We've featured plenty of various artists here on WoW Insider, each with their own unique style and method of bringing their characters to life. Today, we're going to chat with one who has taken the fan art just a little further by bringing those artistic creations to life through story and art. Kelly Aarons should be a familiar name to those who follow WoW Insider's weekly comic Safe Passage, but her comic WoW Eh? has been chugging quietly along for much longer than Safe Passage or even its precursor, Byron the Tauren Rogue.
Launched in October 2008, WoW Eh? started out as a wacky series of strips about an unlikely pair -- a fiesty blood elf paladin named Kissless and a gentle, nature-loving tauren named Cadistra. Over the course of a couple of years, the comic has transformed every step of the way, from artistic style to content. Remaining ever constant amidst the madness, Cadistra, Kissless, and their camaraderie through it all form the backbone of the comic and its story. We sat down with Kelly and had a chat with her about comics, art, writing, and Warcraft.
World of WarCrafts: Thanks for taking the time to chat with us Kelly! Tell us a little about yourself and how you got into WoW.
Kelly: I've been playing WoW avidly for about three years now and drawing since I could pick up a pencil. Nothing makes me happier than a good video game or comic and a nice cup of tea! I've been playing about three years. I think it's three years? I really dove into WoW head first, and I distinctly remember Kara coming out about a week after I started. I'm a mid-BC baby. WoW was my first MMO and my first real experience in open-world PVP, as I started on Dalvynger.
As for how I got into it, that would be "IRL" Kissless! My friend pestered me and pestered me to try WoW. "It'll be fun!" she said. "A great game to play!" she said. She said herself that she created a monster. So, on a free trial account, I created Cadistra, and I haven't looked back since.
It's pretty obvious looking at your work that you've been involved with art for quite some time. How did you get started with it?
Ha ha, thanks! I've been drawing for, well, as long as I can remember. I barely remember doodling on my kindergarten acceptance letter! I've taken classes here and there -- watercolor painting from a popular local artist many years ago and little art fairs and things like that. My serious training began in high school, where I studied a lot and had my first foray into life and figure drawing, which I feel is essential to any sort of character drawing.
After high school, I went to the Vancouver Film School and took classical (2D) animation for a one-year, full-time course. That was the most extensive and exhausting training I had ever done, but I feel I'm a much more rounded artist for it. The rest is just practice, research, and more practice!
So you've been doing WoW Eh? for ... gosh, it's been since 2008, hasn't it?
... Oh wow, you're right.
What got you started with that?
I've been a big fan of webcomics and decided that there wasn't enough of a Canadian flavor in them. Cadi and Kissless originally (and still kind of are) our avatars, but now they've grown into their own entities. The original WoW Eh? was on a free comic hosting site, as I can't code my way out of a paper bag. My old guild leader saw my work and immediately bought the domain and set up a site for me!
Now that I'm much more involved in comics, I see there are a ton of great WoW comics and wonderful ones with a distinct Canadian style to them. I'm not a crazy, patriotic weirdo or anything, but I love my country, silly as it may be.
When you started out with WoW Eh?, it was pretty much a lot of really funny one-off strips, and it gradually progressed into a much more story-driven comic. Why the change?
Because at the end of the day, I love telling stories. I'm a sucker for grand, epic adventures, full of danger, romance and character growth. I also realize that I have, ah ... well, an off-brand of humor, and it can get a little dry, at least for me. Storylines offer a prime environment for characters to learn, grow, and be fleshed out. I'm an old hand at D&D and tabletop gaming, and character creation was always my favorite part. I guess it carried over!
Can you tell us a little about the process behind creating a strip?
First off, for equipment, I use a 21" Wacom tablet. I had to eat lint for about a month, but it was worth every penny (if you're a serious career artist). I do penciling in a program called Autodesk Sketchbook Pro. There, I just make a new file and slap everything onto a page -- layout, characters, word bubble placement, things like that. Then I export it as a .psd, and off it goes into Paint Tool Sai for some sexy, sexy inking. Finally, it gets tossed into Photoshop [CS3] for final color, text, and polish.
I do -- it's my guild leader, actually! I came up with the bare-bones idea, but he's a much better writer than I am and has a much better sense of pacing and so on than I do.
Would you say it's easier or more difficult working on a project with a second person?
Honestly, it fully depends on what I'm working on. WoW Eh? is my baby; my creation. Work for WoW Insider needs to have things that I can't provide for it, so it's really nice to have someone outlining the plot points for me, leaving me to deal wholly with the art. Things like coherent pacing. Byron, while it was hugely fun to work on, really floundered because of that. The "brand" of Byron did well, but as a story, it was quite weak, at least to me. Byron was a very lovable scamp and most certainly the underdog, but the comic suffered badly with pacing issues.
Well, Safe Passage is certainly doing great. I love both the story behind it and the art!
Thank you so much! I'm having a blast working on it. It's actually almost over, which is crazy when I go through the files and realize that it's nearly been a year. There's actually going to be a "short story" after it regarding the girls' father.
Have you ever done any non-WoW comics, or are you sticking strictly to WoW for now?
For now, it's WoW comics, because they're great fun, and it's much easier for me to work within an already-established world. I'm trying to chew on a couple of ideas for non-WoW comics, as one day I will try to tell a story of my very own. Especially if I decided to pursue comics, I can't legally publish a WoW comic, and I have no intention to take it down the "LFG" route, if you know what I mean.
You mention you're a big fan of webcomics in general. Want to recommend a few to us?
Well, there's the standard fare of Penny Arcade, Dr. McNinja, Gunnerkrigg Court, Ratfist, Manly Guys Doing Manly Things, and a recent favorite, Cucumber Quest. Oh, also Hark! A Vagrant! You should never limit yourself to just one genre of anything -- always explore! Just as how you shouldn't just listen to, I don't know, rap all the time, you shouldn't just read, say, gaming comics. The best thing to do is surround yourself with material from all across the spectrum.
Anything you want to throw out there for aspiring cartoonists before you go?
Don't worry about perfection. Your first comic will look drastically different from what you draw in a year from now. Network. Talk to other comic artists. Study and read as many comics as you can -- superhero, manga, independent, everything. Gather as much reference material as you can, and practice! I know it's corny, and it's what everyone tells you, but it's true!
Thanks so much for taking the time to chat, Kelly! For more from Kelly Aarons, read WoW Eh? on her website, and check out Safe Passage every Tuesday here on WoW Insider.
World of WarCrafts spotlights art and creativity by WoW players, including arts and crafts, fan art, WoW-themed recipes, comics, cosplay, music and fan fiction. Show us how you express yourself by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org with your not-for-profit, WoW-inspired creations.