Artist Profile: Nathan Gooden

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CME Comics new book Deadeye Begun in Blood hits stores Wednesday April 6th. Set in the American frontier Deadeye, a bounty hunter tracks those responsible for his nightmarish past. But as he hunts his own prey he finds something far worse. Like a Spaghetti Western this graphic novel vividly depicts the old west, its denizens and its landscape. The GR1ND got with the man who illustrated the book, Nathan Gooden, to ask him about his art.


How long have you been using watercolors as an artistic form?

I’ve been experimenting with watercolors since high school. It was one of the first mediums that I took serious interest in, and I’ve learned to love the technical challenges it poses. To work effectively in this medium, you have to learn to map out a whole composition, brush stroke by brush stroke, before you touch brush to paper. And then you have to learn to adapt to paper, paint, and brush, when things don’t go as planned.

How did doing the backgrounds in this western landscape differ?

I try to keep the emphasis on characters and action. My backgrounds are fairly washed out and low contrast, with little variation in tone, and minimal detail. On the other hand, I paint the characters or action at the focal point of a composition in brighter, more varied colors. There you’ll find the darkest shadows and brightest highlights. This helps to separate the focal point from the background and create a sense of depth.

What type of research went into the artwork?

Research is vital to my process. I can’t draw what I don’t know. But the Internet is a sort-of magic tool for an artist. With it I can seek inspiration for style and tone: here I draw a lot from the great Westerns of the late 1950s and early 1960s, in particular the work of Sergio Leone. And it also lets me familiarize myself with almost any subject. If I need to see what a saguaro cactus looks like at sunset, or figure out what a Civil War-ear Colt revolver looks like when you’re staring down the barrel, the images are somewhere to be found online.

What was it like working with the writer on this graphic novel?

Good work in comics and graphic novels requires close collaboration between the artist and the writer. It’s a marriage of sorts. Like any successful marriage, it requires compromise, but perhaps even more significantly, it requires commitment to your individual values. On this particular project, I’ve known Adrian (the writer) for decades, and we have a level of trust you can’t achieve any other way. So, for the most part, he trusts me to compose the story visually, and I trust him to assemble its narrative elements. Even so, every project has its small skirmishes between artist and writer. Often, these result in the best moments in the book.


Were you inspired by the Spaghetti Westerns?

I was hoping to give the book a solarized, cinematic feel that evoked Sergio Leone’s best work. I wanted to capture the vastness, and desolation of the setting. As the title suggests, this story begins in blood, and the world just goes on bleeding everywhere Deadeye wanders. By painting the blood in such sharp contrast to the backgrounds, you can see the vein of violence Deadeye carves through the narrative.

I absolutely love working in watercolors and brushed ink, and I can really open up in this medium. But as I said above, it also requires a level of planning, forethought, and planning over and above some other media. While I can put down my Micron pens and take a lunch break whenever I want, if I walk away in the middle of a watercolor painting I’ve just thrown away a sheet of bristol board. The fantastical or mystical tone and visual style of the book was a well-considered choice. Adrian and I planned this from day one. I owe a tremendous creative debt to Sergio Leone, whose work was a touchstone throughout this project.

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Seth Ferranti is a writer, producer, actor and comic creator. He's created and writes Supreme Team, American Grind and Prison Stories. All forthcoming. He also writes for VICE, The Fix, SLAM, Huffington Post and Don Diva and has 8 true crime books on crack era gangsters out on Gorilla Convict.

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