For the third installment of our Artist Series, I speak to Louie Joyce, a 34-year-old comic creator, illustrator, and rollerblading enthusiast living in Wollongong, Australia.


What was your first exposure to art? Does art run in your family?

Yeah, both my parents are creatives (Mum’s a writer/singer/teacher, and my dad worked in Theatre as a writer/director most of my childhood), so storytelling was all around me as a kid. We spent a lot of time at art galleries and plays and all kinds of stuff. My dad collected comics, too, so that was something I was exposed to very early on and immediately fell in love with!

When did you start blading?

It must have been around ’99. This new kid moved to our school, and we became good mates. I remember playing Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater at his house for the first time and going for a skate afterward, but he was on blades and had some sweet moves! He gave me a go, and I was hooked! I remember we had some quad skates that I’d messed around on when I was younger, but I begged my dad to get me a pair of aggressive skates, and we got some M12’s shortly after. For the next few years, I spent skating with a group of mostly skateboarders around Newcastle. Newy skate park was down at the beach, so we’d catch the bus into town and spend all day surfing and skating. So good!

A young Louie airing on the mini-ramp at Newy Skatepark (left) Louie lacing a grind (right)

When did you realize that art was something you wanted to pursue? What education and training did you receive?

Once I realized that the names in the credits boxes in comics were actual people whose job was to make these fantastic stories I was experiencing? I’m pretty sure I’d have proclaimed then and there that I was going to be a comic book artist when I grew up! So it was sparked early on. As I got older, I don’t think that I ever believed that would happen, though. I continued drawing, got into graff for a bit, and made zines and whatnot, but drawing was mainly a hobby and waned during my teen years. It wasn’t until I started getting back into anime and comics that my passion for art-making was reignited. I had a computer with some graphic programs on it, so I started creating in a digital space, which led to me working in graphic design. I still loved drawing and comics more than anything, and my wife (then girlfriend) found an illustration course at Enmore Design Centre in Sydney that I managed to get into. It was there that my skill progressed to the level where I could confidently freelance as an illustrator after finishing.

What is the first drawing you remember creating?

Honestly, I have no idea; I’ve been drawing so long it’s hard to pick the earliest memory (also doesn’t help that my memory is pretty shit, hey). I’m lucky that my mum had kept a box of old drawings from when I was young, and it’s such an incredible thing to look through. Particular drawings trigger memories of moments or feelings or places that I’d never been able to recall without holding that drawing in my hands.

How did your love of illustration develop? What inspires you?

Certainly becoming so engrossed in comics at an early age, and then getting into Anime on top of that. I just loved the way I felt reading comics, experiencing those colorful worlds and characters both on the page and in my mind. It instilled in me a love of visual storytelling. Those were my earliest inspirations, and then as I grew older, meeting other creators and artists really opened my eyes to all the different styles and approaches to telling stories. When I started going to zine fairs, I was able to talk directly to the artists and see that they lived and created in Australia, making exceptional and diverse works; it was really eye-opening. It was no longer these names in a comic made in another country that was doing it; it was people who lived in the same town as me!

Who were your biggest inspirations throughout your artistic career?

Early on, it was the artists on the comics I was reading, like Chris Bachalo, Jim Mahfood, Mike Allred, etc., then it was creators like Katsuhiro Otomo, Hayao Miyazaki, Moebius (and so many more). As I got older, it was artists I would meet at zine fairs or traveling in Indonesia (so many incredible artists over there!). I still take so much inspiration from the world of comics, especially all the fantastic work created in Australia. It’s a great time for the comics scene here at the moment! The other major inspiration is my family, playing with my kids, going for bushwalks, all that stuff. Kids are crazy and an endless source of inspiration! And now getting back into blading has been an enormous inspiration too!

Have you made any sacrifices in your life to get you to where you are today?

It’s taken a shit ton of hard work and time to develop my skills, and it’s hasn’t always been easy, but I’m incredibly fortunate and privileged to do what I do and thankful that I get to do it.

Starting as a graphic designer, what did it take for you to make a move over to comic book illustration?

It mainly was just knowing that I wasn’t completely fulfilled with the graphic design work I was doing. I wanted something a bit more expressive and story-based. When I found out about the illustration course, I figured I’d give that a go and see where it takes me. The great thing about freelance illustration is there are many fields you can work in. Publishing, storyboarding, animation, comics, advertising, and so on. Initially, most of my freelance work was in storyboarding and advertising, with some film/ animation work. Comics were something I did in my spare time because I love making them. It took many years before comics accounted for a more significant part of my income, and even now, with freelance, I still take on jobs in all different fields.

What medium and process are you using for your art?

At the moment, I’m pretty much fully digital with everything created in clip studio paint on my iPad pro. Sometimes I’ll draw the linework in ink on paper, and I’ll often use textures and brushes I’ve created with traditional mediums in my coloring. It can be project-dependent, though. All my scratchy concept sketches and thumbnails I do in pen on copy paper. I found that drawing with colored pencils with kids has contributed to a stylistic shift I’ve gone through the past year or so in my drawing. It’s really fun and loose, and I try to do it as often as possible!

Some of your artwork has a hint of anime and manga style. How much of an influence has the Japanese comic styles and culture had on your work?

Huge influence! I saw Akira way too young, and that movie, alongside the other 90s breakthrough Anime films (Ninja Scroll, Ghost In The Shell, Wings of Honnêamise, etc.), just absolutely smashed my brain. I drifted away from reading American comics for a long time and was full into consuming manga/anime. Now I’ve got a steady balance of inspiration from all over the joint. But yeah, there’s just such a hugely diverse amount of work coming from Japan it’s impossible not to be influenced by it.

What was the most significant project you’ve worked on?

Comics wise the largest project would be the YA graphic novel Haphaven with writer Norm Harper in 2019. It’s about a young girl who, after stepping on a crack and breaking her mother’s back, travels to the magical world of Haphaven from which the power of superstitious belief comes. It’s the biggest comic I’ve drawn, not only in length but also in terms of the world-building and conceptualization that went into it. It was so much fun to draw that Norm and I are developing another comic at the moment that’ll make Haphaven seem tiny in comparison, so that’s exciting!

What would be your dream project?

I think that’s a goalpost the keeps moving. I’ve certainly already been lucky enough to work on a few dream projects. Past the Last Mountain was the first comic series, I illustrated and felt like a dream to work on, like I was doing the thing little kid me wanted to do! Haphaven, too is a comic that I was drawing specifically with my kids in mind as a book they’d hopefully like to read. I’d love to do a children’s book and am currently working towards that goal.

I recently worked on a short animated film directed by Dev Patel & Tilda Cobham- Hervey called Roborovski. I got to illustrate, design, and even do some small animation on these comic-inspired 2D sequences in the film. It was a great project to work on and led to me doing more of the animated blading illustrations to develop my skills in that area.

Roborovski trailer

Tell us about your comic book workshops.

Sure! So I teach creative art workshops based around visual storytelling, illustration making comics, creating characters, and more. I started out teaching at libraries, community events, comic conventions, etc., and now I also go into schools/colleges to run classes and teach digital painting and graphic storytelling classes at the University of Wollongong. I teach to a wide range of ages, from young kids through to adults, and it’s something I love doing! It’s taken something of a backseat during the pandemic, but I’m excited to get back into it. Teaching has forced me to evaluate my creative process in ways that I would never have otherwise. Plus, working with kids is always really creatively inspiring!

What is your favorite comic book project that you have worked on?

My personal fave is a short comic I created a few years ago for a live comics reading event. It’s called Moments Like These and it’s about being a parent and some memories of traveling with my father when I was young. It’s got that sentimental attachment, but it was also really interesting as I’ve adapted it to a few different formats; live reading, webcomic, and a zine/book. I love seeing how the different delivery methods affect the reading experience!

Some of the comic covers Louie has illustrated.

Have you worked on your own comic book projects?

Yep! I’ve got a whole bunch of short comics on my site that you can read for free (and were collected in my self-published series MISHMASH). I’m currently developing a longer-form graphic novel that’s been in the works for a while. It’s a personal story inspired by some of my own experiences growing up and by watching my kids grow and change now. It’s an intimidating project, writing, illustrating, doing everything myself, on such a scale. I wish I could snap my fingers and be done, but I also know I need to put in the work, and it’ll be worth it in the end!

Have you done any work for any skating-related brands?

Not yet, but I am definitely keen to and hopefully won’t be too long before something eventuates. I put on a BLADE exhibition earlier this year, showcasing a selection of the blading illustrations I’ve been doing. There was a screening night where I picked some of my fave sections to project up on the walls, and we had a live blading demo with some skaters from the local crew Gong Rollaz. It was awesome! I got some tees printed up for the show and have been selling them online. I’d like to do more of this and maybe take on the road at some point.

Blade exhibition edit

Are there any other artists that inline skate whose work you follow or would like to collaborate with in the future?

I’m a huge fan of Robbie Pitts, and I know he makes zines, so I would love to collab on something in that vein with him. A good musician mate who recently got back into blading was keen to put some sound to some of my blading animations, and I love the idea of doing something longer with him too, like an animated section or something! For ages, I’ve been thinking about a History of Blading comic. Something like Hip Hop Family Tree, which traces blading culture and history throughout the years. But I don’t have enough knowledge for that, so it would be cool to collab with a real blading historian. But yeah, all of these are just pipe dreams at the moment, if only there was more time in the day!

Who are some of your favorite artists today?

At the moment, I’m obsessed with the work of Meg O’SheaSara AlfageehFreddy Carrasco, and Claudia Chinyere Akole! All incredible artists whose work you should follow.

Do you have an all-time favorite drawing you’ve done?

It’s probably a drawing I’ve done of my family or a random sketch of my kids. But also, I’ve just been frothing on blading so much since getting back into it that I’m having so much fun on my Blade series. They’re a perfect space for me to explore, experiment, and develop my style (while also thinking bout blading and envisioning how to approach tricks, position my body, etc.). It’s led to a substantial stylistic shift in how I approach my drawing. So I still love the hell out of those!


Links

  • Visit louiejoyce.com to see more of Louie’s illustration work.
  • Make sure to follow Louie on Instagram and Twitter to keep up with his latest drawings.
  • Contact Big Wheel Blading for any questions, suggestions, story ideas or to contribute content.

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Jan Welch

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