Rik (Mr. Verlin) Livingston's Brief Bio:
Rik has been drawing and involved in comic books since becoming a staff artist for The Comics Journal in 1979. Check out Rik's full bio on his website and you can buy his original comic art on Sketch Maven.
What inspired you to become an artist?
Although there were no other professional artists in my family tree, I seemed to have come out of the womb drawing. Actually, x-rays of my mummy's tummy showed strange, cartoon-like markings. Perhaps the very experience of birth inspired me to create?
What was the first comic book you read?
I loved to read from an early age, so my single, first comic has been deleted from memory as my brain's comic storage files increased! I do remember reading many, many Harvey comics when I was real young. My family was very religious, so it's surprising, in retrospect, that they allowed me to read stories about devils (Hot Stuff), Pagan witches (Wendy), and dead babies (Casper and Spooky).
What’s your all-time favorite comic issue or series
I think my favorite comics ever are still 1960's DC Comics "80 page giants." A lot of people may be surprised to hear that a cartoonist who has been published in Undergrounds like Dr. Wirthham's Comics and Stories would pick campy reprints of 1950's comics from the heavily Comic's Code enforced days of McCarthyism, but things like the Batcave, bottled cities, Mr. Mxyzptlk, and Jimmy Olsen turning into a Giant Turtle Boy are the finest sort of surrealism.
The clean and powerful lines of the art also appeal to me, now, and when I first saw them so many, many years ago.
How did you get your first paid gig?
That happened around Halloween in First Grade: While all of the other kids drew skeletons that looked more like a bunch of random, white lines, I had somehow perceived the bones interrelated function, the anatomy, and drew the skeletons moving and doing funny things.
Many other kids wanted me to draw them all each a skeleton they could keep. One guy offered me a Batman bubble gum card in trade and that become my going rate for skeleton drawings for the rest of that year...
What comic books do you read today?
Recently moving from San Francisco, to the wonderful, but very remote, Morongo Basin, by Joshua Tree Natl. Park, has changed my comic reading habits considerably: In SF there was the whole legacy of Underground Comics, numerous comic shops and TWO annual comic conventions. Here, Palm Springs has the only comics shop in a hundred miles and it is way too mainstream for my tastes. So I've gotten more heavily into buying back issues from online vendors, or perusing comics sites online...which is how I discovered Sketch Maven!
Who are your favorite artists working today?
The recession has hit Alternative Comics hard: I still miss Little Gloomy by Landry Walker and Eric Jones and Boneyard by Richard Moore, but I've found a number of artist's work on Sketch Maven that I wasn't previously aware of and will be checking them out.
Looking forward, what would be your “dream project”?
Well, I need to update the comics portion of my website first, but after that, the time I devote to comics creation will probably be used in collecting the “Bad Cat” stories (previously distributed by Last Gasp) into one book, complete with NEW pages. I think people will be surprised to see the stories are all connected when placed in "chronological order."
What would you be doing if you were not in comics?
To be honest, comics are a labor of love for me. At this point, I have sold more of my original comic pages in galleries, than at conventions. My cartooning has brought me pay and a bit of recognition, but it's the fine art that has mostly paid the bills. Ironic, when you consider the paintings and sculpture have a decidedly “cartoony” feel, hmmm?
What advice would you have for aspiring artists looking to break into the business?
I dunno if I'm one to offer advice really, as I usually don't think in terms of a "job" or "career," so much as following what inspires me - then trying to make it pay enuff to at least eat, stay outta the rain and do more of whatever inspires me. There are forces that don't appreciate it when you follow a dream - makes it harder to put you in a box - but the strategy has worked for me and I've been lucky enough to have even gotten most of the "promises" of the American Dream without following a prescribed path.
Anything else that you would like to share?
Yes, make friends with other artists and people that love writing, art and comics. Comic artists should not so much be competitors over fleeting “gigs” but comrades bringing this awesome art form more and more into the public conscious.
Self-promotion is okay, but promoting friends brings long-term dividends! Think of yourself as just ONE member of the Justice League!
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