OH: You said earlier this may be tough to explain, but I’d like to ask about your process. When you get a page and you sit down to color, what steps do you take? Is it flat colors, followed by tones and shading, etc.?
CS: I have a flatter like most colorists. My process would be: I’d get the flats and my channels and immediately wipe all the color off the page, because most flatters will flatten whatever colors they can to make sure that the flats are as successful as they [can be] to separate all the shapes properly. But that doesn’t mean their colors are the best choices, and on top of that, color theory alone, anytime you have a color next to another color, it affects the way your eye sees that color. If you have these random blotches of crazy colors all over the place, like fluorescent pinks and oranges, and you’re going through this page with this kind of cool, purpley-thing, having all of these warm tones isn’t helping.
The first thing I do when I get flats is (after I have them in my channels so I can use them), if I’m going for something that’s natural lighting, I’ll usually just make sure the canvas is solid white, and it depends. If I’m doing airbrush rendering and painting, usually I go from dark to light; if I’m doing cel-shading, it’s light to dark. It’s such a pain because I enjoy working in so many different styles and all of my processes are so different. Usually the first thing I do is make sure my color harmony is there and one of the things that helps that is, let’s say I’m doing a page with a ton of yellow, or something analogous, something with yellows and oranges and red, the first thing I’ll do is fill my page with my lightest point. Let’s say a cave lit by a red fire. I might fill it with a yellow, so that I know what my lightest tone is, and my lightest value. And I’ll just work off of that, and all of my colors stay warm.
OH: Do you use Photoshop exclusively, or are there other applications you use?
CS: I just use Photoshop. I used to try using Painter but it was such a RAM whore back in the day that it really turned me off. I really enjoy Photoshop. I’ve not just become familiar with it, but I feel like it’s fun for me to experiment in, because I am familiar enough that I know what I can do and what I can try out.
On top of that the other thing I like to do is incorporate natural media stuff, like there was an art piece for Runaways that Humberto Ramos drew where I printed out the pages, and did all these watercolor-like shadows and textures on watercolor paper, and then I scanned it in and incorporated it through Photoshop back into the page.
OH: What kind of a tablet do you use?
CS: I use a Cintiq. It’s the best thing since sliced bread. It’s so fancy! [laughs]
OH: Getting back to The Fox Sister, how long has the story been gestating?
CS: Not very long! It’s surprising. That whole thing happened so quickly. The artist, Jayd [Aït-Kaci], I was a fan of hers. I just got a hold of Jayd, and we started talking, and she liked Runaways, and I’m like “Great, I’m glad I have that in with you!” I sent her a script that I had written for a comic writing class that I had taken for fun, not necessarily as a script I wanted to do as a project, but to show her what my writing looked like in script form, and she dug it.
I worked in comics, I know how important it is to be emotionally invested in something you’re doing. Especially if you’re hiring somebody. Part of the reason why I was so adamant about working on projects that I love is that if I’m not emotionally invested in a project, I have a terrible tendency to give only sixty percent, and I always want to give stuff that I do 110%. I don’t feel like this job is worth having, with all of the hours and the stress, unless you love every minute of it, so I tried really hard not to take on books that I didn’t think I was very into. So I knew going into it that the first thing I should do is find out what Jayd likes doing, so what I ended up doing is I pitched five stories to her, and the one that resonated with her the most was a very early version of The Fox Sister. I just kind of started writing it, and fleshing out the entire story, and sending her breakdowns so she knew where it was going and how long it would take to get there, and she really liked it. Then she started doing character sketches, and a few months later, we launched the comic. So it was months [laughs]. But it was good months. It was a lot of work.
OH: What was it about Jayd’s artwork that stood out to you?
CS: There was something really refreshing, lively and bouncy about her stuff. She has another webcomic called Sfeer Theory, and when I was looking at it, just on an art level, her characters have this great kind of dynamic motion to them. They just have this bounce that I really like. My favorite artists have always been artists like Adrian, or David LaFuente, where their bone structures, the way the character stands is different; visually, you can tell their characters apart from their silhouettes. I really love, I don’t want to say cartoony, because it’s not a cartoony thing, but it’s very visually interesting characters, not just cookie-cutter; the same girls with the same face and different hair. I like different-looking characters, and her characters all have different silhouettes. They all have different postures, different builds…everything is nice and fresh. On top of that, she’s really young. She’s only twenty-three or twenty-four. I have to ask her again, I think in my brain I keep making her younger, but she’s young, and I was like “God, I feel like you’re on the cusp of being entirely too popular and expensive for me to afford. I think I found you at the right time and the right place,” and she was like, “Yeah, you probably did.” And sure enough, now she’s doing a ton of stuff and I’m like, “Thank f’ing god she loves this project or I’d be screwed!” She’s a great person and she’s totally committed to completing things, so I’m super lucky. I really think I found her at the right time.