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Economical Composition | An Interview with Artist Turner Mark-Jacobs

Interview by Paul D Houston

One of the joys of the modern world and all the social media apps out there, is the access to artists, musicians and information, you might not have known of otherwise. Turner Mark Jacobs is an artist I randomly came upon through a Facebook artists group, of some name or other, which I had joined to show off my feeble art and to see other young artists work. Turner kept regularly posting his art there and it continually wowed me. So I began to follow his personal Facebook page and there I found a treasure trove of some of the most gorgeous ink and watercolor work I’ve ever seen.

Every time Turner posts a new page from some project or other that he is working on, I wonder how is this guy not an almost famous comics artist or illustrator of some sort or other? His work is technically sound and its extremely attractive to the eye with it's spare and free flowing page compositions. To me, his work is very profound and every panel features labor and depth beyond the average comic book artwork we typically see.

Turner, what comics of yours are available now and where?

'The Massacre of Don Pedro Villasur’ is for sale from the New Mexico History Museum. Sadly, that’s about it for now. I’ve taken a couple of things off the market for various reasons, mostly because I came to this recently and wasn’t happy with the quality of my first couple of projects.

What projects are you working on right now? And when will they be available to the buying public?

‘The Curse of El Cucuy’ which I’m working on for a client, writer Craig Phillips, will be available later this fall, probably sometime close to thanksgiving.

A page from The Curse of El Cucuy

‘Welcome to the Big Bitch’ is an ongoing passion project. It’s about the NYC art world but with anthropomorphic animals. I’ts tougher to say when that will be out because it’s something i’ve been working on between paying gigs.

A page from Welcome to the Big Bitch

Another page from Welcome to the Big Bitch

You work largely in ink and watercolor, how did you develop your style? What were or are the influences behind your style?

My style is kind of a weird hybrid of the kind of painting I learned to do in art school, trying to be very specific about light sourcing and reflected light, (not using blacks like most comics artists do), and Ligne Claire (probably from reading Tintin) which uses a very uiniform and economical linework. There’s a few other influences in there (animation, golden age illustration, ‘old paintings’ etc) but those are the main ones. Drawing is really important to me as well. I try to imagine each panel in 3 dimensions and try to give every element in the panel a solid, sculptural feel.

What tools, brands of paint, pens, brushes do you use to create your work? And on average how long does it take for you to complete a single comic book page?

I use india ink and a speedball nib to do the linework. The nib is a b-6 drawing nib. It gives a very solid, uniform line. I do all the lettering by hand with an Ames lettering guide (a little plastic doohinkey that slides along a t-square). The painting is done with a Windsor Newton series 7 #4 or #5 round sable brush.

I use very cheap watercolor and my palette is only 3 colors: a red, a yellow, and a payne’s gray. You can make almost any color from the 3 primaries and it keeps all the colors on the page ‘related’ to each other.

Are you professionally schooled or are you self-taught?

I went to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Then moved to NYC and worked as an artists’ assistant to a couple of painters. I probably learned more of the technical aspects of painting from them.

What is it about the comic book medium that attracts you most as an artist?

I’ve always loved comics. When I was a kid my dad got me some Moebius sci-fi stuff that I read over and over. It seemed almost more real to me than reality, or I felt I could escape inside each panel, if that makes sense. I collected comics for a few years in the 90s around the time Image was getting started, lol, probably not the greatest period for the medium. Then I went off to art school and didn’t re-discover my love of comics until a few years after graduation.

You live in New Mexico, how does that part of the world influence your work?

I love New Mexico because there’s so much to look at. There are different kinds of landscapes, animals, birds, clouds, dramatic light conditions, etc. I’m always reminded to use my eyes, which I think is important for an artist. You always want to be really looking at things as closely as possible, noticing color, texture, shape etc. NYC is another incredibly stimulating visual environment but I’m just glad to go back and visit from time to time.

Have you submitted or tried to get work with some of the major American publishers yet?

Not really lol. I’m happy to scrape by on work I can get on social media and I don’t have an editor cracking the whip all the time.

As far as aspirations go, what do you want to do with your art career wise? Any big and lofty goals?

If I could just figure out how to make ‘Welcome to the Big Bitch’ into something sustainable, financially, that would be a dream come true. There’s enough material for me to work on that for years.

If you can be self-critical for a moment, what do you believe you need to do to get better?

I’ve been thinking about doing some short animations for ‘The Big Bitch’ because comics aren’t labor intensive enough, lol. I think that would push me even further, drawing-wise.

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Follow Turner Mark-Jacobs on Facebook or at his blog, High Plains Draftsman

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