Meet Emil Maxén, a freelance illustrator, who previously worked with the music artist Avicii, the swedish Julkalendern (Christmas calendar) “Barnen Hedenhös”, and now he is launching a campaign to crowdfund his upcoming comic book.
Tell us a bit about yourself, for start, where did you grow up and what was your dream back then?
I grew up outside of Sundsvall in Timrå.And my dream was pretty much what I am doing today. But I thought it was a bigger thing to be an illustrator, being a like a rockstar, but you would draw stuff. Everyone would recognize me as a genius.
When did you start to draw then?
I remember trying to get better in college, really trying to make an effort to improve. I also remember when we were kids, we tried to draw the coolest monster or pretended to draw a portrait of each other and the drawing never turned out as we thought. I was never the best guy at drawing, but I think I had the most fun. That has been what has kept me going.
Why did you want to improve your drawing skills?
I imagined that I was the prodigy of everything, just as when I was little, I had so much fun with it so I thought everyone else would think the same. I could imagine a lot of sketches in my mind, and then I had to make them come alive into real sketches. I could had a picture of the guy with the perfect sword, then I practiced on drawing different kind of swords and armor, so I had all the details. I knew exactly which one I had imagined.
What tools do you use?
I use a lot of sketch books. I keep them everywhere, in the car, by the bed, incase you get flash of genius and then you start drawing in the middle of the night. Then you usually wake up and realize it wasn’t the best idea. But I had to make it anyway. So I sketch a lot. I shared a room when i was l younger, my table was a pillow in my lap and I only drew with graphite then, I rarely used colors, I have learned that afterwards. Today I use Photoshop and water colors now and then.
Do you do this for living?
Yes, I sketch storyboards, posters and I make concept art.
When did you have your breakthrough?
I decided to freelance when I was working for a company in Stockholm. I did not find the working conditions good enough for me. So I moved back to Sundsvall, because I really like it here. And I decided to go back to Stockholm when I heard that the company I was working for made a deal to make special effects for julkalendern (Christmas calendar), 2013. I was not supposed to know that but I was tight we the director and he wanted me to make storyboards for special effect scenes. I got to work with SFI (Svensk Filmindustri) and got big responsibility for crucial design parts and I got great feedback. Then I thought, maybe I know what I am doing? I felt really confident and decided to move back and started to do this, freelancing.
What would you say is the biggest impact, the drawing has made in your life?
It helped me in my imagination of how it would be, the life of illustrator. I blow up a perfect picture in my mind and its not like that. And its good, because its easy to create something in your head of how things are suppose to be, like moving to Stockholm also. The same is with this campaign at FundedByMe that I am running now. You open and close doors, and now, this has opened a door to my world.
This is a perfect transition, tell us more about Stor-Jobal? Who is he?
He a is half-troll, unaware of it, an outcast, and lives on plundering abandoned houses. Stor-Jobal tries to find his place in society, but its hard for him. The environment is based on Norrland, where I come from. There is a lot of empty houses on the countryside, people have moved into the city. Its the same scenario in this comic book, but it takes place in the 1800’s. One day when plundering, he comes across a special bag, that can fit anything you put in it. Thats when the story really begins.
Do you see yourself in him?
Yes! Not the stealing but I love to make practical jokes, just like Stor-Jobal does. He is like an overgrown child.
How would you describe your style?
Its a mix between legendary Swedish illustrators like Per Åhlin, who has made Dunderklumpen. And I wanted to make a more realistic and dark version of it and have influences from Sven Nordqvist. With a gritty but very fresh color scheme, he puts so much detail – it’s fantastic. Then I blended that with franco belgian comics. I love that culture.
How do you handle a tough period? When you have no inspiration?
This project has taken quite some time, and when it comes to writing, I have had periods when I feel blocked. To constantly come up with new ideas to the plot. And I think its because of the pressure also, that I have to deliver. A good inspiring video from the illustrator, Stephen Silver, about “how to become more creative” gave me a lot more energy again.
How come you chose crowdfunding, did you know about it before?
I knew about crowdfunding, mostly Kickstarter, but it was for the american audience. Then I found FundedByMe and saw my opportunity to create a campaign. Now I realize how much work it is to put in a campaign and a comic. Because I have the idea, I am the director, and the designer. So I have to draw and write everything. You have three jobs at the same time. It s super exciting and I got a lot of more support, a lot more likes on the Facebook page. People has really responded and its a great learning experience. Now I have to attract bigger audience, I have been active and posted in forums but its hard.
Do you have any other goals, except for a successful campaign?
Its around 32 days left now on my 45 days campaign and if everyone who supports me, if they donate the smallest amount it would be cool to get 1000 euros. I just reached 300 fans on facebook, its big for me since i never released anything.
What is next project?
I would really would like to go to book conventions when the book is released, try to get a translation, reach Europe, have it in german, spanish and english.