I was fortunate enough to get in touch with artist Teddy Kristiansen recently to ask the Denmark resident about a multi-decade-spanning career in mainstream (Vertigo/DC Comics) and independent comics (Image/OGN). His most compelling and long-lasting working partnerships has been with writer Steven T. Seagle, whom he has collaborated with on titles such as House of Secrets for Vertigo and more recently The Red Diary for Image. The week of July 9 sees the release of Kristiansen’s/Seagle’s newest work, Genius, from First Second Publishing. In my reading of Genius, I found it to be a very sweet, emotional story about a man in need of an awakening in his family life, all rendered by Kristiansen’s wonderful artwork.
JH: You have a very distinct style: not what many average mainstream comic book readers are familiar with. What were your influences to begin drawing/sketching/painting?
TK: I read a lot of comics as a kid. Swallowed anything I could get my hands on, from kiddie comics to french albums to US underground books. I was lucky to have my local library that had books from all over the world. This exposed me to many different comics and different approaches. I was drawing all the time and every time I would hear of a new artist/painter I was curious and would go to another library with only artbooks and take in them home. This developed to a reading/exposure of both comics and other visual medias, and I took it all in.
JH: When I look at your art work, especially with Genius, the words minimalism and impressionism come to mind. Do you consider your style akin to those aesthetic ideas? If not, how would you describe your style?
TK: I always try to aim for getting in to the bone of what the text and the drawing should say. I believe that core storytelling cannot function under overpainted pages: only the opposite. And it’s storytelling that is key when making a graphic novel/comic. So I spend a good amount of time trying to find out what information I want to add in the drawing, and what the colours should add to that, and how this will work with the text.
JH: What is your process when undertaking something like Genius? Is there a long preparatory stage, or since you have worked with Steven T. Seagle for so many years on so many different kinds of projects is there a shorthand of some kind?
TK: I spend a long time on each project trying to find the right ‘tone,’ a very important stage for myself. If people can see it when reading the book, I have no idea of, but this stage is for myself essential for the rest of the book. Once the tone is set in my head, I can start. Then, it’s laying out the pages in rough sketches to get a sense of the flow, and then I start penciling, inking, painting (mix of analog and digital).
JH: You are your own inker & colorist on Genius; many mainstream comics artists rarely if ever do such tasks. Is it just easier for you to take the time to do it, or do you always feel like you are developing more/learning more by doing it?
TK: First and most important, this is because I love to draw and paint and have never seen it as an industry. I believe that the reason why this exists, is a leftover from a time where the industry started and the point was to make money and get the books out fast: create a little factory. This has changed, and where I live (Europe) this has hardly been the way people did their books. I got in to this because it’s a medium I adore and can’t imagine not doing. I can take my drawings and give them what I believe they need to communicate just what I want them to communicate. The few times I have had other people going over my drawings have only been horrific experiences. Except when Bjarne Hansen coloured House Of Secrets, as he understood my drawings and the colour white.
JH: What is up next for you, and are there any dream projects/collaborations you still would like to see happen in the near future?
TK: I am working on a new book with Steven that I expect will be out 2014. I also have a book of small stories that I have been doing over the years that I hope to get out 2014. Then there is a Kafka book I am doing for French publisher Soleil/Delcourt with writer Dimitri Vey that should be out end of 2014, start 2015. I have an old dream of getting all my favorite book authors to do me a story I interpret to graphic storytelling, but we´ll see if that ever can come in place. My wish is to keep doing books with Seagle and keep pushing our borders like we’ve been doing together for almost twenty years. I really treasure his constant play with stories.
My thanks to Teddy Kristiansen for answering my five questions. His new book with long time collaborator Steven T. Seagle, Genius, is out on July 9 from First Second Publishing. For more on Kristiansen and his work, visit his blog at http://teddykristiansenblog.blogspot.com/. Stay tuned to Capeless Crusader for interviews, reviews, news, and all your comic world needs.
Jeffrey Hayes is a contributor to the Capeless Crusader website. He spends his time reading and writing on a variety of things for his own entertainment and every now and again pokes his head out to confirm that the world is indeed going on about daily business just fine without him. He still wants to see movies of his dreams. contact:firstname.lastname@example.org