Since there’s a compilation post or two going around, I figure’d I’d make one myself of just my personal favorites from the project- you know, in hopes that it will circulate and replace some of the illos that are hard for me to look at ;)
This week I’ll be posting a few of the very first pages, to promote the upcoming minicomic I’ll be selling real physical copies of at Boston Comic Con this weekend! More news on that to follow- check at nicholaskole.tumblr.com for news updates!
The Curse of Maleficent is starting to pop up in stores, which means I should be cleared to start posting art! These are a few preliminary illustrations I did for the publisher to basically apply for the job- they wanted to see what the look and feel of the film would translate into in my style before we threw ourselves at a whole book- so I took a run at it, and they loved it! I learned a lot on those, and the topmost one is still one of my favorite things I’ve done recently. Since they’re prelims, none of this will show up in the actual book- but I figured the internet might take an interest! Art and the sketchy sketchy process that gets us there.
New art is dropping soon, but in the meantime I was rooting through old folders and found some sketches and un-released b-sides from an old project, that I figure some of y’all might get a kick out of. A random assortment of ollllld concept art! Some of the very first designs I did right outta school!
I didn’t realize it at the time. But that second guy? Totally my subconcious way of trying to sneak Bulbasaur into the project.
Jellybots is a personal project I’ve been working on for a while- a coming-of-age scifi story about Sam, a new kid at a strange flying school where a secret curriculum is taught in a substance called Jelly.
Jelly takes on colors, characteristics & qualities unique to each student. Everyone but Sam, that is- whose Jelly only seems to want to be a lifeless lump of grey goo…
It’s my first foray into making and printing my own comics! Start the adventure with me and support my personal work by grabbing a copy and telling your friends :)
It’s time to kick off this very crazy week of big announcements and hullabaloo! And what better way to do that than with the following:
I HAVE A BOOK IT EXISTS.
So…that Maleficent movie with Angelina Jolie with the neato Lana Del Ray trailers? I’m so blessed to announce that I’ve Illustrated the accompanying YA novelization “The Curse of Maleficent" that will be out in stores via Disney Press at the end of this month! (and available for pre-order on Amazon now! here!)
The cover has been unembargo’d and I thought you might like get a first look at one of the biggest things I’ve been working on in the last few months. Truly a moment to thank God and give him the glory for turning these last 2 years around from devastation to triumph. God is good, guys- and this book was such a blessing.
Anyways, I’m pumped and I hope you will order and enjoy- there are 25 (ish) interior illustrations that I’ll be able to share some of with you guys as the month unfolds. For now: WOO! DISNEY!
Last night, I was honored to be invited to give one of several short (9-minute) local talks at Q Providence. Q is an evening focused on discussing how to advance the good, true and beautiful in our city, through the lense of faith.
In light of some of the major events in the news and in discussion, I am duly humbled and hope this will be taken in perspective- not to turn a blind eye and run into ignorance. Still, I believe small things do matter…especially in light of large tragedies.
This is my transcribed talk- I hope you will find it edifying in some way. This one’s for you, tumblr:
“Fairy tales say that apples were golden only to refresh the forgotten moment when we found that they were green. They make rivers run with wine only to make us remember, for one wild moment, that they run with water.” -GK Chesterton, Orthodoxy
I’ll get back to the quote.
My name is Nicholas Kole. I am a Christian. I am a geek. I draw dragons for a living.
I Graduated up on College Hill in 2009 from RISD with a degree Illustration. After which I worked with the GAMBIT game lab at MIT, then as a character designer for a company some of you may have heard of- the ill-fated 38 Studios. Since then I have worked with Disney, EA Games and now Hasbro on the Play-Doh team (which is apparently a job you can have, who knew?)
I’ve been an illustrator, storyteller and a concept-artist. Most of which means that when a project needs a wizard designed, I’m the one with the sketchpad and the textbook full of medieval robe reference on hand.
I design clothing, creatures, locations- afternoons and hot air balloons, diminutive heroes, terrifying villains and warm hugs. Together with my team, we make worlds.
And nothing hurts more than to hear someone say “just entertainment”.
Just cartoons, just kids movies, just children’s books, just anime, just manga, just comics, just superheroes, just…nothing.
From where I stand I see a far-reaching cynicism in our culture and in our stories. A cynicism that has given up on meaning, hope, and lost the belief that small things done with great love can truly make a difference.
Bu I am moved to tears by cartoons.
I am inspired by the bravery of Peter Parker and the sacrifice of Harry Potter.
Animated musicals move and stir me. I weep with Simba over Mufasa’s death and I cheer with Wreck-It Ralph as he learns to accept himself. If you’ve every spoken with me, you know that I explain my feelings in terms of frightened Hobbits and big, scary adventures.
To that end, one of the most important things I was given by one of my professors at RISD- to boil down a number of excellent lessons into a single small thought- was this: “You are allowed to care”.
I needed to hear that, from an authority figure in that key time of my life. The things you love, that you can’t tear your attention away from? Those matter. Those aren’t “just” anything.
Things you might brush off as “just movies for kids”, “just cartoons”, “just TV shows” may be small in the grand scheme, but to those of us who love them they are nothing less than myths.
If you’ve ever been to comic-con, or heard of anyone who has been (you’ve heard of me. so. you have.) then you can know that those geeks- the ones that have spent so long being disparaged by the in-crowd? They love harder and deeper than anyone else. They just happen to love Darth Vader. In groups of nerd-fandom, there is a deep, uncynical impulse to love deeply, and we ought not to ignore that.
These works of “just fantasy” are obviously, evidently SO much more to people when seen in that context.
For all the weight and importance of high Russian literature- I’ve never known anyone who’s cosplayed as Dostoevsky’s Raskolnikov, but I have a few friends who’d gladly show you their lightsaber collection.
These things matter to people. They matter to me. And it makes me think that maybe we ought not to despair about our generation’s obsession with “just entertainment”- maybe we ought to dig in and care more.
Sift through the escapism and frivolity and you’ll find all these people seeking, finding, and trading meaning. People inspired, people communicating.
These are nothing less than the bedtime stories we are telling ourselves as a culture. These are the ways we make sense of the world around us- this is the language we’re using to talk to one another. Like it or not, these are a part of the cultural conversation. And the solution cannot be to check out and stop caring- it has to be to tell better stories. Make better art. Care more.
Because if they’re important to me, chances are they’re important to other people. And when people are paying attention, when people are caring and investing, when they’re looking closely at what you make and you’re caring deeply about making it- you can give them something beautiful. You can make them wonder.
A lot has been said about Providence’s festival of light- it’s hypno-chants and gondolas- I’ve heard it described as tacky. “Just” a trashy, overhyped piece of local kitsch.
I think it is nothing less than magic- It transfigures the city.
For one night that week, one day out of seven, a cluster of ordinary city blocks and a rather grubby little river, are suddenly the scene of a mystery- a place for music, romance, the smell of hot food, dance, strange figures in masks floating, eerily underlit by flickering flame.
And when it is gone, it leaves it’s magic on the place- those blocks are different now- they are suspicious. As if any moment they could be something totally different again. The city is, as a result, full of story now- It makes you look harder. It makes you think differently about that stretch of downtown. It makes you wonder.
"Fairy tales make rivers run with wine only to make us remember, for one wild moment, that they run with water."
A Dragon is “just a lizard with bat wings.” But dragons are amazing because lizards are amazing and bats are amazing.
I remember a trip to Roger-Williams Zoo- after months of sitting at a computer, wracking my brain for newer cooler ways to draw dragons- I stopped and took a zoo break.
I didn’t realize I was coming with new eyes. Suddenly, having gotten up from my drawing table, everything was amazing- the scales and colors of iguanas- the curvature and strangeness of a Giraffe’s neck- it all felt new again, like I was seeing it for the first time- and I was moved. It was electric. I went in with a head full of dragons and left shaken with profound wonder. God is better at my job than I am.
The world around me was full of wonder the whole time, and I just had to be reminded to notice. What we have is so good, we ought to cherish it, revel in it, celebrate it and tell others.
I learned that from “just dragons” and and “just Waterfire.”
We have to care. And then we have to keep caring, for our own good and the good of those around us. If we don’t, we might forget to look deeply and to wonder.
I believe that, as a concept artist, an illustrator, a storyteller- any of the hats and positions I’ve assumed- that my job has really been to love first and love deepest.
I am convicted in any situation that I need to find a way to fall in love with the project and the work of design, no matter how small. We are engaged in making things that we hope people will love- but how can we ask anyone else to love it if we don’t even love it ourselves?
And I don’t mean love like fleeting inspiration- Love isn’t easy or cute. Love is a choice, and a commitment. We ought to commit to the industries we’ve found ourselves in, and persist in designing well.
And here’s where my Christian faith has everything to do with my ethic about Dragons-
We need to sit and stay at the table- even when it is hard, and when it hurts us, because that is the way Jesus loved. When it is unsexy, unglamorous, uncool or unnoticed. Caring means you can be hurt- it means failure will be painful, but it means success will matter- and that is worth it.
That’s where the rubber meets the road, and I start to feel convicted- am I doing this myself? I’m trying to. Even though I am tempted often to give in to cynicism, I need to remember and to remind those around me not to give up on doing what we do with care and in hope.
Nothing is “Just” anything- and we need concept artists and geeks who care- and bakers who care, and plumbers who care, and civil servants, and teachers, and doctors and electricians who don’t believe anything is “just” anything. That it can matter- and it will because we care about it. Because we’re invested and we aren’t going to give up on it.
And that care will make us wonder, and that wonder will wake us up to what my faith tells me was there all along.
I can finally show some of these, since they were announced this week in the community livestream! This is the tip on an iceberg of work I’ve been doing with EA/Waystone studios on their MOBA project Dawngate. I’ve gotten to dig into the lore and design some skins for the existing characters.
Top to bottom: Experimental Petrus, Weaponized Vex, Zeri (reposting), House Anzerani Varion, Final Delivery Freia
Each of them has their own story regarding how they tie into the world and eachother, which you’ll have to stay tuned to find out more about :) I’ve included some process sketches to show you guys a bit of the work that goes into designing these things. Always nice when work gets un-secret :)
This week was Zeri’s debut on the Dawngate Chronicles, and to celebrate that, I’m posting the full pages here together with her original character designs.
Zeri was almost the first character I designed for Dawngate when I originally came on as a concept artist. I walked into the studio, and met the team, saw the art wall and heard some of the voice acting- they had a previous version of her designed and all her VO was done…I was totally captivated by the idea of her character (a loudmouthed, rainbow colored teen who paints magic with enormous brushes)…sometimes you feel like you just get it. A world with a Zeri in it, is a world worth telling stories about, imo. I had to try my hand.
So, unassigned, I went home and tried my hand at redesigning Zeri, and it worked! the team loved it, and this week I got to bring her into the Chronicles with the painty color assistance of the stalwart John Loren. Hands down the most fun I’ve had on the comic yet :D
Are you a Zeri fan too? Celebrate the South’s young prodigy by throwing down some of your own fan art!
I’ll reblog your work in a collected post next week and the best Zeri fanart will get a sketch of whatever they like by yours truly!
EDIT: some deets- submissions are open for a week- so by the end of Next Friday we’ll wrap it up. And once you’re done, note me or shoot me an ask or shout at me on twitter @FromHappyRock! :D
Hope your weekend is a lovely one- Until next time- Sparkles!
(I’m freaking out. In the best way- they printed so well!)
Third: This weekend from Friday till Sunday I will be selling these from table d308 at Boston Comic Con! If you’re in the area and attending please please stop by and grab a copy, a button, a hug and/or let me sketch something for you!
If you can’t make it and you’d like a copy, I’ll be waiting to see how things go at the con (this is my first time selling my own work, so I have no idea what to expect). Online availability will depend on if there’s interest enough around here for me to make another (larger?) print run! So let me know and I shall formulate a plan!!
Today is the best day. I am so grateful to be able to do this, and holding my very own book from start to finish is like the Maleficent project times ten. God is good- making art is hard, and I am so thankful to be at a point where I am actually making comics for fun and for profit.