Entertainment Spotlight : Artist Jason Payne


Q: When did you know you wanted to be an artist?

A: As a small child I had found myself just naturally drawn to telling stories. I especially loved cartoons growing up, so comics were a natural medium for me, and by the time I was a teenager I was already dreaming about becoming a starving comics artist when I grew up.

However, while art and comics have always played a role in my life, it wasn’t until after college that I took it seriously.  By the time I was 19, I had already taught myself HTML, Visual Basic, and a little C++, so it seemed natural, and “responsible” that I should study graphic design and programming in college. But, once I got out in the “real world”, I realized I wasn’t passionate enough nor skilled enough keep up with the quickly changing landscape.

It used to be that knowing enough general PHP, HTML, CSS, and JScript to build a basic site or to template a CMS (like WordPress or Joomla) was enough. But today, due to the rise in computer literacy, and the changes in the ways people interact with the web, one needs to be more of a “full-stack” programmer and a security expert in-order to stay relevant and in-demand. However, I believe that everyone, especially artists, should learn some basic levels of web programming; personally I’ve found that it’s aided me in ways that I just couldn’t afford to pay someone else to do for me! I also learned project management skills that I’ve been able to apply almost all other facets of my life as well.

It’s funny because I had done art shows before at local galleries, but it was not until  then that I realized that I should just focus on my art, as that’s what had always been there with me from the start. It wasn’t until that point that I ever considered myself as an “artist.” I generally label myself as a cartoonist though, as I feel like what I do is a trade like any other.

Q:  What do you want visitors and locals to know about being an artist that they may not already know?

A: There’s not nearly as much as money in being an artist or a publisher as a lot of people seem to believe. So if an artist comes in to your store to inquire about that NOW HIRING sign in your window, don’t be so quick to write them off. I was on the cusp of being homeless years ago, while I had to deal with potential employers telling me things like, “What’s to stop you from running off once you’re famous?” or “How am I supposed to know you’re not going back to college?” (that’s another myth: a lot of employers apparently believe that every 20-something is looking to pile on the debt.)

This stuff is no joke. It seems like this is the kind of thing that artists often face, and I’ve known quite a few who have been met with similar levels of ignorance.

As far as publishing goes, the printing of any single title is a major investment. A publisher may be sitting on top of books for years before breaking even (let alone profit.)  So I’d also like the public to know that most publishers, especially micro and small press publishers, such as myself, are very far from being book barons.

Q: How has the industry evolved over the years?

A: Technology has changed the game tremendously, for both print and digital comic artists. It has changed the ways in which we create, sell and distribute. It used to be that, especially at my level, if you wanted to see your work in print, you either found a publisher or you sought out a Xerox machine. And if you wanted to distribute it yourself, you’d talk to your local comic book shop owner and hope they did consignment. Or if you were on the web, you used to just post something up, maybe buy some ad space, and hope people saw your work.

Print-on-Demand (POD) used to be a bit of a dirty word, but now the tech has matured to a point where it’s often impossible to tell the difference between a POD book and a traditional full-press CMYK book. Because of this, quality book printing has been made more available and affordable for almost everyone, no matter their budget or need.

For me, technology has also helped me to be more productive. I used to draw all my comics on paper, but today I am almost exclusively digital. I use a Wacom Intuos 4 tablet and Manga Studio 5 to draw my comics; like printing tech, digital tech has come a long way as well, and I honestly don’t miss having to scan in my pages!

As far as advertising goes, social media has made it easier to find an audience. I rarely pay for advertising anymore.

However, despite the pluses, I will say that artists do have to wear more hats these days. They have to learn about marketing, business, accounting, and yes even web design. And some are even finding that they need to learn video and sound production as well (Youtube has proven to be a big boon for many artists in their promotion efforts.) Luckily for me, I enjoy having a variety of tasks to do other than just my art, but marketing tasks do distract from getting my art done, and I can see how being a modern artist can be quite daunting for some. I know a few veteran artists who’ve found the transition to be not as fruitful because of this.

Q: What inspires you for your art?

A:  Life. Whatever problems I’m trying to sort out. Art is a visual language, and a means of problem solving. Almost every comic that I draw is an answer, even when I don’t know the question right away. So whatever interests me often inspires me.

For instance, I do an online funny-animal fantasy/western comic series called Princezz, and while it started out as something silly and fun, its plot lines have been inspired by things I heard about on the news at the time I started the series, in addition to events going on in my own life. So far I’ve used Princezz to explore some issues of class, privilege, and prejudice, even if I haven’t done so as effectively as I’d of liked. I feel the series is more character driven, and grounded in the philosophies I subscribe to (primarily Absurdist, as defined by Albert Camus) rather than overtly expressing a definitive message or viewpoint.

I enjoy doing a lot of research for my projects! Often I’ve turned towards science, classic literature, history and mythology to help me flesh out ideas. There’s a bit of British history and some Shakespeare mirrored within Princezz.

I’ve also found inspiration in other artists that I know, and regularly have exchanges with. My artist friends and I tend to inspire each other a lot – especially in the productivity department!

Q: What’s next for you?

I just finished a full color, 28 page comic book adaptation of a Philip K. Dick short story called THE HANGING STRANGER. It’s currently available for Amazon Kindle, with a comixology edition on the way, while I try to figure out how to make a an affordable print version available. Color printing is quite expensive!

So what’s next? I plan to adapt a few more public domain stories. I’d like to do another story by Dick, but there are other authors with stories in the public domain that I’ve had my sights set on for awhile. Namely I’ve been wanting to adapt stories by Anton Chekhov, and Beatrix Potter – I’d love to adapt ROLLY POLLY PUDDING, as it was a favorite of mine and a source of great terror when I was a child – so I may tackle them before getting back to Dick. There are others I’d like to do, but I doubt I ever will due to time and legal hoops.

In the meantime, I’m mainly focusing on Princezz, and I hope to launch my 2nd original online series by sometime next year. I’ve got so much on the burners – I’m always busy doing something. haha.

Q:  Describe being an artist in 5 words or less

Climbing your own mountain.

Q: What social media do you use?

A: I have an account for just about every service out there, but I mostly use these:

Twitter: @syrupneko
Instagram: @syrupneko
Tumblr: LanguidLion
Facebook: PayneToons

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