Name: Kelly and Nichole Matthews
Favorite Comic Book Character Growing Up: Gambit!
Favorite Comic Book Character Now: Captain Cold
Latest Work: (Title/Publisher/Release Date) “The Power of the Dark Crystal”/Boom! Studios/Feb 2017
TrunkSpace: How would you describe your art style?
Kelly and Nichole: Cinematic and fantasy-centered.
TrunkSpace: How important were comic books in your life growing up and is that where you discovered your love and inspiration for drawing?
Kelly and Nichole: We used to joke we learned to read from “Elf Quest.” Comics have always been a huge part of our lives, from reading our older brother’s collections to being able to create our own stories now. Drawing itself was always something we were interested in. It was what we wanted to do for a living and no matter what, we were determined to find a way to fulfill that childhood goal.
TrunkSpace: Was there a particular artist or title from your childhood that you remember being drawn to and inspired by?
Kelly and Nichole: Wendy and Richard Pini, and Arthur Rackham are the first that come to mind. There was a lot of manga that we read as well, far too many to list but CLAMP and Yuichi Kumakura were big influences during our childhood that inspired us to draw comics.
TrunkSpace: How did you decide to approach your career in comics? Did you formulate a plan of how you wanted to attack what is known for being a hard industry to crack?
Kelly and Nichole: It was something we always knew we were going to do, even back in elementary school! We’d have teachers ask the class what we wanted to be when we grew up, and the answer was always “comic book artist.” There wasn’t really a back-up plan in place, which looking back now is pretty foolish; we just recognized what skills you would need to have that as a career and cultivated those as we grew older. There was this persistent thought in our minds that this was it. This was what we were going to be doing with our lives no matter what. We had the skill, the drive and the resources to do it but it wasn’t until a Boom! Studios editor gave us a chance on “Toil and Trouble” that everything fell into place. That was almost three years ago now and we’ve been lucky that opportunities have been consistent since.
TrunkSpace: What was your biggest break in terms of a job that opened more doors for you?
Kelly and Nichole: I would say it was “Toil and Trouble” by Mairghread Scott. It was our first professional experience outside of one variant cover for Boom! the year before and the first time we had ever finished an entire comic story from start to finish. It was incredibly tough work, jumping right in like that with no idea of how deadlines worked, or how to upload art to an FTP. I like to think that as we were working on those six issues we were grinding EXP, and by the end of the project had leveled up a lot. That project cemented the work ethic and diligence we have now. Through “Toil and Trouble” we were introduced to future working partners like Mariah McCourt for our STELA mobile comic “BREAKER,” and later the Jim Henson Company for “The Power of the Dark Crystal.”
TrunkSpace: A lot of people say that breaking into comics is the hardest part of working in comics.
How long did it take you before you started to see your comic book dreams become a reality?
Kelly and Nichole: I think our situation might be a little different than the average experience. Except for one comic cover and some bi-monthly contract work for a webcomic publisher, our very first comic job was “Toil and Trouble” – a six issue miniseries. There wasn’t really a slow push into the industry, rather we dove right in. Since that project wrapped up in 2016 we’ve been moving from consistently larger projects, culminating in the Jim Henson Company’s sequel to “The Dark Crystal” that finishes this year.
TrunkSpace: Is there a particular character or universe you always find yourself returning to when you’re sketching or doing warm-ups?
Kelly and Nichole: We are partial to Flashes Rouges gallery, particularly Captain Cold and Heatwave. Drawing the various iterations of their characters is never boring! We also draw a lot of centaur-like creatures, especially canine and feline variations.
TrunkSpace: Is there a specific title or character that you’d like to work on in the future and why?
Kelly and Nichole: We are big fans of “Voltron: Legendary Defender,” “Dr. Strange,” and “The Flash.” Working on properties like those would be a lot of fun, both for the opportunity to expand outside our comfort zone into sci-fi and superhero comics, and because we’re big fans of them, and would love to put our own touch on them.
TrunkSpace: What is your ultimate dream when it comes to your career in comics? Where would you like your path to lead?
Kelly and Nichole: The interesting part about being a freelance artist is that our goal posts are always being pushed forward as we achieve them. When we were hired to draw our first cover for Boom!, we made a list of things we wanted to achieve during our comic career; by the end of 2018 we’ll have checked off almost all of them! In the future, we can only hope that we can stay consistent with work, and get to work on new ideas with new people.
TrunkSpace: What would you say is the greatest strength as an artist?
Kelly and Nichole: I would say, that because we work as a team, we’re able to stagger our workload to get more done overall more efficiently.
TrunkSpace: How has technology changed your process of putting ideas/script to page? Do you use the classic paper/pencil approach at all anymore?
Kelly and Nichole: We haven’t used pencil and paper in years. When we got “Toil and Trouble” we knew the schedule was too tight to even consider drawing traditionally. It would have been impossible. Since then it has been our preferred way of working. Drawing digitally allows us to get our work done faster and easier than if we had been working in the traditional medium and especially now with programs like Photoshop and Clip Studio having so many traditional media brushes I can’t even tell the difference.
TrunkSpace: What advice would you give another young aspiring artist who is considering a career in the comic industry?
Kelly and Nichole: Don’t give up! If this is your goal, stick to it. Make sure you have the knowledge behind your craft to draft different types of comics and different types of characters. Expand your idea of what is it to be in the ‘industry’; we’ve had as much success working for digital publishers as we have had physical ones. It’s totally okay to draw comics as a side job! Many, many people have day jobs to support their craft.
TrunkSpace: Making appearances at conventions: Love it, leave it, or a combination of both?
Kelly and Nichole: A combination of both! We are not the most outgoing people and can find conventions pretty stressful. However, being asked to attend panels or do signings is just part of the job when it comes to comics, and we just power through any nervousness we get from being there. In the end we always have fun, because conventions also let us catch up with people we haven’t seen in a while, or never met in person before.
TrunkSpace: What is the craziest/oddest thing you’ve ever been asked to draw as a commission?
Kelly and Nichole: We’ve drawn a LOT of odd requests! A lot of them are pretty specific, so I think the vaguest we can be is, drawing an animated movie character as a pin-up model.
TrunkSpace: What else can fans of your work look forward to in 2018?
Kelly and Nichole: We have a young adult graphic novel with our good friend Kara Leopard from Kaboom! coming out late this year, as well as launching a few webcomics on webcomic publisher Mary’s Monster later this year.