Committed: Brad Simpson, master of color
Working with Brad Simpson over the last couple of years has allowed me to see the diversity of his coloring choices, most recently on Sex and Gødland (the finale of which is out today), and he has gradually transformed my own personal preference for black and white comic books. Previously I thought that black and white comic books were always superior, with a more stark and aggressive look than the messily colored art I associated with comic books.
Luckily, designing comic books with Simpson has allowed me to see his tremendous capacity to transform and create a broad range of moods and environments. He uses color as a storytelling tool and it has enhanced my enjoyment of the books he works on, as well as my interest in bolder, more directional color palettes in my own design work. Brad agreed to answer a few questions about his work for us.
Sonia Harris: What books are you currently coloring and where did you get started?
Brad Simpson: I got my start coloring a few random issues at Marvel, Deadpool Team Up, I Am an Avenger, and Forever Allies. My first series was Vengeance, it was a 6 part mini. Currently, I color Sex and Catalyst Comix. I just finished the Gødland finale as well.
SH: How did you get into coloring?
Simpson: My friend, Nick Dragotta (co-creator of East of West), encouraged me to try my hand at coloring. He knew me as a painter back in our college days and thought my sensibilities would translate well digitally. I hopped on a computer for the 1st time about six years ago.
SH: What is your training?
Brad Simpson: My BFA is in painting from the Savannah College of Art and Design. As far as comics are concerned, I have picked up some tricks from friends in the industry. Other than that, it’s been pretty much trial and error…heh.
SH: How do you work? Where and when? Do you have a routine?
Brad Simpson: Living in the Bay Area, space is limited. I have a corner of my home designated as a work station. I am one of those sadistic people that prefers the morning hours. The hours between 5 to 9am are magical for me.
SH: Do you use any special tools to help you find a palette for each book or story?
Brad Simpson: I have no tools in particular and never save palettes. I just try to find a fresh approach to coloring the individual artist. I would rather my work be malleable than have a signature style.
SH: Do you do any other kind of creative work? Illustration, painting?
Brad Simpson: In a past life, I did a lot of landscape paintings, working mostly in oil. I don’t have time to paint very much any more, but I keep a sketch book by the bed. I think drawing is an important exercise for anyone in an art and design field.
SH: Do you have any coloring idols? Anyone who’s work excites you?
Brad Simpson: I guess the books I stared at most while growing up excite me in terms of color, John Higgins on Watchmen and Dave McKean’s mixed media approach on Arkham Asylum are the first that come to mind. Going back and looking at Jim Steranko’s color work has been a big influence lately. I would also have to mention the painters, Thomas Moran and J.M.W. Turner as well, both 19th century landscape painters. They had an atmospheric approach to color that would allude to how something feels as much as it appears. I got a thing for landscape painting.
SH: What projects are you most proud of?
Brad Simpson: Probably Vengeance in terms of growth and self discovery. Currently, I think we are on to something pretty cool with Sex.
SH: Which project did you most enjoy coloring?
Brad Simpson: Unfortunately, the more tortured I am on a project, the better it turns out. I hope to “enjoy” coloring a comic book one day in the future!
SH: What would you like to do next?
Brad Simpson: I would like to get back to traditional media one day and put some real paint down on the page.