Jakes the Pencilist (Jacob Varghese) is a Bangalore based artist and architect that has kept his passion for comics and superheroes since a very tender age. We caught up with him to get the inside scoop on one of his most prominent pieces – Sons of Krypton.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I was born in India, but spent most of my life growing up in Botswana, which is where I did most of my schooling and my Architecture undergrad. After that I moved to Sydney, Australia for about 2 years, which is where I pursued my Masters degree. It was during my first year in Sydney that I got the opportunity to create this piece. I currently live and work as an Architect in Bangalore, India.
When did you start drawing and what inspired you?
I’ve been drawing for as long as I remember. My mom always said the only way to get me to behave as a kid sometimes was to just give me a piece of paper and a pencil and some crayons, and I could sit in one place in my own world for hours. I guess I always had a natural affinity towards drawing. I can’t really pin point what triggered this interest or when i realised i have a passion for it. But if I absolutely have to put a number to it, I’d say maybe around the age of 3.
What inspired this piece?
As a kid, superheroes were a big part of my childhood. I was a huge fan of the DC Universe, especially Batman and Superman. I grew up watching those cartoons. That passion carried forward to this day. So when Man of Steel released, I was excited. I loved the idea of seeing a darker and grittier superman story that isn’t your typical ‘goody two-shoes hero saves the day’ story. Despite the generally negative reviews from critics and audiences alike, I loved the movie. I found it exhilarating and exciting. Just the previous year, I had done another large drawing titled ‘Gotham Will Fall’, which featured three of the main villains from Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy. After seeing Man of Steel, I felt like I just had to do a similar drawing, but this time, featuring the three main Kryptonians from the film.
Give us a little detail about the artwork?
This piece is a standard A0 (841×1188 mm) sized drawing. It was done using uncompressed charcoal sticks and chalk on regular cartridge paper. Usually for charcoal, it is recommended to use paper with a rough texture so that the charcoal holds on to the sheet properly. But in this case, I found that the smooth finish on the cartridge paper makes for a smoother and more uniform blend between the different shades. In the end I sprayed 2 coats of fixative on it to ensure the charcoal does not smudge. Overall, the whole piece took about 36 hours spread across 4 days to complete.
How do you psych up for such an ordeal?
My friend, when you have store management and whole lot of comic book fans and other customers constantly watching you while you work, the pressure alone would be enough to psych you up for it. I felt that if I failed to meet my daily targets, it would be extremely humiliating for me as an artist. That thought alone was enough to keep me going. Also, during the times when I was not working on it, like during my breaks or when I head back home after a long day of drawing, I would watch YouTube videos of other artists creating their masterpieces, just to keep myself inspired and not give up.
What inspires you? Any favourite artists or styles?
I’ve always been a fan of black and white drawings and photographs. They have a certain mystery to them which I can’t quite explain. Therefore, most of my work is black and white as well. I prefer working with dry media such as pencils, charcoal and pastels. Not that I don’t enjoy painting and adding a little colour every once in a while; just that I like to keep things simpler to the eye. Some of my favourite artists are Paul Cadden and Barry Finnegan, just to name a couple, both of whom are amazing with pencil and charcoal. I also enjoy comic style illustrations, and I create some of my own characters and scenes, drawing influences from comic artists such as Jim Lee, Greg Capullo and Joe Madureira, among others.
Are you generally into “fan art”?
Yes and no. As a kid I most certainly was. I felt like I would get no satisfaction unless I drew out scenes from my favourite cartoons and movies right after I finished watching them. That’s no longer the case, although I wish it was. Nowadays its hard to find the time to constantly want to recreate scenes and characters from comics and movies unless they’re in the form of doodles in my sketch pad. But fan art of this scale and level of detail happen very rarely, sadly. I actually spend more time and energy on creating my own stuff.
Any plans to do another one like this?
I most certainly would love to do one some time this year. However, at this point I’m not sure what to draw. It may not necessarily be something like this, but I do plan on doing something big this year, as soon as I manage to find the time for it.