SIX MINUTES WITH STEVE MASSERONI:
Today LitPick is fortunate to be joined by Steve Masseroni for Six Minutes with an Illustrator. Steve is the co-creator with Kevin Kelly of the graphic novel The Silver Cord which was funded through a successful Kickstarter campaign. Steve graduated with a degree in Classical Civilization from U.C. Berkeley and became the Creative Arts Director at Cornerstone Productions. He has been a Marketing Artist, Video Game Capture Artist, Video Director/Editor, Game Texture Artist, and Game Modeler on Will Wright’s The Sims while at Electronic Arts (EA). And this is just part of his story.
How did you get started as an illustrator?
Apparently at an early age I showed aptitude as an artist and was encouraged by my parents and peers to pursue it. I got side tracked for a few years in my mid-teens by visions of becoming a rock star guitarist with a garage band but returned to my art and went on to self publish a 100 page comic fanzine called High Energy that got some attention and a write up in The Comics Journal #77 — all while I was 16 years old. Almost got hired at that time by Marvel but when editor Al Milgrom found out how old I was, he said come back after I graduated from high school. Went to the San Diego Comic Cons back in the days when it was small enough (5000 attendees) to be held at the Hotel San Diego. It was there, in 1983, that I showed my portfolio around and really wanted to work for Pacific Comics, who at that time was publishing Dave Steven's Rocketeer. They liked what they saw but passed, so I made a personal promise that I'd lock myself in my studio for a year, improve my skills and then bring my portfolio back the next year and they'd be forced to hire me based on my improvements alone. I didn't have to wait that long — some months later I got discovered by Cat Yronwode and Dean Mullaney, editors at Eclipse Comics, at a comic con at U.C.Berkeley — who then purchased a fantasy series that I was working on with some friends called Steel, Stealth & Magic. They hired me to do the cover, and the series (that I penciled, inked and colored) debuted in their premiere title Eclipse Monthly # 9. This all happened while I was still a teenager. Then I quit for 20+ years and didn't draw anything professionally until I picked up my art tools to draw for my graphic novel The Silver Cord.
Who influenced you?
Michelangelo, DaVinci, Franklin Booth, Maxfield Parrish, John William Waterhouse, Howard Pyle, N. C. Wyeth, Wally Wood, Graham Ingels, Bill Elder, Al Williamson, Frank Frazetta, John Severin, Neal Adams, Bernie Wrightson, Jeffery Jones, Barry Windsor-Smith, Dave Sim, the list goes on and on...
Do you have a favorite artist/subject/medium?
That has changed throughout the decades. Currently, my favorite medium is creating graphic novel animatics and trailers. I recently spent time creating one for The Silver Cord:
I believe that there are possibilities of expanding or adapting the comic book and graphic novel medium in that area. And plenty of creators are making them as part of their creative storytelling along with their graphic novel or comic book series. My current goal is creating a successful series that a critical mass of people will follow, but that hasn't happened yet. It might not happen. But it's worth fully exploring.
What advice do you have for someone who wants to be an illustrator?
Today, in this day and age, there are so many free digital tools, applications and online tutorials (via the internet, YouTube, etc) that there is no excuse for someone who is beginning in this medium not to either succeed or discover new ways of visual storytelling. Basically, all the possibilities are there to improve oneself. There are no excuses. I tell fledgling artists to save their money, you don't need to spend enormous amounts of monies going to an art academy or collage to become a skilled and successful illustrator. It's all free on the inter webs.
Where is your favorite place to work?
Wherever I can bring my fully loaded Macbook Pro Laptop. I used my laptop for The Silver Cord book. I travel a lot for my real job, but after work hours (wherever in the world I may be) I'd work on my graphic novel. So parts of this graphic novel have been produced in: San Francisco, Los Angeles, Oregon, Seattle, Vancouver B.C., Dallas Texas, Las Vegas, Boston, Manhattan New York, Virginia, Montreal Quebec, Washington D.C.. etc.
What else would you like to tell us?
I placed aside my career as a professional artist at an early age. Spent the next 20+ years doing other jobs, but decided to pick that career up again at a time in one's life where you wouldn't typically begin it again because so much time had passed, and I forfeited all those prime years doing odd work that it would mean starting over at the beginning. Well, I would tell all who'd listen: Don't give up on your dreams, no matter how old or how long they have been dormant or placed aside. Better to know in the end that you tried to make them happen and failed than not trying at all. Better to kill that regret than let it kill you. Take the risk. By doing so, that dream just might come true.
Steve, thank you for joining LitPick for six minutes! Wow! Yours is the most incredible story of how you became an illustrator! You were obviously born talented, but then you worked hard to improve your skills and were quickly discovered, showing hard work pays off! Your interview is one that can inspire all readers, young and old. Thank you again for sharing your story with us.