Chris Kent is a busy man. As the founder of Graphite Fiction, he runs workshops and courses for aspiring comic book artists and writers in between painting, making furniture and publishing his own distinct graphic novels including ‘Medusa’ and the newly released ‘The Golem’. Recently, I had the opportunity to chat with Chris and find out all about him his life, and his work. He started off our discussion by speaking about his background, saying,
I was born in Darlington and grew up on Teesside. My mum was from Darlington and my dad was from East London – Leytonstone. My mum and dad ran the working men’s club on Thornaby Green. I used to play on the high flat roof, traveling on the ‘ocean’ to the ‘South Seas’, traveling the oceans in tea chests.
It’s very clear that Chris’ early life had a big influence on the work he does today.
I read various comics Marvel, DC, such bright colours, exciting drawing, plus Treasure, Smash, The Victor.
I continued drawing and painting,[sometimes on my dad’s home-made easel], and watching horror films [especially Universal and Hammer] and I started practicing stage horror make-up – building up layer with tissue and flour and water paste, before experimenting with latex. I worked on my own face and my young brother too.
A man after my own heart, Chris studied acting in college and then technical theater in London before finding himself working on comic book adaptations of Shakespeare as a colorist. I identify with Chris quite a lot; like me, he has been exploring varying different crafts to develop his own development rather than be content in one constant place. He continued down this path, saying,
After I moved back to the North again and studied fine art full time. I was trying to work abstract for a while – lots of paint, and enjoyed the writing and research too. After art school, I felt like I needed a new challenge and started work on sculptures using wood, as well as running lots of art classes, often with people with mental health problems.
Suddenly wooden sculptures turned into wooden furniture – and I went into partnership for about 8 years making sculptural furniture. Working for architects, we designed and made high quality sculptural furniture – including chapel furniture and other unusual pieces. At this time I also developed work for exhibition which used wood blocks and text, sometimes collage. Somebody saw the work and asked if they were from a graphic novel!
From this, ‘Medusa’ and Graphite Fiction were born.
Medusa, like all of Chris’ work, has a distinct and unique style which is a brave departure from the bright, vivid kind of work we normally see. Chris makes it very clear that the simplistic sketches and paneling are very conscious stylistic decisions:
The Golem’s illustrations were an unreal style, a claustrophobic style about theater light and strong shadows. An obsessive drawing style, held in check by the 9 panel layout. They try to pull the viewer into the world of the Golem. I create in a very basic way using pencils and paper, sometimes acrylic paint, ink, collage, glue. When I ‘cut and paste’ I do it for real! It’s messy, but it’s natural to me!
His Hammer Horror influence is incredibly visible and exciting. What appears simple upon first glance becomes more and more intricate and engaging.
Influenced by such individuals as Dave McKean, Will Eisner, Joe Sacco, plus Da Vinci, Rembrandt, El Greco, Picasso, Andrew Wyeth, Chris and his work make no attempt to conform to mainstream and in turn create some very striking and interesting works you can purchase over on the Graphite Fiction website along with keeping up to date on new releases. We will also have a review of ‘The Golem’ in the coming weeks.
“Kent’s art is pretty special. Medusa will repay several readings.” –The Skinny December 2009
“Artist and writer Chris Kent has produced a strong piece of complex work.Using collage, photo and painted art, Medusa has a unique look for a haunting tale of loss and longing. Visually strong, the black and white art captures a humanity in this nightmarish tale.Medusa is never less than intriguing. We eagerly await his future projects”. – The List January 2010
“A highly unusual, deeply disturbing, dark tale” – Joe Gordon, Forbidden Planet Blog
“Chris Kent’s distraught debut is a book that gets under your skin”. – Shelfabuse.com
You can also follow Chris on Twitter here: @xyler