Recently, well, not so recently, came across this awesome account on Deviant Art and if any of you knows Deviant Art as well as you should, you find little gems stashed away in little corners filled with little shadows and every now and then, you find a decent stash of treasure.
This is exactly the case with Gat Melvyn who we interview today. I found his account while trawling Deviant Art for some inspiration and the next thing I see, is an account filled with amazing art.
Gat is a colorist and his work is phenomenal. He’s also a great guy, seriously, I sent him a drawing of mine and he gave me feedback, which i implemented and my drawing was better off for it.
So without further banter, let’s get to the good stuff and take a look inside Gat’s mind.
Please tell us who you are and where you’re from
Hi everyone and thank you Neal for that very impressive introduction – kinda wanted to meet myself after that.
Well, I’m Gat Melvyn, I’m a video editor and comic book colorist by trade and an avid caffeinated beverage consumer. I’m a dusty blonde, who enjoys evening walks on the beach, sipping pink drinks (ok, maybe not the pink drinks) but yeah, whatsup.
Your Twitter profile says you are a video editor during the day and that you do comic book colours part-time. How did this dynamic come to life?
I’m that’s quite a long story, so the short version: I just do both. Next question. Ah, good joke. Um, but yes, I do video editing and part-time colouring, well, more specifically, digital colouring full time as well. So, when I was young, probably 4, I just had a stark realisation that when I grow up, I want to be an artist – no idea what a career was, a job was, how money worked – bear in mind, I’ve just unlocked ‘walking’ by this stage – it was quite a realisation that has stuck with me for all these years. Video editing was at least a creative field I could study and find work with, while working to the final goal.
Do you prefer tea, coffee, wine, beer or whiskey? (Personally, I like my bourbon)
YES, bourbon for the win!
Generally, I’m a coffee maniac. Most people tell me how much coffee they drink in the average day and I respond with, “Those are rookie numbers. You gotta pump those numbers up.”
Person: “I go through a kettle of water a day.”
“And…I do 2 jars of coffee a day.” Happiness is a beer mug (or several) of cappuccino.
What’s a normal day like for you, with the video editing and then also doing comic book colouring?
Very taxing. My day generally begins around 7. Off to the office (corporate slave that I am). I generally do video editing, SFX, basic 2D animation and basic photoshop over 9 hours a day, normal work hours; but when I get home, there’s a quick coffee break with the family, the box starts up and the colouring begins and goes to anywhere from 10pm to 3am.
Shower. Bed. Repeat.
Weekends, no video work, but weekends start with an hour of painting before breakfast and again, doesn’t stop til 4 or 5 the following morning.
What was your defining moment that made you decide, this is what you want to do?
So, the more extended verion. As I said, had a stark realisation when I was a kid. Being the least most talented member of my family with a pencil, I tried many other avenues; photography, sculpture, woodwork, theatre acting and the list kinda goes on.
So, I was about 14, 15 and my cousin and I had done our weekly comic shop trip. Parking on the couch, I lifted up my copy of Pinky and the Brain and said, “I think I could do that. Comic colouring, I think I can do that.”
My cousin looked at me and held up an issue of Gen13 and said, “But can you do that.” Yeah, the artist dream kinda died that day. In standard 9, I was able to do a job shadow program with a production house, that, at the time, produced the MTN Gladiators.
Day 1 and I sit with the first off-line editor (the man who decides which shots make it into the episode) and after about 15 minutes of watching him, I asked, “So, let me get this straight. That polo outside is yours. And your whole job is to sit in front of a massive TV with a stack of tapes (old-school, huh) and the shots you pick, are what produce the show we see…and on top of this, you got a pack of Marie biscuits, right?”
And he simply replied with, “..yeah actually”
So, 3 years later, I attended AFDA (the South African and Drama Academy) to study editing. I graduated 3 years later and 2 months after graduation, got my first job. First day on the job and I am told ‘eh, just mess around in photoshop til we find you something”
“What’s photoshop?” Legit, that was my question. Think that’s bad, I followed up my question with “oh, it’s like MSPaint!” Yeah, insert face-palm here. But, that embarrassing moment lead to my next job a few years later, as the graphic designer for a website company. It was another 5 years before I coloured my first linework and well, junkie was hooked after that. I did my first comic within 6 months of that first coloured linework and I guess the rest is just history.
How do you balance the two skills? I can only imagine that it is quite taxing on your time and energy.
You could certainly say that. See question 3.
Yes and no actually. Some days are great and everything works first time, other days are not as forgiving. Video editing is a lot more about knowing the programs and on-the-spot ideas, so once you, I want to say, ‘learn the rules’ of editing, it very much can become a ‘paint by numbers’. Whereas, with comics or even just pinups, there are very few rules and a whole lot of open imagination.
I think it helps to never stop studying, favourite TV shows, movies and commercials are video study skills and comic books are textbooks. So I suppose that from the outside looking in, it can look a little mad, but the energy that most people put into Playstation or model building, I put into a separate hobby/career.
What are the things about your colouring work that you enjoy the most?
Er, that’s a tough one. I think the actual applying colour is actually one of my favourite aspects. Because I generally paint in a grey, or green scale, converting that grey into the final colours is one of my preferred aspects. Eyes, also, love doing and texturing. So glows, like metal, tree bark, magic and fractal shapes – anything that really pushes the ‘how far can I push this’ bar. Hair, on the other hand, very much on the other end of the scale, I’ve never really been happy with the way I paint hair and for me, it’s quite time-consuming.
Pizza, Burgers, Pasta or homemade food?
Ok, I have to say it, not because she’s reading this, but because it’s true, I’m spoiled with my wife’s cooking. Just anything she makes is just incredible. Eating out, you can’t go wrong with melted cheese on a tomato base, topped with meat and garlic, so pizza. Yeah, Pizza.
Have you got any tips or hints you can drop for students looking to put together a good portfolio for presentation?
Well, as far as editing goes – do your showreel right. I was lucky enough to get read the riot act at my first job interview. Build a proper DVD with a menu, put into a proper DVD case, get a book cover printed, print on the DVD, make it look as professional as possible. Basically, go full blown Hollywood. Yes, your showreel will get you hired, but it’s badly packaged, who cares about its contents.
Also, try not to include edits you’ve made of final products – don’t take a movie and try to recut it into a music video, it’s not always a guaranteed winner in an interview.
Comic portfolio, who are you submitting to? That is the best question you could ask yourself. The reason, any comicbook company has specific characters and in the case of Marvel or DC, they don’t care about any character you’ve made, they want to see what you can do with THEIR characters!
Also, pinups are not going to fly, period! If you want to get into comics full time, or actually work for a comicbook company, you need to have I would say, 5 sets of 5 pages, so 25 completed, sequential pages. Editors want to see that you can handle situations and moods, what a scene requires and that you can work consistently. So, Superman doesn’t jump from bright blue and marlboro red in one panel, to midnight blue and marlboro red in the next.
Is there anyone you would like to give a shout-out to?
Definately, my wife, Lesley, my rock and strength and biggest fan. My folks and family for all the support over the years. Mouse, D and the rest of the LegionInk team who pushed me to develop my skills. Also, Meatball and Siberia, my painting tigers, who guard my desk like the gates of Valhalla – they offer great comfort and advice in the early hours of the day.
How would you say, your video editing skills and your comic book colouring skills tie in together to compliment your overall work?
Yoh, saving the tough one for 11, ok. I’ve had to learn a lot more about photoshop within video editing than I actually need to use for colouring. Because 90% of my editing career as been around greenscreening, fixing complections and colours has helped me understand how to apply colour in better ways and use more realistic colours to my painting, but more than that, um, best way I can say this, if you really want to get creative with lighting in your painting, CSI: Los Vegas (Grishim for the win) – best variety of study material.
What for you, was the best piece of video editing you’ve seen in your career?
It’s actually a tough call, between a few. Probably top of the list is actually El Mariachi by Robert Rodriguez. Followed by Resivoir Dogs, Gangs of New York, The Crow (original), Minority Report (or any of the Mission: Impossibles) and Die Hard.
Have you got any advice you would like to share with any artists looking to start in comic books as a career?
Quite a bit, so if you’d like to take a break, go now, we’ll wait, because this is going to take a while.
As I said earlier, get your portfolio done right. Also and this is something I’ve struggled with for many years – perfect and finished are 2 VERY different concepts. Now, gather round everyone and listen to cool uncle Gat’s wisdom – your work will never be perfect!
Accept it. Never. Be. Perfect.
And you can work for years, you will attain perfect – but with a little more practice, you can attain, finished!
Companies can’t sell “It’s not perfect”. You can’t sell “It’s not perfect”.
Practice. Practice until your eyes squint and your wrist cramps and practice more. A few minutes a day is not going to do much for you. Several hours a day, every day, is what it’s going to take.
Comics are not for the faint-hearted, your editor knows more about the business and the skills it takes to produce comics than you do – you’re not going to be able to fake anything with them. Comics require early mornings, late nights, for the most part, weekends are just another day at the office.
For me, working on a comic, through all the long hours and tears and questioning life Choices, anger, angst and depression, through all of that, there’s no words to describe the feeling of seeing your name, there in print, on a comic, you’re holding in your hands, that right there, makes it all worth it.
Dream for the big leagues, but don’t depend on it. If you’ve got a concept, or a friend has a concept, make it happen – self-publish, do it!
Aaaaand, finally, don’t work for free, at least, try not to… A number of people, even professionals in this business, will use the line “It will be great for your exposure” – you can’t take exposure to the bank or the grocery store. Remember, even if you’re starting out, you have a skill, you have time. Your life is time, you are selling your lifetime.
Price yourself fairly, if you’re good and people think you’re great, yes you can charge a higher rate, but don’t think that starting out, you’re hitting $100 per page, never gonna happen. Artists, colourists specifically, can charge up to $100 per page, because they’ve put 15 years of practice into getting that page completed in 2 hours. Yes, exposure can lead to bigger things, but it’s not a good gamble.
For you, which comic book artists have a strong influence on your work?
Oh boy,the men, the legends, Alex Sinclaire, Steve Firchow and Jeremy Cox have probably been the longest running. The trinity (as I call them) Nei Ruffino, Sabine Rich, Ula Mos, Alex Ross, Rex Lokus, Marte Garcia, Juan Fernandez, Peter Stegawald, J Skipper…
Who are your favourite artists that you look up to for your comic book art?
Funnily, the same list as above. Sinclaire, Firchow and Cox, very much for their overall technique and construction of pages and colour composition. The trinity, because I’ve never found a male who can paint like they do – what they do with colour almost defies belief. Lokus, Garcia and very much so, Fernandez, really because of their vibrance and their selections, they way that they actually build the character lighting and construct each panel.
If we would like to follow you online or find your work, where can we look you up?