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STORYCO CO-LAB #2 - "Ink and Imagination" With Illustrator Ron Ackins


00:00 - Introduction to Co/Lab with StoryCo Community Manager Vicky and illustrator Ron Ackins

01:29 - Ron Ackins intro and bio

02:50 - Icebreaker game with Ron, his upbringing, artistic background and how he developed his style and taste

03:43 - Ron's ideal creative space and work habits

04:26 - Ron's inspirations (explorations into black culture and history)

07:23 - Transitioning from art as a hobby to full-time career (and Ron's first big project)

09:25 - Networking in the illustration industry and breaking into fashion design and comics

10:32 - Ron's first Marvel gig (X-Men)

11:21 - Ron's current creative process explained through a series of case studies

14:14 - Designing "punk" Storm from X-Men

17:17 - Creating The Astonishing Black Spark comic panels

18:45 - X-Men Outback Sketches

26:16 - X-Force 1993 redesign

27:45 - Early Uncanny X-Men panel sketches

30:55 - Creating caricatures of celebrities/athletes

32:00 - Live demonstration of Ron's process for creating a panel for the Marcus Rhoder backstory

37:51 - Choosing angles and shots for comic panels based on the script

40:21 - How Ron's influences and inspirations affect his process and style

42:10 - Ron's use of highlights and creating volume in a frame

43:04 - Advice for aspiring artists on developing a personal style and embracing failure and criticism

45:36 - Favorite digital illustration tools

47:38 - How Ron transitioned from physical to digital illustration

49:18 - Ron's take on AI image generators

53:58 - Ron shares info on his original comic and dream project, Lancaster Blue

55:27 - Closing remarks and where to find Ron's work.


Session Recap

Our second Co/Lab, "Ink and Imagination" with illustrator Ron Ackins, entailed a robust deep dive into the world of character illustration. Aspiring artists and comic enthusiasts gathered to gain insights into the complexities and nuances of bringing characters to life through insight into artistic concepts such as color design, framing, and sketching characters, in addition to insight on finding inspiration from disparate artistic sources and networking tips to land your big break as an illustrator.

The session kicked off with an ice breaker led by Vicky, StoryCo’s community manager, in which the audience got to know a bit about Ron's career journey from a young boy obsessed with comics to art school drop out to repeat Marvel Comics illustrator, as well as the influence of black culture and history in his art and his long term dream of creating his own originally written comic.

Moving into the workshop portion, Ron walked the audience through some of his favorite character creations of a variety of forms, including a digital sketch of “Punk" Storm from X-Men, a character design for The Astonishing Black Spark, and a comparison of a rough draft and finished digital rendering of an X-Men Outback comic in which he compared his original pencil + prisma marker sketch to the final Photoshop rendering.

As he shared his creative process for crafting these characters, Ron discussed his process for transitioning from traditional to digital mediums, expressing his preference for the tangible feel of pencil on paper despite the convenience of digital tools. He also shared that when bringing a fictional character to life, he often “casts” the character using a real life actor or person in his life.

Ron then moved into conducting a live digital sketch of a panel for Marcus Rhoder’s backstory, which Ron was in the process of completing for the corresponding Co/Create opportunity. Ron used his Wacom tablet to work on the sketch in real time for the audience, narrating the choices he made as he went.

Towards the end of the session, Ron provided insights into the importance of being able to handle criticism as an artist and the importance of distinguishing between valid critique and personal opinion. He emphasized the value of embracing failure as part of the learning process, encouraging artists to persevere through the inevitable mistakes and to value constructive feedback that can lead to improvement. Ron also expressed his concerns about the impact of AI on the creative industry, emphasizing the significance of the human element in art and that AI image generators could devalue an artist's work.

The session concluded with Ron discussing his passion project, his original comic titled Lancaster Blue. He shared his aspirations for the comic and titular character, detailing his vision of Lancaster as a former marine turned private detective and guardian of a newly built city.

Ron’s session offered a glimpse into how a Marvel-caliber illustrator approaches character design. Through live sketches and discussions, Ron highlighted the blend of personal influence and technical skill that defines his work, serving as a case study for how aspiring audience can seek inspiration and mine personal experience to develop a distinct personal style.

Thanks to Ron for walking through his process and to everyone who attended!

For those seeking to follow Ron Atkins' artistic journey, he can be found on Instagram @RonAtkins and at his ArtStation profile.