Kevin Keane is an illustrator from East Cork. He has worked with small press publishers in Ireland & America. His work includes books with Turncoat press in Cork, Lightning Strike in Dublin & Grayhaven Comics in the U.S. Most recently Kevin has started his own publishing label alongside Shane Ormond which began in August 2016 with their first release The Guards.
When did you first start making art?
I’ve been drawing as long as I can remember? I decided in 2013 to pursue comics as a career when I started to notice how fast the scene was growing here. I had heard a lot of success stories regarding Irish artists so I though why not me too? I’ve always had a love for comics and at that point I had previously tried a handful of other artistic mediums as a career but I could never find the interest to stick with them. Comics for so long felt like a dream job that was completely intangible, in 2013 I realised how wrong I was. I’ve been at it ever since.
What are the challenges of being an artist?
There are quite a few tricky situations to navigate as an artist, first there’s figuring out your process, how you get your work done efficiently. How do you maintain a consistent workflow and how do you ensure the quality of your work stays at a high standard. Then there’s the collaborative side to working creatively, how do you work with others? How do you take critique? How do you maintain your own individual approach while working within a team? These can be hard questions to figure out in the beginning, it can feel like you’re being pulled in a lot of different directions when really all you want is to draw and get paid. Like any job it takes practice and experience.
How do you manage the balance between work and your own creative pursuits?
I find the best approach to this is make them one in the same. If you know what you want and how you want you work to look then you can shape your preferences around any work you’re given, that in turn helps create your own personal style which eventually you’ll be recognised for. Personally I love using big dark shadows in scenes and on characters so no matter what I’m working on I’ll try to find a way of using that on any book I’m working on but like anything it’s within reason, a certain amount of restraint is needed too.
Where do your find inspiration?
The majority of my inspiration comes from outside comics. There are a lot of comic book artists who inspire me to improve my work like Greg Capullo, Jock, Ryan Ottley and Sean Murphy but I think inspiration should come from more than one medium or genre, there’s a lot of incredible work out there that can be massively beneficial to your work. If I’m looking for something specific I’ll do some research but mostly I look to film and music for my inspiration. Films by David Ayer, Shane Black or David Fincher usually get me creatively charged.
How do you get the ideas for your art?
It depends on a few factors, I think before it was simply a case of what do I like in terms of design, which is generally bad guys, villains or monsters, but now with more experience it honestly depends on the work I’m doing at the time and how much freedom I get within the project. I like a certain amount of constraint as that limitation leads to more creative end product. The genre of the project has a lot to do with it too, if i’m drawing in a genre I love I’ll try to push the boundaries as far as I can to get something fresh, if I’m working in a genre I’m not as familiar with I’ll allow myself more freedom to explore designs I normally wouldn’t have arrived at on my own.
What is your favourite medium to work with?
I love working digitally, for comics it makes the whole process a breeze. I still draw with a traditional mindset, even though I work digitally I don’t use many layers or tools, but it really helps with the more tedious side of things, like layout and set up. Outside of digital I love to work with heavy pencils and ink brushes.
Is the anything your currently working on?
Right now I’m working on Neon Skies with Ciaran Marcantonio, it’s a cyberpunk noir story which will be around the 120 page mark.
What does your work process look like?
Currently it’s pretty standard, I get a bunch of pages from Ciaran, then I thumbnail each page one after the other to nail down the storytelling and from there I just start chipping away at pencils and inks.
Is there a message you want to get across to people?
Honestly I just want to be seen as someone who does the work, and does it well. I’m very critical of my own work and constantly looking to find new ways to improve so with that said I think my message would be never stop trying to improve. Ever.
Is there any insight or words of advise you would like to help others across their creative journey?
Show your projects the respect they deserve. It’s not about gaining a huge following or reputation. Practice your craft let your work speak for itself.
Are there any creative people that your are a fan of that deserve some exposure?
So many that I’d feel bad if I left anyone out so honestly I’ll say keep an eye on the Irish scene as a whole. The standard is levelling up constantly. Which is setting a fantastic example for anyone looking to get started in comics.