As an illustrator of children’s books, digital artwork commissions, and (his latest project) graphic novels, James Art Ville is an artist of many genres who uses his God-given talents to serve the Lord. Today, I was given the blessing of speaking with James about his latest work: adapting best-selling author Bryan Davis’ fantasy novel, Raising Dragons, into graphic novel form. Read on to see what James had to say about his work with Raising Dragons, his relationship with God, and his love for the geek scene.
James: I began drawing at the age of four. For the longest time I was under the impression that art would remain just a hobby, not a career possibility. It wasn’t until 2010 when a friend of mine recommended me to a local small business who was in need of some graphic art that I applied my knowledge for art and design for the workplace. Having good computer skills also helps me in this field.
Q. As a graphic novel artist, what are the biggest difficulties you face? How has God helped you overcome these difficulties?
James: The biggest challenge I face is time management. Creating a graphic novel has proven a larger task than I had anticipated. God has provided me a helper in this task, my wife Shiloh, and I wouldn’t have been able to complete this job without her support and hard work.
Q. How do you incorporate your faith into your work as an artist?
James: As God creates, I get to share just a little bit in that process of making something out of what seems like nothing. Each and every person is created with the spark of the divine and dignity, the image of God. When I illustrate people, I also try to do so with respect to the character and their design. I believe in keeping my artwork modest and accessible to everyone.
Q. Tell us a little about your latest project—the adaptation of Raising Dragons into a graphic novel. What has been the most exciting, surprising, or fun part of this project?
James: It’s really an honor to know that Bryan Davis likes my artwork, and I will never forget how this all started with the casual mention of the idea. It’s amazing how supportive the fans have been, and I’ve done my best to stay true to the novel and still appeal to the fans. Before drawing any of the characters in Raising Dragons, I searched for fan art related to DIOM, and those works of art inspired my own designs. In a way, this book was created by the fans of the series, myself included.
Q. What is a day in the life of a graphic novel artist like? Do you set a certain quota to complete each day? Do you have any specific rituals or patterns that help you work?
James: I wish I could share a secret or a master schedule with you that will work for every artist, but working from home and raising a family means that my schedule can change in a moment’s notice if something comes up. I like the flexibility, but it does require a tremendous amount of self-discipline to get up early and make time for something long-term. What happens is I usually end up working late into the night while listening to music. 🙂
Q. Is there a certain subject matter that you especially enjoy drawing? Why?
James: When it comes to design, I love drawing characters with over-the-top outfits and costumes. This would include medieval armor and royalty garments, or sci-fi jump suits and gear. I’m a buff when it comes to gloves, belts, boots, and accessories. My wife jokes with me that if comics don’t ever work out for me, I should consider fashion design.
Q. The pressing question: which Raising Dragons character is your favorite? Ironically, does he/she happen to be the character you most enjoy drawing?
James: That’s such a difficult question. Bryan has such an amazing cast of characters in the DIOM series, but if I limit it to Raising Dragons, then I would have to choose Bonnie Silver. And yes, drawing Bonnie is pretty fun. Who doesn’t love dragon wings?
Q. Aside from the adaptation of Raising Dragons, what other projects have you worked on in the past? What projects do you have planned for the future?
James: In the past, I have illustrated a couple of children books, including Beelzebed by Bryan Davis. Raising Dragons is my first full length graphic novel. I do have many other stories of my own I would love illustrate as graphic novels. For now, I do not have any other commitments. If Raising Dragons does well enough, Bryan Davis might consider adapting the sequel, The Candlestone. No promises, so cross your fingers.
Q. As Geeks Under Grace is a Christ-centered website that focuses on all things geek, we have to ask: Do you have any favorite videogames, movies, graphic novels, or other geeky media?
James: The Legend of Zelda would be my favorite video game series of all time. When it comes to TV, my favorites include Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra. Finally, for book series its no surprise that the DIOM series is my favorite, and pretty much anything else Bryan Davis has published.
Q. You’ve done a lot fanart for various videogame characters on your personal website. Who is your favorite videogame character and why?
James: I love fan art. Link from the Legend of Zelda has been my most popular character to draw. He captures audiences because, as a silent protagonist, the player puts themselves into the game through him and saves the kingdom of Hyrule. He symbolizes courage and is often selflessly helping others and fighting evil. I believe in those things, too.
Q. Lastly, when is the Raising Dragons graphic novel scheduled for release, and where can we order a copy?
James: The book is almost done, but with editing, printing, and distribution, it will be available for retail sometime in spring of 2015.