Spotlight

A Young Woodsman Traverses a Fantasy Forest – Pacifica

Tait is an artist and writer from northern California. His home is in a rural area just a couple hours away from the Oregon border. He grew up surrounded by redwood forests and not far from the Pacific ocean, which has greatly influenced his artistic direction. He is currently working from home trying to turn his love of storytelling and art into a career. He is the creator of Pacifica.

Synopsis: A young woodsman leaves his remote valley home and soon learns the narrow limits of his worldly knowledge. He soon encounters other travelers of varying species, temperaments, and motivations. They form a group to achieve their goals as they explore the land of Pacifica together. Will they become a tight knit party, or will they end up as another fireside tale of ill-fated adventurers?

Did you go to school for either art or writing? If so, what school?
I attended Humboldt State University and majored in art, with a minor in English.

What is the main genre of your comic? What appeals to you about that genre?
For the sake of simplicity, I categorize it as fantasy and/or adventure. I have always loved fantasy and fairy tale stories. I think it’s hard to grow up in an area like I did and to not be affected by the environment here. There is an ancient and magical feel to a redwood forest, especially an old growth one. You feel like anything could be out there. Anything could happen. It’s a feeling of wonder that I think we could all use more of in our lives.

Are there any other genres that apply to your comic?
One of my goals in creating this world is to have a huge sandbox where I can try out different genres and tones and still have it feel like it’s somewhat cohesive. Maybe I’ll end up breaking things sometimes, but I really want to try my hand at some different kinds of stories.

Although the main focus will be fantasy/adventure, I plan on layering in a heavy dose of western, humor, and some drama. I’m also considering dipping into a little bit of horror here and there. I’m really the kind of person who sees something and goes “Wow, that’s cool. How can I do something like that in a story?”

“Weird west” is the sub-genre Pacifica would fall into, as I want to draw from the early-mid 1800s for some elements. When I say Pacifica is part western, that’s what I’m talking about: more the era of westward expansion and mountain men than the actual wild west.

What was your inspiration for the story?
There were many inspirations. The biggest was growing up in the rural area that I did. My family owned seven acres at the edge of a small town and the property adjacent was 200 acres of logging land that was empty most of the year. It was quite simple for me to cross our fence and take a hike out in the woods without ever seeing another person.

Other influences would be the cartoons and comic books of the 80s, growing up with a significant number of animals and pets around, the Redwall books, Alan Dean Foster’s Spellsinger series, Dungeons & Dragons, video games. Honestly I could talk about all this for hours. I just want to take everything I love and mash it all together into one awesome world with my own spin.

Do you have any favorite artists or writers who influenced your style?
Winsor McCay, Alphonse Mucha, Susan Seddon Boulet; many of the classical illustrators, like Arthur Rackham; the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. I love looking at their work and trying to figure out how to do something like it.

In terms of writers, Alan Dean Foster, Brian Jacques, William Goldman. The common themes here are humor, fantasy, and adventure. I also really like the books Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep and Flowers for Algernon, so expect things to get a bit heavy from time to time.

How long does it take you to complete one page?
It’s not unusual for me to spend a week or more working on a page. I obsess over details and making things look just right.

What is your process like for creating comic pages from start to finish? What tools do you use?
I usually come up with a loose script first. Once I have an idea what the action for the next section will be I start doodling thumbnails on a piece of paper. I experiment and try different layouts, add or remove panels.
Once I’m confident in how I’m going to lay things out, I’ll scan the thumbnails onto my computer and digitally resize and arrange them. I may start inking at that point or add more details first if I think I’m going to have problems with a certain object or character.

After the inks are done, I’ll throw in colors and add yet more details where I need them. This usually ends up being in the background as I want the environment to be recognizable and almost a character in itself.

The final step is digitally adding the dialog. I type in the dialog, read it a few times, make changes. I’ll ask my wife or other friends for feedback before calling the page “finished.” I happen to be graced with a number of friends and a wife who are all excellent writers, so I value their feedback.

Is your comic a finished work? If not, how long do you think it’s going to be when it’s complete? Is there a definitive ending or will you just keep going for as long as possible?
No, it’s not finished. I’m not sure how long it will end up or if it will have a definite ending. There are several plot points I want to hit before I even think about an ending.

Another thing I’m interested in doing is some spin-offs which might let me play with genre, tone, and style without being so jarring to the main story.

How long did it take you to plan the comic before even beginning to physically create it?
I knew I wanted to do a comic for a long time. Almost from the time I’d graduated high school. Lack of confidence in my ideas prevented me from producing any finished work for several years.

I’m not 100% sure when the first ideas for Pacifica started to solidify into what you see on the site now. A lot of things changed throughout the development. It was a much more generic medieval fantasy story in the beginning although the Pacific Northwest influence was still there. The key ideas started forming around 2003 and I had explored many more ideas before that.

I have some test pages that I did in 2012, so around 9 years or so before I started trying to physically create a shareable story. There were at least two false starts and I would not post the first Pacifica pages until 2016. I finally hit a point where I was like, “You’re not getting any younger, dude. Just put SOMETHING up there.”

What was the biggest hurdle you faced during the course of making your comic? If you could go back in time to the point where you just started making it and give yourself a pep talk, what would you say?
There were many. Break-ups, depression, lack of self confidence, lack of money. If I had to pick one I would say it was the lack of confidence in my work that was worst. I would create two or three pages, decide it was crap, then start over.

The thing is, I don’t know if there was anything I could say to myself that would have helped. I mentally knew what a lot of my problems were, but overcoming them was another thing. I think sometimes you just have to work through things and struggle to really understand and internalize the lesson. I feel like all those years of struggle were what I had to go through to gain the perspective for what I’m creating now. If I had done it at any other point it would be something else. Is that good? Is it bad? I don’t know, part of me feels it’s just what had to be.

What is your favorite part about working on your comic?
I love it when something comes out looking close to how I pictured it in my mind.
Sharing the things I have a passion for and that others might find value in is a great feeling.

What is the most difficult part about working on your comic? How do you overcome it?
Dealing with the disappointment of working on something for hours and still feeling like it doesn’t look right is horrible. I try and remind myself that I’m just obsessing and that even the master painters like Leonardo sometimes painted wonky looking feet.

I find quite a bit of comfort when I see something off in an old master work or in a printed comic. I’ve bought comics before, not because I liked the art or story, but as a reminder that “If this can get published, I can make comics too.” 😀

Do you have a favorite character to write for? If so, why? Tell us more about them!
The jay-kin, Gale, is really fun to write. She has a fiery personality and doesn’t hold her opinions back. I foresee some butting of heads with her and other group members. I have some ideas about her internal conflicts that will be fun to portray.

Which character gives you the most difficulty to write for?
Up to this point, Gavin. He’s been traveling alone, so I had to have him talk out loud to show some thoughts. It was challenging to show his personality and desires through minimal dialog and his actions.

Do you have a favorite character to draw?
All the kin are fun to draw. I find creating hybrid characters is more interesting than drawing regular humans.

Which character gives you the most difficulty to draw?
Diana. Thankfully, she hasn’t been in the story much up to this point. (Fringe. SO much fringe.) Hopefully, I can get a handle on her design eventually.

Where can we find you?
Comic’s site – http://www.pacificacomic.com/
My Patreon – https://www.patreon.com/Tait. Ko-fi – https://ko-fi.com/pacificacomic
Twitter – @pacificacomic
Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/pacificacomic/
Imgur – https://imgur.com/user/TaitOfPacifica
Tumblr – https://imgur.com/user/TaitOfPacifica

Anything else you want the people to know about yourself or your comic?
I take my own reference photos! I try to use them whenever possible.