My name is Eric Merced. I'm an Illustrator and Comic Book Artist based in Worcester MA. (as we pronounce it around here: Woos'ta) . I've been illustrating and drawing comics for a few years now and I cannot think of a better job then this one.
When did you first decide to become an illustrator? Was there a pivotal moment?
I've been into comics, I would say, all my life. That's basically my main thing. But a good friend of mines who happens to be an awesome illustrator just kept pushing me in that direction. I guess, you can say, he saw the potential of going beyond comics into another field. It's been just recently where I've decided to take him at his word and I've been shaping my style into a more illustrative friendly look versus the comic book look. What has resulted, I think, is a combination of both. A very stylized look that fits easily into both fields.
Who or what inspires you?
I have a lot of artists whose work I like. Both in Comics and Illustration. But Drew Pocza, Sherwin Shwartzrock, Von Glitschka, Jerry Shamblin, those guys are the ones that come out on top when I think of illustration. Comics, two guys are responsible for shaping my art hands down. Mike Mignola and Arthur Adams. Those guys were ahead of their time.
Where does your training come from? Self-taught? College/Art School?
I am self-taught, with helping hands along the way of course. When I started Adobe Illustrator I must have hackled Drew Pocza to death with my questions. But as far as drawing, that's all self taught from books and studying and constant practice.
How do you keep "fresh" within your industry?
That's one of the hardest parts I guess. I mean, you can do something and get so accustomed to it that you become stale. In other words, there is no growth. I had a point in my career where I got that way and it felt depressing. I felt I wasn't really getting anywhere. So a part of remaining fresh is doing what I love. Not trying to be like anyone else, or draw or illustrate like anyone else. Just basically doing what I love, how I love to do it. I love cartoons. In fact, I started drawing because of Disney cartoons. So, I try to bring that to my illustrations. I used to take jobs that required me to draw realistic. How did that make me feel? Depressed. So now if someone calls and says, I need this photorealistic drawing, I say, sorry, thanks for contacting me but unfortunately I'm not your man. LOL. It's a hard thing to do when you're pressed for money but, why do something that's going to get you down in the end? I know tons of illustrators who can go back and forth. But I have decided that's not me.
What are some of your current projects?
I have found love in doing work for charities. There's no actual pay in it. You do it for free. You do it because it's an opportunity to do something helpful with your art. So I just wrapped up two sketch card sets for March of Dimes. One based on Archie comics characters and the other on the old Greatest American Hero TV series. Those were just so much fun to do and so fulfilling.
Along side of that, I'm just wrapping up a children's comic book for a small publisher, and I have a huge job to illustrate a huge project, and another project to illustrate for a DVD documentary which, unfortunately, I'm not allowed to talk about any of them. Isn't that wonderful how that works? LOL. I get these jobs and I'm told "don't say anything. Keep it a secret!". So I'm bursting inside to open my mouth and yell it out by I can't LOL. And apart from those the usual jobs that come by.
Which of your projects are you the most proud of? And why?
I love all of the projects I've had the wonderful opportunities to work on. I mean, what better job then doing what you love and getting paid to do so. But as far as pride, I guess it would have to be the charity work. I mean, I love to get a call back or an email from a client who's grateful and happy for the job I've turned in. And that's fulfilling in it's own sense because as an illustrator you're main job is to bring the clients vision in and make it alive, give it flesh basically. So when a client is thankful I know I've done my job. But the charity work is something you're doing for little ones, to be specific the March of Dimes charity work, who can't really do anything for themselves. It's fulfilling to know that your work, your art, is being put to good use to help the needy. That is an awesome and rewarding feeling.
Are there any areas, techniques, mediums, projects in your field that you have yet to try?
I like oil painting. And digital painting. Never tried oil painting. I have tried digital painting and, so far, I have failed at it. But I admire digital and traditional painters. That's an area I would love to expand and get good at some day.
Any advice to the novice illustrator?
Advice. Let's see. What can I say. I think the most important thing is truthfulness. Being true to yourself. Going out there and doing what you like as opposed to becoming a mold or stamp or carbon copy. Being true to yourself will bring you fulfillment. Take for example Von Glitschka's work. This guy is unique. Different. Why? Because he's true to himself and his art. And that has caught on. And when you're true to yourself and you try your best, the world takes notice.
Another thing is practice. You really need to put in time to grow and expand your skills. Experiment with it. Don't settle for less. Challenge yourself and don't be lazy.
What makes a designed piece or illustration successful?
As a professional visual artist, whether you're an illustrator, designer, or even a comic book artist, your job is to communicate, visually, a given idea or ideas. When you're hired by someone to communicate an idea, you're hired to flesh that idea out. To give it form, shape, life if you will. That illustration, design, piece of art or what have you, has to clearly communicate that given idea. If it doesn't, you've failed. If it does, you've succeeded. A successful illustration then communicates, in a clear format, an idea that most everyone can understand at first glance. That idea can be geared towards a specific audience or group of people. If the illustration manages to "talk" to that group, then you've succeeded. But take my word for it, it's much easier to describe what makes a successful illustration or design then to actually do one! LOL.
What do you do to keep yourself motivated and avoid burn-out?
I had a project, a graphic novel to be exact, that was very long. The longest body of work I have ever done in comics so far. In the middle of the project I started to get burnt-out. It was horrible. I wanted so much to work at full force but I couldn't. I did finish the project, thankfully. But I learned a huge lesson from that. And it comes back to my early comment about being true to yourself and doing what you love, and how you love to do it. So I keep myself motivated by not taking on projects that I know off hand will burn me out. Also, looking at other artist's work. I have a Deviant Art account and, man, I'll tell you, that place is an attraction for some wicked crazy artists. I look at their work and instantly I'm motivated to do more. To push myself. It's a humbling experience because you get the rude awakening that, you're not as good as you'd like to think you are and you have a lot of room for growth.
Finish this sentence. "If I weren't an illustrator I would have been a..."
Photographer. Or maybe a detective. Or a Navy Seal. LOL
And finally, what is the best thing on prime-time TV right now?
Prime-time TV You're going to look at me like I'm an Alien for saying this, but I don't watch prime-time TV. It's true. I don't have time for, well, for that kind of stuff. I know everyone raves about Lost, but I don't get into that kind of stuff. I do however enjoy watching movies. Either at the theaters or on DVD. That's my entertainment. That, music, and comics. But not many comics. Just a small handful.
And this is the part where I lift my hand up, part my fingers in the middle and say, Live long and prosper! LOL
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