|Interview by Burt Wolf with artist, illustrator Eric Maruscak.
Interview done July 17th, 2007.
PLEASE GIVE US A LITTLE INTRODUCTION TO YOURSELF?
My name is Eric Maruscak. I am an illustrator from upstate New York with interests in cartooning, fantasy art &
comic book art. I also work as a graphic design & pre-press manager at a print company.
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN WORKING IN THE ART FIELD?
I have been drawing all my life. I have worked as a graphic artists since graduating college in 1994, so
approximately 13 years. Within the past 4 & a half years, I have been creating giant chalk art illustrations. I
began doing work on pavement at art festivals in upstate New York. In the past year I have also moved into
creating them on paper for indoor conventions, but the giant size has remained, often averaging 10'x15' in size.
My day job is behind the computer, but my freelance is illustration. Of course, I am hoping that someday the
illustration over takes the day job & I can draw full time.
WHO OR WHAT HAS HAD SOME IMPACT OR
INFLUENCE ON YOU CREATING YOUR ART?
illustration & art. As an overall painter, you can not beat
Norman Rockwell for pure storytelling genius & artistic
talent. See his paintings in person & you'll know what I
mean. When I was younger, Berkeley Breathed just
changed my whole outlook on cartooning with Bloom
County. It was so unique & you just wanted to know &
be friends with those characters. For the longest time I
wanted to create a comic strip for newspapers. I was
very into a number of comic strip artists from Charles
Schultz to Gary Larson to Bill Watterson. When it comes
to comic books I like Alex Ross (purely one of the most
talented artists out there), Mike Magnola, Joe Madureira
& Dale Keown. And in recent years I have more & more
been studying concept art work for movies, video games
& books. No major stand outs there, I admire a whole
range of people across the industry.
DID YOU HAVE ANY SCHOOLING OR ARE YOU A SELF TAUGHT ARTIST?
I went to Binghamton University where I took Studio Art (concentration in Graphic Design). It was a local & I
you make of it. I took as many internships as I could during that time & tried to educate myself on everything
that was out there. The classes were good & my teachers instilled me with a lot of basics, but you learn that the
real working world, even when it comes to art, is nothing like the school environment. When it comes to were
good & studying what I admired in their styles. Not the best way to learn, but certainly helpful in many regards.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE DIFFERENT STYLES OF ART THAT YOU WORK IN? DO YOU PREFER
ONE STYLE OVER ANOTHER?
I started off as a pure cartoonist, so my styles have all drawn from that. Two of the most important things in
cartooning are simplicity & exaggeration & I know that those two rules show in almost all of the work I do. I
like cartooning for it's emphasis on line work, how simple shapes can create all that you need to convey people,
clothing, environment & movement. My fantasy work is where I can let my imagination explode & in many
ways that is greatly freeing. But I have always felt that, compared to a lot of artists out there, my rendering
abilities just weren't up to par with them, so I feel my fantasy work doesn't reach the level I would really like it
to. The concept artwork is a lot of fun & it's much more "painterly" in it's style & form. Having moved to a
digital workspace & using a drawing tablet, I love digital painting & the limitless materials at your fingertips. In all
of my styles though, most people seem to agree that i have an obsession (I prefer love affair) with lighting &
light sources. I can't fault them on that...I love the way light plays off of objects & through various atmospheres.
Let's face it, light is art...without it we would see nothing.
YOUR COMPANY IS CALLED
PEPPER INK - "A LITTLE EXTRA
FLAVOR". WHY DID YOU
CHOOSE THIS NAME?
In high school & college I had a
comic strip called "Pepper" which
was loosely based on a dog I had
when I was a kid named "Peppy".
The comic strip never really found it's
voice, but I had turned most of my
friends into characters & I loved the
director like way you could control
the acting & the dialog in a strip, so I
modified it...and it gradually turned
into a strip first called "The Cartoon
Studio" & finally became "Just
HOW DID YOU GET HOOKED UP WITH DOING WORK FOR WIZARD WORLD?
I've worked for Wizard Entertainment doing chalk art at their conventions for the past year now. I am coming up
on the one year anniversary as I return to Chicago to make another piece for them this upcoming August. I have
done some cartooning work for Visions Federal Credit Union doing advertising images on their quarterly
promotions. I created a few fantasy themed greeting cards for a small local company named Gryphon Gift &
Graphics, which can be found on my website & will be creating an advertising chalk art image coming up for a
promotional company out of New Jersey for a major Xbox 360 game release in the next month.
PLEASE TELL US ABOUT THE "CREATURE OF THE WEEK" THAT YOU DO FOR
I was turned onto conceptart.org about a year & a half ago. This is an amazing community of some of the best
artists out there. A gathering point to share work, ideas & industry information & one of the best sites I've come
across for up & coming artists. They feature a weekly competition called "Creature Of The Week", where both
professional & non-professional artists generate their own creature concept from just a one or two word
description. Posts are judged by the online community & winners are chosen. It was something I was doing
every week for a while, do to other commitments I haven't been able to get back to it as much as I'd like. I was
very pleased with the pieces I ended up with though, so I also featured them on my website.
YOU ALSO DO SOME COMIC BOOK & FANTASY ART. CAN YOU TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT
THESE AS WELL?
Most of that work has been spec work for projects that never really saw the light of day. It happens a lot in the
industry. Get involved in a project, put intense work in for awhile, then someone higher up makes a decision &
the rest of the project just falls away. I have used a lot of this to lead me into other areas though, including the
Wizard Entertainment chalk art pieces.
GIVE US SOME INFORMATION ON YOUR
COMIC STRIP "JUST RENTING". WHERE
CAN WE FIND IT?
submitted the strip to a number of large publishers
including King Features Syndicate & although I had
Ling receiving over 6000 submissions a year &
going with 2 or 3. Those odds made me feel good
about the small success I did get. The strip may go
digital & become an internet project of mine. It will
simply depend upon when the heck I get some free
YOUR STREET ART IS AMAZING! HOW DID
YOU GET INTO DOING THIS? WHICH ARE
SOME OF YOUR FAVORITES YOU'VE
Well, first off thank you for your compliment. I am glad you liked it. I started about 4 1/2 years ago at a local art
festival that was just beginning in my home town. I had a lot of art connections, so as they were trying to line
people up to create the art & they asked me...I had never done it before, but I figured I would give it a shot. The
first piece I ever did was a small simple fantasy cartoon, but I immediately decided to go larger because it was so
much fun. After that, I went right into comic book art. I have always loved the art form & felt it is greatly under
appreciated. Plus, when you are spending 30 + hours lying on the street in the sun creating piece of art, it had
better be something you like & are interested in. Since then I have created a number of pieces, my two favorites
being the Dale Keown Incredible Hulk which was for that very same art festival two years later & the John
Cassiday Captain America piece I did for Wizard World L.A., which just so happened to be the same week he
had been shot in his book. The piece turned out to be a really nice memorial image.
YOU'VE DONE SOME GREAT WORK FOR WIZARD WORLD CONVENTIONS. HOW DID YOU GET
HOOKED UP WITH THEM?
A lot of determination, a LOT of phone calls...and some serious luck. They actually first saw some of my chalk
art as I was showing my portfolio around the convention. I was at the booth of a fantastic artist named
Franchesco (check out his work, he rocks big time) and he actually turned my portfolio to the guy next to me &
said "This guy should come & create these at the Wizard Conventions." Turns out the guy next to me was in
charge of the Wizard Conventions tour & I had no idea. (You never know who is standing next to you at a
convention, so be nice to everyone!) He handed me his card, said to get in touch with him...and after 2 months
of wrangling i got a foot in at Wizard World Chicago in 2006. I've been going to the shows ever since.
I MET YOU @ THE PHILLY WIZARD WORLD THIS YEAR. ONCE AGAIN, YOUR FANTASTIC FOUR
& SILVER SURFER ART WAS AMAZING! WHAT DID YOU THINK OF THE PHILLY SHOW THIS
Thanks AGAIN for the kind words. The Fantastic Four & Silver Surfer was nerve racking for me for a number
of reasons... it was my first time INSIDE the actual convention hall as part of the show & it was the first time I
was working off my original art & not the art of an all ready established comic book illustrator. The response
was totally positive though & that was a big relief. So I guess I am biased when it comes to my opinion of the
show, I had so much fun & it was such an important event for me that I can't say anything bad about it. I met
tons of great people, made more contacts & actually got to see a tiny bit of the show. I never really have the time
to walk around, if I did that I'd never get the art done. The Philly piece took me just under 31 hours to do, which
is a large portion of the actual length of the show & the hours it is open.
ARE YOU A COMIC BOOK COLLECTOR? WHAT ARE
SOME OF THE COMICS YOUR INTO?
I collected a LOT in the mid 80s & early 90s & got out just
before the industry took back then. I collected a LOT of
Marvel, most of the titles you can name at the time, as well as
some Batman & smaller indie stuff is where most of my
interests lies, the stories you get there are most original & have
the most amount of unexpected turns & real surprises. The
level of talent coming out of indie comics & self published
work really blows my mind. I like what the guys at Silent Devil
are doing a lot. I also follow a number of the trades for things
like The Walking Dead & Hellboy & for awhile I was following
the Red Star & simply letting my jaw hang at some of the
visuals. Which reminds me, next show I gotta find their booth
& catch up on all their stuff.
WHO ARE SOME OF YOUR FAVORITE COMIC BOOK
ARTISTS & ARTISTS IN GENERAL?
Oops, I pretty much answered this in the question about influences. But Dale Keown is, in my opinion, so
incredibly under rated as an artist...pencil work so tight & amazing I can't believe he isn't talked about more
often. And I am really excited to see what Joe Madureira does with his return of The Ultimates for Marvel...that
book has my interest all ready.
WHAT'S ONE THING YOU'D THINK PEOPLE WOULD BE SURPRISED TO FIND OUT ABOUT YOU?
Um...I watch Naruto & like it? (Sigh, that's lost me a lot of fans I am sure.) Actually, in general, I seem to like a
TON of things that most people laugh off...I don't know, maybe it's just a way to keep myself feeling younger
than I am.
SINCE THIS IS A MUSIC ZINE, WHAT KIND OF MUSIC DO YOU LISTEN TO? WHO ARE SOME OF
THE BANDS YOU HAVE CURRENTLY BEEN LISTENING TO?
I don't follow any one genre, to give you an idea, my iTunes has everything from UNION UNDERGROUND,
FLOGGING MOLLY, THE WHITE STRIPES, MUSE, METALLICA, PSYCHO LE CEMU (Japanese
band), GORILLAZ, BARENAKED LADIES, THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS & RED HOT CHILLI
PEPPERS. Lately I have been listening a bit to a band called SCISSOR SISTERS, which has a heavy
BEE-GEE's vibe (no, really) but a modern feel. And even though I mentioned them above, THEY MIGHT BE
GIANTS would be my favorite band & their brand new album "THE ELSE" has been getting a lot of play in my
car CD player. Oh, & if you REALLY want to beat me up...I listen to WEIRD ALL YANKOVIC...yeah, that's
right...c'mon, hit me right here on the chin! Of course, there is a GWAR concert locally in the next few
nights...not sure if I am going to be in town for it, but man, what an experience!
WHAT CAN WE LOOK FORWARD
TO SEEING FROM YOU IN THE
Wizard World Chicago in August,
where it looks like I might actually be
creating TWO pieces over the four
days of the show...but I am not 100%
sure on that, things are still being
finalized. I am also trying to set up
some work for shows in the fall
including some horror conventions.
Now THAT would be fun & the art
would simply be a blast to do. Hope I
WHAT WERE YOU DOING
BEFORE THIS INTERVIEW?
WHAT WILL YOU DO NOW THAT
Just before I was actually searching up reference material for my next advertising piece that is coming up.
(HINT: I need to find some good reference images for pools of water.) After the interview, I will be shutting off
my iTunes...currently playing "Nobody Told Me There Be Days Like These" by John Lennon...& probably
getting some sleep...it's going on 10:45 pm & I get up for work at 6:30 in the morning. Although I may get a few
pages done in the Dean Koontz book I am reading currently, "Odd Thomas". I know this is all ready a three book
series, but I never read them before.
THANX A LOT FOR ANSWERING MY QUESTIONS. IF YOU HAVE ANYTHING YOU WANT TO ADD,
PLEASE FEEL FREE TO DO SO. THANX!
I was glad to do it. I'd simply like to thank everyone for all of the interest they have show in my work I am doing
& I appreciate it a TON. Keep circulating the photos & telling people about what I do. Oh & I wanted to let
everyone know that I am NOT Julian BEEVER...that guy who does the 3-D chalk art, but I am flattered that
some people have mistaken me for him, I take that as a compliment!