In the fall of 2000, I commissioned a piece of artwork from Neil focusing on some of my favorite characters, the Eternal Warriors and Alexandre Darque, from Acclaim Comics VH2 line. These guys were the real deal, taking all the good eliments about their original counterparts, and making them better.
I was very excited to have this page done, because original artwork featuring these characters is very hard to come by, especially Darque.
After seeing Mr. Vokes' take on Quantum and Woody (and the goat!) in a page he had done previously for me, I knew that an Eternal Warriors/Darque piece from him would be great.
Here you get to see the process of a master at work, from pencil sketch, to finished, inked page. As well as a short interview where Vokes takes us through the stages he goes through when doing a piece. If you are here, I assume you find Neils style interesting. And, as you will see, his versions of these characters are great.

b3: Okay, what's the first thing you do before starting a piece? Do you draw a bunch of different thumbnails to see how you want to layout the page, or do you just work through it as you go?

Neil: I don't have one set list of rules. I'm an improviser at heart. I love to make it up as I go along. Sometimes I'll be doing a story and not know what some of the characters look like until I'm actually drawing them on the page. (laughs) I get restless while working, I need to keep my enthusiasm hot, so I'll try to "surprise" myself. I, as do other artists, work in whichever fashion works best for me at the time, I may start with thumbnails or just scribble an idea on the margin alongside the page. Sometimes it comes to me while just falling asleep, or walking, or staring out the window of the car. I don't keep a sketchbook, though, like Oeming or Hughes, they are much more meticulous than I (I envy them). Then, assuming it's a story page, I design the layouts, these could be anywhere from a quarter size of the finished page (10"x15") to full size, depending on several factors, mostly my mood that day. (laughs) (Seriously, never underestimate your moods as an artist, they contribute greatly to your work. Thus the extended "preparation period" of my day. Others might call it procrastination-lol) Then I trace over them to clean up the details, I may then trace again to fix up any composition or anatomy "bugaboos". Then, I trace this onto the bristol board with a lightbox. Once it's on the paper, I basically finish the pencils, redrawing anything that may be annoying me. I try to keep the whole process down to about 6 hours. Mind you, this is an approximate period of time, I've spent less and considerably more time on a single page. I don't usually start and finish one page (unless it's a cover or pinup) in a day, I like to jump around so I don't get bored.

b3: What specific materials/tools do you use when working on a page?

Neil: Again, materials are...uhm...immaterial! (laughs) I may use a pen, or a marker, but mostly a pencil. For the layouts, a 3h or a 4h, depending on the type of paper (and this is where the inkers' opinion comes into play, Terry Austin very nearly hired a hitman to do me in after I used the "wrong" paper) for the finishing.

b3: Do you keep any pictures or such on your desk, or have any thing for inspiration laying around?

Neil: Always, visual stimulation is a must (as are most other kinds of stimulation, but that's another interview :) I have movie stills, comics, magazine ads, copies of obscure sketches I've made through the years. Whatever gets me into that magical state of mind I need to start drawing, and, of course, whatever I'll need for the particular project I'm doing.

b3: After you finish pencils how do you go about the inking process? What do you use to ink?

Neil: I don't ink as often as I'd like, or should. I find inking such a deadening process at times, this is not to say that the process, performed by other, more capable artists, is deadening. Just when I do it. (laughs) The penciled art just looks better to me. More alive. I was looking at some beautiful pencils of Joe Madureira's, on his website, and the look and "feel" of them is wonderful to behold. He also shows the inked version, which, while beautifully done, just seems less alive to me. But, to finally answer you're question (you are rapidly learning that I tend to elaborate on everything-even this aside!) I use a variety of methods. Again, whatever gets the job done to my satisfaction, no cool secrets, sorry.

b3: I've noticed that on commissioned pieces you seem to use washes and such for added shadows or textures, what do you use for these effects?

Neil: The basics are water, brush and ink. I'll sometimes, especially at a con, use an old sakura brush (or sumi brush. Great Japanese brush/markers, but they do wear out eventually). There's just enough ink in it to get a wash effect when dipped in water. I've always loved the ink wash look from the old warren horror mags, beautiful black & white work by giants like Gene Colan, Steve Ditko (arguably his best work), Frazetta, etc. That probably comes from growing up in a mostly black and white world, entertainment wise, our tv was black and white, and I loved the old movies my dad showed me, from the b&w days. Horror, crime, musicals, westerns, people are always pleasantly surprised when they see my original pages, because they invariably look better without the color (this is not to say that I'm not fond of most of the colorists I've worked with. I've had the pleasure to be in the same comic as quite a few greats) for me, I would be very happy working only in b&w comics forever, but...

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