This month’s Apex Magazine cover artist is James Lincke, an illustrator, designer, and storyteller. Lincke works mostly with traditional media, including pencils, pastels, watercolor, oils, and mixed media objects, with Photoshop as an extra, helpful tool.
APEX MAGAZINE: Your illustration galleries are filled with many different styles, genres, and ideas. How do those explorations typically start, and how do they work in with your overall career style?
JAMES LINCKE: My earliest memories of making art as a child are of me drawing and painting for pure enjoyment. It was playtime and meant to be a way to exercise my imagination. Then in grade school I began entering art competitions, and for a long time image-making became more so a means to an end. It wasn’t until the very end of my high school years that I began a long and painstakingly arduous period of creating personal works of art. I spent so many hours upon hours drawing and rendering in pencil that there was this great escape into solitude that allowed for an intimacy with my craft that I never had before. Art became a language and a therapy for me to work through all sorts of growing pains. In turn, the experience of spending 40-plus hours creating an illustration was important in preparing myself for a career in art. I tend to work a bit more abstractly and stylistically these days when it comes to creating personal imagery, but I’m discovering that may be a very good thing. Whether or not there’s recognizable subject matter in something I create, that’s not really most important to me now. Raw expression: That’s the goal and it’s what I’m always trying to keep my process rooted in. Visual art as language and as a means to communicate to others by creating works of all styles and genres is my thinking when preparing to create something new.
AM: Some of the images in your gallery, such as “Soaring,” seem sublime compared to many of your horror pieces. Is that a conscious decision as you are creating a piece? How does the medium you choose affect the content of what you are creating?
JL: “Soaring” was a work that I had created during a period where I was feeling very passionate and free-wheeling in my creative pursuits. I was working on a series of large-scale paintings in pastel and there was a lot of movement involved by me standing and being more active physically in creating those sorts of pieces. A lot of the monster portraits and pretty much all of the darker, more tightly rendered, narrative pieces are smaller in physical size and have always involved me sitting at a desk for long stretches of time. I feel that the way a piece is created can greatly influence the direction of my thinking process. I love making art with my hands, with inks and paints and physical mediums. Also, there’s so much swimming under the surface when it comes to the experiences that one can draw from making art. I, for one, have always been drawn to extremes. I like to create images that explore a lot of dark, nightmarish happenings of everyday life, but I’m also drawn to creating more romantic imagery as well.
AM: You have a section on your website dedicated to humorous drawings, which many horror artists also dabble in. Do you think that your more humorous creations come from the same side as the horror images, say from a darker cynicism or sarcasm, or do they come from an opposing side?
JL: I enjoy being playful and trying to make people laugh, but I also like making people feel uncomfortable and awkward. Creating artwork is very much like exercising the body. Some days, you should jog and eat light, whereas other days you should hit the weights and really challenge yourself. It’s fun to explore different creative ways to connect with people. One piece that’s comedic in nature may be my way of trying to brighten someone’s day, while another piece that’s a monster portrait for example could be my way of pushing them down the stairs. I go back and study my work often in an attempt to better understand my journey with art, and I’d say there’s a definite twisted humor behind a lot of the artwork I’ve created. When I was a kid, I used to be a lot more religious, and so I just presumed there were predetermined reasonings behind what I was supposed to be doing with my creativity. Growing up in Catholic school, I was always told by teachers, nuns, and priests that my creativity was a gift from God and that I should use it to bring him “glory.” How’s a child, who simply wants to make art, supposed to process those kinds of outrageous demands? I guess it helped to get me to take my work very, very seriously as I started out, but I also think that a lot of the darker, more mischievous works I’ve created stem from my attempts to process those years.
AM: What kind of challenges do you face when you’re creating a comic series versus a standalone piece? Is the approach the same, or does the sequential side of it change your methods?
JL: A piece of art always has a story to tell, whether it’s a comic or a portrait. I love creating narrative art. Storytelling is something I’ve always had a fascination with. I’ve kept journals since I was a kid because I found taking notes and writing about daily experiences fascinating and very helpful to developing creativity. I still do it. It’s a great exercise. I recently self-published my first graphic novel, titled Jimmy’s Fun Nun. It’s based on my Catholic grade school upbringing and how those years contributed to my art. The story involves a semi-autobiographical version of me as a third grader creating a Fun Nun comic strip series (FunNun.com) with hope to inspire his curmudgeon old teacher, Sr. Ashtabula, to lighten up and have some fun in her life. The narrative that interweaves between the comic strips is purely visual and there are no word bubbles or captions to those pages. It was important to me to create a story that could allow for readers to apply their own dialogue and imagination to bring the narrative to life. I most recently completed a feature length film project that grew out of my work on the book. It began as a video project intended to help me in self-promoting the book, but over time it grew into a full-fledged experimental comedy, in which I played the title character. It was a lot of fun and an incredible learning experience. It’s a different kind of challenge though working in comics and film because you’re creating many different pieces of artwork that can’t be seen all at once, but it all has to add up to something. So, creating a singular piece like a painting or a drawing can be a lot more fun sometimes because I can focus all of my creativity on one space.
AM: With your cover for this month’s Apex Magazine, “The Time Machine,” the eye is drawn to the color and brightness of the machine. Are the color or detail areas typically where you start, or are the colors and details of an object like the machine picked up from the overall image as you work?
JL: I like to sketch out the overall composition for a piece before I dig into rendering areas. I do tend to begin with the eyes, if there are any present in an illustration. With “The Time Machine,” I created an underdrawing of oranges and reds, and then from that base I layered more and more detail. I wanted the warmness of the base to shine through so that there would unity overall. Illustrating certain areas before others does help to decide upon the most appropriate use of contrasting colors. The cold violets contrasting with the warm oranges was something I was going for from the start, but understood more and more as the most appropriate color choices as I layered detail upon detail. I find great enjoyment in developing an entire piece at once and then digging into particular areas to flesh out the detail. Creating a rhythm with all of the details is an important goal of mine from the onset. Some pieces, though, allow for more improvisation than others. I find those works can be great exercises in between the more planned out works.
James Lincke’s current project is a feature length horror/comedy film titled a Fun Nun…Halloween, inspired by his debut illustrated novel, Jimmy’s Fun Nun. You can learn more about the book and the film at www.FunNun.com. Lincke is also working on a few new film projects, including Duncan, USA, a road trip comedy about a puppet traveling across the country. See more of his work on his website at jameslincke.com.