Nicole Chartrand is the creator of Fey Winds. Chartrand describes the comic as "a sword & sorcery spoof comedy". It's a good read (start here – the comic's navigation seems to lack a "first" link) and everything in it has gotten better over its (so far) more than 300 pages. I got a chance to interview Chartrand by email this month.
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I'm a 25-year-old animator, but I work as an illustrator/concept artist, and make my webcomic in my spare time. I like comics, cartoons, video games, tea and coffee and running around the city with my friends.
What's a typical day for you like recently?
A typical day for me starts after I sleep through my alarm clock, when I finish making a giant cup of coffee, then turn on my computer and start working. When I'm finished my workday I usually relax for a while, work on my comic and other personal projects in the evenings, and try to sneak in a little gaming time when I can.
Where are you located these days?
A tiny little apartment in the beautiful city of Montreal, Quebec.
Do you have another job besides working on comics?
I work as a concept artist/illustrator for a studio in Quebec. It's really a dream job for me, I get to draw for a living every day, and so far I've worked on books, ads, games and storyboards, so it's always something new, and it constantly challenges me to improve as an artist.
Do you read other comics? What are you reading online or in print?
I'm a huge fan of comics of all kinds. Online my favorites are Gunnerkrigg Court, Phoenix Requiem, Roza, and the Abominable Charles Christopher. In print I'm due for a trip to the comic shop, but lately I read and loved Next Wave, Hellboy, Skydoll, Belladonne and Cross Fire. And I can't deny that I've got a girly soft spot for a certain manga about a certain alternate-world version of a certain Cardcaptor and her friends…
Give me the 30 second "convention pitch" for your comic.
Fey Winds is a sword & sorcery spoof comedy, in which a group of adventurers, each with a different curse, try to track down relics left behind by a powerful spirit, in the hopes that they'll somehow stumble onto a solution for all their problems somewhere along the way. Things get a little complicated when they discover that a self-styled evil overlord has plans of his own for the relics, and for the adventurers themselves.
How has the strip evolved over time?
I've been kicking the idea for Fey Winds around for a long time. I made a first try at the comic before going through animation in college, but my workload and the fact that my art changed so much during that period made me decide to start over once I graduated. So from the very beginning Fey Winds has changed a ton. Since I started the new version I've been trying to improve my art and writing all the time, and I hope the comic will keep getting better as it goes!
Do you have a favorite strip or storyline from the comic? Which ones do fans seem to bring up the most?
I'd say the current chapter is attracting the most attention I've ever gotten for the comic, because it's really the starting point for the main storyline, and it's the first time that things have gotten a little more serious. It's been my favorite to work on so far, except for when I got to play dress-up with the main cast in chapter two.
Are there any of your characters you're really fond of? Any that are particularly difficult to use?
I like them all, and they all have their moments of being hard to write and hard to draw. Mostly it's a lot of fun though, and I really enjoy working on all them and dealing with all their quirks.
Do you have any long term goals or ambition for the future of the comic?
My main goal is really just to tell the story. What I want most is to get it all onto pages and have a completed comic that I can be proud of.
Any plans for a print collection?
Yes! For now my plans are to self-publish, but for now it's still in the planning stages.
How do you go about promoting your work? What seems to be most effective at pulling in new readers?
Mostly I rely on word on mouth and people just linking to me on their comics and in their blogs. Being asked to join Tomgeeks was a great break for Fey Winds and it's an awesome community to be in on top of that. The webcomic Top100 lists and directory sites I've joined have been pretty good to me as well.
When you create a comic, how do you appproach it? Do you start with the words and then think about the scene that should go with it or do you start with more of purely visual approach or none of the above?
I start working from a rough script I have written. I don't have the actual dialog for a page written at this point, my script is just the outline of the main story, with a few lines per comic page idea. From there I draw a bunch of thumbnails to get an idea of what each scene will look like and make sure everything flows. After that I draw, ink and color the page and usually only write the exact dialog at the very end. If it's a really important passage I work out the words more carefully before starting to draw the thumbnails and pages.
What tools do you use to make comics? Can you give us a brief walkthrough of your process?
I start with pencil in my sketchbook for the thumbnails, and then draw the pages in light pencil on regular copy paper. I use a darker pencil to clean up my first sketch of the page, and then I ink over onto a new piece of paper with my homemade light table. (It's a small neon aquarium light, a piece of plexiglas and a piece of particle board and some tape.) Then I scan it, color it with Photoshop, add the text and the speech bubbles, and that's about it!
Did you do your own website? What software are you using on it?
I designed my own site using HTML for a class project in school. I'm working on a newer, nicer version, so I apologize for the mess my current page is!
How would you describe your relationship with your fans? Do you engage in a lot of online interaction with your readers?
I think I have a pretty good relationship with my readers, I have a lot of fun chatting with the people in my shoutbox, and on my forum too. People are really nice to me, and I've gotten really encouraging comments, not to mention great guest art people have given me.
Did you read comics as a kid? Which ones? What are your influences from comics today?
I started buying comics "for my little brother" when I was about 11, and I've been reading them pretty much ever since. I began with Spider-Man and X-men, then got into European comics and manga a little later on.
Other non-comic influences on your art and/or writing?
Style-wise, animation was a huge influence on my drawing and concept art has had a big impact as well. But really all kinds of art, movies, games, books and really anything with pictures and words involved is inspiration for me!
What is it about comics that leads you to pour your creative impulses into that form as opposed to writing or some other art form?
I've always liked drawing, cartoons, comics, books and stories too. Since making my own animated series is a little beyond my capacity (and budget!) and since I've always loved comics anyway, I guess it was just the easy choice for me!
Any other creative endeavors you're working on?
Right now, between work, my comic and making the print version, new website and all that, I don't have the time to work on other big projects. I'm still thinking of new projects and comic ideas at the same time, but they're on the back burner for now.