We recently sat down with comic artist Jeff Baker, who currently offers a Creating Comics Workshop here at Visual Arts Brampton, to learn more about him and how he encourages creativity.
What is your favourite part of VAB?
VAB is a very welcoming place, and they really provide the student with the tools and knowledge they need to grow as an artist, regardless of a person's prior experience or skill level.
What is the best thing about your role at VAB?
I really love seeing the ways that kid's minds work as they put together stories and images. I've run comic workshops with adults too, but kids comics are always better and more creative.
What did you do before VAB?
I was a youth worker/pastor with the Canadian Baptists of Ontario and Quebec. I have a double major BA in Philosophy and Theology from Tyndale University College and Seminary.
What are your specialties?
I'm mostly self taught when it comes to comics, and I would just draw and imitate the comics I was reading as a kid, so as a lover of Golden Age comics I have a knack for drawing in the style of Jack Kirby, and since I was a kid in the 90's that crossed over and blended with the style of the Kubert brothers and Todd McFarlane. I'm very anatomy centered and have a good understanding of the way the muscles in the body work together.
What do you do when you’re not at VAB?
I run an independent Art Studio, Two by Two Studios (named after my first web comic) that draws two weekly web comics, runs workshops, and work with churches and community organizations to do content creation and consulting to determine how to best reach their target audience.
When did you join VAB?
Just before the summer of 2016. We began brainstorming about offering a comics course, and we started by running a comic workshop in partnership with the City of Brampton right downtown in Garden Square. From there it evolved into the workshop as it is now
Why did you join VAB?
I was searching for artists and art collectives in Brampton and stumbled upon VAB, and like I said earlier, they were so welcoming and friendly. It was a no brainer that I wanted to work with them.
Why should someone join VAB?
Because no matter where you are in life, you can always grow more, and this is a great atmosphere to challenge yourself in and grow yourself, surrounded by encouraging people on a similar journey.
How did you get into art?
Through comics. Discovering comics was an epiphany moment for me. I started drawing all the time trying to recreate what I saw on the page. From there I got into other mediums like life drawing, print making, painting, etc. Right now I'm trying to improve on my digital painting skills.
Were you always an artist?
I guess so? I was a kid when I got into it, so I feel like there was a fair amount of finger painting and play dough sculpting in general. But, yeah, I can't recall a times where I didn't think of myself as an artist.
What is your preferred medium?
Digital ink. I do most of my work on my computer with an Intuos tablet. Although I occasionally force myself to draw with pencils on real paper so I don't lose the ability. There's no "undo" button on my sketch pad.
What do you love about art?
That there aren't really any rules. There are techniques, and experience and lessons help you get better, but in the end its about expressing a thought or evoking an emotion, or telling a story, and there are so many different ways we can do that.
What type of art do you enjoy the most?
The art I enjoy the most is the stuff I am not good at. I have such a respect for sculptors, and realist painters, and minimalist painters because I've just never been good at that, and I'm not sure I have the patience to become so.
What is your favourite colour and why?
Purple. It's royal, bold, and it's the colour of Donatello's mask on Ninja Turtles. (I realized that I'd have to specify or everyone would think I was talking about the Renascence sculptor, being a community of budding artists an all).
What are you inspired by?
I am really inspired by other artists who take new or different approaches to art than have been popular in the past. Also, I'm a fan of storytelling, and so if a piece of art can convey a good story I'm hooked.
Do you have a favourite artist?
Right now I'm very jealous of Jim Lee's art. Also, Todd McFarlane sort of redefined the way people draw comics through his work on the Hulk and Spider-Man. In general though I've always been a fan of people like M.C. Escher and Andy Warhol.
Of all the art work you’ve created, which is your favourite, and why?
I think this answer changes a lot, but right now it's probably a drawing of Night Crawler I did to test out a smoke effect on a new digital painting program I was using. There is also a piece I painted of my sister and my dad just before he died in hospital. It's not my best work, but it holds a lot of emotional significance for me.
In your opinion what makes a piece of art amazing?
Anything that can communicate a story, or emotion, or thought, or expose an aspect of the universe people didn't see before.
What is your favourite thing to look at?
I've been all over the world, but there is nothing like the look of an Ontario sky. I don't know what it is, but it always takes my breath away.
What is your favourite art work of all time?
Andy Warhol's last supper. I don't even know why. I first saw it in grade 9, and I think it was the first piece to really challenge my understanding of what art was.