Interviews: Geoff Senior (6/13)
Geoff Senior is well known to long time fans of "Transformers". He has een an artist on "Transformers" projects since the 80's, going back to Generation One. His dynamic and distinctive style continues to grace "Transformers" today via his covers for the "ReGeneration One" title. Geoff was kind enough to grant BWTF an interview in June and I thank him for taking time out of his busy schedule!
1. Can you tell fans about your background and training to become an artist?
Like most kids I liked to draw and had probably had a bit of a knack for it which was an advantage. When I was about fifteen I saw a feature in a Sunday magazine about Frank Frazetta which blew me away. At 16 I left school and did a course in 'Applied Design' at college which taught design but not how to 'draw' so I left and basically taught myself. Buying books like 'How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way' with John Buscema. And figure drawing books by Burne Hogarth. I'm still learning now!
2. Who were your biggest art influences as you began your career?
I didn't read many comics at all. But as a kid I read a comic called 'Countdown' which became 'TV Action' (not as good!). There was a TV series called 'UFO' of which I was a big fan. 'Countdown' ran a strip of the series along with 'Dr Who'. This was a big part of my childhood and the art of Gerry Haylock really impressed me. John Burns also worked on the comic and I've become a big admirer of his work too. An occasional issue of 'Conan' came my way and I loved the work of John Buscema . More so when he inked his own pencils. It had life and movement. When I started actual work in comics it was people like Dave Gibbons, Ron Smith and Cam Kennedy whom I admired.
3. What was your very first "Transformers" related project? Can you tell us how you got the job?
I was getting to a point in my early career when I was on the verge of giving up on any real lasting 'employment'. I'd done some books and short stories but an ongoing source of work eluded me. I was with ' Temple Art Agency'at the time who were based in London. They were good and I liked working with them. I'd pop down from the north of England where I lived and meet up occasionally. On one of these visits one of the guys there Patrick mentioned Marvel UK, but said they didn't deal with agencies so maybe I should go and see them myself. It was a nice gesture and so I made an appointment to see Ian Rimmer an editor there. Ian saw potential and asked if I'd do a test sample for 'Transformers'. I didn't know these critters even existed at the time so it was all new to me. I can't remember the image I drew but he liked it and asked if I'd be interested in doing some work...I said yes!
4. Your "Transformers" art style was very distinctive. Unlike other artists, you seemed to embrace the angular nature of the robots while also trying to streamline them and make them sleek. Can you tell us how you came to that style for the "Transformers"? Quite a bit of thinking and developing a 'style' which I felt comfortable with. As mentioned earlier I was a fan of people like Dave Gibbons. I liked his inking style and I guess I played around a bit with that in mind and the techniques of Ron Smith and the hard blacks of Cam Kennedy, if that makes sense? Transformers were quite complex (not compared to todays versions of course!) and I wanted a way of simplifying them so black shadow is a great way to achieve this. I liked artists who used shadows so it felt like the right approach. I know a lot of artists would soften the faces etc and make them more human like. Probably with the view that their expressions would be more clear ? My approach was that these robots were solid, hard edged and I couldn't have a 'halfway house'. My brain just couldn't compute something 'in between'. I never met Gina Hart but she did a great job on the colouring.
5. What was the most challenging part of drawing "Transformers"? Well there were so many characters and you had to dig through the sheets of figure ref we were given. I believe they were the animation blue prints from the cartoon series. Wish I still had them- would have been a big help with the recent Transformers work. I wanted to make the Transformers 'move' as with the series . I had seen some of the earlier issues from the US and though technically very well drawn the characters seemed a little 'stiff'. I was prepared to sacrifice technical correctness for 'action'. I saw it as a challenge. I'm still not completely sure what they look like. I think I do a 'representation' of the characters.
6. What do we have to look forward to from you in 2013 (and beyond)? (Feel free to plug anything you'd like here).
I'm still working in Advertising but enjoyed dipping my toes back into Transformers. I'm happy to have involved with Transformers. I learned a lot about storytelling which I took with me into the advertising world. I feel I've also developed further now and would be happy to live in both worlds. Simon Furman and I are working on a new project together which I'm enjoying a great deal. It may be a while before it's completion so can't say too much now. But it will be GRITTY and there will be ACTION!