Sci-Fi Art Now Creator Interview: Bill Storie – or is it Mike?

Ex Astris: Katherine BlakeBill Storie, also known as Mike Nicoll, has been working in the comics industry for 20 years. He’s perhaps best known for his adult comics work and Ex Astris, which occasionally features in the Dan Dare-inspired comic magazine Spaceship Away.

Bill describes himsef as a “lifelong comics fan with delusions of grandeur.

“Having dipped my toes into the water over the years, treating my artwork as a paying (sometimes!!) hobby, I’ve finally bitten the bullet and decided to work full-time in the industry,” he says. “I’ve been working in the legendary ‘boring 9-5 job’ to feed the kids and pay the rent for too many years but I never stopped having ideas and practising my art so I have a large black book full of stories, characters and concepts which I now feel ready to unleash upon an unsuspecting world…

I’m currently working on Ex Astris, Dan Dare and a high profile job which I can’t name for security reasons and Alternate Earth written by the legendary John Ridgway.”

SciFi Art Now: What tools do you mainly use to create your art and why?

Bill Storie: It depends on the deadline – I prefer to use a dip pen and brush with black indian ink on a hot pressed board such as CS10 but it’s almost impossible to find that nowadays so I use gloss art paper, preferably over 200 gsm which gives similar results. However, the paper warps if you use too much ink which makes colouring on it pretty much impossible so I use Photoshop for that – I’m experimenting with Painter just now to get away from the same-ness of Photoshop.

The big drawback is that the ink tends to sit and dry on the surface of gloss paper rather than being absorbed so it can take a while to dry so if a job is needed quickly I’ll use a Pentel brush pen and gel pen on Bristol board.

I also create CGI strips such as Ex Astris (www.exastris.co.uk) which, despite a general unwillingness to accept this medium as “proper” comic art, has been well received. The problem is that CGI is not the magic bullet that many believe it to be and it’s often employed as a short-cut by people who don’t know how to draw properly, who then create bad artwork which seems to be flooding the net and giving the medium a bad name. A computer programme won’t turn you into an artist, comics or otherwise, overnight and if you can’t draw a comic with pen and paper you won’t be able to do it with CGI.

I use the pen-name of Mike Nicoll for my CGI art because I don’t want to become pigeon-holed as a CGI artist instead of a “traditional” artist which is my preferred medium.

SciFi Art Now: What inspired you to become an artist?

Bill: TV21 comic and daily newspaper strips such as Garth and Jeff Hawke/Lance McLane.

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

Bill: Take the work you’ve just done, place it in a drawer and don’t look at it for a week. If, when you see it again, it still looks good then keep it! It’s a great way to pick out flaws in your own work.

SciFi Art Now: Which artists most inspire you?

Bill: British artists: Mike Noble, Frank Bellamy, Ron Embleton, Syd Jordan, Alan Davis. American artists include Neal Adams, John Buscema, John Byrne, Gil Kane and Al Williamson.

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

Bill: It’s pure escapism, a release from the boredom of everyday life which allows the mind to say “what if…” and then follow that trail to wherever (and whenever!) it may lead.

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

Bill: I’m like one of those actors who hates watching himself on telly because I always see the flaws in my work but one favourite is the pencil spread printed in SciFi Art Now showing my heroine “Saffyre Blue” attacking a tentacled beastie – part of a graphic novel I’m working on at the moment. CGI-wise the sequence from Ex Astris, set up as a daily strip showing our heroes in a crash-landing.

Ez Astris - Newspaper- Part 1/2

Ez Astris – Newspaper- Part 1/2

Ez Astris - Newspaper- Part 3

Ez Astris – Newspaper- Part 3

Ez Astris - Newspaper- Part 4

Ez Astris – Newspaper- Part 4

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

Bill: The most bizzare thing was when I moved my studio from the attic, which was too cold, to taking over a corner of the bedroom and my wife didn’t complain!!! Very odd!

SciFi Art Now: What most frustrates you about being an artist?

Bill: The fact that I didn’t have enough self confidence to turn pro years ago – I was persuaded that the wife/kids/mortgage option was the way to go – really should have listened to myself then!!

SciFi Art Now: What keeps you going despite the hopefully occasional frustrations?

Bill: Knowing that I’m improving all the time and that each piece I create is (usually) better than the last one – and being able to sleep late if I want to.

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

Bill: First, ask someone who’s opinion you trust to give an honest opinion of your work. It won’t be easy at first as they will want to say nice things but persevere and make them be critical. It’s the best way to highlight your mistakes, but perhaps the most important thing is to never give up!

If you really love creating artwork, don’t let anyone persuade you to give it up! Rejections are part of life so learn from your mistakes and don’t repeat them.

• You can contact Mike via: billstorieAThotmail.com

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.



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