First Im­pres­sions

The vi­sion­ary il­lus­tra­tor still gets a buzz from cre­at­ing his dis­tinc­tive art…

ImagineFX: Sci-fi & Fantasy Art magazine - - Contents - Bill Sienkiewicz

Bill Sienkiewicz on his first sale.

Where did you grow up and how has it in­flu­enced your art? I grew up in ru­ral north­ern New Jersey, US. It was beau­ti­ful but re­mote. Lots of farm­land, cows, horses, pigs, crops, late sum­mers spent bal­ing hay. More than any­thing, I learned a work ethic. What, out­side of art, has most in­flu­enced your work? Mu­sic. All kinds. In art school I got into jazz and blues. More than any other, this style of mu­sic fits my style of work and my nat­u­ral way of ex­press­ing my­self. You’re a child. You see a paint­ing or draw­ing that changes ev­ery­thing. What ef­fect did it have? I would get a chill down my spine and a rush of adren­a­line. Joy. Ex­cite­ment. A de­sire to cre­ate some­thing that would give me that rush again. To cap­ture light­ning in a bot­tle. And hope­fully bring that same feel­ing to oth­ers.

What was your next step in art? When I be­come in­ter­ested in girls I had to make a big decision. I also loved to play gui­tar, base­ball, act and di­rect. I re­mem­ber some­one say­ing, “You can’t serve two masters”. An odd thing for a kid to hear. But gui­tar and base­ball took a back seat to art – which re­ally was my first love – and I would do act­ing and di­rect­ing through comics. No way were girls go­ing to be taken out of the mix. Name one per­son who helped you, and some­one who tried to get in your way At gram­mar school my big­gest sup­porter, my most won­der­ful muse and prac­ti­cally a sur­ro­gate mom, was my fifth grade teacher Nell Harper. We’d do daily jour­nal writ­ings and I turned them into ev­ery­thing from par­o­dies like Mad to sci­ence fic­tion and comics. She would write lit­tle com­ments in the mar­gins, which were like food to a starv­ing man. She truly in­spired me. I guess my big­gest im­ped­i­ments were my par­ents. Un­til the day she died my mother had ab­so­lutely no idea what I did to make a liv­ing. I don’t think she cared – and if she did it sim­ply didn’t reg­is­ter. She was in­cred­i­bly self-ab­sorbed. My fa­ther wanted me to have a “real job” to fall back on. So I learned elec­tri­cal wiring – a use­ful skill for col­laged and con­structed pieces!

My mother had ab­so­lutely no idea what I did for a liv­ing.

I don’t think she cared

What was your first paid com­mis­sion? A paint­ing I did of the New Jersey State Art Fair, a sort of Frazetta-Adams mashup of a bar­bar­ian – and I won the high­est award. I was in­cred­i­bly thrilled. I sold the paint­ing for $25 and it showed me I could make a liv­ing do­ing art. What’s the last piece that you fin­ished, and how do the two dif­fer? A cover for DC Comics, and the big­gest dif­fer­ence is that I’m get­ting more than $25 for it. But the ex­cite­ment is still there, it’s never left or di­min­ished. I’m in­cred­i­bly for­tu­nate that that’s the case.

What are your paint­ing rit­u­als? Stay­ing at the easel, draw­ing board or com­puter un­til a piece is done, would be the clos­est thing to a rit­ual. What’s the most im­por­tant thing you’ve taught some­one? Not to take no for an an­swer and to be­lieve in them­selves. And if they ever find them­selves ask­ing, “Am I an artist?” then the an­swer is prob­a­bly “No I’m not,” be­cause there is no ques­tion. You sim­ply have no choice. What ad­vice would you give to your younger self? Stay in the mo­ment. Don’t lis­ten to the voices of doubt in your head. Pay at­ten­tion to life around you. Con­nect with peo­ple. Learn from ev­ery­one. Work on your­self as a per­son. Live con­sciously. Do that ‘ex­am­ined life’ thing. Un­der­stand your rea­sons, your emo­tions and your mo­ti­va­tions. They’ll help both your work and your life. Why is comic and fan­tasy art still the best place to be work­ing? In a sto­ry­telling medium, any­thing and ev­ery­thing is pos­si­ble. You’re cre­at­ing joy, awe and work that moves and chal­lenges peo­ple’s per­cep­tions and adds some­thing to their lives. It’s not brain surgery or rocket sci­ence, but it shouldn’t be. It has its very own place of hon­our.

Su­per­man breaks free Su­per­man has a long tra­di­tion of break­ing free from chains. Here’s Bill’s dra­matic take on the clas­sic com­po­si­tion.

ELEK TRA crouch­ing Even to­day, Bill is asked to cre­ate new images of Elek­tra for pri­vate col­lec­tors.

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