Tuesday, November 20, 2012

CBNAH Interview: Alina Urusov

Birds of Prey #6
27 year-old, Alina Urusov, embodies the strong-willed and crafty female presence in the comic industry today. Fans are familiar with the ‘male’ aspect of ‘geek and nerd’ culture but this Russian native’s expansive resume consists of deft interior and elegant covers for many top companies. Urusov has cut her teeth on books such as ‘NYX’, ‘X-Force’ and ‘Young Avengers’ at Marvel while sculpting further magic on DC’s ‘Birds of Prey’. Now residing in Canada, she has also etched her name into Top Cow’s ‘Witchblade’.

“I was always encouraged to draw because my parents dabbled in art. I also had many well-illustrated children’s books from the masters of the past as well as from Russia and I attended an art-specialized high school where I practiced oil painting. But for post-secondary studies, I chose animation. I’m mostly self-taught in illustration, which is much less complicated to learn than 3-D animation” she stated. Urusov varies her sketches from oils to Photoshop to keep her outreach as diverse as possible. Regarding the presence of female creators in the business today, she elaborated, The artists at conventions are mostly guys. I think if female creators work hard and are dedicated, there should be no problem getting into the comic industry. I know there are a lot of talented women out there and I think that they should be encouraged to show it.” Urusov admitted that there were more females doing independent work than working at bigger entities such as Marvel and DC but she expressed optimism for upcoming talent.  Urusov added that it was a renaissance with women in art thriving globally and the gender barriers broken down with the Internet’s advent.

The talented penciller admitted that her fascination with supernatural elements in the real-world helped her refine her skill. She also lauded the guile needed in juxtaposing unmarried or unconventional concepts into stories for comics. She expressed immense passion for this medium but conferred, I'd really just love to see more of a movie industry develop in comics - where any kind of story can be told. That's already the case with indie comics but I would like for more things to be explored. I personally like the combination of real elements of life with the supernatural, or any juxtaposition of previously unmarried concepts really. I think I want more surrealism too, please.”

NYX: NoWay Home #1
She revealed that drawing covers proved most enjoyable as they allowed her to hone her versatility as well as explore new methodologies in art. This also helped conserve time spent sketching. On breaking into the industry, the virtuoso artist revealed it was not difficult due to her affiliations. “I just got introduced to people in the industry (easily) and got jobs. Before that, I spent two years making art for myself but not for a portfolio. I think portfolios shouldn’t be the goal, the goal should be to enjoy the art you make and the process, and maybe then others will enjoy it too. Art is for enjoyment and shouldn’t be thought of seriously. That’s sometimes hard to remember when you work so hard,” she divulged.

She confessed that editors usually gave her free rein in creating covers so that she submits more portraits than required before the team decides on the final one.  Urusov also expounded on her creative process – “I have to become an expert in my drawings. I appreciate the aesthetic of real functionality so I gather my references and then for sequentials, I do quick thumbnails and layout in Photoshop. I draw the inks on paper and colour here. I won’t necessarily stick with this format for every case. It’s nice to have a familiar format but it’s also interesting to experiment with styles and mediums.” She stated that challenging and tight deadlines were tedious but they helped her make confident and decisive artistic decisions – “I think most of the time the editors already have an idea of what they want for covers but it's up to me to give it flesh. So I send a bunch of preliminary sketch ideas, usually far too many, and they pick one and I craft that one out the way I do sequentials.”

Sequential comic art tallies hectic schedules for Urusov and placed more duress on her during her DC and Marvel stints. I do the best job I can and if the editors are okay with my pace, that’s great, and if not then I am sure some really fast artists will get a great job. But most editors are gracious and they understand I am trying to raise it up a notch if I can. For me it's gratifying to know I didn't spend all this time on something that is just 'ok' and that people enjoy the art. For covers there is enough time (unless you are working two jobs or are a student simultaneously), but for sequentials it's pretty tight, especially because I like to do things properly and I work better under less stress,” she professed.

She heaped plaudits on technology and the digital age with reference made to cameras. She believes such devices allowed capturing pivotal moments and essences of Life. However, she remains wary that such tools can hinder the mind’s ability to cultivate scenes and elements from scratch. She is focused on commission work at present after finishing ‘Blue Bloods’, which is a 110-page graphic novel.  “I just finished work on "Blue Bloods”. So now I can focus on commissions for a while,” she said.
Topcow Holiday Special, 2010
“Some people say, ‘I wish I could be an artist’ but they don’t know that they can! Anybody can do it if you care enough and just try it. Don’t worry about getting into the industry so much as doing a good job that you are satisfied with. If you’re already in there, do your best and have a critical eye about your own work, be optimistic about your ability to improve,” she also offered. Expanding on her influences, Urusov commented, “Well I mentioned my parents could paint back in the day, and my mom has a very critical eye which helped me learn to look at things objectively, and I really like art that has a strong line, or a witty combination of any elements. Claire Wendling and Joshua Middleton were my main influences when I first started comic drawing.”

As for the digital era, she relayed sage insight to aspiring artists. “I can record anything I see for later use with my camera- that's fantastic- but I also think it sort of made the development of drawing skills not as necessary. But when you record things with a pencil, it creates a strange kind of peace with the world and your circumstance so it shouldn't be neglected,” she stated. Urusov shared rare information as to her favorite and daunting aspect of the business also – “Covers are definitely more enjoyable because they don't take as much time to make, and you can move on and hop onto a different style wagon and try something new. I liked the last NYX cover because I got to try oils instead of photoshop. I also like drawing characters in action like the first Birds of Prey cover. The most challenging thing is the deadlines, but they push you to make quick decisions with confidence. Without them not a whole lot would get done I suppose.”

In ending I asked…why are comic book nerds hot? Her response – They wear spandex and don't care what other people think. Those people who dress up as supers to fight crime for real are especially intriguing!”

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