A strong family art connection helped develop this comic artist’s natural skills
Paolo Rivera talks comic art.
Where did you grow up, and when did you realise you had a talent for painting?
I grew up in Daytona Beach, FL, surrounded by mullets, NASCAR, motorcycles, Catholic school, rock and rap. My parents opened an art supply store when I was a year old, and I started drawing at two (so they tell me). I used mostly pencils and markers – not a whole lot of painting until much later.
Did your upbringing influence your style of painting?
I didn’t try to paint seriously until high school. I became obsessed with Alex Ross’s art, who probably had the biggest influence on me, stylistically. But I was in love with comics and cartoons as well, so it was a pretty broad spectrum. My mom did framing and sold posters at the store, so I was surrounded by more classical influences as well. With her degree in textiles, she made sure I had some understanding of colour theory and design (and ample Halloween costumes). My dad, who currently inks my work, would probably have liked to be a fine artist, but airbrushed to pay the bills.
Did you naturally gravitate towards the comics industry?
There was never really any other option for me. We were about an hour away from Disney World, so people would always ask if I would work for them when I grew up. Although I had no intention, fate had other plans for me. My dad scared me away from animation (tons of work, not enough glory) but didn’t scare me enough to keep me away from pencilling (tons of work, glory to match).
How has the field of comics changed since your time in the industry?
I consider myself very lucky when it comes to timing. I had the benefit of the internet to get me a job, but the field wasn’t so crowded, especially when it came to comic book painters. Nowadays, it’s never been easier to get your work out there – and because of that, the competition has never been higher. I started at Marvel a year before I graduated from art school. I’d like to think I could still break in now on my own merit, but I think it would’ve taken much, much longer. But aside from some very surface-level technological advances, the fundamentals haven’t changed. The best part is uploading art instead of mailing it. I can resend a corrupted file, but there’s one Doctor Doom painting that I’ll never get back.
What’s been the highlight of your career so far? Any low points?
It’s pretty tough to beat the whole experience of being on Daredevil. The whole team was amazing, I got to work with my dad, and we all got a ton of recognition for just doing our job. I’ve had great experiences since then, but that was a perfect storm (the good kind). No low points… yet!
What’s been your most challenging commission or assignment?
I’d have to say my first issue of Spider-Man (Spectacular #14 with Paul Jenkins). I’ve done more technically demanding work since, but at the time, that was the hardest I’d ever worked for an extended period of time. I can count on one hand the number of times I went outside during that three-and-a-half month period. I stopped shaving, stopped showering and survived on Oreo cookies. I also got fat. “A bit roly poly,” as my editor later told me.
How regularly do you produce your sculptures?
Not enough! The last real sculpt I did was my wedding cake topper back in 2013. Prior to that, I did a Mary Jane maquette in 2010. Now I seem to only do digital maquettes, and they’re never very detailed – just enough to get the proportions right as a drawing reference.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
“Just wait. You’ll find the girl of your dreams. Here’s her address.” Actually, maybe that’s a bad idea. Professionally speaking, I’d tell myself to concentrate on drawing rather than painting… but I probably wouldn’t listen.
How would you sum up your work, in under 10 words?
I’d like to think the best is yet to come.
Paolo spent over 10 years at Marvel, before leaving to become an independent comic artist. He’s won Eisner and Harvey awards for his work. www.paolorivera.com
I had the benefit of the internet to get me a job, but the field wasn’t so crowded
MARVEL 75TH ANNIVERSARY “Tom Brevoort, who was my first Marvel editor, gave me the idea for this one.”
WOLVERINES PLAYING POKER “This was part of the Wolverine Art Appreciation month. I wish I could do more.”