Tedd Walley is a valuable member of a community of talented comic book artists here in New Orleans who deserve more recognition for their work. Tedd is unique in the comic book world because he draws, writes all of his own stories, publishes, and distributes his work. Before I even met Tedd, other artists around town had also been telling me that he was their favorite graphic design instructor at Delgado Community College. One artist even said that Tedd was the greatest instructor he had ever had.
NCM: I understand that you teach at Delgado here in New Orleans.
Tedd: Yes! I teach illustration, comic book class and some software classes as well.
NCM: Are you originally from New Orleans?
Tedd: Yes, I was born and raised here.
NCM: How long have you been drawing?
Tedd: I have probably been drawing since about the age of seven. Professionally I have been drawing since about 1991.
NCM: How long have you been teaching?
Tedd: I started as a part-time teacher in 2001 and became a full-time teacher in about 2006.
NCM: Why did you choose to become a professional artist rather than just have art as a hobby?
Tedd: When I first went to college, I majored in Psychology. I changed my major to Commercial Art at Delgado. By the time I graduated in Commercial Art, artists were kind of going out of fashion because software like Photoshop was becoming popular. So I ended up becoming a professional graphic designer.
NCM: Is anyone else in your family an artist?
Tedd: My dad was a commercial artist. Art is in my genes.
NCM: What genre of comic books do you work in?
Tedd: I make what is known as an Indie comic. They also used to be known as “Vanity Press” where artists and writers would buy their own printing press and print their own work.
NCM: When did you first start making comics as opposed to just drawing? Did you always gravitate towards comics or was there some sort of evolution?
Tedd: As a kid that was all that I drew. Back in about 1997 or 1998 a group of my friends tried to publish their own comic. After they had been working on it for a little while they asked me for my opinion on their comic and their business plans. I had been working at an ad agency at the time, so I knew a lot about printing and budgets. I gave them some ideas because what they had was not going to sell too well. My friend got a little angry and said, “ Well, if you know so much, why don’t you do it yourself?”
So that is how I got into doing it myself. I am one of the longest running self publishers in the city.
NCM: Whose work inspires you the most?
Tedd: I can’t narrow it down to one. I probably can’t even narrow it down to ten. Because I like to keep my mind open. I can learn from styles that I don’t necessarily agree with or like. There is a laundry list of great artists that I admire.
NCM: Did you ever have a mentor? Someone that showed you the ropes?
Tedd: No, as far as Indie comics go. Because I predate a lot of self-publishers. There was vanity press, but there were no web comics at the time. You took it to a printing press who would print and bound your comics. I drew a lot of my knowledge from working with printers in the print industry.
On the flip side of that, here were mentors that worked in the main industry of comics. There were guys like Derec Donovan and John Dell who worked for the main companies and have since we were all in college. I leaned on a lot of their advice in terms of how to understand how the comic book industry works. Not that I was trying to break into it, but understanding a different perspective on how it all works.
NCM: I noticed that you create a lot of black and white comics. What made you choose to go that route over full color comics?
Tedd: When I was growing up in the comic shops. A lot of Indie comics were black and white. For me Indie comics (even going back to the acid underground comics of Robert Crumb) were all black and white because that is what they could afford to publish. It speaks about what Indie “is”. And I also don’t have a big budget to produce things.
The character concept that I narrowed it down to kind of spoke to me when I drew the concept sketches of Mathilda. She kind of fit in that black and white world too.
NCM: Can you describe your comic book heroine in the series you are working on right now?
Tedd: Mathilda is a combination of Hit-Girl, Calvin and Hobbes, and Deadpool. The daughter of Lucifer and the leader of all of his armies. But she has an epiphany and defects to the other side. She is then brought to the planet earth in the form of an eight year old girl. She is cognizant of all of her shortcomings, but tasked with stopping her father from destroying everything. She learns what it means to be human, why being human is special, and pass the third grade. If she fails in any of those tasks she will go back to hell.
NCM: So you write your stories in addition to drawing them?
Tedd: I write, draw, ink, color and letter my work. I also do some digital work on it too.
NCM: So you are scanning in partial drawings and then coming back in and reworking those images in Photoshop or Illustrator?
NCM: Do you prefer digital over traditional?
Tedd: I don’t have a preference. If I have something in mind, then I will use whatever I need to use for it to work. I’m not limiting myself to using one method.
NCM: Was it ever difficult transitioning from real media and brushes to digital?
Tedd: It wasn’t for me. It depends on the artist. I think some are really married to the way that they do things. I know an artist named Steve Butler (who has been drawing comics for at least 30 years) and he just did something digital for the first time. When he does his coloring, he uses Crayola markers.
NCM: I have heard from several other artists that you are a really great graphic design teacher.
Tedd: I was named one of the nation’s best instructors two years in a row.
When I graduated from Delgado in 1991, Photoshop had really left the photo editing world and was now being used in other commercial art applications.
But there are a lot of great software programs out there now. For example, Corel Paint is amazing software that can replicate textures of paper that Photoshop can’t come close to. But a savvy enough Photoshop expert will have a solution for that problem.
There is also comic book software out there that is specifically made for comic book illustrators. Software that has brushes set up to replicate exact thicknesses of lines of a brush that you would ink with.
NCM: What do you think is the most challenging part about being a comic book artist?
Tedd: It depends on what your expectations are when you get into it. I got into it because I had these stories inside me that I needed to get out of my head. I also knew how to do all of the stages of it so there was no need for me to hire anyone to do anything. Personally, my expectations have been met. I put it out there and we’ll just see where it goes. I enjoy it. So it doesn’t fell like work.
NCM: Do you enjoy the teaching aspect of it?
Tedd: I do enjoy the teaching aspect of it. It keeps me humble. Some of the students come in with certain visions, but they need my help to achieve those visions.
NCM: Do you have a separate studio where you like to draw?
Tedd: I did before I got married. But now I draw at my house unless my work computer has something I need on it. But most of the artwork is done at my house.
NCM: How do you find time to create new comics with your work schedule at Delgado? Do you stay up all night long and draw?
Tedd: I used to before I got married, but I no longer have that luxury. Now my days usually start at about 6:30 in the morning and end around midnight.
NCM: That’s still a pretty long day. What do you wish you knew about being a comic book artist before you got into it.
Tedd: I wish that I had gone back to school and gotten more professional training in drawing. I didn’t get that at Delgado because there was just a mismatch of introductory courses when I was there. When I went back to school for my animation degree, things had changed and I was going to school online. There was a lot more depth. I wish I had learned the trade of drawing a bit more and sooner.
NCM: How do you deal with negative criticism?
Tedd: It depends on the criticism. As a professional, you have to take the emotion out of it as much as you can. If enough people are pointing out something to you, then it’s probably something you should take a look at. But if you get negative feedback from one or two people, then you are probably getting into the realm of personal opinion at that point. And that may not reflect the direction that you want to go in. I have had people say negative things to my face who couldn’t draw themselves or even tell me how they would change it. In those situations, you have to realize that some people are just dicks.
NCM: Do you participate in any of the comic book conventions?
Tedd: When Wizard World set up here they leaned on me pretty heavily at first to get going. They liked the fact that I teach comic book classes. Initially they really reached out to the locals, but not anymore.
I usually go to the shows if I have something new to show. But not if I don’t have anything new. I don’t want people to show up and be disappointed or think that I have gone stale.
NCM: How do you come up with a profitable pricing structure for your art?
Tedd: It depends on what we are talking about. If we are talking about books, its simple math. You have to factor in the cost of how much each book costs to produce and mark it up so that you can make a profit off it. In that markup you have to also factor in the amount that comic book shops are going to charge to sell it.
For commissioned artwork, my price is based off of how much of my time it will take to make it. I have a standard price for certain things like a head shot, full color, pencils, etc. But that is just a kick-off point. I usually work within people’s budgets.
NCM: Do you also do any commercial work?
Tedd: I worked for about ten years as a graphic designer at an ad agency. I’m one of the guys that helped animate the flying pigs for Gulf Coast Bank’s Super Bowl commercial. I also helped redesign Elmer’s Candy Strawberry Hash Egg wrapper. There is probably not a Zatarain’s package that I didn’t have a hand in designing as a production artist.
Right after the storm, I did a lot of ad building work for Inside Northside Magazine. A lot of layouts. But I got tired of putting together ads.
NCM: Is there any advice that someone has ever given you about making art that you really took to heart?
Tedd: When I was younger and going to conventions, a writer named Louise Simonson gave me some advice. That is to be an open book and not pin myself down to any sort of style.
NCM: Where can people find more of your art?
Tedd: My website is www.voodoomaverick.com. They can read my work online or order the book from me directly. They can also go to Amazon or any of the local comic book shops.
NCM: What’s the story on these beautiful tattoos on your arms? Did you draw them?
Tedd: It’s the story of a dragon prince. One day while the dragon prince is flying through the clouds he sees a poor village. In the poor village he sees a woman and he falls in love with her. So he takes the form of a human and tries to woo her with jewels and gold. She explains to him very gently that her love can’t be bought that way. She can’t fall in love with someone who is trying to buy her love.
So the dragon goes into a rage. For 40 days and 40 nights he rains down fire on the village until he realizes that he has killed everyone in the village including the woman that he claimed to love.
In regret and remorse he sells his soul to the devil in order to bring everyone back to life. He agrees to spend eternity in hell to pay for his sins. The moral of the story is to be careful what you say or do in the name of love.
And yes, I drew them. A friend who is a tattoo artist helped me transfer the drawings onto my body.