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Between the Panels: Colorist Triona Farrell on Early Mistakes, Exploring Genres, and Setting Tone through Color

“Between the Panels” is a bi-weekly interview series focusing on comic book creators of all experience levels, seeking to examine not just what each individual creates, but how they go about creating it.

Though she may not be familiar to the reading public at large, Irish artist Triona Farrell’s work has graced the pages of comics from Vault, Dark Horse, Marvel, Image, and others in recent years. She works in one of comics’ unsung roles — the colorist — whose contributions are nonetheless vitally important to the overall story package. Whether for a cover and/or interior artwork, there’s a good chance Triona’s name will pop up in a given comics publisher’s monthly solicitations.

First, the basics…

Your specialties (artist/writer/letterer/inker/etc.): Colorist

Your home base: Dublin, Ireland


Twitter: @treestumped

Current Project Titles:

Blackbird [Image]
Crowded [Image]
Hit-Girl Season Two [Image]
Runaways [Marvel]
Stranger Things [Dark Horse]
Web of Black Widow [Marvel]
West Coast Avengers [Marvel]

Fanbase Press Contributor Kevin Sharp: What attracts you to working in comics specifically over other artforms?

Triona Farrell: I don’t think there’s a specific reason for starting work in comics. I was drawing since I was very young, and I just started taking commissions online once I was finished with college. I sort of fell into a coloring job one day, and it just started from there. People noted I had a knack for it, plus I found narrative storytelling really engaging. The collaborative medium and the fun projects that I get really keep me in comics; I personally enjoy it enough to stay.

KS: Do you remember when reading comics first became a part of your life?

TF: When I was about 12 or 13, they began stocking manga in my local bookshop. Before then, my experience with comics had been dense ‘90s graphic novels and superhero books such as Watchmen, which was really not what my young self wanted to read. Through manga, I began to explore a different genres of comics which led onto the internet. Here, I found artists from around the world writing and drawing unique web comics that suited my tastes. I sometimes say that I wasn’t a huge comic reader in my teens, but I really never stopped reading comics.

BTP TF crowded b59

KS: Was there a moment when a comic really wowed you?

TF: I remember seeing a particular scene in Octopus Pie, a web comic by Meredith Gran, that just left me speechless years ago. It’s completely without words and shows a character traveling throughout her incredibly busy building to her own room. It’s fantastic from a color perspective, and the artist really managed to encapsulate the overwhelming sense of crowds.

KS: What’s the first piece of “real” comics-type artwork you remember creating? Something that felt like a serious project for you at the time — whatever age that was and whether or not you showed anyone else.

TF: That’s a hard question to answer, because I probably had hundreds of small projects going when I was younger that I just can’t recall these days. I suppose the first serious effort was a small, eight-page comic about an ancient Greek girl encountering a Cerberus puppy. It never became public, but I really enjoyed working on it. It also made me realize how much I preferred to color rather than drawing comics.

KS: What was your first professional comics work?

TF: Weavers with BOOM!

KS: And when you look back at it now, what stands out as different vs. your work of today?

TF: The color theory is definitely there, but I made a lot of mistakes in regards to production and rendering. Plus, it was very by-the-book. I’m a lot more willing to take risks these days in regards to color and try new things. But I just wanted to make a good impression back then and play nice (ha).

KS: Your name appears in the credits of various publishers, not only BOOM! but several others. Can you talk a little about how projects find you (or vice versa)?

TF: Collaboration is the name of the game in the comics medium. I often work with artists or writers on one project and my name comes up in editorial to be on more projects. Thus, it builds and builds ‘til you have a nice group of names who think every time a new project starts up, “Oh, Triona would be great for this!” Sometimes, I do chance my arm and email editors, asking if they have work available for me. Generally, if you’re on time, communicative, and easy to work with, you’ll never have much trouble finding work as a colorist.

BTP TF RoseGuara 453

KS: What’s an aspect of the art of comics coloring you think general readers might not be aware of?

TF: How much it sets the tone for a book. It is in one part meant to be invisible, but a good colorist will know how to lead the eye in a panel and also set the emotional tone for the whole page with color. It’s not something everyone will stop and go, “Wow, these greens really enhance the sadness of the protagonist,” but, instead, be unconsciously led through the story.

KS: Please talk about the specific process of coloring a comic, because not everyone knows exactly what goes into it. You receive the artwork, and then your first steps are…?

TF: My first step is to immediately organize who will be assisting or flatting these pages. Nearly every colorist works with flatters, and it’s integral to the process. Flatters allow me to work on more than one book a month — it’s basically the graphical process of separating the colors, so I can work quickly and efficiently. I have 2-3 flatters who work for me permanently; they’re often working for others so usually split a book up. So, for example, a 20-page interior book, I’d usually have two people working on the first 10 pages, and another on the last 10 pages. This is the ideal scenario obviously, depending on the schedule I might have to have more than two on the book to get it done. I sometimes get assistants on the pages once they’re flatted, to deal with more complicated aspects such as color holds or complicated costumes. When everything is in, then I usually run through the pages and make notes on a script on what I want to do. I usually do a bit of color correction, just so it’s a bit easier on the eyes, by putting down some base colors, such as the base of costumes or buildings. Then, I just start rendering on top of this. It’s a complicated and involved process, but this “setup” allows me to work on 6-7 books a month.

BTP TF XManRosanas 23e

KS: How is the routine of working for American publishers while based overseas? With modern communications, I imagine it isn’t inconvenient like it would have been back in the day when physical artwork had to be mailed.  

TF: So, my routine is a bit strange. It’s not 9-5; I tend to work more on New York [time] than I would any other time. I often try to reset it, but then something will come in late and I’ll end up back on New York time again. My schedule tends to go, 11 a.m., wake up, by 1 p.m. I’m working, 6 p.m. I take a break, and then by 9 p.m. I’m back to work again until about 2-3 a.m.

KS: Looking back over your pro career thus far, is there a particular moment of pride or joy that stands out and maybe still makes you smile?

TF: At one point, a younger creator sent me a very kind message of how I had made their day by visiting their table and talking to them for a few hours at a very small convention. It really made me smile during a difficult period of my life, as there have been times that someone has lifted me up with just a kind smile or nice compliment when I felt my career was dragging.

BTP TF WidowMooney d2e

KS: What’s a comic or graphic novel by someone else that you look at in awe?

TF: Odd choice, but probably Relish by Lucy Knisley. I absolutely love reading about people’s formative years in comic book form, and Lucy really paints a picture about how interchangeable her art and food were in growing up.

KS: Finally, would you mind talking about your most recent and upcoming projects?

I have so many I can’t even count! As it’s been announced already, I’m on Hit Girl India from Millarworld [October 16]. It’s probably my most abstract book, so I’d highly recommend you read it!

Also a shout out to Web of Black Widow [out now] from Marvel! I’m very excited about the team with me, Jody Houser and Stephen Mooney.

BTP TF hit girl fab

*Rose (art by Ig Guara)
*Age of X-Man (art by Ramon Rosanas)
*Black Widow (art by Stephen Mooney) 

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