A graduate of the Kubert School, Jim Keefe started his career as the head colorist in the King Features Syndicate comic art department, coloring such world-renowned strips as Blondie, Beetle Bailey and Hagar the Horrible.
From 1996-2003 he was the writer and artist of Flash Gordon for King Features Syndicate – currently available online at Comics Kingdom.
Teaching and speaking engagements include the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan, Hofstra’s UCCE Youth Programs in Long Island, New York, the University of Minnesota – and most recently as an Adjunct Teacher at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design.
Keefe currently is the artist of the Sally Forth comic strip, written by Francesco Marciuliano. Sally Forth is syndicated worldwide by King Features and appears in nearly 700 newspapers.
King Features has just launched an all-new Flash Gordon anthology featuring 40 world-renowned artists each illustrating a unique Flash Gordon Sunday page of their own making. I just so happen to be the first one out of the gate.
Future artists includes Tana Ford (LaGuardia,Livewire,Black Panther), Liniers (Macanudo), June Brigman (Mary Worth, Supergirl, The Power Pack), Pia Guerra (Y: The Last Man and political cartoons), Sina Grace (Iceman,The Walking Dead,Ghosted in L.A.), Mx Struble (Getting it Together), Joanne Starer (Marvel Knights), Khary Randolph (Mosaic, Black, Excellence),Erica Henderson (The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Jughead, Dracula,Motherf***er), Denis Kitchen (Masterful Marks,The Oddly Compelling Art of Denis Kitchen), Massimo Gamberi (The Phantom) and many others.
I love pen and ink so I still do a good majority of my work with tradition tools like dip pen and brushes, but I also use a Wacom pen tablet (shown below) for layouts, lettering and finished production.
Scans 11″ x 17″, plus it prints up to 13″ x 19″. Cost saving tip: I find you can get a deal on the older models just when the newer models are coming out. Also you can check with your store if you can get money back by returning your old model when you buy the new one.
DRAWING & INKING MATERIALS
From left to right…
Pencils: 3h for light sketching and blocking in shapes. 2b for tightening up drawing. Pental Twist Erase with HB lead for a clean line.
Erasing/corrections: Kneaded eraser. white drafting eraser. X-acto knife (for removing ink by cutting away layer of bristol paper). Whetstone for sharpening X-acto blades.
Misc: Triangle, ruler and T-square. Tape to hold art in place. And above tape, piece of paper to have under your hand when penciling or inking.
I also have a larger T-square and ruler – but the smaller size comes in pretty handy.
From left to right…
Nibs: B6 and C5 lettering nibs. Japanese G NG-3. Hunt 513 EF.
Brushes: Winsor & Newton (In partnership with Blick) Round #1. Winsor & Newton Series 7 #2.
From left to right…
Rapidographs/Corrections: Kohinoor Rapidograph 2/.60. Kohinoor Rapidograph 1/.50. Presto fine point correction pen.
INKS, PAPER AND ODDS & ENDS
For inks I love FW’s black acrylic for how dark it goes down, but lately I have been using Speedball super black as it’s comparable and comes in a big bottle (thus saving me money).
For Flash Gordon I used both 1-ply and 2-ply vellum. Of late I’ve been using 2-ply smooth (or plate).
Underneath is an Alvin green cutting mat – very handy for not only cutting, but for tacking things up as well.
Last but not least… Inking templates: Circle, oval and a set of french curves. Erasing shield (bottom right hand corner). Ames guide for lettering (to the left of erasing shield).
Not pictured. For inking: a water jar, rag, paper towels and some scrap bristol are also a necessity.
I can’t stress enough that the items listed above are not the only ones I own or use. For instance, I have a number of different inking and lettering nibs, the ones pictured are just the nibs I am currently using the most. Check back in a year and you’d probably see some slight variations in what’s shown above.
Find what what works best for you, but don’t get mired down in the familiar. Try new tools (cutting edge and old school) and keep experimenting.
PARTING THOUGHT: GETTING THE WORK DONE
Interested in increasing your productivity? Jessica Abel offers a world of advice about getting more productive and creative. I currently am a subscriber to her online workshop and find it incredibly informative and helpful – highly recommended.
I’ll end with a few words from Zak Sally. I first met Zak while teaching at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. He’s a great teacher in that he has the rare ability to make lightbulbs go off in your head where you didn’t even know you were in the dark in the first place. Here he talks about one of his favorite artists, Kim Deitch.
Kim Deitch, he puts in 40 hours a week. He doesn’t put in 40 hours dicking around… Not time thinking about drawing. Not time thinking about when you’re going to draw. Not time drawing but then you get up and look for reference. It’s straight up time sitting there working on it is what he marks down. That’s huge for comics people. It’s putting your ass in the seat and keeping it there. It’s amazing the stuff you can do in an hour if you’re working the whole hour.”
Minneapolis is going through some crap right now (and what big city isn’t). People outside the city say they’re staying away – the same people who never had a desire to go into the city in the first place.
Just a heads up that there isn’t any place in Minnesota right now I’d rather be. There’s a ton of people here who are working hard to make things better in the face of adversity. And I like being a part of that.