Connie Norman
Connie Norman

Artist Interview – Chad Blakely

Now for something a little different, today’s interview is my long time friend Chad Blakely.  He and I got our teaching degrees together and have taught across the hall from each other for ten years now, at Carey Jr. High.  He constantly draws and always entertains us at every faculty meeting with his drawing.  He has recently just published his first graphic novel, and we all of us at Carey wish him the best.  Now without further ado, here are excerpts from his graphic novel Kidnapping Kevin Smith, and some of his paintings.  

For more  information on Chad and his work go to his blog “Whacha lookin at?” and his “like” his Facebook page, Kidnapping Kevin Smith. 

 If you are interested in ordering a book,  contact Chad at Or order from your local comic shop this June!


Tell us a little about yourself!

Well, I am currently a full time junior art teacher in Cheyenne, Wyoming as well as a full time COMIC BOOK GEEK!  I have just self published my first graphic novel, Kidnapping Kevin Smith, under my own imprint, pathetic aesthetic comics.  The comic is the tale of two comic book store employees, with zero prospects and tons of vitriol.  They decide to kidnap indie filmmaker Kevin Smith and try to force him to write a screenplay for them.  It doesn’t work out too well for the kidnappers in the end, but Mr. Smith comes out on top!

How did you become an artist? 

When I was a little boy, about 3, I always had my mom draw me pictures of Popeye.  One day, she got tired of drawing Popeye and decided to teach me how.  After that, I just started drawing and drawing.  Recently, my folks moved and found a box of my old 3 and 4 year old drawings; there are drawings of KISS, Mr. Rogers, and Star Wars.  Guess I haven’t changed much as a person, I still like two out of those three subjects!

How would you describe your style? One of the hardest things for artists to do is to stand apart from everyone else. How long did it take you to come up with your own style and signature look?

I feel that my style is still evolving; every piece I create, every comic I draw, my style changes slightly.  I think the best way to describe my style, is cartoony realism.  Even when I try to alter my style and ape someone else’s, it still looks like my line.  I have recently fallen in love with doing gray toned, ink washes; a technique that is featured prominently in my comic book.  I am even experimenting with ink washing my watercolors before I add color; I am getting some interesting results!

What is your inspiration for your pieces?

For my non comic book pieces, I love to paint buildings around Cheyenne.  Edward Hopper is one of my favorite artists, so I feel that has a big influence on my work.  I enjoy painting images of around Cheyenne that depict that emptiness and desolation of our city.  In my paintings you will see buildings, and cars, but never people out walking around; people in Wyoming rarely walk anywhere (I blame the wind). So I try to chose buildings that are visually interesting and Cheyenne-centric and paint them with few signs of life. 

When it comes to my comic book work, I have no idea where my story ideas come from.  Sometimes it will be watching my kids play, other times it will be hearing a story about small town scandals of the past, just whatever sparks my interest or sounds like a good story.

What keeps you motivated?

This sounds cliché, but I am motivated by the wheelbarrows full of cash my art work provides me! Just kiddin.  To me there is nothing quite as satisfying as looking at a finished piece of art or holding a finished comic book in your hands.  The sense of “Hey…look what I made!  All those hours of hard work paid off!”.  That, and the droves of screaming and adoring fans!

Are you a full-time artist? How do you come up with your creations? Can you walk us through your creative process when dreaming up new pieces?

No, I am not a full time artist…but I am a full time dreamer!  The process of creating a comic book, especially as a one man team, is a long one.  First I do an outline, like you learned in elementary school, where I work out the main plot points of the story and how the story will go from point A to B to C.  Then based on that outline I do thumbnail sketches of the pages, working out “camera” angles and story pacing.  Then I collect reference photos, which can be anything from taking snapshots of my friends and family, to Googling specific locals and whatnot.  Then I draw the page in pencil, ink over it, then graytone it with inkwash.  Next, I write a script of all the dialog, scan the pages, and insert the dialog using Adobe. Then the work gets e-mailed to the printer and the next thing you know, after months of hard work, you have a comic book in hand! 

What was it that made you want to start creating? Did something specific trigger it?

I think all artists create art to communicate their personal world view to others; so, my trigger was wanting to tell people stories.  In college I did a series of paintings, showing everyday scenes from my life; waking up, shaving, reading a comic on the toilet, telling the story of me.  The paintings I do of around Cheyenne, tell the story of what it is like to live in Cheyenne and our own little culture here.  Graphic novels, again BIGTIME storytelling.  I love nothing more than having drinks with friends and family and sharing stories, my art is an extension of that.

What or who inspires you?

My narcissistic need to make others see the world as I see it!  Inspiration comes from everywhere.  As a kid the work of Todd McFarlane and Brian Bolland and John Buscema and Frank Miller inspired me to draw comic books.  As an adult I am still inspired by comic book creators; Mike Allred, Darwyn Cooke, Dave Stevens, these guys are illustrators that make me want to be a better artist and storyteller, they inspire me to try harder!

How do you manage being a Father and artist? 

Being a parent, and a teacher, and a husband, and an artist, can be a challenge!  Luckily I have a wife who is very supportive and doesn’t mind me being shackled to the drawing board.  My son and daughter love to draw and paint, so we have these little jam sessions where we all sit at the kitchen table and work on our art together, which is a fun bonding experience.  But it is a struggle of balance all things in life and still be productive.

What advice can you give aspiring artists struggling to find their own voice and look?

I look at art the way I look at music.  Most bands start out aping their favorite bands and over time they develop into their own band with their own style.  Nick Derington, a comic book artist and animator, once told me to stand on the shoulder of giants.  Meaning, look at the past and all of the great work that has come before; look to them for inspiration and use them as a foundation to build your own style upon.

This is the cover to Kidnapping Kevin Smith. Art by comic book legends Mike and Laura Allred.

If you are interested in ordering a book,  contact Chad at Or order from your local comic shop this June!

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One Response to “Artist Interview – Chad Blakely”

  1. Linda Starr Says:

    So much detail in his wonderful work, great interview.