Art Whore

Art Talk – Nathan Onias Cole of ‘Commander Canine’, ‘Crispy Cola Studio’ and ‘Indie Comic Con’

Nathan Onias Cole is an American born, Australian based artist, designer, teacher, comic-book maker and convention organiser. He runs ‘Crispy Cola Studio’, recently established the ‘Indie Comic Con’ – which will be happening on December 8th 2018, in Melbourne, Australia – and recently launched a Kickstarter for his indie comic project, ‘Commander Canine’.

Additionally, Nathan is also an Australian Lifetime Ambassador for Copic marker pens, as well as a featured sketch card artist with Upper Deck and their Marvel line.

Nathan is clearly a workhorse, a man of many talents, and proof of that old saying that the best thing to do, if you want something done, is to ask a busy person!

When asked about what most inspired him to become an artist, Nathan thanks his parents, wife and formal training at art school, stating:

My mom and dad are both artists, though they wouldn’t say that if you asked.

Mom is great at drawing and I still admire these old paintings by my Dad that had a small stick figure man running through these enormous geometric landscapes.

My wife Nikki was an art major (and is an amazing 3D artist) and got me interested in it again after a dry spell.

Art school was great except they taught me everything except how to be a professional artist.

(Logo for Nathan’s Crispy Cola Studio below)

With Indie Comic Con fast approaching, Crispy Cola Studios frothing away, and the Commander Canine Kickstarter live, now is the perfect time to get to know the man behind all three – the ever fantastic Nathan Onias Cole – by reading his Art Talk Interview, below…

Basics/Getting to Know

Name + D.O.B?

Nathan Onias Cole.
A gentleman never reveals his age, but I now have grey hairs in my beard.

City, State n Country you currently call home?

I live in Melbourne, Victoria, Straya.
Shout out to Ivanhoe.

City, State n Country you’re from?

Born and bred in the USA, greatest country ever in all of entire history. Amiright or amiright?
I’m just a Midwestern kid from Sioux City, Iowa home of the Twin Bing.

(Some Copic marker art by Nathan below)

Describe a memory from some stages of your life ….basically trying to piece together pivotal moments. Concerts, art, action-figures, romance, school, politics, crime… ANYTHING really!

…Omigod I think I might have a seizure doing this… ok I have my red wine here to help me.

* age 5 – beginnings:

There was this game at preschool I liked when we all stood under an umbrella and the teacher would shake water on it while we sang a song about rain.

(Photo below of Nathan as a kid)

* age 10 – continuations:

I stole a cheeseburger from a food court restaurant because I didn’t realise that paying was a thing yet.
Communist to the core.

* age 15 – getting serious:

I was adamant I had found the love of my life with a girl from church and wrote her cringey love letters all the time.
Depressed teen.

* age 20 – young adult:

College days spent meeting lots of new people, had a lot of fun, this was a time when I was able to create a new identity for myself.
Met my future wife who inspired me to get back into art and I undertook a fine arts degree in painting and drawing.

* age 25 – adult mode:

Emigrated to Australia with nothing but a suitcase, had some tough years but landed on my feet.

* age 30 – fully formed:

I’ve carved out a pretty good niche here with a balance of occupations from coach to teacher to tutor to artist to designer. I’m very fortunate to live in Australia and am humbled to have so many good friends and family in my life. Feel like I know myself.

* age 35 – meanderings:

Ride a bike everywhere.
Started Dungeon & Dragons.
David Attenborough doccos.

* age 40 – middle age creeping:

Yes, I probably will be a middle age creep.

* age 45 – adult meanderings:

I refuse to fade away so plan to take myself out in an explosion or something by this stage while I’m at the top of my game.

(A recent photo of Nathan below)

Personal motto?

It’ll be fine.

Art Questions

Why the name ‘Crispy Cola’ for your art studio?

So I had this period where I didn’t want anyone to find me on Facebook. It was like population control for my friend’s list – I had enough friends I figured.  So I changed my name to Nathan Cola from Nathan Cole. Then it morphed into Nacho Cola into Nacho Crispy Cola and I sort of took that image of chips & soda to create my artist banner: Crispy Cola Studio.

When and why did you first start making art of any type!?

I was an only child and spent a lot of my time drawing, making puppets and creating stories with action figures, stuffed animals, cardboard boxes whatever.
So I’ve always been creative by nature.

Any pivotal artistic moment(s) / influence(s)?

My mom and dad are both artists, though they wouldn’t say that if you asked.
Mom is great at drawing and I still admire these old paintings by my Dad that had a small stick figure man running through these enormous geometric landscapes.
My wife Nikki was an art major (and is an amazing 3D artist) and got me interested in it again after a dry spell.
Art school was great except they taught me everything except how to be a professional artist.

Do you consider what you are making to be art, ‘design, re-hashed crap?

Everything is borrowed in one way or another but it’s the unique perspective of the individual artist that makes it interesting.
I make the things that I like and the art that I want to consume.

(Some Marvel Upper Deck Sketch Cards featuring art by Nathan below)

Worst aspect of the contemporary art hustle?

Artists and art are not valued by the general public as they should be.
It’s very difficult to make a living as a full-time artist.

Best aspect of the contemporary art hustle?

There’s so many avenues of art to explore with many outlets and new ways to connect with audiences from local gallery spaces to street art to social media and crowdfunding.

Favorite other artist(s)?

Alphonse Mucha, Frida Kahlo, Egon Schiele, Hokusai, Patricia Pachinni, Alan Davis, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Future Islands, Johnny Cash, Sophia Coppola, Neil Gaiman.

Describe the process of producing your art? – Dot point all o.k!

Well it always starts with an idea.
If I’m doing something structured like a comic book I might do some ideation and mind mapping.
If it’s a painting or sketch I might just go for it and see what happens.
With my comics I like to nail down the script and really get a grip on the characters and their motivations.

(Photos below of Nathan’s work area)

– your black and white sketches?

I start with some thumbnails to get the page structure right, taking care to allow the panels to flow easily and fit all the moments I need in.
Then I’ll switch to a big A3 sheet of Bristol to begin the final pencils. Here’s where I spend the most time. I’ll block out all the main elements first and then start adding the details.
Inks are next and my weapon of choice is my Windsor & Newton #4. I find inking to be such a chilled, relaxed method. It’s my place of Zen.  Here I’m adding weight to lines as well as texture and separating the foreground from the background with some value.

– your colour drawings?

My colour drawings are mostly sketches I do with Copic markers. I keep a visual blog on my insta feed and I like to draw favourite characters and the like. It’s actually been a great little hobby because it caught the eye of Copic Australia who I now represent as a Lifetime Ambassador and Upper Deck Marvel for whom I draw sketch cards.

– your digital art?

I don’t do much digital stuff because I prefer traditional methods but I have dabbled with some digital painting and I coloured my comic book using a Wacom tablet and Photoshop.
The command-z is awesome but the ability to zoom in can be a curse.

(Photo below of Nathan getting his art on, and some digital art by Nathan)

If people wanted to collaborate, work with you or just buy some art – how should they get in touch?

Yes please do, I love collaborating.
Catch me on where all my social links and email is or just shoot me a message at

‘Commander Canine’ Questions

For those reading at home who may be unaware – please explain the who, what and why of ‘Commander Canine’?

He’s a dog-man who wears a red speedo and has been co-opted by the local police and mayor who believe they need a super hero that they can control.
He’s a bit of a young pup and has a lot to learn about the heroics business. He ends up partnered with Rosa Espinoza who is a top-notch police officer who keep getting looked over for a promotion because she’s a woman. They’re a bit of an odd-couple and don’t immediately hit it off but they mirror each other in many ways.
Give it a pledge on Kickstarter y’all:

Care to share a bit about Commander Canine’s world and bio with our readers?

It’s set in the city of Meadowlark in a world that’s getting stranger all the time with alien invasions, robot uprisings and evil wizards.
There hasn’t been any super-perps in Meadowlark yet but they want to be prepared and that’s why they recruit Commander Canine. His real name is Rocky and he’s been living at a science division called R&D with a bunch of other oddities like a man with invisible skin and a garden gnome who likes to bite things.
Not much is revealed about Commander Canine’s past, he is just kind of presented as is.

(Some Commander Canine teaser images below)

Have you already worked out story arcs and associated issue break-downs for CC – or will the book just come together naturally issue by issue?

I definitely have a game plan in mind with a main arc that covers a number of issues while each issue itself will be a self-contained adventure.

Why the decision to release the CC comic via Kickstarter / crowd-funding as opposed to other options such as a traditional print run direct release?

The printing costs are expensive and I’m broke as hell.
Plus the platform allows me to get the book in front of an international audience.

Indie Comic Con Questions

What is your role at Indie Comic Con?

Festival Director, graphic designer, social media manager, promoter, fundraiser, administrator, motivational guru, I’m the everything.
Although this year I do have Verity Sathasivam on board as a coordinator, so thank the spaghetti monster for that.

Why did you decide to establish the event?

Opportunities for indie creators like myself were/are far and few.
Originally I had planned to launch Commander Canine at Homecooked but it didn’t get funding that year and then I was knocked back at Oz Comic Con because they dedicate a ton of artist alley space to fan prints and such. So I was like, fuck it, I’m gonna create my own event.

(Poster for the 2018 Indie Comic Con below – featuring art by Daniel Watts)

Is Indie Comic Con a “curated” event at all – or can pretty much any artist get a table (space permitting obviously)?

No, we don’t filter the applicants in that way. Anyone who is producing a comic is welcome to book a table at our event.
We’ve got a huge line up this year from seasoned veterans with twenty years experience to an 11 year old kid who’s showing off his first comic (under supervision of his dad!). Our event has a huge diversity of content and I think that’s what make us unique.

Speaking of which… How can artists get a table and be involved in the Con?

Yep, applications just closed a week ago and we’re full up at almost 70 artists but we had it up on the website for two months or so.
Follow us on the socials and mailing list and come say hi on the day to make yourself known.
We’re on the look out for volunteers if you missed the applications.

Thoughts on the current status of the Australian comics scene man?

I think it’s hitting it’s stride with so many people out there creating. There is a comic event happening almost every month if you know where to look.
That said, smaller events need to up their promotion game as they’re just not well advertised while I would challenge the larger ‘comic-con’s’ to do more to support local comic artists.
There’s essentially no comic industry in Australia which I think need to change if we’re going to make more progress in the future.

… and what about internationally?

It’s never been a better time to be a comic geek. The culture has moved mainstream and with the popularity of comic cons and comic movies it’s going to continue to grow.
I think sales are in a slump as a lot of people just don’t get out their and support their local comic shop but hopefully this bounces back as publishers continue to put out good content with consistency. There are so many amazing creators out there in the world it’s mind-boggling.
But like I mentioned earlier, platforms like Kickstarter, Patreon & Etsy are allowing these indie creators to connect with bigger and bigger audiences so that’s a plus.

Odds n Ends

What role did toys play in your childhood?

Lego was everything. I was into the space lego sets before they all got replaced by Star Wars licensed stuff (booooo).
I was also big into Ninja Turtles and a lesser well know line called Food Fighters. They were like anthropomorphic food items like a chicken drumstick who was a army seargeant.

Who was your 1st crush and why?

Kristi Yamaguchi circa 1992.

(Photo below of American skater Kristi Yamaguchi back at the 1992 Olympics)

Does sex change everything?


Please describe what you think the Australian psyche / zeitgeist is today?

I feel like Australian culture is happy go lucky and isn’t afraid to face the future with whatever challenges it holds.
But also I feel Australia is still struggling with the divide caused by imperialism and also coming to grips with the changing demographics that come with being a modern country.
We need to own our past and collaborate for a brighter future.

Which cartoon character, would you most like to see in a tribute sex toy, and why?


Who would win in a fight and why: Commander Canine Vs. Ginger Meggs?

I did not know who this Ginger guy was but he looks pretty dumb to me although I reckon he’d be quick so maybe he’d give the Commander a bit of a chase but one hit and he’s down.

What are the top 3 items you own?

(Please include photos or art of them!)

Chicago Blackhawks jersey

90’s Marvel Masterpieces Cards

Stand-up desk is a life changer

Drugs – waste of time or gateway to the universe?

Gateway to Wasted, Universe of Time

Please describe your latest dream in detail…

Gosh. I have no idea…
I used to have this reoccurring horror that I was awake in my darkened room but levitating slightly above the bed. There would be an evil figure/form behind me watching me and I’d try to scream but couldn’t and would have to use all my will to move my arm after which I would find myself sitting up in bed.

Of everything you have done what would you most like to be remembered for and why?

My guacamole recipe.
It is seriously the best guac you’ll ever wrap your lips around.

If people wanted to collaborate and / or work with you – how should they get in touch?
Follow the flavour, son.

The Future

Any collaborations on the horizon?

Yeah I’m having a lot of fun with Darryl Leech working on a new comic we’ve based loosely on the themes of parkour and martial arts. He’s doing the pencils and I’m scripting and inking.
Collaboration is awesome and I recommend it because it presents challenges you don’t encounter when working solo and it really sharpens your skills.

Any major projects you want to hype?

You had all better pledge to the Commander Canine Kickstarter or I will destroy the internet.
It’s up til the 21st of September: