Interview with David Nakayama
One of my favourite comic cover artists right now is David Nakayama, who for the past couple of years has been creating some of the most eye catching work on the shelves, in fact his latest variant cover, for Deadpool #11, is so cool it’s probably not even going to make it to the shelves, so you’d better pre-order it quickly!). David very kindly agreed to answer a few questions and tell me a little bit more about himself and his work. and I very kindly decided to share it with you all! I know, I’m just all about the giving…
David K. Hi David, thanks for your time today! Can I jump right into it and ask you to tell us a little about yourself, where you’re from and how you first realised you wanted to get into drawing for the funny books?
David N. Sure! I grew up in Honolulu, and my mom says I’ve been drawing since the very beginning. I got into comics and comic art primarily because of Jim Lee and Marc Silvestri’s work on Uncanny X-Men in about 1990 (when I was 12). I just had no idea comics could look like that! And when I saw the stuff those two were doing (along with Liefeld, McFarlane, and others), it just completely captured my imagination. Never really looked back. These days I’m a freelance illustrator, probably best known for my Marvel cover art. But I also art-directed a few video games people might’ve heard of, like City of Heroes, Avengers Academy, and Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery.
David K. For those who don’t know what’s involved in “art-directing of video games” (like me, for example!) what work did you do on those games?
David N. Sure! Art Direction is a lot of different jobs all rolled into one. It can involve hiring talent for a project, designing the game’s art style from scratch, training others to work in that style, producing actual assets for the game, making sure all the game’s art looks consistent and of a piece, interacting with management and other departments (e.g., design), and talking with the press when it’s time to ship. I did all of those things and then some for the games I worked on.
David K. Can you remember the first drawing you did that made you think that art could be something you could make a living from?
David N. That’s such a hard question! Honestly, for years I felt nervous about the quality of my art and just completely unworthy up until I actually landed work, and even years after I assumed it was all a fluke and that it could disappear at any time. I started making art because I loved it and felt compelled to do it. Like, maybe if I kept at it, it could turn into something? That’s still the feeling that drives me. Still trying to grow and improve.
David K. Who would you say were your biggest artistic influences?
David N. For years now, my two biggest touchstones have been Adam Hughes and J. Scott Campbell. Each one is a master draftsman with a sly sense of humor, major storytelling chops, and yeah, a penchant for drawing beautiful ladies. 😉 They’re just the best living practitioners of comics for my money, and they’re my heroes. Totally want to be those guys when I grow up. Also, having spent many years in games, I came to appreciate digital painting a lot, especially the work coming out of South Korea (too many artists to name), but that style’s been a major influence on my work in recent years as well.
David K. One of my favourite variant covers of 2018 was the extraordinary cover you drew for Captain America #701. I’m interested in finding out what the process was behind that particular cover, did a commissioning editor ask specifically for unicorns and rainbows and stars or were you just told to go nuts?
David N. Hey, thank you so much! That was a major personal favorite for me as well. The really beautiful thing with Deadpool is that basically anything goes. Unlike a lot of other characters, Deadpool allows the artist to really tap into his or her sense of humor and go crazy. And that’s exactly what I tried to do on that cover. Marvel was doing a line of ‘what if Deadpool was this or that other character’ variant covers, and somehow I lucked into the Captain America one. I saw right away the potential, because those two characters couldn’t be more different from one another, and the juxtaposition just oozed humor to me. The editors didn’t ask for anything specific; I just pitched them on a Cassaday-like propaganda poster kind of image…but with all the goofiest Deadpool things I could think of, slotted in where you expected symbols of American patriotism. Sometimes, the opportunity is just there and the vision is just really clear, and you get a cover like that.
David K. Do you have any preference between cover and interior work?
David N. I definitely do my best work as a cover artist, because I naturally enjoy creating complete images in color, soup-to-nuts, with tons of focus and detail on each image I make. You can’t really do that as an interior artist–there’s just no time for it. Wouldn’t completely rule out interior work in the future, but the economics of it don’t really make sense for me at the moment.
David K. Can you tell us anything about the projects you are working on right now?
David N. Sure! Fortunately, I’ve been super busy since going freelance full-time late last year. Right now, I’m juggling a few Marvel covers, illustrations for 2 different board games, card art for a upcoming video game from a MAJOR IP, about one Zenescope pinup cover a month, and a movie thing I’m really excited about. Plus, convention season is about to hit really hard. So it’s going to be a wild ride this year. Just trying to hang on the best I can!
David K. It’s going to be fun to watch! Thanks for your time David and good luck with everything!
To see more of David’s work check out his website www.davidnakayama.com
David’s variant of Deadpool #11 can be pre-ordered from Things From Another World until March 8th, by clicking here
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