I found some of Wes Hotchkiss’ comics on IFLScience on Facebook the other day and fell over laughing. As the creator of The Gentleman’s Armchair, Wes creates some on-spot, multi-panel comics about space, walking the park, big hair, space, douchebag animals, and did I mention space?
Besides his great-shaped characters and clean lines, Wes perfects the “pause” in 2D that many stand-up comedians aim for in their live performances. In only 6 months, Wes has gained some great momentum, getting some awesome recognition for his comics and hilarious sense of humor.
Interview with Wes Hotchkiss, Creator of The Gentleman’s Armchair:
Q. What is your artist background and what do you do for your day job.
A. I’ve always been a creative person—I drew little cartoons as a kid and in high school spent a lot of time doing multi-media projects. In college, I earned a BFA in graphic design. Now I work as a graphic designer for an agency in Salt Lake City, where I do a lot of branding and web design work.
Q. What compelled you to start a webcomic?
A. While I’ve loved graphic design, there has always been a big place in my heart for comic strips. I grew up reading a lot of gag strips and I always dreamed of being a cartoonist. For some reason it never occurred to me to pursue that dream until after I left college… so I decided that it’s better late than never so I jumped in. So, it’s kind of something I always wanted to do but never actually considered it.
Q. Tell me about this “special” chair that influenced your webcomic’s namesake. Is it a real chair or is it an idea?
A. I spent about a week thinking of all sorts of names with my wife. I knew I wanted it to sound somewhat classy to contrast what would inevitably become the unclassy content of the comic, so we danced around some classy sounding words. After awhile we got really sick of thinking up names and just grabbed two classy sounding words and threw them together.
A. After I have the idea, I open photoshop and set up my frames. I use a WACOM tablet and do a rough sketch/layout of the comic. Then I add lines over my sketch, typically keeping the foreground and background on different layers. After nitpicking for a couple hours on facial expressions, I start coloring, which is usually just done with the paint bucket tool. Then I sit around a bit trying to decide if I should add shadows or not. If yes, then I add the shadows with a light grey layer on multiply.
A trick I’ve learned is starting my photoshop document around 5X the size it will display on my site. That helps make the line art smooth.
Q. You only started posting your comics online 6 months ago and have some great social media momentum. What has been the one biggest thing that has helped you?
A. Choosing just one thing is hard… but if I had to choose one thing, it’s that I try to create things that I can be proud of. Keeping a high standard for myself and always trying to improve has pushed me to create better work. When the work is better, more people share it.
Q. Similarly, what has been your biggest challenge so far and what have you done to overcome that challenge?
A. The biggest challenge for me personally has been learning to deal with internet people. There are a lot of extremely nice people out there, but also some pretty mean ones. Keeping perspective in an environment that can be very harsh is difficult. Spending a lot of time creating something you are really proud of and then seeing it ripped apart by people can be discouraging. I’m still working to overcome that challenge, but I have found that it’s important to understand that some people aren’t really even worth listening to.
Q. One of my favorite things about your comics is that you add several panels in the middle of your comics that makes the viewer pause. This pause creates a sort of tension that helps deliver the whammy of a punchline. What inspired you to incorporate this technique into your comics?
A. That’s funny because I didn’t even know I was doing that, haha. It’s probably a result of me trying to time the joke right to make it as funny as possible.
Q. You feature a wide variety of subjects in your comics, including many astronomy and astronaut-related comics. What sparked your interest in space?
A. I’m not sure what sparked it, but I sure think space is funny for some reason. So I include it in my comics a lot.
Q. Where else do you find your source of inspiration for your comics?
A. Inspiration comes from every day experiences. I just try to be aware of the silliness in life so I can make comics out of it. I also get a lot of inspiration from reading other webcomics. I do a lot of that.
Some of my favorites are Poorly Drawn Lines, Loading Artist, Moonbeard, and Owl Turd.
Q. Supportive feedback and encouragement can help webcomic artists rise above the sea of internet trolls. Do you have a network of comic supporters in Salt Lake City or look to a particular social network of choice for that support?
A. I have found that it’s best to ask certain people specifically. Whenever you throw your stuff out on a network (like maybe reddit) and make it open game for anyone to comment on, you run the risk of trolls. Emailing someone you respect and asking them for feedback is much more productive in my opinion.
Q. What few comics best sum up The Gentlemen’s Armchair?
A. Some of my favorites are these:
Q. What is the message you are trying to say to the world through The Gentlemen’s Armchair?
A. Life is funny. Laugh at it.
Q. Do you have any upcoming projects to stay tuned for?
A. Just more comics!
Q. Do you have any words of wisdom for up and coming comic creators?
A. Remember to make comics worth sharing. You can submit your work all over the internet, but if it isn’t very good, people won’t share it. Make comics you can be proud of.