I have not drawn a superhero in nearly 18 years, although that was all I wanted to do when I was younger, intent on becoming the next hot artist at Image, Valiant, Marvel, or DC.
However, I got caught up and fell in love with the world of ADDANAC CITY, and I sorta shifted my dreams from drawing Spider-Man to controlling the actions of the world’s worst-behaved adolescent.
Well, last night, I decided to literally go “back to the drawing board” and work on something “heroic”. Who would I draw, though?
Hmmm….. I’ve been hearing a lot about this Steve Rogers guy an awful lot lately, with his new movie and all.
So, here is my latest artistic offering. Yeah, I know I’m rusty as all get out and that I’ve got quite a ways to go to get my superhero confidence back, but I kinda like it.
I don’t think it’s too bad for not drawing anything else other than Hank and his cohorts for the past umpteen years. Hope you all like it, too!
This exceptionally nifty drawing was created by a very talented fellow webcomic author friend of mine named George Gant.
George is the creator of the comic strip series On The Grind that features all the coffee comedy and java jokes you could ever hope for.
If you’ve ever held down a job in a public setting or have an intense love affair with coffee houses and the diverse baristas who work there, then you simply must check this comic out.
It’s no secret that I have a relentless passion for cartooning, animation, and comic books in general, but I am also a fanatical devotee to the culture of Hip-Hop with a concentration in Rap music.
I was just a young buck when I first encountered the head-nodding chants and melodic, rhythmic cadences emanating from Rap‘s birthplace, the Boogie-Down Bronx (NY).
Seemingly from the very first verse I ever heard, I was hooked. As a youngster, I willingly sacrificed nearly every single cent, doubloon, ruble, and peso I received as a part of my weekly allowance towards attaining the last hip-hop cassette.
The very first rap album I purchased was The Fat Boys self-titled debut. I bought that record from my local grocery marketplace due to the fact that my small town did not even have a record store of any kind at all at the time.
Like Biggie Smalls would say quite some years later “I let my tape rock ’til my tape popped”.
I listened to that album front-to-back every chance I had. I was effectively mesmerized by this new musical genre.
Since I was now an avid fan of this new wave of music, I desired to learn more about these rap celebrities.
Who were they? Where were they from? Who did they hang with? Who did they love? Where were their next concerts being held?
Well, since I was not living in the heartbeat-capital of rap, New York, I had no way to receive this information.
Or, at least, I thought.
My local grocery store (the same one I purchased my first rap cassette from) had a new periodical on its magazine rack, sitting there smugly among Time, Newsweek, and Ebony. This magazine that I had never seen before was called The Source.
The Source was essentially known as “The Bible of Rap & Hip-Hop Culture”. No other magazines at the time were devoting any articles (much less, a cover) to any of these young, black upstarts who spouted unbridled braggadocio in lyrical form.
To me, as an impressionable youth, these bigger-than-life musicians adorned in their Gazel glasses, Kangol hats, five-fingered rings, and fresh-to-death no-laces-necessary Addidas were as real and viable to me as Michael Jackson, Kenny Rogers, or Liberace even.
This was my world, and my generation clamored to be immersed fully in all aspects of it.
I began to buy The Source with regularity and I thoroughly enjoyed its thoughtful articles, helpful hints, borderline-gossip rumors, and vivid photographs.
There was one other section in the magazine that really caught my attention, since I proclaimed myself to be an artist, and that was this colorful, well-drawn social-commentary piece that was relegated to the very last page entitled “The Last Word”.
The Last Word was my favorite part of each issue. The page was dedicated to highlighting a prevalent current-event that took place that month in hip-hop. It was all created with the professionalism and critical eye of the wisest and most-adept editorial cartoonist around.
The page was created in that flavor, but the man behind the drawing pen was a street-savvy hip-hop purist who actually lived the lifestyle he showcased through his artwork.
I couldn’t believe that there was actually a cartoonist whose voice was similar to my own. In my day, when you think of a cartoonist, the first image that comes to mind is an old white guy who had been at it for over fifty or sixty years.
I mean, sure, I had total respect for that old, white dude, but I knew that we both walked a vastly different path in life, and our only connection was through our shared love for comic art.
But, the guy who drew The Last Word with such technical diligence and Zen-like focus each and every month?
This guy knew where I was coming from. We spoke the same language, literally and artistically.
André LeRoy Davis (who went by the moniker A.L. Dre at the time) was able to bring to the forefront all of the news that mattered most to the hip-hop generation. He would shine a light on the subject matters we all spoke of during our “water cooler” conversations each day.
To me and my friends, The Last Word was as significant and as necessary as Al Jaffe’s “Fold-In’s” in each issue of MAD Magazine.
A.L. Dre was (and is, I firmly believe) the Norman Rockwell of my generation.
I continued to read The Source and enjoy the hilarious, and sometimes solemn, Last Word entries for many years. I watched rap music grow from being merely a niche fad to practically wielding a stranglehold on popular culture.
The Source‘s position in hip-hop relevancy has waxed and waned throughout the years, but A.L. Dre has continued to thrive and prosper, as connected and calculating as an elder statesman.
Davis doesn’t allow the fickle nature of rap’s current (younger?) fans dictate his next move. He takes the temperature of the climate and then he decides where it should go next. He is as much of a mover-and-shaker as he is a graphic-rendering reporter of the culture.
I have been privileged to make Mr. Davis‘s social-media acquaintance by way of Facebook. He is a constant and welcome presence on that platform, and he is willing to discuss any and everything with you no matter who you are.
Some people who reach a certain status in society are hesitant about speaking with someone they feel can do nothing to propel them further professionally, but André LeRoy Davis doesn’t mind taking a moment to simply chew the fat with you to find out what makes you tick as a person.
I am glad to bring you this exclusive interview with Mr. Davis. He has learned a lot throughout his years as an artist and he is, by no means, ready to slow up and put the markers down.
So, please give a warm welcome to a gentleman whose love for his fellow man rivals his love for creativity: the outstanding and remarkably-talented Mr. André LeRoy Davis!
I think that there had already been maybe three or four issues previously published of the fledgling magazine before they reached out to me. I’m sure that not too many folks even heard of the magazine, but I liked the look of the ones that I had seen.
The finished piece never saw the light of day, because I think that the magazine folded before it could actually be published.
Now my first professional project that was actually published was commissioned by Players Magazine and it came out if I remember correctly in the summer of 1988 and it was a caricature illustration of Spike Lee.
Well, the fact that, as a kid, I used to sneak into my older brother’s room and flip through the pages of his Players magazines and I vividly remember first seeing Pam Grier nekkid. Not naked, but NEKKID.
So I was, first and foremost, excited about the fact that I was going to be published in a magazine that I liked as a kid, but had liked on the sneak tip.
Now I was old enough not to have to sneak about it and I could actually purchase it, show it to family and authentically say that I was looking through it and reading it for the articles and actually half mean it.
So I was hyped and excited to have my work in Players Magazine and I was excited that I’d be visually bringing to life someone who’s work that I admired, because I loved, “She’s Gotta Have It” and I was a fan of my Brooklyn brethren.
I wasn’t nervous at all. I compiled all of my photo reference, sent out my sketch idea (well, faxed it at the time) and once it was approved, I was ready to dive in creatively and make sure that I took my time to insure that I knocked the illustration out the box.
During my early years of being a freelance artist, it was all about having a well put-together portfolio to showcase your work, and then it was all about making phone calls and contacting art directors, finding out portfolio policies.
That meant which days you could either bring your portfolio up to a magazine, or drop it off at a magazine, so that the art director could look through and examine your work.
After that, if they were interested and liked your work, hopefully they’d follow through and call you in sometime when they felt like a project fit your style and then they’d commission you for a piece.
Well, in this one particular meeting, I’m sitting down with a white female Art Director, (and YES 99% of the art directors that I met back then were white anyhow, but I point out her race for a reason) and she opens my portfolio and starts turning the pages and looking at the fifteen examples of my work that I felt best represented me and my style at the time.
After she turns the pages from beginning to end, she looks at me and says “Nice work, but can you draw white people?”
“Hmmmm, I wonder if she asks White artists if they can draw Black people” was the immediate thought that popped into my head. My mind was glazed over and oozing with a sarcastic response, but I chilled.
Of course, I said with a half-ass chuckle and a fake smile.
If I remember correctly, at the time, out of the 15 examples of my work in my portfolio, there had to be, at least, 4 illustrations of white folks, 2 or 3 illustrations of other diverse ethnicities, and the rest of the illustrations were of those blessed with melanin.
I had a friggin’ United Nations of ethnicities in my portfolio but, because the majority of folks looked like me, deep down in her entitled mind, there was a problem.
I was never blind to the facts of realities but back then it brought the Game Rules of art directors to life and placed them directly in my face.
I later went on to own two portfolios.
There was the original one I mentioned previously, and then an alternate one that I put together that contained a majority of illustrated works of celebrities who were white.
For me at that time it was all about knowing the game and playing the game to win.
My immediate artistic influence was my older brother, Stephan LeRoy Davis.
Growing up and watching him draw and paint sparked my interests. And when I finally grabbed a pencil and paper and drew for myself, I soon realized that I could draw and I enjoyed drawing. After that there was no stopping me.
My brother used to draw funny pictures of me with a big head and a little body, always finding a way to make me cry. I think I used that inspiration to make myself a better artist, always drawing, working hard, and making sure that my work would capture folks and hit them in the gut like my brother’s work hit me.
It also was an inner incentive to try and excel and be better than him.
My next influence came about without me even realizing it at the time. It was in 1974 when the television series, “Good Times” premiered, and I thought that the artwork and paintings that J.J (Jimmie Walker) was creating were incredible to me.
It was many years later that I realized that J.J was, in fact, a fraud and that those paintings I so admired were in fact creations of the sensational Ernie Barnes.
With my love of comic books, and especially Captain America around the same time as “Good Times”, I was a big fan of Sam Wilson, “The Falcon”. That led me to becoming a fan of the Black Panther and Luke Cage/Power Man as well.
I loved looking at the detail in the panels drawn by the incredible Billy Graham. At the time, I had no idea that he was a Brotha.
Later on, probably during my teenaged years, I first saw the sports/caricature art of Bruce Stark and I was floored. Big heads and little bodies.
In High School, continuing my Luke Cage/Power Man love, Kerry Gammill’s pencils inspired me to reach out to him when I had to write a term paper which included a Q&A about my current favorite artist.
I mailed out a letter in care of Marvel Comics asking him if he would answer a few questions for a term paper about him that I had to write.
About a month later he finally responded and asked if it was too late for him to help out and thus our direct communication via snail mail began.
I mailed him my well thought-out questions which he answered rather quickly and my term paper was soon written and completed. I still have all of the back-and-forth letters.
During my college days, my teachers soon became my influences as I learned under the tutelage of skilled and diverse artists, cartoonists, caricaturists and storytellers such as Sam Viviano, Will Eisner, Philip Burke and Irwin Hasen.
My family is very supportive, although some of them would still prefer if I got a “real job”.
When I was still writing and illustrating The Last Word for The Source magazine, I’d always get calls from cousins or friends from out-of-state or even locally in New York telling me that they were near a newsstand and they had just picked up the newest issue and turned to the last page to take a look at what I had drawn this month.
I’d either get a quick critique or a long critique, and then they’d tell me that they were putting the magazine back down and exiting stage left.
Well, I do a variety of different things daily, but they are all kissed and fondled by art. First and foremost is my freelance art.
I could be writing or creating a new Last Word, creating a new commissioned piece, designing a logo, flyer or brochure, or updating and adding to my website.
There is also a bit of writing and responding to e-mails, placing calls, responding to calls or just running around the city.
If I’m teaching that day, more than likely I already have a lesson plan created or either I’m putting the finishing touches on what I’m going to be teaching.
It also depends upon the age of my students and whether or not I’m teaching a comic book creation class to Junior High School kids, a writing/poetry/rap class to a conglomeration of students, or a painting class to Senior Citizens.
A creative process without an idea is a lost cause, so first and foremost you have to have an idea or at least a vision, before you proceed.
I can come up with an idea as I’m drifting off to sleep, while having a dream, while watching television or a movie, while having a conversation and an idea or punch line gets sparked, or I could be on a train or a bus or sitting by calm water relaxing and thinking.
I usually grab a piece of paper and a pencil and write the joke or punch line down, I sketch out an idea if a visual comes to me with the joke. There is no one way that an idea or a vision can get sparked for me.
When its time to draw and layout my vision I’m either at my drawing table if I have physical pictures as photo reference, or I’m sitting by my computer with a drawing board in my lap if I’m utilizing photo reference off of my computer monitor.
If I’m just plotting out the drawing or sketching then the television or a movie is on as accompaniment, but when it comes time to the tight necessary details that make the illustration work, then the television is off and music is playing.
Most of the time whomever I am drawing I make sure to get into a zone where it becomes all about them and visually I focus on their pics and I make sure that their music is bounding out at me and pumping through my speakers.
No… If I won’t speak on it who will? Or why leave it up to others to speak on?
If you have a voice to say something and you want to say something, then stand up and say it. The only measures that I take is to have a well thought out plan, or idea before I execute it.
The problem that I see with most creative people is that they don’t fully think an idea out. I will never have to apologize for anything that I do, because if its something that I have thought of, created and executed. I’ve analyzed it, over-analyzed it, and then analyzed it one more time before it can be seen by the masses.
If you ever hear me apologize for anything that I draw, then you know that I’m lying and somebody probably kidnapped my mother or something and is holding her hostage until I do apologize.
My advice is to think things out fully. If it’s controversial, you already know that its controversial. Don’t act surprised.
What you need to do is be creative and find a way that’s captivating and then get your commentary across. Take the truth of a situation and visually convey it. If you document the truth, people can get mad at you, but they can’t argue with the facts.
Teaching eats up a lot of my time, but I have been making it a point to concentrate hard on doing more commissioned freelance work as well as collaborating with other artists along with several companies.
I currently have been working hard and passionately with curating as well as participating in a group art show called, 17: The Revolution Will Be Visualized. The show will feature 17 individual artists displaying one creation each to represent each year of life that Trayvon Martin lived.
The art work is born to depict the young Black male 17 and below and all of his daily trials and tribulations visually. Although the show is inspired by Trayvon Martin, its goal is to mainly represents all of those other kids who also have not survived to live and thrive past the age of 17.
The show also celebrates those kids 17 and below who are living life’s day to day struggles and joys as we recognize and show appreciation and love for our Black youth.
If you are going to focus on cartooning and make it a career, make sure that you love what you are doing. Make sure that you can do other things and that you are proficient with other techniques and styles.
To make sure that money is coming in to your household, I’d suggest learning graphic arts and becoming proficient with that, because graphic art is always needed by the masses.
Knowledge and skills graphically will allow you to always have money coming in and knowing how to do graphic art allows you to layout, color and letter your own work.
Finally respect your craft, have fun with it, make people laugh, but take your work seriously.
You’re just going to have to deal with. I can’t sugarcoat my answer or advice to this question.
The truth is more people are going to tell you that you’re corny, or they don’t like your work at times far more than you will hear cries of positivity. The fact is you will probably have more fans and appreciators if your work is good, but I find that positive people are usually more silent, because they probably think that others who feel as they do are bathing you consistently with accolades.
Meaning that the haters and negative folks seem to have superior and happier days when they can bring someone down and throw them off their game. If you believe I your work as Nike says, “Just Do It”.
I wanted to share with you all the artwork I created in hopes of being included in the upcoming Dark Horse Comics-produced book “The Sakai Project”.
An article posted on the Comics Alliance website gives the details of this endeavor:
“A few months ago, news that Usagi Yojimbo creator Stan Sakai had come upon financial difficulties due to the ongoing illness of his wife, Sharon, led the Cartoon Art Professional Society to step up and help. Now, Dark Horse Comics is pitching in, too.
To celebrate 30 years of Usagi, the publisher has assembled a murderer’s row of artists including Adam Hughes, Art Adams, Dave Gibbons, Geof Darrow, Walter Simonson, Mike Mignola and Tim Sale for a new oversized hardcover called The Sakai Project. All the proceed from the book, which comes out July 23, will go to the Sakais.”
I used to read Usagi Yojimbo regularly years ago, so I wanted to do whatever I could to pitch in with countless other artists for this significant project.
Below, is what I created. Let me know what’cha think!