Coming from an artistic family, it’s perhaps no surprise that Nick Robles ended up on his current career arc. He brings a range of influences — from both inside of comics and out — to work that has graced covers and interiors for multiple publishers. His often dreamlike art style has now found a perfect match in DC’s Sandman universe.
First, the particulars…
Your specialties (artist/writer/letterer/inker/etc.): Artist
Your home base: Louisiana
Current project title(s):
The Dreaming: Waking Hours (DC)
Fanbase Press Contributor Kevin Sharp: Let’s lead off with the biggie: Why comics? Of all the realms in which an artist can ply their trade, what attracts you to making comics specifically?
Nick Robles: Honestly, I never pursued them until I was hired to draw one! They always seemed like an area of art I could never approach. They were too big and such a commitment! How do people draw that fast?! Then, I fell into it and found out I enjoyed telling stories that way.
KS: When did you, as a reader, first start being able to identify different artists and art styles?
NR: I've always loved art and come from an artistic family, so it's always been present in my life! In my early teenage years, I fell in love with fantasy art and wanted to be Julie Bell, Boris Vallejo, or Frank Frazetta. Then, there was Gerald Brom and Todd Lockwood who were, and still are, major sources of inspiration. The list goes on!
KS: How about comics-specific names that got on your radar?
NR: It's always growing, and it wasn't until my twenties when I started favoring comic artists and their craft. So then, I found a whole new group of artists I had missed! Duncan Fegredo, J.H.Williams III, Jim Cheung, Sergio Toppi, Mike Mignola, Adam Hughes... I could go on forever!
Currently, I'm devouring Dave McKean's work and wanting to find more artists in that vein. I'm feeling that craving for something different and not in line with anything else out there. That phantom itch for "new!"
Also, I have to mention Leyendecker, as well. He's a major star in my sky of artistic idols.
KS: Before we get to you as a comics pro, what was the first “real” creative project you remember creating? Something that felt like a serious commitment to you at the time, whether or not anyone else ever saw it…
NR: I've started and restarted this dark fantasy story I've had in my head for years. I'm sure I've felt like I've created something important before that, but this one came around at the end of my teens and hasn't left. One day I'm going to do something with it! Witches, warriors, and romance! What's not to like, right?!
KS: Right! And had you already considered an artistic career path at that point?
NR: It's always been there, I think. Slowly changing from "Can I do this?" to "Oh! I think I CAN do this!"
KS: Jumping forward, how did your first pro comics assignment come about?
NR: My first one was Clockwork Angels with BOOM! Studios in 2014. I had never done comics before and said yes to an audition when they reached out. I painted it, too, which was my only style back then, and that was a lot for a first timer.
KS: For some creative folks, there’s a feeling of “making it” when that first check comes in, while for others it’s the Imposter Syndrome. What about in your case back then?
NR: Haha! I think it took some years before the Imposter Syndrome to finally went away, but it still likes to creep back every once in awhile.
KS: If you imagine yourself today as an art instructor and one of your students is the college-age version of you, what’s a specific piece of guidance you’d give him about his work?
NR: I was feeling very lost, and hopeless, around that time. I think just offering some one-on-one time with basics and encouragement would do wonders. I'd try and open more doors of influence and style to him and do my best to help him believe in himself. He needed some confidence!
KS: What’s your current workspace or studio situation?
NR: It's my bedroom, as well as studio — yes, I'm one of those artists! I work on a Wacom Cintiq 27" with a Mac. Photoshop and Clip Studio are my programs of choice.
KS: Are you a music-while-you-work artist, too?
NR: Oh, always! Lately, it's been a lot of music from Zelda: BOTW and Studio Ghibli films. I also just discovered Orville Peck, so that's a fresh album on the Spotify playlist!
KS: What’s one word that sums up an important trait for being successful in the comics business? The trait might also apply to life in general…
NR: Tenacity! I almost said "potluck," but that goes into a whole weird thing where I compare making comics to bringing dishes to a party until the right person finds your creation.
KS: You’ve done both comics covers and interior work. For the artist, what’s a challenge that’s unique to each of those? Obviously, with interiors you’re working from a script, whereas with a cover I assume it’s more wide open for you?
NR: Covers need to be eye-catching, memorable, and not like everything else on the shelf or site. Iconic in that it makes someone want to grab it now, or that they'll remember it later — and that's tough! I try and keep all that in mind when working on one and strive to make it check those boxes.
Interiors are just storytelling challenges. I enjoy doing those more. I like taking all the puzzle pieces and arranging them in interesting ways. I think that's my main concern with everything: keeping it interesting!
KS: What are some art tools/techniques you most like to play with, even if you don’t get to use them often? If you were set free with a wide open toolbox and no deadlines or expectations beyond just the pure joy of creating, what kind of art piece might you come up with?
NR: I'd love to dive back into traditional art with the interests that I've had in more recent months. Try more surreal things. Create the beautiful and strange. Just toss away the purity element of mediums and attack some paper with everything in arm's reach!
KS: What’s a particular moment of professional pride or joy from your comics journey that maybe still makes you smile?
NR: [Artist] Tess Fowler calling me up to tell me that she believes in me, and not letting me to hang up until I said I believed in myself, too.
KS: What’s a comic or graphic novel by someone else (current or older) that you look at as an example of the craft at its highest form?
NR: That answer changes constantly! I think I'll have to go with... Hellboy. It took me a long time to appreciate it, and it balances so much. I appreciate that it takes its time and values silence. It's rare when a comic can make you hear the importance of silence.
KS: Finally, please tell us what you’re working on these days.
NR: The Dreaming: Waking Hours debuts May 6th - written by Willow Wilson, colored by Mat Lopes, lettered by Simon Bowland, and edited by Chris Conroy
I've [also] got a Superman short coming out in the summer! And a couple covers should be showing up soon (IDW and Dark Horse)!