THE CONVENTION COLLECTIVE: Thank you for joining us in the Spotlight, Luke! How did you get into art and why did you want to become an artist?
Luke Balmer-Kemp: Hi there! Thank you for having me! I had always been into art from a young age on and off until about 16 where I stepped away from it. When I hit 23, I had started sketching again and saw that I was getting better each week.
It was then I was introduced to the real classic Batman comics (such as the Frank Miller stuff) by a work friend and I decided that storytelling was what I wanted to do.
Then at 25 I had a kind of ‘quarter life crisis’ to which I applied and was accepted to Savannah College of Art and Design to study Sequential Art and the rest is history!
TCC: What was the first work you completed, where you stepped back and thought, “Yes, y’know what, I can do this for a living!”?
Luke: I think it happened during my time at SCAD, I am a notorious over thinker, and it was in my very last semester when I started adapting what is now my art style, and I found I was laughing as I was working (from the character I had just finished).
That is when I truly realised I enjoyed doing it, before that it was really a leap of faith.
TCC: Which artists inspire you? And they don’t have to be in the medium you work in, either…
Luke: Hmm, that’s is an ever evolving answer, but I would say Denis Bodart (did Green Manor), Jordi Lafebre, Kenneth Rocafort, Lee Bermejo, Jeff Smith and Juanjo Guarnido in comics. Outside of comics: J.C. Leyendecker, Norman Rockwell and Sorolla.
TCC: Can you tell us your greatest fan moment, interacting with a personal hero of yours where you may have gone a little weak at the knees?
Luke: I will be totally honest, I have not had the chance to meet a personal hero of mine in comics, I have however met a cricketing hero of mine way back when I played. All I remember is being awful at small talk, having thousands of questions that came to me after meeting them!
TCC: What is your favorite fandom? Who is your favorite comic book character/movie/tv character?
Luke: I am a huge western comic fan, so I would have to say that Blueberry by Moebius is one of my favourite comic characters.
Eric Matthews from Boy Meets World is possibly my favourite TV character (a little blast from the past for myself!)
And in movies? I would have to say Atticus Finch played by Gregory Peck in To Kill a Mockingbird but the literary character is awesome too.
TCC: Outside of the ones you create for a living, what characters/stories do you like drawing the most in your spare time?
Luke: I enjoy drawing from real life, if I see an interesting face on TV, in the street etc. I’ll sketch them in my book and try to adapt them into my work somehow.
I have always struggled with the classic superhero look in my work, but DC characters can be my go to as I learned comics by reading DC.
TCC: What’s your working routine? Do you work regular set hours and days, keeping certain days free for personal time, or do you find you create any time the muse takes you?
Luke: So, I work in between my day job as an architectural visualiser, which is a 9 to 5 gig and fit my freelance comic work in between. I have always know that I work best in the mornings so I will get up early and do my warm ups and early stages (rough lines etc) in the first few hours before my day job. Then I will use my lunch break to finish the inking of the page etc.
I work during the week, and try to give myself the weekend to spend with my wife and cat! But sometimes you need to be available to work any time so this can change.
TCC: When you’re creating, what do you use for background noise? Some artists use music or podcasts, some use a TV show that they just can listen to in the background. What do you use?
Luke: I use music, but mainly ethereal sounding music, like Wardruna and their Norse folk vibe. The less words in it makes it easier for me to get lost in my work. I have never understood how anyone can have the TV on in the background as it takes up too much of my attention, but I praise the ability to multi task!
TCC: What was the first comic con that you remember attending? And, indeed, what was the last?
Luke: The first was Kapow! In London back in 2013, and I think the last was Portsmouth inaugural comic con. Cons are something I really need to improve upon going forward, one I aim to go to is Angouleme.
TCC: What’s your favourite element of a comic convention? And which bits could you easily leave behind?
Luke: I love being able to chat with other artists, and actually seeing them work. You always wonder how the magic is done and if it is done in a similar way to you. I also think it humanises the person behind the art in a good way, it makes me realise that my goals are achievable.
I could easily leave behind the chance to part with money. I could buy commissions, comics and other bric-a-brac far beyond what I could afford which is super dangerous.
TCC: At a convention, when you’re not behind your table or doing the things you have to do at a con, which corner of the show would we find you in?
Luke: I would be walking up and down artists alley, taking in the splendour of all the talent around me.
TCC: With the lack of conventions, a lot of artists are taking commissions online and mailing them out to people – is this something you’re doing?
Luke: With Disconauts on the go, this last year I haven’t had the chance to open up commissions, I have been knee deep in finishing the first run. I do aim to open up for commissions soon, to get that ball rolling again!
TCC: A lot of creatives are also taking to crowdfunding – such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo – to generate income from their work. What’re your thoughts on that?
Luke: I love the idea! Myself and my writer Jonathan are currently Kickstarting our comic series ‘The Disconauts’. I think that it opens up the opportunity for work to be seen that may not ordinarily get the chance. Stories that can be a little more niche.
TCC: What projects have you recently finished? What are you working on at the moment, what projects are coming up that you can talk about?
Luke: I have recently finished a 4 issue run of a creator owned comic, The Disconauts, it’s a fun, vibrant, space adventure that is essentially a love letter to the cartoons Jonathan and I grew up watching.
And we are now crowdfunding for issue #1 which, as you can imagine is all I am talking about! There are a few other projects that I am starting which have to remain hush hush for now.
TCC: How do you stay connected with fans? Do you use a mailing list or newsletters, are you active on social media?
TCC: Where can people see an example of your art online and find out about your rates?
TCC: Thanks, Luke, for your time!
Luke: Thank you for having me!
Be sure to check out his Kickstarter for The Disconauts #1 here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/jonathanstevenson/the-disconauts-issue-1?ref=creator_nav and check out the interview we posted last week with the Writer and Letterer of the title Jonathan Stevenson.
We at The Convention Collective want to showcase the very best in creative talent. Are you a creator who would like to be featured in our weekly Sandbox Spotlight? Leave a comment here, or reach out to us at admin@TheConventionCollective.com