Bringing Color to Comics: An Interview with Alex Sinclair
by Lex van den Berghe
posted on 08-02-2016
Photoshop is one of those programs leveraged by a huge variety of artists and creatives to tap into their passions and assorted disciplines. In Alex Sinclair’s case, that passion is color, brought to life through Photoshop and the collaborative world of comics.
This wildly talented comic book colorist is known for his work with comic greats like Jim Lee and Scott Williams. On the heels of Comic-Con, we caught up with Alex to discuss his colorful career and collaborations.
Can you describe your relationship with color and how it led to your current career in comics?
Art has always been an important part of my life. When I was really young, my brother and I would read comics together and then try to draw what we had just read. We made these intricate collaborations and I would be the one who colored them.
I graduated college with a Studio Art degree so I was exposed to many classes and mediums. This not only allowed me to experiment with palettes and surfaces, but it helped me determine what my favorites were. It was right after I graduated that I decided to break into the comic book industry. At that point I just wanted to make it so I had pencil, ink and color samples of my work. When I presented my portfolio to artists and editors, I always got critiques back about pencils and inks. Each conversation always ended with “…but I really like your colors!”
Homage Studios, who eventually became WildStorm held a talent search every few months. I decided I would only send color samples in to see if I could make the cut. I got a call from Jim Lee a couple weeks later inviting me to come out and see if we were a good fit. That was 23 years ago so I think it is safe to say it was.
What goes through your head as you’re creating a color palette?
If I am coloring a cover, I always take cues from the art. The setting will definitely dictate lighting and color. I also consider what I have done for that series before to make sure it’s not too similar. I like cheating or exaggerating palettes on covers to help them pop off the shelves.
For interiors, I always read the script to see if the writer has any color notes on there and to get a feel for the mood of each scene. I then break the story down into scenes and create a palette for each. I make sure the palettes differ so the reader can immediately know that the scene and/or time has changed. As far as inspiration goes, some cover and scene palettes just come to me immediately and others take time and even experimentation to make sure they work.
Can you tell us about the kind of creative dynamic that exists while collaborating with illustrators?
Collaborating with other artists to create one, cohesive piece of art is my favorite part of working in comics. As a colorist, I get to work with multiple art teams so I am always exposed to different styles and art. This helps expand my repertoire and, more importantly, challenges me constantly. I’ve been privileged enough to work with so many talented artists who have all helped me become a better colorist AND artist.
Many of the artists I’ve collaborated with have also become good friends. This is a result of the communication that we have back and forth during projects. I always send finished pages and covers to the artists before I send them to the editor so they can make sure I captured their idea correctly. I think this open channel of conversation between us leads to a better piece of art.
How have your collaborations with Jim Lee challenged your creative perspective?
I jokingly tell people that working with Jim is a blessing and a curse. Jim is by far the best artist in comics today and, in my opinion, will eventually end up in the top-three of all time. I’ve yet to see a page or cover from Jim that doesn’t inspire me to do my best work—and that’s the part that is both good and bad. His work is so solid and precise that I have to produce my best every time. If I am coloring five “Jim” pages in a day, I have to one-up myself 5 times a day. I also need to add that Scott Williams is a huge part of our collaborative team and deserved credit for his contributions. Scott is an amazing artist and his recent work penciling covers is proof of that.
If you had to pick, what has been your favorite comic to work on as a colorist?
The work on one cool project usually leads to the next so it is hard to narrow it down to one single project. I do have books and series that I am very proud of like Blackest Night, Flashpoint, Superman Unchained, Harley Quinn, Wonder Woman and Arrowsmith. I had a blast on Green Lantern, Justice League and Astro City too. There is one book that the fans identify me with and I do point to it constantly because it not only opened up many doors for me, but it also had me working on my favorite character with my favorite Penciler/inker team on a great story by an incredible writer. So the obvious answer is the one people get from me… Hush.
Is there a comic book or comic book genre you’ve not worked on before that you’d like to, and why?
I have been exclusive with DC Comics for most of my career. There are a ton of characters I grew up reading and drawing that I would like to work on for nostalgic reasons. My favorites growing up at Marvel are Daredevil, X-men, Iron Man and Captain America. There are also artists who I have not worked with whom I would jump at the chance to. Alan Davis, Frank Cho, Jock and Adam Hughes are a couple I can think of. And I would LOVE to color a Tarzan series for whomever decides to publish one.
Products: Photoshop, Creative Cloud