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Artist Spotlight: Ariel Marsh

Updated: May 29, 2019

GabbyPool sits down Ariel Marsh to discuss her art, why she got into comics and Messiah.

Droids: When and how did you first become established as an artist?

Ariel: Around the time I left college I decided to make a go of it. It was pretty slow to start, but thanks to the internet, it was much easier to gain a foothold in the art world.

Sure, there have been a few “regular” jobs peppered in since then, but I always came back to the art. When I met my best pal, Jay Paulin of Ink'd Well Comics at Hal-Con 2010, that's when things got serious. In the best way possible, of course. Working on comics together has really helped me get some direction and focus in my life.

Droids: What first got you into comic books? Which one do you enjoy the most, and why?

Ariel: Like a bunch of kids, I sure read a lot of Archie, but my love of comics really took off around junior high. I watched quite a bit of Sailor Moon and Dragonball. Once I learned I could get the mangas, it was on!  A lot of Top Cow Productions and Image Comics books were read too like Witchblade and Gen13.

Choosing the comic I enjoy most is a tough one. I absolutely love Bone by Jeff Smith. I picked up the one-volume addition at the library and could not put it down. It's a hero's journey that is so funny and dark. The art is charming. I love everything about it. It just makes my heart so happy.

Droids: What inspired you to start your own comic book series? Ariel: Jay Paulin! Seriously!

Before we met, I hadn't really thought about working in comics. Super Galactic Space Explorers (SGSE) and Emma Awesome started out as single illustrations that I brought to conventions. I knew I wanted to do something with them, but I'm not a writer so they sat there, unfinished. It wasn't until I met the very cool Jay Paulin, that they would come to life. While finishing up work on his title Infantasy, he asked about the image of SGSE's main protagonist, Boots. All I had was her name and that she went on adventures in space. It was the same with Emma Awesome. From there, Jay created incredible worlds for these characters. It was amazing to see how he brought them to life.

Droids: What projects have you worked on in the past?

Ariel: All my comic work has been done with my best pal, Jay. My first project was creating the cover for the charity anthology titled “What The Wild Things Read”. Since then we have worked on a bunch of projects together and have many lined up! Our previous projects include Infantasy, Sci-Fact Comics, Fearsome Fables Charity Anthologies 1 & 2, Super Galactic Space Explorers and Emma Awesome: Undead Rockstar.

Droids: Is there a project that you would like to work on?

Ariel: Jay and I have quite a few projects in the pipeline. I'm pretty darn stoked to work on all of them. Our current projects are the comics Byrd & Bird and Messiah. After that we have Volume 3 of Super Galactic Space Explorers and a couple more titles that we are in the planning stages of. We have projects to last us a lifetime!

Droids: Who or what was your inspiration for your comics, and why?

Ariel: Being able to tell the stories we have created through the comics medium is so damn cool. I think it's the perfect fit for Jay and I. For specific characters like Boots of the Super Galactic Space Explorers, the inspiration is based on a real cat. I would always see her out and about doing neat things and that translated to the illustration of her exiting her space ship on a distant planet. Many of the cats in SGSE are based on real life counterparts.

Emma Awesome was inspired by my friend Dadward's undead character. I loved it so much that I wanted to create my own. Because I love the rockabilly/psychobilly culture and music, that played a major part in her creation. It's so cool to see Emma and her friends come to life through Jay's writing. We first started telling her story in a web comic. Now she can be seen in a shiny new print volume.

Droids: What kinds of mediums do you use for your work? Which one do you prefer?

Ariel: Most of my comic work is done digitally. I started out using Flash for inking and Photoshop for colours and textures. I've since moved away from Flash, and instead use Manga Studio 5, along with Photoshop for inks and colours. I do still like to go old school, sometimes. I've done a few comics using traditional pen and ink. Even though it was fun, I do prefer to do them digitally. It gives me more freedom to experiment and makes doing touch ups so much easier. For my personal work, I pretty well stick to using inking pens, markers and watercolours. I love watercolours so much. It's nice to use them in the evenings as a break from the computer.

Droids: Which project of yours do  you think has been the most successful, and why?

Ariel: Our series Super Galactic Space Explorers has done incredibly well for us. It truly is an all-ages space opera, featuring cats, and that's what grabs people right out of the gate. When we worked on the first volume, we had a few kids and their parents read it to make sure everyone would enjoy it. One of our favorite jokes is that our Butterscotch character is a catnip smuggler. It flies right over the heads of the little ones, but the adults get a good laugh out of it. Super Galactic Space Explorers is such a joy to work on, and I believe that shines through in the writing and art.

Droids: Was there an artist that was influential to you?

Ariel: There are so many artists that have been influential in different ways. It's too hard to pick just one, so here's a big list! Naoko Takeuchi, Rumiko Takahashi and Akira Toriyama for sure in my early manga days. Their creations really pushed me to draw more. I'm sure I still have sketchbooks filled with drawings of their characters. The same goes with Michael Turner, creator of Fathom. I so love the work of Jeff Smith, Mike Mignola, Terry Moore, Daniel Clowes, Michael Allred, and Frank Cho.

And I have to give a shout out to my art and author friends. They are so talented, cool and super inspiring. Getting to see what they are working on next is always exciting. Seeing their incredible work pushes me to work harder. (April M. Designs, Kraig Nicol, Dadward. Mushface Comics, Missy Art & Cosplay, Steven Charles Rosia, Engen Books)

Droids: What kind of advice would you give to an aspiring comic book creator?

Ariel: It can be nerve wrecking to take that first step, but once you do you are well on your way. The quick advice I have for those aspiring to work on comics is DO IT! Take it slow and easy at first with some short strips. Maybe just 3 panels. Whatever you feel comfortable with. Once you get in your groove, it'll be easier to move up to longer form comics, if that is something you are passionate about creating.

Post those comics on-line! It's a great way to meet fellow comic fans and hopefully get some good feedback. Who knows, you might also meet some cool folks that would like to collaborate with you too.

Go to comic conventions and talk to the artists and writers. They will be so happy to talk with you about the craft. I guarantee you will meet some amazing folks that will further your aspirations to create your own comics.

#messiah #arielmarsh

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