by Albertine Feurer-Young, Reporter
Lee Kohse, who does so much work for Lucas, is usually found in Artist Alley. He started with art as a way to conquer his shy ways and soon realize how therapeutic art was for him. It kept him out of trouble and to date, he still has not killed anyone. So it works.
Lee Kohse started out doing art for magazines – anything from fanzine to pinup magazines to lesbian magazines – and band posters. He got a job one day working on Lord of the Rings and continued working on underground comics while building his career. One of his most love comic is KinderGoth, which is close to my heart as many of my friends are portrayed in it. He was actually discovered at Comic-Con while showing his KinderGoth comic and was offered the LotR job right there and then.
What brings you back to Comic-Con every year?
For some reason they keep inviting me back. Seriously though, it’s a local show for me and one the best times for me to catch up with friends in the industry and fans. It’s great to meet so many new people and catch up with old friends.
When was the first Comic-Com you exhibited at?
1996, I was doing art for underground comics and the publisher had a booth there. But it wasn’t really my booth. I think it was 1998 that Dennis Greenhill and I formed BloodFire Studios to self publish to break away from the other publisher. We cranked out our first comic and purchased a booth a month before the show.
How has Comic-Con changed for you over the years?
Comic-Con has always been about comics, movies, scifi, and the creative forces behind them. I hear people complain that movies have taken over but they forget that movies have always been there. The first Comic-Con program says “Comic Art, Films, Science Fiction” right on the cover. Star Wars Episode IV was screened there before it hit theaters.
For me the biggest change is the audience. It used to be a fan could walk up to the door and get a ticket the day of the event and go meet their favorite creators. It was all about the ideas and the creative talent that entertained people and gave them a personal connection. Now, the announcement hits that the exhibit hall is now open and there is a stampede of fans running to various booths for show exclusives that most will just end up on eBay. Many that manage to get tickets nowadays aren’t familiar with the creators that work on their favorite properties. I watched a guy dressed in a Wolverine shirt and an X-Men jacket stand in front of Len Wein in artist alley and say to his friend “The fan art here is amazing.”
What impact do you think Comic-Con has had for arts that don’t specifically relate to comics?
Definitely it has brought it to a larger audience. The state of comics in the late 90’s was grim. Marvel was bankrupt, distributor fights were killing the comic stores, and the market was flooded with subpar work and overpriced gimmicks driving the hardcore fans away. When the movie studios started to run out of ideas for films, they turned to comics. They started taking Comic-Con seriously. This has brought a broader audience to comics in general. I hear people say this is what ruined Comic-Con but I don’t think it is though. I can sell original art or make a new fan/client of someone that was drawn to Comic-Con by [Insert Summer Blockbuster related title here]. I can work to educate them on the industry that that the guy that created their favorite properties is right behind them. But the guys chasing exclusives or looking for a quick buck trying to flip swag, I have less of a chance connecting with and making a new fan.
What impact has Comic-Con had over your work and your success?
I was discovered at Comic-Con. I was signing copies of my comic book Kindergoth at our booth when an art director came up and offered me a job working on Lord of the Rings projects. That was my foot in the door to doing art full time. So I make a living today thanks to Comic-Con.
What new art have you been working on?
I’m doing two series of paintings for Lucasfilm right now for their Fine Art line from ACME Archives. You can find them at D Street in Downtown Disney, Launchbay at Disneyland and various galleries around the world. One series is called “Breaking Borders” and features the main character(s) pulled forward from the margins of the art (Boba Fett With Slave 1 and Almost According To Plan) and the other series is called “Tribute” and features a character and the scene or event that made them iconic. (AT-AT Pilot). I’ve also been writing new Kindergoth but I still don’t have time to draw it yet.
Any new projects in the works?
I’m working on some new Voltron projects and more Star Wars art for the previously mentioned series, a couple of scifi book covers. I also have a lot of private and Patreon Commissions and a few others I can’t talk about yet.
What booth will you be in this year?
Currently I’m in Artist Alley table GG-05 or near it. I am on the waiting list for a booth so I can start bringing my larger art in so it could change the week before. Check my Facebook.com/leekohseart and Twitch.tv/kohseart for updates if it does change.
What other shows do you attend?
Star Wars Celebration, WonderCon, StocktonCon (one of my favorite small shows), C2E2, NY Comic Con, RegalCon, Stockholm Comic Con (Sweden), San Diego Comic Fest, and pretty much any show that invites me out.
Any new advice for young artists?
Never stop. Never stop learning. Never stop drawing. Never stop creating. When you need to take a breather from all that, show what you’ve done. If I didn’t self publish, if I didn’t have a booth at Comic-Con selling those books, and if I didn’t put my art out there for the world to see, I would not have been discovered and I would not be making a living as an artist. You need to keep moving forward, keep creating, keep learning, and you need to show your work. If the art directors can’t see your work, they can’t hire you. Oh yeah, and look at the blogs I post on my website (they’re rare but informative).
How has art impacted your life?
Reread this entire interview to yourself, slowly. And stop moving your mouth. You look silly.
Any new sources of inspiration?
Mostly my inspiration comes from other artists, books, or the people around me. Right now the biggest source is my assistant, who is so much fun to hang out with and isn’t afraid to call me out for sucking. I’ll be painting something and ask for an opinion and get a critique like “you really should be trying harder”. We’re doing some Cosplay stuff together too for my Twitch channel. (www.twitch.tv/kohseart) and that helps to break the monotony of doing the same thing everyday.
Have any new challenges come up?
The industry and the audience has changed a lot in the last decade. I hear artists complain about this and that ruining their business model for events like Comic-Con. A lot of those artists haven’t seen the shift in audience I mentioned earlier and because of that, they haven’t adjusted their business model. The new challenge in recent years was how to adapt to the new audience and technology. Print On Demand, Kickstarter, and in my case Twitch and Patreon, allow artists to earn a living in a new way that didn’t exist 10 years ago.
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