I recently had the chance to sit down with Drew Blom, full-time Multimedia and Design instructor at the Rasmussen College – Lake Elmo, MN college campus. In advent of his recent graphic book release, The Gadarene, I probed him on his experience creating this graphic novel and his journey through his career in design and animation.
Describe how you got into the field of design and animation?
I was attending Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design in Denver, pursuing a degree in 3D Animation. I sent out a bunch of demo reels to the big studios, but hadn’t heard anything back. I was getting nervous. It was two weeks before graduation and my wife was six months pregnant. I received a call from a studio in Minneapolis who was hiring. I started as a character animator and eventually got a chance to do some supervising and art direction.
What is your number one accomplishment in your career?
I’ve done different types of work including character animation and design, graphic design and now a graphic novel. I have to say that drawing and writing comics is my favorite kind of creative work to do. It is a lot of work and there are many things I will be doing differently for the next book, but it’s pretty rewarding to hold the finished product in your hands.
What are you most excited about in the future of graphic arts?
To me, it’s really interesting to see motion comics getting some time in the spotlight…Particularly with the rising popularity of the iPad® and its inevitable dopplegangers. In addition, companies are putting out specific motion comics for some of their titles, releasing them through the App Store. I get excited about what this could do for independent creators.
How did you know you wanted to pursue this type of career?
I’ve been drawing and writing stories for as long as I can remember…But I’ve heard a lot of artists say that.
Prior to working in the design field, I was changing semi tires. It was at 2 a.m. one morning while changing a tire on a freeway in the freezing cold that I realized I would regret it if I didn’t do something artistic with my career.
What is the career outlook for web designers and animators?
The catch with creative work is that it’s not primarily about a cover letter and credentials. It’s about solving problems for your clients and giving them everything they ask for. It takes networking to get jobs and you have to get to know people, then you have to deliver quality work. People are going to hire you based on how good your work is and how easy you are to work with. Building a reputation for yourself takes a while. But once you have that, there is always a demand for more creative output.
What is the number one piece of advice you have for prospective design students?
Be passionate and be prepared to work hard. If you’re not being challenged, find ways to challenge yourself and do things outside of school exercises. I find people are always more passionate about the work that they aren’t required to do, and that shows up in the quality of the visuals.
What excites you about working at Rasmussen College?
The most exciting thing is being around the students. When a student takes the concepts you talk about and creates something you weren’t expecting, it’s pretty rewarding.
When is your book scheduled to be released to the public?
The Gadarene was released Friday, Oct. 1st at the Desiring God National Conference in Minneapolis. It is now available online at DesiringGod.org.
What is the book about?
The Gadarene is the story of Alexander, a Roman boy from the region of Gadara who is oppressed by his father Marcus. Marcus’ greed crushes Alex’s spirit, sending him down a road of bad choices that result in him being possessed by a demon named Legion. It’s pretty dark in places story-wise, but my favorite aspect is that they pulled no punches when it came to honesty. I was given a lot of freedom with both the visuals and the story.
What types of graphic arts are included in the book? Do you teach any of those techniques at Rasmussen College?
It’s all very basic. All of the pencils and inks were done traditionally. I’ve done other work inking digitally and it’s just not the same. No matter what you’re your graphics tablet is,there’s something genuine about getting actual ink stains on your hands…
I’ve never had to clean pixels out from under my fingernails.
The colors, however, were done in Adobe® Photoshop® using digital painting techniques. Working digitally is more and more the norm in illustration these days. The speed increase is pretty huge and changes can be made quickly.
Digital painting is one of the most basic skills to have in as a digital designer. When I do more graphic design and logo creation jobs, I still prefer digital painting instead of many of the fancier tools. It gives you the most control.
What was the inspiration for the book?
The Gadarene is based on a narrative poem by John Piper. He has written 25-plus poems that are imaginings of what went on “behind the scenes” in Bible stories that people are probably familiar with. The intent is to draw out a truth or main theme in high relief with a fictional story. We adapted the story of the seven-page poem into a 132-page script.