Eat. Sleep. Draw. The Life of Paul Walcott
Paul Walcott is a man, who bleeds creativity, is full of imagination and speaks art. He is a serious illustrator who was trained under the House of Kubert (The Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art) and his illustrations have a style that resembles both Japanese manga and American comic books. Following the mantra “Eat-Sleep-Draw”, Paul’s ability is in high demand as people far and wide ask and are willing to pay great money for his commissioned pieces. His goals in life are to “Contribute to the comic book industry” by working with great comic book companies like Image, DC, or Marvel and release his first groundbreaking graphic novel Souls of Mischief.
It started with Mom and Dad
Graduating from West Orange High School in New Jersey in 2008, Paul’s constant drawing in school and art was the catalyst for him to enroll at the New York Arts Institute (NYAI). Realizing that NYAI wasn’t giving him the spark he needed to pursue his passion, his mother and father assisted him in locating the Joe Kubert school of Cartoon and Comic Art in Dover, New Jersey. “My parents are very supportive in everything I do, they’re always there to give me guidance, assist me in interviews, and handle any business that pertains to my craft.” Paul says. His mother, Gloria Walcott, works with him to ensure that all his business dealings are both productive and honorable; His father, Brian Walcott, reads all the contracts to ensure he isn’t getting ripped off for his illustrations and to ensure he receives recognition for his work.
Paul’s influences are a combination of both American comic books and Japanese manga. “My influences are Dexter Soy, who did the Mortal Kombat X series for DC comics; Lesean Thomas, who has an animated series called Cannon Busters. He also did Black Dynamite and Boondocks; and the Japanese artist called Oh! Great. He did the manga, Tenjho Tenge and Air Gear,” Paul says.
Paul’s influences are outstanding. The artist Dextor Soy is self taught and is credited for the artistry of DC’s Batman Beyond Universe #9, 10, 12, Justice Lords Beyond; Mortal Kombat #1, 2, 4, 5, 7, 9 and 11; DC Universe Vs. The Masters of the Universe and Red Hood and the Outlaws; Lesean Thomas is just as phenomenal. He is the creative producer and supervising director of Black Dynamite, which appears on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim. He also did the storyboard and animation for the Nickelodeon hit series, The Legend of Korra and he is the director and lead character designer for Aaron McGruder’s Boondocks television series as well. The Japanese artist, Oh Great’s, contributes to Paul’s creativity is through his usage of violent plots and sexual female characters. Oh! Great has created such manga works as Tenjho Tenge, Air Gear, and has contributed to the character designs for fighting games such as, Tekken 5, 6, Tekken Tag Tournament 2 and Soul Caliber IV.
Paul’s life is one of constant creativity and planning; “I do eight hours of pure drawing,” Paul says, “First I start out with a stretch, then I go to the drawing table and get my hand warmed up by sketching out 25 gestures before I start any illustrations." This training is attributed to the Kubert School (Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Comic Art) located in New Jersey. “Before we started any assignments at the School, they made us do hand warm-ups by doing intense sketches of life,” Paul responds.
Paul’s routine is that of a hard working drill sergeant. With Laser-like focus and self-discipline he challenges himself by planning his day from hardest to easiest. “After practice,” Paul says, “I have a list of what to do for the day…for example, if the commission piece is the hardest, I’ll start on that first, and if it’s a page, I’ll do that next, so at the end of the day I end up doing my easiest work.”
The Kubert School
For those who enter these walls they call it Heaven for Drawers, for those who dropout, they call it Hell on Earth. The Kubert School, located in Dover, NJ is the only accredited school for cartooning and is home to the creation of many talented and wonderful artists such as Amanda Conner (Archie and Marvel Comics) and Lee Weeks (Marvel Comics). “It was a boot camp for artists, it was the hardest three years of my life. They take art very seriously. I heard rumors saying ‘its going to be hard’, ‘you’re going to drop out and I was like yeah right!’ But it was really, really hard! They have strong teachers and all of them give you an assignment every week. Every teacher gives you an assignment that’s due next week, so you have, like, twelve assignments and if you miss one, your grade drops phenomenally.” Paul says.
Considered to be the “Navy Seals of Art School”, The Kubert School is an institution that takes their artwork very seriously. Looking at the website, they state that the school is “an intense 3-year program that strongly emphasizes methods and materials within the profession as well as refining students’ artistic and creative abilities”. Paul supports this belief by stating the following; “when you’re in freshman year, you usually have a class of like, seventy students, by the end of freshman year you’re down to twenty. I’ve shed a tear or two, because they hold nothing back. They will tell you what is wrong with your work and they will make you do it over because their making artists out of you in this industry!” Admiring Paul’s work you can see how that discipline pays off. “People from all over the world come to this school.” Paul says lightheartedly.
One of Paul’s most famous pieces is a portrait of what I call the “Four Brothers” which consists of Black Dynamite, Huey Freeman and Bushido Brown from the Boondocks and the legendary Afro Samurai. This creative piece was produced through a dare; “When I’m drawing in the library, people would come up to me and say ‘you draw White superheroes pretty good, can you draw Black people; African-American superheroes? I would definitely buy a print from you.’” Inspired by that opportunity, Paul rose to the challenge by combining his favorite African-American characters inspired by both Japanese manga and American cartoons and created “The Four Brothers”. “I decided to combine my interests and put it “all in one piece,” Paul says. “Once it was posted online, it immediately went viral,” Paul said surprisingly, “Literally the next day, I woke up to a phone call by a friend, who said that my image was placed on the Jim Kelly (Kung Fu Star) Facebook page, and that it received a lot of attention, good thing my name was on there or someone would of stole it.” Paul takes great pride in his work as an artist and humble to a fault, he was very accepting that his art received great praise. As a territorial artist however, he does have one request: “Just let me know when you use my art!” Paul says.
Although Paul has made monumental gains as an artist in the comics industry, his ability is still unnoticed by the majors in the field. Not deterred, he has found other avenues to promote his work and give back to the community as well. Paul’s work was noticed by members of the non-profit organization Arts Unbound, which is a program dedicated to the artistic achievement of individuals living with physical, developmental or mental disabilities. “Arts Unbound assists students with disabilities by helping them pursue their interest in the arts, I really love working there; we have different programs in art such as painting, background art, anime art and comic book art. I assists students with comic book art and we set up interviews with the students and if they want to pursue, we teach them in the studio.” Paul says.
His additional contribution to the comic book world is his job at Fractured Pixels. “Fractured Pixels actually picked me up. They do background work for DC, Marvel, and Anime. For example, if DC needs an art book for Wonder Woman, they would contact Fractured Pixels and they would contact a list of artists to work with and they would get paid directly from the comic book company.” Paul says. For artists, this would be considered a gateway into the comic book industry. Paul was privileged enough to do the background work for the Yokai watch series; “I had an assignment to do where I had to do the whole Yokai book series; you know the Yokai watch series. They paid me for the job and it was a great experience.” Paul says. Although they didn’t use all his artwork, one of his designs was accepted for the show.
Soul of Mischief
Paul’s talents and abilities have led him to the creation of his first manga called Soul of Mischief, an American manga inspired by his love of sci-fi movies and anime. The story starts with the protagonist, Karen Gomez. Karen is a Hispanic high school senior whose boyfriend is a famous and very important martial artist. Within the series, Karen continues to have visions of a stranger who informs her that he is coming to get her boyfriend. Within a few days, there is a martial arts tournament in which Karen’s boyfriend is the celebrated fighter. The stranger appears at this tournament and almost succeeds in defeating the boyfriend if not for Karen’s preventative efforts. What Karen doesn’t know is that this stranger is from the future to prevent Karen’s boyfriend from becoming a futuristic dictator and ruin the country and economy. “She [Karen] then decides to go to the future with the stranger to try to rectify the situation with her beau and stop this evil tyranny.” Paul says. The manga is inspired from such movies as the Terminator series, the anime Spirited Away, and “a whole lot of other comics”.
In order to be an artist of Paul’s caliber, sacrifices must be made to be awesome. For Paul, that means giving up nice days with friends for art; “I sacrificed my outside life basically, hanging out with my friends, playing basketball. I also like going to the mall. It gets hard, and when my friends call me everyday, I’m like I can’t because I’m grinding away doing the latest project and I’m like ‘it’s such a beautiful day outside’ and I can’t.” Paul says.
Paul’s sacrifices are for the greater good of the art community. His determination and focus has created memorable artwork that is admired and purchased by comic book fans, pop culture artists, and up and coming artists, young and old alike. I too have purchased from him and I feel that his contribution to the comic and manga community is extraordinary. To say Paul is a starving artist would be a misconception; Paul Walcott is a gift to the art community, a breath of fresh air to a homogeneous landscape where most characters both in human form and in comics are seen in one color. He’s an inspiration to the ‘creative-types’ that proves you can still love what you do as long as you sacrifice and “Eat-Sleep-Draw”.