Uko Smith has had a passion for comics since his days growing up in Baltimore, hanging around at Geppi’s Comics. The Columbus transplant has come to the right place, though. The capital city is home to The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library, as well as hot comics spots like Laughing Ogre, Packrat Comics, Comic Town, and Heroes and Games. We also host a mean con. Comic conventions are no longer merely the territory of nerds. Well, they are definitely the territory of nerds. But that term has been reclaimed and monetized. Gatherings like Mid-Ohio Con are teeming with opportunities for artists to meet publishers, and show off their latest artwork. (614) caught up with the CCAD instructor and jack-of-all comic trades to get a glimpse of his latest work, and hear his musings on the galaxy of comics, and his place in it.
I got my first start in comics when I stopped walking around with my portfolio at conventions trying to get work, and decided to start purchasing my own table at Chicago Comic-Con and Motor City ComicCon in Detroit. I did not know at that time that editors and art directors would be walking around looking for artists. I was initially just looking to sell my own work to the visiting crowds.
I believe that it is better to develop your own style… Because over the course of your art career, you don’t want to hear that your art “looks like someone else’s.” …I do believe that being versatile in what you do is a way to stay fresh as well. I can go from doing a really serious rendered illustration to something [whimsical] and [flirting with] erotic art. Having that versatility has served me well from doing illustrative work to concept art with various companies.
Currently I am working on a few different things from cover art with publishers, to having a solo art show, to my creator-owned project, 1500. This project is such a passion for all things that I love illustrating. I love drawing women and just female characters, period. So, I have 3 main characters, all female, who are fashion models but double as assassins. It’s incorporating a lot of the things I love doing such as action scenes, high fashion, weapons, vehicles, and concept art. It was borne out of doing specific concept art I wanted to see in a book. I’m currently working on the first issue, as I have a good six issues planned on the first installment and [I’m] looking to do a Kickstarter for the first issue or until I find the right publisher for it. Spring 2019 is the planned print date.
At the early stage when I was looking for work as an artist, [I] was just going to the big conventions. Then, as my thinking and art evolved, it was a combination of doing good art, being able to tell a story, and being able to create my own branding. Once I started investing into myself and creating my own content is when I started to see how people were taking notice of what I was doing. Today, it’s a lot of social media and constantly posting new works to show people that you are producing and creating really good content. Also, knowing the value of your work.
That is a price. Also, just know what it is you want to do, whether it’s as a penciller, inker, colorist, letter, cover artist, or maybe you just want to do it all. [Comics are] a medium that has always tried to get noticed by the local community. It was a combination of things, but probably because of the Marvel films that folks started to take notice. I know CCAD started to take notice. Since I began teaching, students were always interested in comics and sequential storytelling. My classes were nearly full every semester. And now, CCAD has a Comics and Narrative Practice Major. Comics is an outlet for any individual, either as a creator or reader.
There was a time when I and a group of close friends started Quest Studios in downtown Columbus. It was such a great experience being with like-minded people all for a common purpose in creating great art and stories. The lot of us from my Quest Studio days eventually parted and moved to the left and right coast because that was where the work was. I’ve seen it grow year by year, and it is good to see that comics is being known as a viable medium again. But, like with anything in this town, it needs support.
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