Sci-Fi Art Now Creator Interview: Kevin Levell

A mock cover for 2000AD by
Kev Levell

Kevin ‘Kev’ Levell was introduced to British weekly science fiction comic 2000AD at the age of 11 or 12 and from that point on he knew I wanted to be a comic artist. “It’s only in the last couple of years that I’ve really tried to make that dream a reality,” he says.

“My primary school teacher put it best, I think, in my first ever report card,” Kev feels. “‘If Kevin could be left to draw all day, he would be happy.’

“I’ve often been doodling when I should have been doing something else… but now I’m trying to make a living out of drawing it’s often the other way around!

“So far I’ve done a few strips for the small press and a couple of spot illustrations and covers too,” he reveals. “To make it work financially I’ve been doing other more mainstream illustration and amongst other things I’ve done a couple of books for the Cambridge University Press, some story-boarding for adverts and a few bits of graphic design.

“The ultimate childhood dream would be to draw Judge Dredd for 2000AD, and I regularly bombard Tharg with my samples, so who knows!”

Sci-Fi Art Now: What tools do you mainly use to create your art?

Kev Levell: Pencil, various pigment/indian ink pens, A3 scanner, iMac, Wacom Intuos 3 and Photoshop.

Sci-Fi Art Now: Why?

Kev’s cover for the British indie
comic Violent, homaging the
1970s comic Action.

Kev: I like to produce something real that I can point to and say that’s the original art, even if it’s not a finished work. So I try to have traditionally inked line work. Then I colour up in Photoshop, and try to make it seem like it wasn’t coloured in a computer.

Sci-Fi Art Now: What inspired you to become an artist?

Kev: I’ve never thought of myself as anything else. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t love drawing, painting, sculpting, designing, whatever you want to call it, I’ve always been (and I don’t really like the word in this context) creative. It’s what I’ve always wanted to do, I got distracted for a while by a career designing the stuff that used to fall out of cereal packs, but hopefully I’ve bought back my soul now and I’m no longer wasting my talents.

Sci-Fi Art Now: What was the most useful piece of advice you were given when you began learning your craft?

Kev: Measure twice, cut once!

Sci-Fi Art Now: Which artists most inspire you?

Kev: That’s a tricky question. In my teens I would probably have said Brian Bolland, Arthur Ranson, Frank Quitely and Simon Bisley, comic artists, because that was what I was in to. A couple of years ago I would have mentioned names like Alphonse Mucha, Arthur Rackham and Norman Rockwell, classic illustrators… but now I find it’s my contemporaries that inspire me most, my artist friends really, Matt Dawson who I used to work with and of course my cohorts on the web strip, Fractal Friction.

I’d also say the same of writers I’ve worked closely with too, Rich Clements and The Emperor, who I immensely enjoy batting ideas around with, it’s a different sort of inspiration but the brainstorming part of creating things is where I get a lot of excitement and motivation – watching something evolve that didn’t exist before.

Sci-Fi Art Now: What is the appeal to you of science fiction as an inspiration for some of your work?

Kev: I think it’s the way that the improbably and highly fantastic can seem reasonable (if you’re willing to suspend your disbelief), if a writer or artist is skillful enough to convince you within a credible framework that what you are seeing/reading is possible then that’s a joy. It’s that sort of illusion I hope to create (where possible/applicable) with my own work.

Sci-Fi books were always lying around our house as a child and I’m a bloke over 30… so, I’m pretty much predisposed to like it. I think I’m probably filtering the same small pool influences as everyone else of my generation.

Sci-Fi Art Now: Do you have a favourite piece of work or project you have worked on?

iCandy by Kev Levell

Kev: I don’t know about favourite, but this one piece I did, called iCandy always goes down well and I’m also still keen to do something with my much neglected The Adventures of Taormina …although what that will be I honestly don’t know.

The other thing I’m hugely proud of is the Graphic Novel I am working on with Rich Clements, it’s called Corvus and is about Superheroes in Roman Britain… there is a very cool publisher attached to it, but I’m not really able to say who that is at present.

Sci-Fi Art Now: In your career, have you had any bizarre experiences while creating your art?

Kev: It’s usually coincidences with me… one that springs readily to mind was at the Bristol comic con two years ago. I am a huge fan of 2000AD so, I was talking to Dave Evans and Rich Clements from FutureQuake about stuff I’d been thinking about pitching to them to include in one of their 2000AD themed fanzines. One idea was to do with the Origins of Wulf Sternhammer (for those who don’t know, Wulf is Johnny Alpha’s partner in the long running classic 2000AD story Strontium Dog). Rich virtually spat out his own teeth as this mirrored some thoughts he’d been having about what Wulf had done as a child… With a punned suggestion made by Nik Wilkinson at last year’s British International Comic Show for the title, the resultant strip, Teen Wulf has become a fast favourite with fans and even garnered a mention in Tharg’s Nerve Centre.

Sci-Fi Art Now: What most frustrates you about being an artist?

Kev: What ends up on the page is hardly ever as cool as what I see in my head. As with most artists, I’m rarely happy with the results but if I can come back to something a while later and look at it with fresh eyes and not immediately cringe – then that piece usually goes in the portfolio!

A page from Teen Wulf by
Kev Levell, written by Rich Clements.

Sci-Fi Art Now: What keeps you going despite the hopefully occasional frustrations?

Kev: My wife, and the fact that I’m determined to achieve my dreams! The way I see it, I’m my own boss and I essentially enjoy what I do.

Despite not really having earned much money at it, I’m much happier than I was before. I’m left alone to draw all day!

Sci-Fi Art Now: What advice would you offer to anyone starting out as an artist?

Kev: Be professional, dedicated and prepared to change your plans to “working tonight”.

• Check out Kev’s work at http://kevlev.blogspot.com and http://www.kevlev.co.uk. Contact Kev via http://www.kevlev.co.uk/Kev_Lev_2.0/about_me.html

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The founder of downthetubes, John works as a comics editor, writer, as Creative Consultant on the Dan Dare audio adventures for B7 Media, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. Working in British comics publishing for over 30 years, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Star Trek Magazine and Babylon 5 Magazine. He also edited the comics anthology STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War and “Dan Dare”. He’s the writer of “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz, published on Tapastic; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood for digital comic 100% Biodegradable.



Categories: 2000AD, Comic Creator Interviews

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