American multi disciplinary artist Edwin Vazquez first came to Art Whore’s attention back in 2013 and has been working in a variety of mediums – art, design, app development, publishing, sculpture, printing and comics – ever since.
Edwin is mainly known for his work in the comic and illustration spheres, however recently he also decided to turn his skills to the mediums of design and digital media so as to grow – both artistically and personally.
With much to catch up with Edwin – such as a trip to Korea, working on the ‘Suspect Device’ anthology, and his ongoing ‘Werewolf of NYC’ comic – now is the perfect time to see were Edwin is at, by reading his 2nd Art Talk, below…
The ‘Werewolf of NYC’ Comic
Why the decision to method write ‘the Werewolf of NYC’ – gaining roughly 40 pounds and only sleeping 2-4 hrs per night when writing the debut issue?
Aside from the personal health reasons, I was always fascinated by Max Schreck’s portrayal of the Vampire in ‘Nosferatu’ and experimented in incorporating this style of research into my own projects.
I was tired of just watching movies for reference, which a lot of creators use for there stories.
I simply wanted to try something different from the norm in comic book art.
While working on Johnny Is Dead, I watched the Wild One film, researched the trailer, read the Marlon Brando autobiography and was tattooing.
The comic book turned out fine but there was something that didn’t sit well with me.
I realized later that I missed a crucial aspect of what that comic book could’ve been. At that time I never rode on a motorcycle, which I’m sure the story and energy would have been much different if I did. It’s my one regret and missed opportunity in my career so far.
‘Johnny Is Dead’ was a financial failure but a good failure that resulted in ‘The Werewolf of NYC’ series.
Another example that inspired a method writing approach was of an artist I knew depicting a prison scene in his comic.
When I asked him about that scene he stated that he never has been to a prison to get a sense of the sounds, the smells and the anxiety created within himself to express as an artist. But, the inspiration that made it onto the page was watching a television show called ‘OZ’on a comfortable couch.
I’m surprised a lot of creators work this way.
It takes a great deal of discipline to be able to sit and focus on creating art pages and to write them. But, there needs to be an emotional attachment to that process.
Watching a movie, reading a book can be a good source/start but if you can actually connect with you’re material emotionally, it will bring a sensitivity and originality to your craft rather than media that has already been filtered as entertainment.
(Pictures below of the covers to ‘Werewolf of NYC’ No. 1 + 2 by Edwin)
What life changes did you make when creating Werewolf of NYC #2?
… and any further changes planned for the upcoming #3 man?
For the first issue I was inspired by the film Taxi Driver. I wanted to create something with the same tone and quality. I found the inspiration used for that film, which was a book called ‘An Assassin’s Diary’ by Arthur Bremer.
Also, At the time I was suffering from a huge depression. The Werewolf of NYC comic series helped me through it, realizing/reaffirming what my goals and strengths as a person and artist are.
It was hard to see and realize at that time how stuck in a rut I was when influenced/surrounded by the wrong people.
After purposely gaining 40 pounds of fat for the first Werewolf of NYC I realized how deep my depression was. That issue exposed how trapped and unhappy I was with my involvement in years of destructive unhealthy relationship(s), highlighting how much I was being held back.
It’s hard to see and realize how stuck in a rut I was when influenced/surrounded by the wrong people.
The 40 pound weight gain was essential in my career pushing how far in dedication I can go and inspired the ‘cottage cheese’ style of my drawings. That look was more emotion of how I actually felt than just a gimmick.
I have to thank my friend and artist Nu Ryu for helping me find that tiny spark left in me and support in changing my entire life around for the better.
All that could be read in the Werewolf of NYC in how much gloom and dread I felt. It wasn’t so blatant as seen in a straight forward biography comic but, I like it more when stories aren’t so straight forward. I like my audience to pull things out to relate with and have their own conclusions.
The second issue was all about the transition of walking away, secluding myself from that old life and finding myself again. It was a very exciting time for me.
I moved to Brooklyn and met so many inspiring people while volunteering at soup kitchens. People that dealt with drug abuse, domestic violence as well as people with disabilities. The Mummy in that issue was this fear of being pulled back into that old life as an unknown force that could easily challenge, defeat and ruin my goals. Similar to walking down a New York City street and some random crazy comes along and ruin your entire day with street/road rage.
The third issue of Werewolf of NYC will continue the journey of Albert Shaw (werewolf) as he begins to interact with new people and gets closer to his goal of killing the President of the United States.
Characters that will be introduced are President Reagan and a Nun that will have a great impact to the rest of the series. Being on a strict diet of no alcohol, no sweets for about 6 months and weight lifting, Albert Shaw’s character will have some drastic changes to him. As in my method writing experiment, those pains and sores from weightlifting, the food intake and dread of waking up at 4am, are experiences I can write honestly for Albert Shaw.
(Photos below showing Edwin’s transformations: For Issue 1, a 30 pound weight gain to 176 pounds – end of 2013. For Issue 2, a 30 pound weight loss to 146 pounds – Winter 2014. For Issue 3, a 10 pound muscle weight gain to 165 pounds – Summer 2015, and the most recent weight gain: May 2015 at 146 pounds to August 2015 to 186 pounds.)
Art Catch Up
In our recent correspondence, you mentioned some new projects…
Care to elaborate more on:
* The ‘Suspect Device’ comics anthology?
The Suspect Device series was a comic anthology I helped produce with artist Josh Bayer.
The premise created by Josh Bayer, was taking an original comic strip art (Nancy), slicing the mid section out, leaving the first and last panels only, then an unrelated artist would fill in her/his own story.
The first issue was extremely fun, it had this punk rock quality I felt was genuine. It was a simple 32 page staple bound newsprint comic that was unique. Though it may not have had the best art work, it fit the medium it was presented in. Being a self published indy project. I felt it was more of a sociopolitical statement than showcasing artistic merit.
By the second issue I think it began to collapse.
The format was changed, the page count was expanded to a whopping 120 pages and the paper quality was enhanced. With the kind of low brow art and subject it showcased I think the technical changes began to fight against the artwork. The original voice it captured in the first issue was lost in my opinion. I didn’t voice my opinion too heavily because it wasn’t my project to weigh in on/funded by, other than co-editor, pre-press designer, contributing artist.
After the third issue was published, while attending the book release, a commercial graphic designer I have absolutely no respect for, complimented me on how well designed the book was from the first issue. This was the end for me and I felt the comic lost everything it tried to represent from the first issue.
I was unable to find a replacement for my co-editor/pre press designer chair for the fourth issue and only contributed a table of contents art.
I couldn’t continue my involvement in the project and I left all together shortly after, but only after my duties were fully met with the fourth issue.
I heard there’s a fifth issue coming out, or has come out, I really don’t know. But if you can get your hands on the first issue, that’s a beautiful piece.
(Pictures below of the covers to issues 1 to 4 of the ‘Suspect Device’ comic anthology – COVER CREDITS: #1 & 2 Jon Vermilyea / #3 Kevin Scalzo / #4 Raymond Pettibon)
Working in mobile app development?
While planning to relocate to California, I was called up to join a graphic design studio called Big Yellow Taxi inc. in New York City.
It was intended to fill some time preparing to move away and only with an 8 week hire timeframe.
It turned out to be over a year and helped me realize an entire new medium exploding with possibilities in computer programming in app development. We created some fun mobile applications for Hooked On Phonics, all of which are now available on iTunes.
Working with Big Yellow Taxi inc. changed my outlook in design, and cleaned up a lot of my grunge attitude/approach to designing. The BYT team was such a fresh experience in professionalism and possibly the best group of artists I’ve ever worked with so far.
They truly are a class act.
(Photos below of ‘The Big Reading Show’ app – as worked on by Edwin)
General graphic design?
I think graphic design is ignored a lot in art programs such as illustration and comic books.
I highly recommend reading ‘The Graphic Designer Cookbook’ book, I think it may be out of print, so good luck in your search.
Aside from structure, there are so many interesting ideas in graphic design, whether in a scientific or organic approach. I love sharing ideas and revealing messages hidden and taken for granted in our daily lives. It can be quite scary at times, similar to waking up from a dream, becoming aware of your surroundings, what is being pushed against you, why you are the way you are, your tastes and personal interactions. It’s a difficult subject, while you engage deeper into those ideas you begin to question your own ideologies, which can be quite painful to break out of. But, I highly recommend it to training your sensitivity as an artist.
After working in commercial art for over a year, my Grindhouse, DIY roots are a bit dry.
I think getting back into that gritty, hustle nature of DIY creating will now have a different quality in design, color, tone and storytelling.
I finally am comfortable with the idea of teaching with an established career to back it up. But, I’ve turned down a few teaching positions due to my idea of teaching being something only done at the end of a persons career, not a means to guarantee a paycheck.
Tip: If your teacher is under 50 years old… don’t take the class.
(Photo below of some of Edwin’s graphic design work)
Any plans to release another toy?
At this time, no.
I loved creating the last one (Werewolf of NYC toy) but it was more of an experiment than goal.
You never know, I’ve seen some cool bootleg toys recently that peeks my interest.
But at this time, I’m too invested on other projects to focus on creating a toy.
If I were to create it wouldn’t be a bootleg but fresh hand sculpted piece.
(Pictures below of Edwin’s first and thus far only toy release – a collab with ‘The Mark Ultra‘)
Odds and Ends
What role did toys play in your childhood?
I came from an extremely poor family that couldn’t afford new toys. I think this is why I created my own comic books as a kid with loose leaf paper.
The toys I did have were handed down from wealthy families my mother worked for cleaning houses in the Hamptons, Long Island, New York.
They were used, broken and she saved these toys for me. It was the best she could do and I love her for that.
I had a lot of Star Wars toys with missing heads.
My favorite is still the vintage Bespin Luke Skywalker action figure. I found one recently with the actual head on it I had to purchase. Now I have this need to break it’s head off.
I’m happy my mother gave these broken toys to me, I think it helped my imagination and in some way see past the illusion people try to display in daily life and not judge people by their appearance alone.
This story is similar also to my first comic book. Wealthy families threw out a torn Batman The Dark Knight Returns graphic novel, my mother saved it and gave it to me.
The cover was torn, the pages were falling out, which I had to reconstruct the story pagination and fix up the book to read.
It helped so much in my interest in book designing. This turned out to be better than having something new and usually taken for granted.
I still have that Batman graphic novel in all it’s torn up glory displayed at my apartment.
Later on I would be mentored by Klaus Janson himself and met up with Frank Miller.
Who was your 1st crush and why?
It would have to be my 2nd grade teacher, Ms. Rosen.
I always was more attracted to intelligence than looks.
To me she was the smartest person I knew at 7 years old. She also encouraged expressing myself in illustration.
During her class, drawing a Santa Claus was the first time other kids wanted me to draw for there X-Mas cards and pay me for it.
(Pictures below of some art by Edwin)
Which 1990’s era cartoon, would you most like to see in a tribute sex toy, and why?
Wow, buy me a drink first.
Do people actually answer this?
Who would win in a fight and why: an outer suberbs bikie in town for the weekend beering it up Vs. an inner-city-takes-no-shit art chick?
Oh, that’s easy – Cancer.
Please describe your latest dream in detail…
I sleep walk a lot and find myself in odd places if I don’t secure myself properly. Windows are scary to me. But, while sleeping in my room with the doors/windows locked, obstructions on the floor to trip on purposely, in my dream I heard a voice tell me “They’re coming after you.”
I sprung up and walked over to my door. In my head the door was open with only the security chain stopping it from being fully open. There was someone there but I couldn’t hear them. I started to hum and tell them that I see them.
In reality I was at the door and eventually opened it, walking outside in the hallway. Back in my dream, I closed the door and saw a figure running across the lawn in front of my apartment. I ran to my bedroom window and saw a white figure with blonde hair climbing up my fire escape to my window.
I stood there waiting for it to get inside. I realized I was naked and laughing as it was getting closer. In reality I was standing by the window for a while naked looking out into Manhattan.
I woke up eventually back in my bed and noticed my front door open and random text messages to people, with all my floor obstructions perfectly fine.
(Picture below of Edwin’s first self released comic, Johnny is Dead)
Have you ever tried psychedelics of any sort? And what was the experience like?
I drank a lot of Mexican brand Coca Cola at a wedding in Portland… does that count? I was up until 1 am… CRAZY!
The next day I realized I was in a science fair where nothing worked… screw Portland.
(Picture below of some art by Edwin circa 2009)
Drugs – waste of time or gateway to the universe?
I think it’s silly to consider drugs a gateway to the universe.
I’m not interested or have an opinion on drugs for creative purposes.
I know a few people that produce some great stuff while using but others not so much.
(Picture below of a stamp print produced by Edwin)
Please describe what you think the American Psyche/Zeitgeist is today?
I think we view ourselves as good moralistic people so never question where we are at now. The racists from previous generations thought so as well.
I recently dated a girl that told me that her mother thought that her daughter dating an hispanic person was worse than 9/11.
I’ve worked with artists that instinctively remove credit on projects for minorities. We’re definitely at a place where a generational shift is in the works.
People and “artists” are scared to express what they think. Afraid of looking stupid so nothing is said.
You get these fan art shows that say nothing in the process. I recently was asked to participate in this fan art gallery show. I dreaded the thought, but said yes to it because it was a friend request. I had no interest and it showed off in the work. The curator was so angry at what I created, he began belittling and aggressively taken offense to it. I realized that this person must not get a lot of respect at work or at home and tried to console him. So much anger and unprofessionalism for a fan art show. There was something definitely underneath all of that anger.
What are your thoughts on the recent rise of offense culture / puritanical outrage generally – were no matter what you do, someone, somewere will ‘call you out’ online ?
I don’t think it’s a recent rise of offense culture.
There have always been a social network type of outrage.
Before twitter, there was Television, before television there was Newspapers, Before Newspapers there were criers.
It’s just easier and seems to be transparent due to how fast communication is communicated.
We blame current electrical “social networks” on displaying how sensitive people have become but the people are the same, the medium simply has changed.
The real concern is seeing what is being used for advertisement and political gain than sincere concern.
I feel we think we live in such a different and “future” world that we forget about history. This “outrage” has always been around.
“We look at the present through a rear view mirror. We march backwards into the future.” – Marshall McLuhan
(Picture below of some art by Edwin circa 2006)
You are an outspoken fan of The Simpsons…
* what are some childhood memories of The Simpsons you hold dear?
Definitely recording Simpson episodes on VHS.
Watching them with my brother during summer vacation eating gigantic heart attack inducing hamburgers.
* what impact have The Simpsons and Matt Groening have on your art and life?
The Simpsons are just this part of my childhood. I haven’t watched a full season in possibly a decade, but the earlier episodes have been a great influence in my personal life in humor and mannerisms.
Any collaborations on the horizon?
After a series of failed collaborations, I realized that I’m pretty much a loner.
I helped out as a silent designer for a temporary tattoo company, designed books for artists for PM PRESS/MAD Magazine without credit, and even tried to create a small scale animation titled Calavera Galactica with a Puerto Rican artist.
All of those have their own stories that didn’t work out, even though I tried my best in developing a comfortable collaboration experience.
Any major projects you want to hype?
I’m working on the third issue of Werewolf of NYC. This one is leading up to the final issue four of the series.
It will be good to finally get out of this series and end that part of my life. I’m extremely proud of all of it, but it really is tiring physically and mentally to create in the method writing manner this series has been executed. Sometimes I will get involved too deep and it’s a hard pulling away emotion when it’s over.
While working on Werewolf of NYC issue 3, I’m building the groundwork for several projects such as a mini comic based on the exploitation film ‘DRUM’, developing a reworked animation called ‘A Tombstone Odyssey’, a comic strip titled ‘White Fear’ and preparing my move to South Korea.
Last, I’m redesigning a small (but controversial) companies magazine/newsletter layout as an Art Director/Editor.
(Picture below of a sketch mock up for Edwin’s upcoming comic – ‘Drum’)
P.S – I asked Edwin in an email to send some more of his design work – one of which was this beautiful wave piece you can see below, along with Edwin’s explanation.
Here is an art piece for a gallery show that was violently rejected by the curator. My original idea was of a robot toy illustration. I didn’t think it was that big of a deal to veer off that idea and create something different. Especially since it was just a fan art show (as I’ve talked about) and wasn’t a paid job. Seemed just like a fun piece to do.
I had to put a robot into the drawing which I thought was the most uninteresting part of the illustration, while I focused more on the mood, ocean and rain. I don’t think this piece is 100% done, but I like to take my time with my work these days.
After visiting Korea and experiencing the art and culture, I didn’t care about the “in your face”, explosive, eye candy art style anymore. As I’ll talk about the Taoist dancers (Question Below) and Korean artists I’ve met, it’s more about an emotional, mysterious content than screaming art. Not that there is anything wrong or good with either, it’s just what I’m more attracted to now.
(Picture below of the wave inspired design piece by Edwin)
Highlights n low-moments from your recent trip to South Korea?
I’m fascinated by religion, the sincerity people have in it as well as witnessing people exploiting it to gain wealth.
I’ve read a lot on Christianity, Judaism and Buddhism since I was a child.
I recently enrolled in Judaism classes and while attending was unexpectedly exposed to Taoism.
During Judaism class, a field trip was scheduled to view a dance performance inspired by Shmitta, I was naturally drawn to the separate guest performers that incorporated their beliefs in Taoism.
The event purposely initiated that collaboration showing a Judaic interpretation and a foreign/outsider one as well. There was something in how the Taoist related their expression I felt an emotional attachment than by the Jewish performers.
Though my teacher was extremely nice and welcoming, I decided to leave the class. Outside factors lead me to walk away. At that time I reconnected with a past friend who was a Buddhist and we spoke frequently on religion, she was pretty determined to pull me away.
I then left for South Korea. While there I visited Busan on a spontaneous trip from Seoul and ended up in an ancient Buddhist temple named Haedong Yonggungsa.
It was completely unexpected. Everything seemed like a spiritual journey.
It was the end of the day turning into evening, so no tourists were around. The wind was loud and heavy, with the sea crashing against the shore rocks. The rain made the stone steps extremely slippery while a new friend brought me into a temple so she could pray. I wasn’t able to take many photos since my phone had little battery life left. I was happy about that fact and the experience was personal and mine alone.
It’s a memory I will take with me until my last hour in this life.
When I returned to the United States everything changed for me. My two weeks away in South Korea seemed like I was there for years. It felt as if I created a new life, in the best possible way. I let go to a lot grudges with people and within myself. I also was introduced to Christianity by another friend here in the United States. All these studies and involvement helped in the process of the seeds of Atheism and to actively contribute to Science.
(Some Pictures below taken by Edwin during his trip to South Korea earlier this year)
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