One on One with David Joyce

Boneshaker Press is proud to introduce the first in a series of articles we’re calling “Bound For Greatness” wherein we’ll get some one on one time with each of our artists. First up is David Joyce, hailing from Calgary, AB. You can find David’s portfolio here, or contact him at

BP: What’s your background?

D: I’ve got a BFA in Media Arts & Digital Technologies from the Alberta College of Art & Design, as well as a certificate from the Media Classroom. Personally I don’t put much stock in either of those (they were both predominantly disappointing experiences), but that’s what I’ve got.

Red Cape Kid #1
The first of a series of images donated to the Make-a-Wish Foundation

BP: What got you interested in the arts to begin with?

D: I was into games before anything else, but the graphics were so bad back then that I can’t believe they inspired an appreciation of the visual arts. That said my love of problem solving, a key skill when designing images, definitely originates in gaming. But if I had to pick I’d say it all stems from Superheroes. I can still remember renting Superboy and The Incredible Hulk videos week after week when I was little. Then I graduated to comics, strips like Garfield (I had sooo many of those odd shaped books) and a lot of Spider-Man.

BP: Do you remember your first piece of art you were really proud of? The one that made you say, “Yes I am an artist!”

D: My father had a home office with a photocopier, and I remember using it to blow up parts of various comics and then tracing off of those copies. I can’t think of a specific one that was “the one”, but I feel like that was around the time that I first liked what I was doing enough to consider never stopping.

The unfortunate result of collecting all the things

BP: Do you collect anything?

D: Sadly, the comics world has totally out priced me, so while I buy the odd trade from time to time I don’t feel like I can call myself a collector anymore. And the more seriously I take my art career the less time I have to do much of anything else, so there’s not a lot of collecting these days.

Of course that’s all a lie. I collect the hell out of books on art, stationery, and art supplies. Jetpens will be my downfall…

BP: What research do you do?

D: My research tends to take the form of online classes, videos and a great deal of reading both online and offline. There’s an incredible amount of fantastic information out there these days, if you know where to look.

BP: Do you enjoy collaboration work? What qualities do you look for in collaborators?

D: Love it and hate it. Growing up with such a strong interest in comics and games it didn’t ever occur to me that art making could be a solitary process. Not to say I didn’t work alone, but I always assumed that “making it” meant you became part of a team and so collaborating was my default from the beginning. That said, I’ve had several collaborations blow up in my face and that can be incredibly disappointing. It takes a great deal of resolve to push on when someone you trusted turns a project to dust, so don’t jump in unless you’re prepared for that.

From my experience I’d say that the most important thing you can find in a fellow collaborator is mirrored passion. You want to be pushing each other to greater heights, not dragging your partner up behind you (or vice versa). Of course there’s also the obvious, you want collaborators whose company you enjoy, who you trust, and can be yourself around.

Feudal Legacy Spot Illustration
An image produced for an independent tabletop roleplaying game set in the world of IxKenDren

BP: What kind of creative patterns, routines or rituals do you have?

D: Wake up early, exercise, warm up with 15 minutes of gesture studies, then move on to 45 minutes of master studies, 30 minutes of life study, and end with 30 minutes of imaginative drawing. Then move onto whatever projects you plan to work on that day. This series of exercises will get your creative juices pumping and set you up to produce the best you can for the rest of the day.

Take breaks. Work for 90 minutes, then force yourself to walk away. Take 10 to 15 minutes and when you come back you’ll be refreshed and will likely have a solution to whatever it was you were struggling with when you left.

Take time away. This one’s fairly new to me, but I’m trying to take a couple hours at least once a week to head to a mall or coffee shop to just sit and work.

Plan the day. I’ve been at this for almost a year now and it’s a big game changer. Take some time every night to build a list of priorities for tomorrow. Be careful not to overload, otherwise your daily plan can turn into a to do list that lasts all week. That saps your momentum and motivation instead of helping.

Keep a notebook/sketchbook nearby at all times. You never know when a great idea will strike, and I think it’s foolish to assume that if it’s good you’ll remember it. Write it down, sketch a quick thumbnail, do whatever you need to do to capture it.

BP: Do you ever feel like giving up and doing something else? If so, why and how have you overcome that feeling?

D: Not any more. There was a period in my early twenties when I was floundering. That was more about how the people in my life were treating me and how I was coping than anything else though. There’s never been another option, unless you count my long lost dream of being the guy who designed Lego spaceships. I let go of that one pretty easily though, so it can’t have been that near and dear.

BP: What advice would you have given yourself ten years ago?

D: They’re not exaggerating when they say “draw every single day”. And stop using your sketchbook like that. It’s not precious, don’t be afraid of it. Dirty it up, make a mess, and experiment! But also finish the damn drawing once you start it.

Most important of all, trust your gut. All those people occupying positions specifically designed to guide and advise you? They’re shit. They can’t be bothered to understand who you are or what you want, and so will never be able to point you in the right direction. It’s your dream, not theirs.

Cave of Wonders
Produced for the upcoming Make-a-Wish 2016 Calgary Expo Artbook (shhhh… I’m not supposed to show it until after the show!)

BP: What was your first step towards being a professional?

D: I applied to exhibit at a local convention. It’s demanding, but it gives me a solid deadline to work towards and an opportunity to make some money while engaging with fans.

That’s the answer that first came to mind, but it’s not true. My first experience is one that I’ve tried to scrub away such that I had forgotten about it. Back in college I answered an ad looking for an artist to produce a couple comic pages each month. That relationship ended when I found out that my “partner” was selling our work as his own after removing my signature. Not a great first step by any means, but it taught me a lot about contracts, dealing with lawyers, and the publishing industry.

And after sleeping on it, I can say that’s not true either. My first step towards being professional was in my teens, getting pseudo-hired on at a local startup called Expedition Comics. I say “pseudo-hired” because after months of contact, and helping to set up what I was told would be my office, they stopped returning my calls. Not long after I heard that the writer/man-in-charge had changed careers to be a self help guru and wealth expert…

BP: What is the most vital/indispensable tool in your studio?

D: I can’t think of anything that I use to make art that I couldn’t easily replace (ignoring the financial side of things). I’ve always thought it was BS when an artist said “it’s not the tool that’s important, it’s the hand holding it” because that hand was almost always holding a very expensive, high quality tool. Thinking about it from this perspective though, there’s nothing in my studio that I “need” to be able to produce work. Instead I have a list of tools that I like enough to recommend, for those who are curious.

My favorite sketching pencil

The eraser I turn to most

A great brush pen that I don’t use nearly as often as I should

A light pad that I’m using more and more these days

And a custom built apparatus that I’ve been tinkering with for the past year or so. It was supposed to be a replacement for my sketchbook, but focusing on the desktop/drafting table version has produced the best results. Next challenge, figuring out how to make it a functioning light table!

A piece of hardboard with a fairly strong neodymium magnet sunk into the center, placed on top of my drafting table.
1. A piece of hardboard with a fairly strong neodymium magnet sunk into the center, placed on top of my drafting table.
The backside of a piece of MDF, with a similar magnet.
2. The backside of a piece of MDF, with a similar magnet.
3. The MDF has a ridge around the front side, holding 11×17 boards in place.
4. Because of the magnets, the MDF board spins effortlessly.
5. Using a scrap piece of MDF I added a wrist rest (also attached via magnet) to help ensure I don’t smudge my work.

BP: What are you working on right now? (Other than this project) What are you currently obsessed with?

D: As with most artists I imagine this answer will quickly turn into a list, so I’m just going to start there from the get go.

  • I’m preparing a series of new pieces for an upcoming comic convention.
  • I’m beginning work on a series of short (3-5 page) comics. I’m hoping the experience will set me up to tackle larger works in the near future.
  • I’m also part of a mobile game team in the early stages of character design, environment design, and so on.
  • I’ve spent a decent chunk of the last 2 years designing and illustrating all the art for an independent tabletop RPG.
  • I’ve got a few board games in various stages of finish.
  • And I’m still building that sketchbook replacement system. It’s on hold now, but I expect to return to them over the summer, time permitting.
Commissioned by Valhalla Collectibles.

4 thoughts on “One on One with David Joyce

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