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Graphic Novelist Oliver Harud

Illustrator and graphic novelist Oliver Harud was the comic book loving kid with a talented hand for drawing who actually turned his passion into a celebrated and prolific career. The London-based artist has created quite the name for himself in the graphic novel and advertising world. His portfolio is bursting with work on numerous storyboards and animatics. He has brought characters and stories to life; translating words and emotions into images and has collaborated with major brands such as Nintendo Wii, KitKat, The Guardian, and Sony, and been featured in solo exhibitions in Soho and Clerkenwell. 
 
And his latest achievement is taking him even farther. The beautifully illustrated graphic novel Dan and Sam, is the product of Harud’s collaboration with British comedian and novelist, Mark Watson. The harmony in their creative symbiosis has produced a graphic novel whose storyline is as beautiful as the images that accompany it. Dan and Sam tells the story of two lovers planning to spend the rest of their lives together until Sam dies in Dan’s arms. But by some storytelling will of magic, she is not lost forever, but can return to Dan once a year so long as he remains in love with only her. Complications and impossible decisions ensue.
 
Oliver Harud who has breathed life into these characters, guiding the readers through the graphic novel. A silent storyteller, Harud uses his beautiful illustrations to guide our emotions and bind us to story to an extend that words alone would fail to achieve.
 
We met up with Oliver Harud to find out more about his latest work (and discovered the shocking parallel of Dan and Sam with his own life), the creative processes involved in graphic illustration, his inspirations, and what it takes to succeed as a creative in his field.
 
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“Be true to your own art… and do one thing and do it well.” Oliver Harud

 

CM: How did you get into graphic novels?

I have always love the graphic novel or comics as you might also know them! I’m not ashamed to say comic artist, yes there are a lot of bubblegum titles out there, which is totally fine and fun but there are also some wonderful and really fulfilling stories inside the comics world that make the medium a very valid form of reading / entertainment. But back to the question, my first comic was 2000AD, a British sci-fi comic title. It was over thirty years ago and it was the one with Judge Death on the back, it captured me form the start. It is the intimate way you read comics that is so beguiling, you make the sounds move the action and drama, it is in your head and on the page at the same time. I loved it and wanted my illustration to tell the fantastic stories that were in comics.

 

CM: What aesthetic principles inform your illustrations?
An art director once told me he liked my work because it consisted of frozen moments. I hadn’t thought of it like that before but it stuck with me. I draw moments, that have a history and future, even if they are one off illustrations the characters I design are living things that have come form somewhere. I also love to draw, so my work is biased towards the craft of good draftsmanship.
 

CM: How do you market yourself?
Every way I can, marketing yourself is one of the hardest parts of being a creative, finding the next avenue to explore you art. With the launch of Dan and Sam I have started Tweeting and Instagraming, as well as a Facebook page and my own website, I am also on Linked-In but I think that is a more “professional” platform and so I hit it less with my illustration. It takes up a lot of time and you never know which bit is going to pay off but it can be fun and it is great to get good feedback form total strangers when they like your work. I also try to source companies that I think would like to use my work and contact them direct / production and advertising for my commercial art and publishing companies for comic work.
 
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Princess Freyja And [the escape from] The Tower of Lost Dreams
 

CM: Advice for creatives and other illustrators hoping to make a living from their work?
Be true to your own art… and do one thing and do it well. There are just so many great artists out there, I spend hours going through all the amazing talent on sites like Deviant Art, and for a long time I was always looking over my shoulder at the last brilliant bit of illustration I had seen, but a while back I had a moment of clarity, I’m never going to be “like” Chris Sanders, Fiona Staples, Bill Sienkiewicz etc etc, and even if I could be, any descent company looking for creatives will go to the original not a thin copy. I have to be the best OLIVER HARUD that I can be. Then do that one thing and do it to the best of your ability, when you are taking your book or show real or what ever it is around to interviews the people you are talking to don’t want a jack of all trades, they haven’t got time to imagine how good you would be doing something else, they want to see a consistent and high quality “thing” (whatever it is you do) so work out what it is you do and do it.
 

CM: What other artists inspire you?
So so many, I don’t think me just giving a list will really help, everyone has there own favourites, and the list changes all the time, but what catches my eye are artists with a simple clean style, a good sense of design and a definite and individual signature to there work.
 

CM: What was the inspiration behind Dan & Sam?
A ghostly love story. Mark Watson wrote the story and I drew it, as it is set in a contemporary London, I wanted it to feel real, or as real as my style would make it, a real kitchen, a real restaurant, so when we enter the magic world of the graveyard it can all jump out at you. As I have already mentioned, I am always looking at other artists but trying to do “me” as best I can.
 

CM: How did your collaboration with Mark Watson play out?
It was very good, he gave me a very large degree of control, writing a loose script with minimal stage directions that I then took and directed / acted and shot. He was even happy to let me set how much action took place per page, to be honest I didn’t have to change much but occasionally he would cram three pages into one and I would need to give myself a little breathing room to make the book work.
 
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Underground
 

CM: Can you tell us more about your creative process. How do you approach translating the text of a story through visuals?
I read through the page and take in who is talking too who and what are the important punctuation points in the story. Then I make a rough thumb nail sketch of the page at A5, really scribbly and fluid, then I blow this up to A3 and do a finer pencil page, it is looking quite a lot like a comic page at this point but still needs clarification. It is always amazing how when I ink the work it comes to life, the crisp black lines holding it all together. As for what I’m trying to do, I like to move the camera around, find interesting angles to help tell the story, include action and reaction, frame characters with the panel by trapping them in doorways or in front of windows (where appropriate!)
 

CM: What do you hope readers will take away from Dan & Sam?
A sense of fun, that life is for living and that change isn’t alway bad, and that I’m a bloody good artist!!
 

CM: Anything else about the novel that you think readers would be interested to know?
Ha ha, well yes, as I was drawing the scene where Sam is dying in hospital after the traffic accident my wife was knocked off her bicycle on the way to work one morning and was run over by a truck. The paramedics on the scene didn’t think she was even going to make it to the hospital and so a police car was sent to pick me up form work and take me to the resuscitation room at the Royal London to essentially say goodby to her… she lived, and has made an amazing recovery, but as I sat with her on that first day, in the ER with other patients being treated either side of us, and while she was passing in and out of consciousness she said to me in a joking way that this must all be good research material for me, and you know what, I went back and re-drew the key panels to more closely resemble what I saw that day.
 

CM: Favourite comic (from someone else)?
Again this is such a hard one, there are so many, but one that I am reading at the moment that I am totally hooked on is Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples, if you read one comic in the next year read that one!
 

CM: What’s next for you?
Well, I have got three stories that I want to make into comics and I am currently looking for publishers to pitch the ideas to, hopefully having now got Dan and Sam out there it will help me in getting through the front door and give me the opportunity to show what I have to people who could help me bring my stories to a wider audience!
 
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