As an artist, I am in awe with individuals who can color artwork so “perfectly”. I am one of those artists who prefers to draw in black and white or sketch in pencil rather than color. Whenever I try to color one of my sketches I am not happy with it. So, when I come across talented colorists like Brian Miller from Hi-Fi, I just have to look and admire their work. Today’s interview is with another talented colorist that I am in awe of. His name is Steven Oaks and I believe he is pretty damn good at what he does. So, do yourself a favor, after reading this interview, go check out his work. You will be glad you did.
1. Who are you and where are you from?
My name is Steven Oaks. I grew up in Raleigh, NC and now I live in Utah with my wonderful wife. I’ve been an avid artist my whole life be it drawing or coloring. My oldest brother was a comic artist for our local newspaper until he died at age 16, we were close, I guess if I wasn’t going to be an artist before, then that sealed the deal.
2. I just love the way you use color in your art. How long did it take to perfect your style of coloring?
Ha ha, ‘perfect’ well thanks for the compliment Derf. I think the secret for whatever you do is to always be perfecting it.
I have been actively drawing my whole life. All small children draw/scribble, artists are the ones who never stop. I made the transition to coloring though when I was in a bookstore some five or so years ago and picked up ‘Ultimates Vol 3.’ Pencils by Joe Mad and Colors by Christian Litchtner. All the art inside is nothing short of legendary, but the colors really blew me away. That’s when I knew I was going to have to start learning how to color.
I taught myself through YouTube videos and a couple classes in college oriented to color theory.
I’ve been coloring a little under 5 years, but it took a good 2-3 years to apply what I knew from art growing up into using that knowledge to be a professional colorist.
3. One of my favorite pieces you have colored is the Harley and Deadpool piece. What made you want to do that piece?
I’ve wanted to do a Harley and Deadpool couple piece for a while now, their personalities are so similar, they both love red and black, and while fans love them, they both experience never getting respect from other characters be it partners in crime or otherwise.
The idea to have them be depicted as a couple based off the famous Alex Ross painting of Joker and Harley, came from a fan at a comic con for a print. I thought the idea was perfect so I proposed the idea to my friend Savy Lim, he loved it too, so he did the pencils and I did the colors.
4. I know you are a big Thor fan, do you have a favorite artist’s version of Thor that you have/have not colored?
I am a big Thor fan! How did you know? William Reyes did a sweet piece with Thor preparing a swing with Mjolnir and there is a lot of energy, wind, and lightning charging around him. Thor is a god, and I just love art that shows off his power and majesty.
5. Where can my readers see your art?
I actively post on my Facebook page and deviantart page:
6. Do you have anything you would like to promote right now?
Sure, I finished coloring issues 1-3 of Shelby Robertson’s “94” not too long ago, a series about a couple of time traveling assassins that have a knack for messing up their own timeline. Beautiful 90’s inspired book.
Right now I’m working on book 2 for game developer Stephan Frost’s “Mortifera” it’s a sweet medieval, Irish/fantasy, demon invasion novel? The line art is being done by Sarah Partington, she’s pretty amazing, her style is similar to the ‘Avatar: the Last Air Bender‘ series and the work is very color friendly, which gives me room to do some of my best work and try new things. People loved book one; I hope my new touches to the series’ second book build on that.
7. What is your favorite project that you have done?
I’m always trying to improve, so newer is better. I’m truly blessed to have worked on “94” and “Mortifera.” They’re my favorites to date.
8. What are your plans for the future?
Try to take over the world, meet Cthulhu and live, and surf on Jabba the Hut in a desert while chasing the seven dragonballs.
Well I really hope to not blend in; a lot of changes have been made in how comics are produced over the decades. The stories and art are better than ever. People and technology keep improving to help that along.
20+ years ago I would have stuck with drawing and would have been a line artist for comics. A colorist used to just fill in flats and color by number. With digital painting in comics today, I had to switch, I love what a colorist can do these days and that’s why I do it.
I always laugh on the inside when I’m coloring live at a comic convention and someone comes up to me and asks, “What are you drawing?”
Though I’m clearly painting (coloring) I always respond, “Well, I’m painting such and such.” Coloring is a dated term for what we colorists do today. Used to be that’s all the job was, coloring with flat pre-assigned colors. Today colorists are digital painters. The only time I like being called a colorist is when the credits all line up saying “pencils, inks, colors.” But all three are artists with separate specialties.
So I hope I can be a voice for change in the industry to help awareness for the general public and get proper credit for all three kinds of comic artists. I hope the job title gets up-to-date with the job description, we paint. If all you want someone to do is color your book then conduct a job search at a kindergarten class. Call us comic painters/digital painters, I guess that’s my dream.