Jesse Kwe is an comic book illustrator and graphic artist from North Carolina, currently living in Saint Louis, who enjoys watching action/sci fi/fantasy movies and exploring new cuisine. Jesse illustrated my story “The Day I Fell Into the Sky,” part of the children’s anthology “Juice Box” published by the Saint Louis comic community, Ink and Drink. His work can be found on his webpage or Instagram (username: jessekwe).
- Tell us a little about your journey of becoming an artist.
A lot of people draw when they’re kids, but I really did start drawing when I was three and I always got compliments on how good my drawings were. I started off drawing Knight Rider then moved on to drawing what was back then WWF wrestlers. I was a HUGE Hulkamainiac! It was at this time that I also started drawing comic book characters, specifically Spider-Man and Superman, but it wasn’t until I reached middle school that I started to take my drawing seriously. I started studying proper anatomy and adjusting my style. I then took various art classes in high school, including theater arts. It was at this stage that I also started to open up to criticism and not take it so personally.
In college I started studying multimedia technology (Photoshop, Illustrator, Flash, 3D Studio Max, After Effects, etc.) and shortly afterwards I landed a job at VSD, LLC., where I met Donna! For seven years I focused on computer artistry and every once in a while I’d produce a drawing that I was proud of, but by the time I decided to try my hand at the comic book industry I had lost a lot of the skills I had developed as an illustrator. So I spent a couple years regaining everything back and I’m now planting my feet in the comic industry drawing indie and small scale comics.
- What is your “go to” style?
I guess I would say that I have a mainstream style that would fit in any Marvel/DC comic. Of course, I have other styles such as anime, horror, realism, noir, and super cartoony…but my mainstream style has realistic proportions and anatomy, a good dose of heavy shades, a touch of anime, and a sprinkle of exaggeration.
- What is your least favorite style to use and why?
I don’t think I have a least favorite, but I’d say the most difficult one for me to grasp is Noir because it’s more abstract than the others. I tend to be literal with the way I light scenes and if a light is shining on top of someone then I tend to draw it the way it would look if someone took a picture. Noir requires you to break those rules and just put the entire person in a solid shade of black with maybe one or two white spots to show intention. It’s sort of a minimalist style and I love pouring detail into my art.
- How did you continue to develop these skills as an artist?
Sketch, sketch, sketch. Sketching is the illustrator’s version of studying and in fact, that’s what they’re doing most of the time…studying. If I don’t know how to draw something, I’ll take some time to attempt it a few times before I draw it into my actual work. That includes everything from positions, anatomy, proportions, perspective, vehicles, and buildings. I can draw a lot, but there is also a lot I can’t draw.
Pinterest also helps a ton. It’s one of the best places to find references and references are an absolute necessity…unless you’re Kim Jung Gi (illustrator who lays down inks with NO penciled guides).
- Where do you find your inspiration?
My inspiration for art is really all over the internet. I sometimes spend too much time just browsing IG or Pinterest because I’ve found a style or an artist that grabs my attention. But lately I’ve found inspiration in non-visual art such as writing and character building. I recently started writing a couple of stories so I look to good storytelling (James Cameron & Steven Speilberg movies) and strong character development (Quinten Tarantino films) for reference.
- Tell us about your Ink & Drink artist group.
Absolutely! Ink and Drink is a collective of artists, mostly local to Saint Louis, who submit short stories based on a certain theme (horror, romance, western, sci fi, etc.) and then the three amigos in charge take all of the qualifying stories and put them into an anthology. They do this twice a year.
They also hold monthly gatherings where we drink, draw, and converse about everything geek and then some. It’s a great way to meet fellow creators. In fact, the first night I attended one of the meetings a guy came up to me to compliment my artwork and he ended up hiring me to draw the Kickstarter funded “Ghost Town: A Mystery” which we’re in the process of finalizing!
I might not be pursuing my dreams if it weren’t for Ink and Drink.
- You are working on a large project that was a success through KickStarter, and that I was happy to support. I am so impressed by the issues that have already been released! Please tell us a little about your project and your roll in this venture.
Sure! As I mentioned earlier, the comic is