truthfully.
What kind of output do you try to achieve?
Back in “the day”, meaning all through the 90’s, I used to turn out 2 pages a day between an 8 and 16 hour day, depending on how detailed the pages were. But I did that 6 – 7 days a week for the entire decade and it just about killed me. One page a day is my max, now. Sometimes less if the deadline is soft.
What inspires you WHEN you create? Music? Noise? Silence?
I have a very busy brain. Just inking isn’t enough to keep it occupied so I listen to audio books while I ink. Seems to work really well for me.
Who was the first comic book creator that influenced you to pursue this?
Wendy Pini. I discovered Elfquest in the mid-80’s. I was already a pretty good amateur painter, working in acrylics, when I was reading her black and white comics. I realized I could take my brush skills and turn them into inks
When did you realize you could follow this path yourself?
There’s a difference between hoping you can do something and realizing that you can. I hoped and dreamed that I could do this and pursued that hope. It wasn’t until I had that first job offer, however, that I realized that I could, indeed, do this. Realization is the culmination of hope.
What do you find to be a challenge in creating?
Keeping my confidence levels up. I know that seems strange, but even after 30 years of doing this, I still doubt myself. I think it’s a left-brain thing. All creative people do. I also have to fight to maintain my skill and control levels the older I get. I’ve noticed that if I take a week off, now, I have to do a few hours of practice to bring my control up to par (or MY definition of par – which may be extreme). I never used to have to do that. I could just jump right in. Now I have to warm up.
What else do you have to learn?
Everything. I’m never going to be done learning. What I have learned, even after 3 decades, is a drop in the ocean. I would be very wary of any artist who thinks they know it all and have nothing left to learn or anywhere to improve.
What keeps you motivated to get better?
Ego. Every artist wants recognition and acceptance. I have bouts of terrible self doubt and self confidence. I’m always striving to feel like what I do measures up even fractionally to many of my peers. I’ve realized that this is a struggle that will never be won but it drives me to keep trying. This isn’t an uncommon theme amongst artists, actually. Intellectually, I realize that I couldn’t have maintained a presence in this industry for as long as I have if I hadn’t earned it but, emotionally, I’ll always feel like I’m pushing a boulder uphill.
Can you turn your brain (creativity) off (and on)?
Good God, no. My brain runs on 6 tracks at once. Sometimes my Brain Train jumps the tracks (OK, a LOT of times!) I have vivid dreams, too, so that train is running all night, as well.
What advice do you have for aspiring creators?
If you never try, you’ll never succeed. If you give up, you’ll always regret it.
Do you ever worry about running out of ideas?
I’ve always had ideas but I’ve always stuck to my nice, safe wheelhouse (inking) cuz it’s what I know. I’ve never been good at scripting but I’ve had lots of stories stuck in my head. I get 90% of my ideas from dreams. Finally, however, I’ve decided it’s time to step out of my comfort zone and push myself. I’m doing my own book. It’s called Divinity and will be put out by Silverline Comics. It’s already in the production stage. R.A. Jones has taken my plot, my characters, my story and my ideas and polished it up into a beautiful script. I’ve convinced red-hot talent Alex Sarabia to pencil it. I’ll ink it, of course and we’ll do it through Kickstarter. This is a huge step for me. I’m scared but I’m also extremely excited because I have a really, really good feeling about this book.
How do you handle the slow times?
HA! What is this “slow time” of which you speak? I have 1001 projects running in my head all the time, both in and out of the comics field, that I want to fiddle with. Then, too, I’ve got a grandson now. That’s been fun.
How do you feel about the industry?
I love the comics industry. It’s crazy, unpredictable, passionate, complex, frustrating and so much fun. It’s full of the most AMAZING people! There’s definitely problems, of course. Some of them are glaring and some are subtle. I suppose if I’m going to single out just two that pops into my head immediately, one would be the exclusion of women in a lot of areas in the industry. The thought that women can’t be just as passionate or knowledgeable about comics as men are is completely ridiculous. The other problem that jumps to mind (predictably, I suppose) is ageism. Apart from some very obvious superstars, if anyone tells you there’s no age discrimination in this industry, they are lying. Regardless, we are all kind of like this big, extended, slightly dysfunctional family (but we put the ‘fun’ in ‘dysfunctional’). There’s the black sheep that show up at Thanksgiving and always picks a fight and your embarrassing Uncle that manages to mortify you with what comes out of his mouth and your crazy Grandma and your airhead nephew. At times you want to disown a good chunk of them but, at the end of the day, they are your family and that means everything.
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Author, Artist, Editor for ShoutFyre.com
Bill is the creator of Arteest & Ursula comics, writer for Ringtail Cafe, co-creator of Savage Family, writer and inker of HellGirl: Demonseed. Editor for ShoutFyre and Sketch Magazine. Co-author of Camelot Forever novel series.