Sometimes, really cool people decide to move into Utah and call it home. One such recent addition is Garrian Spivey, but local zine and comic lovers may know him better as the mind behind GAR! Comics. The Seattle transplant's illustrations are an awesome throwback to the pulp style of old and detail from '80s indie publishers, while still retaining a modern touch. Today we chat with Spivey about his career and the art he's been making. (All pictures provided by GAR! Comics.
GAR Comics on Instagram
Hey, Garrian! First thing, tell us a little bit about yourself.
Well, I’ve been living in Salt Lake City for a little over a year now. I grew up in Orlando, and before I moved here, I was living in Seattle. I’ve worked on different projects throughout, everything from spoken word to music, but visual art has always been a consistent hobby of mine. These days I'm trying to take it more seriously and challenge myself. Since moving here, I've had two solo art shows, and now I'm being interviewed, which is further than I've ever gotten with my art before, so that’s pretty exciting for me.
What first got you interested in comics as you were growing up? Any favorite titles?
I started reading books at an early age and I loved cartoons, like He-Man
and the Ninja Turtles
, so I guess comics were sort of a natural progression. The first comic book I remember buying from a stand was an early Wolverine
book and, of course, I loved it. I was pretty much hooked from then on. Hell, I even had a subscription to Wizard Magazine
back in the day. My all time favorite title is still Preacher
. My current favorite is Casanova
What eventually pushed you toward doing illustrations and comics yourself?
Seattle had a great indie comic scene. I became good friends with my local comic store clerks and they turned me on to some really fantastic fringe comics. I’d also joined a drink-and-draw full of inspiring artists and plenty of nights closing out the bar. All that, and I still wasn’t completing a full project. Just doodling. Eventually, I made a bet with a friend that I’d finish a 16-page zine sized comic before he would. I won the bet.
Did you seek out any formal training or college, or were you primarily self-taught?
Primarily self-taught, but I did take some art classes in college that were really helpful.
What were some of your early comics and strips like as you honed your craft?
Haha, I'm still trying to hone my craft! That bet I made with my friend was maybe six years ago, and that was the first comic book I ever drew. I needed to finish my comic before he did, and the story was holding me back. Everyone always says "write what you know," so I decided that an autobiographical comic about weird experiences I had in Seattle would be perfect. It was called Ave Rats
, named after the street kids that hung out in the University district. I drew myself as a mouse and all the people I encountered as rats. It was real simple.
What made you decide to start GAR! Comics?
I’m assuming you mean the little mini comics I hand out and sell. I use them as business cards primarily. I decided to brand myself as GAR! so that I could have easy name recognition for my work. That choice was largely inspired by some of the more recognizable muralists and artists I saw in Seattle. After that, what better business card for a comic book artist than a comic book? They’re small, short and simple. It’s fun post-apocalyptic pulp with mutants. Primarily, I try not to overthink it or overwork it.
What's your process like when starting a brand new comic?
Usually, I come up with an idea, get really excited about it, and then I get distracted with another idea and put that project on the back burner!
How much do you stick to the original story, and how much do you play with it as you go?
When I follow through with a project, it’s really free form. I have the story loose in my head, and I draw a bunch of thumbnails for the script. Sometimes I have to change the page layout if my idea doesn’t translate well from thumbnail to detailed work. Also, I've changed the story to play to any weaknesses I have as an illustrator. That’s why as of yet I haven’t set anything in a cluttered bedroom.
What's it been like for you getting your art out to the masses in a very independent way?
I kinda like it. The most challenging thing is that I don’t like to fill out forms, which makes it a little difficult to get tables at conventions. I’ve usually piggybacked on other tables. I’m also not on social media other than Instagram, so everything I do is word of mouth. I love going out and meeting people, but that’s usually at the expense of working on art. It’s definitely a balancing act.
You recently had a gallery at Watchtower Cafe of all your works. What was that experience like for you?
Awesome! I love Watchtower Cafe so much. They got in touch with me for a fairly last-minute art show. Luckily, I had a bunch of art from the Inktober challenge (to complete a finished piece of art every day for the month of October), so I had a bunch of material. After that, I just needed to frame all of the work and get prints made. Their gallery is a pretty big space, and I work small, so I'm really just happy I filled the space.
What projects are you currently working on and hope to start soon?
More GAR! mini comics for sure. I’m currently working on a piece for the upcoming Watchtower Cafe "Mashup Show." I’ve got a few ideas for some short zines
I would like to put out in the next couple of months, and I'm trying to solidify an idea for a full sized adventure comic. I’m planning to take some of the pieces I did for the last art show and get t-shirts printed. I would also really like to work on some skateboard art.
What can we expect to see from you over the rest of 2017?
Plan to catch me at the Grid Zine Fest coming up in April. I’d also like to do another art show for Cafe On First in the Avenues, those guys are great! Other than that, I’ll do what I usually do and play it by ear.