Chad Hardin | Buzz Blog

Chad Hardin

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When you think of local artists for comics and pop media, Chad Hardin probably isn't the first name that comes to mind. But if you've been a hardcore gamer or comic reader out the past five years, chances are you've got a number of items with something he's designed.

--- With several titles under his belt from most of the top comic companies, as well as several role playing and video game illustrations to his name, Hardin has been one of the hardest working designers out there today. I got a chance to chat with Chad about his career so far, education he went through, starting up his own art studio, and a few other topics that came to mind. With no camera available for his picture, we'll have to make do with a self portrait.

Chad Hardin

http://www.hardinartstudios.blogspot.com/

Gavin: Hey Chad! First off, tell us a little bit about yourself.

Chad: Well I was born and raised in Las Vegas Nevada. I’ve been drawing since I was four. I’ve had a passion for comics ever since I was a kid. After High School I moved to Utah to go to college and for the most part have been here ever since. For the last ten years I’ve been doing art for video games and comics.

Gavin: For those who don't know your work, what are some of the projects and titles you've worked on?

Chad: Well I’ve worked on a ton of video game packaging. I’ve done stuff for God of War, Neo Pets, Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War - Dark Crusade, Lair, and more recently Aliens Colonial Marines. As for comics I’ve worked on Bloodrayne, Fists Of Justice, Countdown To Mystery, Will Eisner’s: The Spirit, Reign In Hell, and I’m finishing up a Spider-Man story for Marvel this week.

Gavin: What were some of your favorite comics growing up, and are there any specific comic artists who influenced your work?

Chad: When I was really young I was into Batman and Justice League, which had to do the cartoon “Super Friends” as much as it had to do with Batman or Detective Comics. In my pre-teen years I loved Mad Magazine (Spy vs, Spy an Sergio Aragones’s little gutter comics were always a favorite of mine). When I was a teenager I became a huge X-Men fan, and was influenced a lot by its artists beginning with John Romita Jr. around Uncanny X-Men 210 all the way though Joe Mad’s age of Apocalypse. So needless to say I was a huge Jim Lee and Mark Silversti fan too.

Gavin: You went to both Southern Utah and Academy of Art Education.  What were those programs like and how was that experience for you?

Chad: Southern Utah University’s Art program was great at teaching foundation art courses, but there really wasn’t a lot in the course catalogue for someone like me who was interested in concept art and comics. Don’t get me wrong. I had great professors who were phenomenal but the department was very small. Still it was a great experience that prepared me for Master’s School. Going to the Academy Art University allows me to really focus on the classes and areas that interest me; which is awesome! However because it is a Master’s program it is also a lot more demanding. All of my professors at AAU are working professionals and they hold the students to a high standard. So far I love it despite loosing a lot of sleep in lue of doing tons of homework.

Gavin: You've worked for a number of illustration studios over the years. What kind of work did you produce, and from an artist's perspective what would you say are the good and bad points to working for them?

Chad: Well when I was with Saffire I did a lot of production art. Which wasn’t really that fun but it built up my “Photoshopping” skills. It also afforded me the chance to learn 3D modeling on the job. Toward the end I got to do concept artwork for a game that was never published which was fun but very demoralizing when the project was canceled. Origin Studios was the coolest job I ever had where I wasn’t my own boss. I got to do a lot of packaging and advertising art form thumbnail to finish, which is awesome. It was a real thrill to drive by a game store and see a poster I worked on, or to walk into Wal-Mart and see packaging and displays had a hand in. There were only two down sides to working at Origin: Crazy Deadlines and Marketing Directors who fancied themselves to be artists.

Gavin: You started up Hardin Art Studios in 2006. What brought about the decision to start your own company, and how has it worked out for you since opening up?

Chad: The biggest reason is I wanted to do comics! That is where my passion has always been, so when the chance came along I jumped at it. At first it was a disaster. The book I was supposed to work on never happened and I had to scramble to find work. Fortunately I rolled with the punches so to speak and everything worked out, but it was scary that first year. There are so many unexpected things that happen when you run your own business that you take for granted when you work for someone else. For example I never planned on my computer breaking down, or loosing a client that was 30% of my business the year before. It’s not for the faint of heart that is for sure. On the flip side it’s totally rewarding when you do succeed. My second year we (my family) made double of what we did the first and this year we almost doubled it again. I hope we do well this year now that the economy has tanked. So far we are as busy as ever, but it keeps me awake at night worrying some times.

Gavin: What would you say was your first big break, and how did you manage to get the gig?

Chad: My first big break was the DC Talent Search in 2006 at SDCC. I met with every editor there and that was a huge break. I still didn’t get any work form them that year but I was very persistent and made sure that whenever I did something new I emailed them with an update. In November 2007, Joey Cavalieri gave me a call and asked if I wanted to work on Countdown To Mystery; and the rest is sort of history. I’ve been given steady work from DC ever since. By November 2008 I had penciled 10 books for them.

Gavin: You've worked for both DC and Marvel Comics.  What were your favorite titles you worked on from each company and why?

Chad: Well I’ve only done one job for Marvel so far so the Spider-Man story wins by default. As for DC I’m most proud of the work I did on The Spirit #24. Everything really came together that issue. Wayne’s inks were killer, Lee’s Loughridge’s colors were perfect, and the story was fun I can’t tell you how awesome it is to work with Segio. It got a lot of attention because (or despite of) The Spirit movie that came out, and the reviews of the art were all pretty good. As far as my penciling goes, I did some killer stuff for Reign In Hell, but for whatever reason I don’t feel the final art was as strong. Sometimes the penciler inker and colorist just don’t gel for whatever reason and I think this was one of those instances.

Gavin: Did you find it difficult to keep to the standard DC/Marvel versions of the way those worlds are supposed to look without putting your own spin on things, or did you enjoy working with the designs and having some creative control over what it looked like?

Chad: No, it’s not difficult at all. Most of the time I have a blast working with the designs. My editors so far have given me free reign as to what I want to do. Obviously this is with in reason. I’m sure if I decided to give say…Zatanna a mohawk, I would run into issues, but for the most part I’m free to draw things the way I want. The Spirit was the exception to that rule and it was very, very intimidating trying to get the Spirit to look true to the way Eisner did it. In fact I struggled really hard in issue 21 (which was my first issue). My editor actually stopped me and told me to just practice drawing the Spirit’s face for a day until I got the hang of it. By the end of issue 21 I was having fun with it and by issue 24 I felt totally comfortable.

Gavin: You've also done a lot of work for video games, titles like “Destroy All Humans” and “Lair”. Do you believe fans still pay attention to the artwork outside the game, or is that a lost art to gamers these days?

Chad: I think they do even if it’s on a subconscious level. Maybe not with games that are way over-hyped like Halo. They could put Halo 4 in a brown paper bag and people are going to by it regardless, but with games that are new or not part of a established franchise I think the packaging art and advertising art is very important. Even with games that are download only; there is still “packaging” art. There has to be something there that says, “Buy ME! And not the other guy!” However with games getting so advanced with their graphics pretty soon you might just see a screen shot of the game instead of an illustration on the packaging and Illustrations might be reserved for handhelds or games that don’t have great graphics. Which would be sad to me, but that’s progress.

Gavin: Going a little more national, what are your thoughts on the comics today, both good and bad?

Chad: Oh boy, Well I think most of the bad has to do with the fact that print is dying a slow death and comics are going to have to find ways to go digital if they want to survive. That’s just the way it is. I don’t like it. I like to have my and comics in my hot little hands and find it annoying to read on the computer or on a tiny screen, The advantage to that is the web is a lot cheaper to produce and distribute. So maybe comic readership will explode in the next decade, but it will all be online rather than on a rack. Hopefully there will always be a small niche audience there to support local comic shops, but I don’t know. I wish I had a crystal ball on that one. I know this much. I will always be drawing comics. Even if no one reads them.

Gavin: Who are some of your favorite artists out there today?

Chad: John Romita Jr. is still kicking a$$ and I’m thoroughly convinced he is the only guy in comics who could produce 3 comics a month and not slip a deadline. His dad taught him well and Jr. learned it well. I love Travis Charest, I would cut of parts of my body with a rusty spoon if I could draw like him right now, but he’s just so slow. I think we need more guys who could hit deadlines and fewer guys who drop fans on their heads. Steve McNiven is awesome and Francis Lenil Yu is awesome too, and it appears they can maintain awesomeness and crank out books. Ryan Ottley is by far the best guy who pencils and inks his own stuff on a monthly basis.

Gavin: If you had to make a top five, what are your most favorite comics currently out?

Chad: Goon by Eric Powell. Eric’s art is so fresh! Here is someone who is doing something outside the box and it is awesome. Usagi Yojimbo by Stan Saki. Best writing out their period, I’ve read him for over ten years and he always entertains. Invincible by Tyler Kirkham and Ryan Ottley, Who knew you could do something new with superheroes? If you don’t like the story, Ryan’s art is worth it alone. Fables by Bill Willingham. Also a very unique twist on story, and Bill Willingham is just a great guy. And I know people are going to groan on this choice but Naruto. Naruto is my guilty pleasure. I’m just so stoked on how he uses ninja chakra to explain super powers. Soooo cool.

Gavin: What can we expect from you for the rest of the year?

Chad: Well a lot of TBA unfortunately. Reign In Hell #7, is the only thing I have that is solicited right now. However I’m supposed to be the regular artist on a book with Paul Dini and I’m excited for that. If you’re on Facebook try adding me as a creator with Comic Books Beta and it will keep you in the know.

Gavin: Is there anything you'd like to promote or plug?

Chad: Right now, I’d like to invite everyone go out and pick-up Eclipso: Music Of The Spheres. Its my first work for DC and the have put it in a sexy TPB. And its hot on the racks. If you’re not familiar with anything I’ve done I think that would be a great place to jump in. I’m always trying to promote my blog. If you like to see just straight pencils I usually update every Friday. This year I’m going to try Tuesday and Fridays, but we’ll have to see.

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