I write to you on the eve of my final class of Illustration at Sheridan College. In a week I'll have earned a Degree. I'm very proud of myself, but I also know I could never have had the determination had it not been for a group of guys who, in 2004 changed my life forever by giving me a window into a life I had only dreamed about.
I was working as a Deli server at Dominion grocery stores. I took Friday shifts because I had no life anyways. It just so happened that a group of guys would come in and get hot foods each week at that time. I would save them good food and since I could price it on discount give it to them dirt cheap... Cause hey, it's better than throwing it in the garbage!
After a few weeks of this going on one time I asked them “Where do you guys work?” and to my utter amazement the boss says “We work for DC and Hasbro designing transformers and Gi-Joes.” My jaw Hit. The. Floor. I told him I was a massive fan of Transformers. I grew up with them and tried to design my own. The boss laughed and said “Do you want to drop by the studio?” and I exclaimed “TONIGHT?” and they laughed again and said “Sure, drop by at 8 o'clock.”
The studio was 3 buildings away from my apartment in Liberty Village. I buzzed them and Marvin Mariano, the colourist, let me in. I walked up the steps into a dream. It was a converted factory loft studio. Hip hop was playing and there were life sized card board cut outs of superheroes all over. I was seriously not even thinking straight. This was too good to be true!
The boss introduced himself as Ken Lashley. He gave me the tour. He pointed out Optimus Prime and Megatron box art he made... Gi Joes box art he did... His desk had half-completed work I had never seen its equal before. He introduced me to Gregory Parkin, the Inker and the rest of the team. This was no regular studio.
But to be honest, as Mr Lashley gave me the tour the other guys... They ignored me. It wasn't anything personal... They just had work to do. That is until I spotted a robot on a desk that wasn't a Transformer. “Hey, it's Fei Yen” I said. A character from a sweet ultra fast pace robot combat arcade game. The entire studio STOPS and looks at me and Mr. Parkin said dead seriously: “You Played Virtual On?”
And I'm like “Yeah, it's only the best arcade game ever.”
They EXPLODE! They say it's their favorite game of all time. That they have company tournaments there. They ask why I pick Fei Yen and when I say “It's because she's the fastest” They explode again! They ask what games I play now and I say “Star wars Knights of the Old Republic” And they freak out once more.
In that moment I went from an outsider to part of the group. I'll never forget that moment. I was able to return not once, but once a week for 2 years. I was exposed to photoshop... Wacom tablets... Art production. They took me out to company dinners and made me part of the group.
This is how I remember Draxhall Jump Studios. After leaving I had a few dead-end jobs and realized that all I wanted was to be able to return to a studio environment like that on artistic merit... Not just because I was a nice guy. Amazingly this happened! After completing 3 years of Illustration I got internship at RAID comics in Toronto... Exactly the sort of art studio I had been aiming for. RAID is a story for another day though. A GOOD story BTW.
This whole post is a thank you letter to Mr Lashley, Mr Parkin, And Mr. Mariano. Without whom I wouldn't have a vivid mental concept of what the world class art world was like to get me through the dark parts of this 4 year program. Sometimes I come across a Star Wars calendar or a Gi Joe figure and think to myself “I saw that being drawn” it's a good feeling.
I've been given so much. I'm grateful every day of my life. To quote a certain Comic illustrator:
April 14th 2013
(Oh, and by the way.. I now own that Fei Yen figure Mint In Box. She was NOT easy to find!)