|Cameron and some attendees at Freestate Con 2022|
You've been around for a few years now, doing various things on the comics scene. What got you started down this path?
Writing/drawing comics has always been a hobby of mine and I've drawn pretty much since I was able to hold a pencil. After years of attending cons as a fan and spending way too much money on comics, toys, etc., I decided to put myself out there and actually promote myself and my work.
I did a handful of portfolio reviews and from there I started exhibiting in Artist Alley. The rest, as they say, is history, though admittedly that phrase never made any sense to me.
I completely agree with you. I remember hearing that phrase once and wondered WHO exactly "they" are.
Your art has evolved and grown a lot over the years I've seen it. What inspirations played into the creation and direction of your art?
Well firstly, thank you! That means a lot, truly.
Comics and anime are huge inspirations to both my style and interests. Cartoons in general play a huge inspiration as I think animation is one of the best storytelling mediums out there.
And while it's very challenging not to be intimidated by others, I do enjoy watching progress videos by some of my favorite artists to see their skills and learn new techniques. I try to emulate when possibly, imitate rarely, and develop my own techniques based on what I've learned.
On that note, what are some of the most important things you've learned?
Have a plan and manage your time are the two most important, and also two of the most challenging.
When I first launched my webcomic, I would post on a weekly basis. Having a full-time job with mostly regular hours meant I could set aside time but having a plan wasn’t always easy.
Some comics I wrote in advance days or even weeks before, while others were being written as I was drawing them, often on the day I was planning to post! It also doesn’t hurt to have a good support system, whether it’s someone to proofread, provide feedback, or just offer encouragement.
That's so very true. That's an aspect that isn't mentioned enough when people ask about getting into doing any of this. The effort, and all of the rest, is really a challenge to keep going.
Do you have a creation of yours that identifies as your favorite, or one that you are most proud of?
I love and hate everything I’ve done, usually at the same time.
My favorite right now is a sketch card of Princess Bubblegum from “Adventure Time” I did a few years back. There are noticeable flaws, particularly in the placement of her eyes but the coloring is one of the best things I’ve done, IMHO.
I still have it and will occasionally put it out with other samples to sell but I’m fairly certain it’s one I’ll keep.
Geek Theory was the web comic you started some years back, what was the origin behind that, and had it been envisioned as a web comic first and foremost or a printed effort that led into web format?
I created the characters back in high school for a comic strip called “Typicality”, which was inspired by me and my friends and our nerdy escapades. It was essentially the same thing Geek Theory turned out to be, although I ended up adding and combining characters, incorporating traits of friends I’d make later in life.
Webcomics weren’t really a thing, at least to my knowledge, so all the older strips exist only in print and have never seen the light of day.
This is a good thing, trust me.
LOL! We all have those things that we've made that cannot be seen!
I do like the idea of continuing my comic in a web format but having collected editions in print. When I finally got around to printing a full comic, I made sure to include some extras, as well as a new ending, exclusive to the print edition, as an incentive to folks who could otherwise read it online for free.
You’ve attended a lot of shows to sell your work. What do you find that is a positive change in modern pop culture creation, and what is one of the challenges you’ve encountered?
Representation in a variety of fandoms is a huge positive.
There are so many folks I meet that are comfortable with who they are and excited to be at a con with others that share their interests. Seeing kids dressed up like Miles Morales, Black Panther, Ms Marvel, and others is so refreshing and wonderful to see.
As far as challenges, one of the biggest is finding an audience. There are so many different fandoms that it’s hard to keep up with and I never know what pieces of mine are going to speak to someone.
I'm always down for discovering new fandoms and hearing others talk about and introduce them to me is absolutely one of the best things in doing conventions.
For the emerging artists aspiring to work in the creative field especially in the indie comics scene, what sort of advice would you give?
Just make stuff.
Whether you’re an artist, a writer, crafter, cosplayer, 8-bit character patch-maker (which is totally a thing, btw)...
I had no idea, but I'm not surprised.
Just work on your stuff as often as possible.
No matter where you’re at in your career, the more content your produce, the better you get.
Another thing to keep in mind is this is a business. There’s a lot to consider than just drawing or crafting and it’s really important to plan a budget, set goals for yourself, and never be afraid to ask for help.
There’s no way I could do this all by myself so it’s important to have someone in your corner that can help you.
Okay, let's get into creating tools. As far as traditional art materials, what are some of your favorites to work with?
Copics are my go-to tools, both multiliners (pens) and brush pens/markers. They’re definitely intimidating at first, especially at their price-point but you can’t argue with the results.
Agreed. I still apologize to my debit card everytime it purchases Copic things.
If I’m working on something black & white, I really enjoy Prismacolor pens and Micron brushes. Strathmore Bristol paper is my favorite to use for commissions or pieces from which to create new prints.
If you had to pick your favorite two movies, what would they be, and why?
My #1 fave is Almost Famous, though I’ve only seen it a few times in its entirety.
I just love the story of an awkward misfit with a gift for writing that falls in with this band and ends up binding them.
Plus the soundtrack freaking RULES.
#2 would be Chasing Amy, though I haven’t seen it in years. I fell in love with this unconventional love story (which admittedly probably hasn’t aged well) and the fact that all the characters were Indie comics creators just really appealed to me.
|[Left] Almost Famous [Right] Chasing Amy. Who else is feeling super 90s minded at the moment?|
Okay, so Mac or PC preference?
My first computer was a Mac but that was in the early 90s when Macs sucked. Nowadays I like the best of both worlds, I swear by my iPhone and iPad but I prefer a PC when it comes to using Photoshop, Word, or general computer usage.
When you're in the zone creatively, do you enjoy working with music or any kind of background noise going on, silence, or are you indifferent to the outside surrounding ambiance?
I ask this because so many artists I know have almost, rituals of sorts, where they need music playing to drown out all but the creative incentive, or maybe they need to brew some coffee beforehand. Do any of those sorts of things come into play for you in your studio/workday?
I always need SOMETHING but it’s usually music!
When it comes to writing, I work best without lyrics, otherwise the words I’m writing get jumbled with what I’m hearing. Movie scores have always been a favorite and the right score can make anything feel epic in the moment.
As for drawing, I can listen to just about anything and that’s often when I’ll listen to Podcasts. I really can’t do tv, movies, or anything that requires both eyes and ears to enjoy because I tend to get what my wife lovingly calls “tunnel-vision”, which means I’m only able to focus on one specific task.
What artists, current or historical, had profound influences on you?
Oh man, yeah. I'm with you on this choice.
I discovered Strangers in Paradise in high school and while I didn’t really get into it until college, the whole idea of this black & white comic just about relationships was amazing to me.
If you had the chance to work on a dream project, what would that be?
I would love to do a Super Mario comic! I think it would be really cool to explore the mythology of the franchise and develop a story based on each game.
I had a strategy guide for Mario Bros 3 that I studied and sketched from until the guide fell apart.
In terms of original content, I’ve had an idea brewing for about twenty years, which I’ve always put off because I didn’t think my art was ever good enough to do it justice.
My dream would be to get over it and just do it or work with another artist and actually get the stupid thing made!
It's interesting that almost every creative I've ever spoken to has at least one sort of project they hold back on, for one reason or another.
What aspects of design have been the most challenging for you?
I’m good at doodling but design is trickier. It’s hard to wrap my head around creating a logo or design. That’s part of why I don’t have any tattoos, I just can’t commit to any one image!
Do you prefer Star Trek or Star Wars?
The answer is yes.
Wars has always been my first love, it’s been a part of my life for as far back as I can remember. But it’s because of Wars that I discovered Trek and I fell hard for that franchise, particularly TNG.
I recall our recent conversation about the action figures and playsets!
There was a good four or five years where Trek was an obsession, one that wasn’t unhealthy but did very little for my social life.
But I digress. Frankly, I think it’s natural to like one over the other but I don’t think it’s necessary. They’re both great.
So here's a standard question of my interviews...
What is your favorite dinosaur, and why?
I’ll understand if it’s not triceratops…
Well, Trikes are definitely in my top three because they are wonderful but may fave would be stegosaurus.
Yes, that's a great one as well.
I just think they’re cool and was always broken-hearted that they didn’t appear in the first Jurassic Park.
I even have a plush one I built at the T-Rex Cafe years ago. As a child though, my favorite was the allosaurus - it was essentially the same as a t-rex but less popular and definitely less pretentious.
I think I can agree with that. Ever since T-Rex was featured in the logo of the JP movies and merch, actors have mentioned how there's no living with that T-Rex anymore. Fame. It can get to anyone. I hear she did motion capture for the T-Rex skeleton in Night at the Museum, and that was pretty excellent.
Speaking of museums, are you the museum type? If so, which ones would you recommend or are your favorites?
I didn’t always but I’ve definitely come to appreciate history and what museums have to offer.
I’ve had the opportunity to visit the Met and MOMA (Museum of Modern Art) in New York, which I highly recommend for anyone who happens to go that way.
I also really like the Guggenheim, both for its history and architecture.
Locally I’d recommend the Nelson-Atkins Museum in Kansas City and the Wichita Art Museum.
Do you have a favorite newspaper comic strip and/or creator?
If you can’t tell by now, it’s hard for me to pick a single favorite.
Peanuts by Charles Schultz is the gold standard of comic strips, although my personal favorite would probably be Calvin & Hobbes by Bill Waterston.
I also love Garfield by Jim Davis and a lesser-known strip called Cul de Sac by Richard Thompson, which has a quirky, Bob’s Burger-feel to it. Definitely one to check out.
I'll have to check out Cul de Sac. Do you have a favorite comic book and/or creator?
That’s a loaded question but I’ll try to keep it simple.
X-Men would be my favorite comic book line, if that makes sense, considering there are no fewer than 37 different X-titles at any given point.
I’ve always loved the soap opera with superheroics concept and these books accomplished that in spades, plus taking on social issues in ways that were topical but not always heavy-handed. I’m particularly fond of the mid-to-late-90s era but I really like the Grant Morrison and Mike Carey runs in the early 2000s.
Is there a book or series that inspired you?
I find inspiration in so many of the books I read, especially now.
Growing up I loved the Prydain Chronicles by Lloyd Alexander (the books that inspired Disney’s so-so “The Black Cauldron”), so much so I recently re-bought them all!
There’s also a graphic novel called Box Office Poison by Alex Robinson that deals with a group of twenty-somethings trying to navigate through life, which inspired a lot of my early work.
I'm hearing about a lot of things I need to check out and find, especially this Box Office Poison graphic novel.
Okay so now onto something that I know a lot of creatives deal with.
Do you have a method to balancing life between making art and down time for yourself?
Oh, Good God, no. I’m terrible at it. Between my ADHD, working a full-time job, and the creative stuff, I’m all over the place.
If anyone has suggestions, I’m all-ears!
Where do you see your work being in the next few years?
I’m committing fully to developing only NFTs!
Imma be rich!
*ahem* for real though...
I’d love to sell out and make one of my ideas into a cartoon on Nick or Disney or even Netflix.
There’s so much incredible content being marketed to kids and I’d love the opportunity to contribute to that. But getting myself out there is the biggest challenge and I’m not sure how to accomplish that.
One of these days I need to sit down and put my business degree to work for me.
I'm still of the mindset that a group of us here in the Kansas City area should make a reality show based on just trying to make it.
Actually that's a terrible idea. LOL!
Out of all of the shows you've done, is there one that you'd say is or was your favorite?
I really enjoy Air Capital ComicCon in Wichita, just in general.
Last year was a lot of fun just because it was one of the first cons since COVID and it was so refreshing to get back into it and see old friends again.
For an introvert like me, getting out and socializing ranges from moderately challenging to just the worst thing ever so it was a pretty cathartic experience. There was a show here in Topeka called TopCon Geek Expo - I remember you did once - and it was always one I enjoyed doing.
TopCon was fun because of the people I knew there. To your point that's a huge thing for me is the people I can hang with, like you. And you don't even give me crap when I start dancing at your table side. Otherwise, at TopCon, I literally traded an art reproduction for a bag of Doritos.
I was hungry, but that's a whole other story...
ANYWAY...What is your favorite memory that happened at any show you’ve done?
One that sticks out was at Air Cap, I think the first year I exhibited there.
I had done a series of Hamilton sketch cards earlier that year which had gotten no attention whatsoever at any other cons.
There were a couple Hamilton fans that came around one morning and just freaked out over the cards.
One of them used the last of her money to buy Alexander, which left Aaron Burr as my last remaining card. As she walked away, I grabbed the card and took it to her, saying if she was gonna have Hamilton, she should have Burr too.
Aw, dude, that was awesome of you to do!
She was so happy she gave me a quick hug before she dashed off, almost in tears. Don’t get me wrong, I love making money at shows but that kind of experience?
Bringing joy to people? That’s why I do it.
Man, I love that Cam. That's a great way to close this out.
Thanks so much for taking the time to be part of my interview series, I appreciate it!
If people want to see more of your work or better yet see it in person at any upcoming shows, where can they find information about that?
Thank YOU for the opportunity! This was super-fun. I post my work regularly via Twitter (@cameronkieffer) and Instagram (@cameron.kieffer). Folks can also visit my site, the similarly-named cameronkieffer.com for commission details, my upcoming con schedule, and the occasional blog post.