Thursday, September 10, 2015

Steampunk Granny Interviews The Talented Zack Viola

On August 9th I was at Mary Campbell’s Jersey Shore Comic Book Show to sell my Roof Oasis Series: Roof Oasis and Saving Solanda. The young man at the table next to me is an artist and I really liked his work. I had an idea from another event I was at and asked Zack if he could do drawings for a few of the characters in books one and two.


I wanted to make baseball cards of six important characters that included their stats. He asked me to e-mail him a description of the characters. I did. What he’s accomplished was nothing short of miraculous. Zack Viola is a wizard and he’s brought my characters to life. It was fun to see how another person would see my characters. I was so happy with his work and, even more so after my husband, Dan Gilbert, made up the baseball cards.

Granny: Welcome Zack! Tell my readers a little bit about yourself and what sparked you to do what you do?
Zack Viola: Hi, first let me introduce myself. I’m Zack Viola and I’m currently nineteen years old and I’m based in New Jersey. I’m not sure exactly what got me started in drawing. I’ve always liked drawings. I loved art and liked to draw during my free time. It just started out as sketches and doodles, but eventually, I figured out that people do make money off of it, which is always a good thing.
Mainly though what got me into commercial art is video games. I’m a huge gamer and an avid gamer.
Granny: What games do you play?
Zack Viola: My favorite right now is Metal Gear Series that has been around since 1987 and the whole thing had everything, not only with just art which look beautiful, but it also had a deep story that got me to realize that games could be a legitimate medium for storytelling. I love storytelling, too. I like games like Borderlands and the Halo series. I love sci-fi, which is something that drew me to this project, which was fantastic.
Granny: That makes me happy that you enjoyed doing this project for me.
Zack Viola: It was a lot of fun.
Granny: Good, because when book three comes out, I’ll have more characters for you to do.

Zack Viola: That’s fantastic. Another thing that I also love is character creation because I would see these game characters and they’d have the armor, clothing and the weapons and that’s what really got me into character design and creation, which was another reason that I really liked this project. I had free run with it. I could do certain things, of course I needed your guidance and approval, but I didn’t have a tight leash. I had a lot of space to run around.
Granny: Well I’m certainly pleased with the pictures and like the direction you took, especially with the weapons and Judgment. You portrayed him perfectly.

Zack Viola: Thank you. I didn’t really have a clear picture on what I was going to do, then I saw this mask and I’m thinking, hmmm. It didn’t really have any distinguishing features, just one of those blank face masks, like in a Halloween store and I thought maybe that can be Judgment’s face. I’ve drawn angels in the past and every single one of them, I made look different. This was something I really hadn’t done before; a floating mask concept. I’ve done fire with angels before. It’s something I usually do, but I’ve never had a floating face, which I thought would be fun to experiment with.
Granny: I liked how it came out and, I was thinking in the third book, you can switch how he looks because of the floating mask.
Zack Viola: Yes, he can have different masks. He can have one that reflects more of the dragon. I think you did say he turns into a dragon at one point.
Granny: Right. He’s cursed into a dragon form.
Zack Viola: Then you can have an angel mask, a demon mask, or he could even have the blank face mask.

Granny: You’re going to school this semester, right?
Zack Viola: This will be my second year at the Kubert School in Dover, New Jersey. The Kubert School is a lot of fun, but it’s a lot of work. They have a high dropout rate and a small student body. I think this year, our entire student body totals to about one hundred students.
Granny: With only a hundred students, do you get more one-on-one from the instructors?
Zack Viola: Yes.
Granny: What type of school is Kubert?
Zack Viola: With just a little background, I can tell you. Joe Kubert was a really big name in comics during the ’60’s and ’70’s. He did things like Sgt. Rock and he made Hawk Man and so he wanted to establish this school so that other students would have an easier way of getting into the comic business. Unfortunately, Joe Kubert has since passed, but he left an incredible legacy. One of the original teachers is still teaching. His name is Hy Eisman and he does Popeye Comics.

Granny: Popeye! Oh my goodness.
Zack Viola: Yes and when he’s not doing that, he teaches lettering, which is a dying art, but we’re still trying to keep it strong. He also teaches humor and caricature.
Granny: What are you taking up, right now?
Zack Viola: The entire school has a fixed curriculum and everyone learns the same thing, and they teach on all facets, which means I’m not only learning penciling, but inking and coloring...even painting this year. Each year, the curriculum is different but for each year, everyone follows the same curriculum.
Granny: That’s good, and especially, because you have a small student body. They’re keeping everyone on the same page.
Zack Viola: Yes and not only do you learn this as a class, but you can also get insights from other students and maybe older students that have done the same thing. It’s really helpful.
Granny: When you’re done with the school, where do you see yourself going?
Zack Viola: I’m hoping I can get into the video game industry. Maybe start out with a small time company at first, but eventually, I would like to be an Art Director and create and direct my own games.
Granny: Your heart is still with the gaming industry.
Zack Viola: Yes, but that won’t stop me from being another commercial artist, which allows me to do whatever I want, like work with you or with billboards and advertising. They teach you all that stuff there.

Granny: Do you ever work with Anime drawings?
Zack Viola: I haven’t done much Anime or Manga drawing. It hasn’t been a huge feature of mine, but I would be lying if I said that it didn’t influence me in any way.
Granny: The reason I asked was because of the comic books. Is Anime still holding leverage over comic books?
Zack Viola: Oh yes, in Japan, Anime and Manga is this huge part of their culture, and actually, a lot of the techniques that are dead here in America are still very active in Japan. I definitely respect them.
Granny: My eldest granddaughter went to Japan for Manga classes to help with her fashion designs, which was Japanese Lolita and, it’s so interesting how the two forms of art complemented each other. Zack, do you have any ideas on who you want to work for after you graduate? How do you get your foot into the door? I know it’s not easy.
Zach Viola: Breaking in can be one of the hardest things you will do for your art career. Right now, I’m not going to be too picky with who I work for. I don’t have that kind of power yet, but definitely when I get older, I would love to work with Ubisoft and other great companies, and maybe, even movie directors who get into video gaming, which makes for a pretty interesting concept.
Granny: You could even work for independent movie directors and I happen to know one, so I’ll keep your name in front of him if he’s looking for someone with your talents. I have one more question, Zack. Which one of my characters was the hardest to draw?

Zack Viola: I think the hardest might have been Lucy. Female characters are always a little bit harder for me to draw than males. Putting Lucy in profile definitely helped.
Granny: She’s a soldier who was part of The Leader’s military and, like I mentioned to you, Lucy reminded me of Sigourney Weaver. I really like how you drew her. You made her image that of a strong woman. In the series, she is not weak.
Zack Viola: I always liked the strong female character. It’s definitely an interesting character that is unfortunately few and far between.
Granny: We can change that with these books. Who was the easiest to draw?

Zack Viola: Razhep because I’d already had the concept before I’d given you the sample card. I just had to refine it and make it larger, and so that might have been the easiest. Michael was also pretty easy. I actually did Michael before I did Lucy, which is where I got the jacket from
Granny: I want to thank you, Zack, for doing such a wonderful job on my character baseball cards and, for all my readers who would love to use your services, they can find you, here.

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