¦ Features ¦ Chris
Chris Blythe has
rapidly become one of the rising stars of 2000AD, and has arguably been more responsible
for highlighting the role of the colourist in the comic than anyone before him.
Almost indispensable to Judge Dredd artists, Blythe has succeeded in bringing
new levels of quality to the comic with his computer colouring. After testing
the ground with some successful Future Shocks, he has now teamed up with Steve
Parkhouse to produce the original graphic novel, Angel Fire. We caught up with
him to find out more.
by Gavin Hanly
You can be credited
with adding a distinct look to 2000AD in the past few years, as there was a shift
to more "pen and ink" artwork in the comic. How did your tenure at 2000AD
I was looking for things
to bring in some money while I was establishing myself as an illustrator. I knew
nothing about computer coloured comics, but thought it was a possible avenue to
explore, so I scanned some old 2000ad pages, coloured them and sent them in. It's
become my core business ever since.
Your colouring work
is clearly high tech - what do you use to get your effects?
When I was starting out,
I'd use horrendous things like 'cloud render' or 'lens flare' in Photoshop. Stock
effects are pretty repugnant, and really shouldn't be used! You can always tell
someone who has just discovered Photoshop because there are lens flares all over
the artwork. I tend to paint my effects. For example in Total War, Mega City got
nuked by a paintbrush! No bespoke software, or flashy filters. I paint explosions,
skies, water, whatever in Painter and then import it into Photoshop. It sits better
with line art that some flashy glitzy effect.
Given the constant evolving
of computer technologies - is your technique evolving?
Oh yeah. Ironically
as computers get more sophisticated, my style is becoming more traditional. I've
started using Painter a lot more, and really I'm gearing myself up to changing
my style completely. I've never been comfortable with the airbrush look of digi
colouring, and the market's awash with it. It all looks the same. Painter allows
me to approach the work much more as I would with real paints. just without the
mess and smell of turps!
Blythe's first 2000AD work, colouring Adam Hoy
Have you ever
worked in traditional colouring? What do you see has the main differences between
computers and traditional colouring - and are there drawbacks to using a computer?
I never coloured traditionally.
Recently I've experimented with combining techniques more, printing pages out
and painting them with water colour, scanning them back in and continuing to work
in the computer - but it's too time consuming. That's one of the advantages of
computers - they're fast, and once you have one the running costs are nil. Drawbacks?
They make you lazy. A lot of artists coming into the industry now are using computers
as a crutch to compensate for the lack of basic drawing skills.
What process do you
go through when colouring an artist's work. How much work is done liaising with
the artists before and during the process? Have you ever had to recolour at an
There's very little
liasing. There should be more I think. Some artists will ring me up with ideas
or requests, but mostly it's rather segregated. Sometimes I'll email stuff to
the artist as I'm going to see if I'm on the right track. Usually I do that if
I'm mucking about with their lines a bit, as I don't want to tread on anyone's
toes. I did that a lot with the nuke scenes in Total War. I did actually make
some alterations for Henry on that, because I got carried away and you could hardly
see his lovely work! I did have to re-colour a cover once at Tharg's request.
favourite example of your work?
I think there would be
something wrong in the world if I didn't say Angel Fire. Apart from not missing
a perfect opportunity to plug my book, it's the first time I've managed to really
nail Steve's artwork. His style just doesn't suit the digital airbrush look. I
did Angel Fire (oh, there I go again) exclusively in Painter rather that Photoshop,
and gave it a painted look which I'm really proud of.
Does it please you to
think that you seem to have become as synonymous (and indispensable) to the 'Judge
Dredd' strip as Tom Frame or John Wagner?
I can honestly say that's
never crossed my mind. Synonymous only because of the volume of Dredd I've done,
I hardly think I'm indispensable! It's nice to be associated like that, though.
With better printing
techniques, special effects and more detailed colouring have become a big part
of comic storytelling. Is there a growth of respect for the impact a colourist
I guess. I get
a lot of nice comments from readers and artists and editors. It's a difficult
thing, working on someone else's art - you want them to like the result. A lot
of people are dazzled by effects, but really I'm only just beginning to learn
that less is more. We still don't get royalties, despite the amount of work colouring
entails - so we're still the poor cousins.