Dallas Illustrator Uses Japanese Culture as Inspiration for Comic Books
Photography by: Micah Nunley
From the desert lands of New Mexico, to the bustling city of Tokyo- Devin Kraft has traveled the world and found inspiration that has crafted his inimitable art style. After studying film in New Mexico, he took his love for storytelling and has written two comic book series of his own.
During his time in college, Kraft was an exchange student at Hosei University. Inspired by the works of Japanese artists, he was given the opportunity to study the Japanese comic book industry. His academic background has helped shape him as both an illustrator and comic book publisher. Now a permanent resident of Dallas, Kraft has showcased his art at several dozen comic book and anime conventions in the area.
Kraft has two current comic book series under wraps. His comic book series ‘Silence’ follows a runaway and her rag-tag team of comrades in search of a missing ship. ‘Dragon Slayer’ is a revenge tale set in feudal metropolis following three unlikely protagonist- a king, an outsider and a dragon. Thanks to the help of Kickstarter, a fundraising campaign website, his works are available for purchase through his website. In this exclusive interview, Kraft reveals to us his inspirations, words of wisdom and future goals as a freelance artist.
Illustrator: Devin Kraft
Artist Uprising: How did your career as an artist and illustrator begin?
Devin Kraft: I’ve been drawing since I was a little kid, and I wanted a career as an illustrator since I was in middle school, but I was first able to do illustration full time after being let go from a graphic design job for a medical company. I figured I’d take a break and finish Dragon Slayer, and while doing that I started attending comic conventions and that allowed me to make a living as an illustrator full time.
AU: What has been your biggest obstacle as a freelance illustrator?
Kraft: Personally, I have trouble asking for help. I tend to do everything myself, whether it’s figuring out how to fix my printer so I can prep for conventions, or penciling, inking, writing, designing, promoting and distributing my creator owned comics.
AU: What has been your biggest achievements?
Kraft: I’ve raised over $36,000 on Kickstarter for my books Silence and Dragon Slayer!
AU: So far, you’ve illustrated and wrote two comic book series- Silence and Dragon Slayer. What was this process like? What were some obstacles you had to face in producing your own comic book line?
Kraft: What isn’t an obstacle creating your own comic book? Every step is super hard, and then the next step always looks harder until it’s over. If I had my preferences I’d just write comics, and maybe pencil, but each step after that always feels like a tremendous amount of work. By the time I’m to promote and distribute my comics, I’m always wiped!
Illustrator: Devin Kraft
AU: When it came to crafting your comics, which one came first, the writing or the visuals?
Kraft: It’s sort of both, but I guess I came up with the plot first and then built on that. So, the writing came first.
AU: You had your comics independently funded through Kickstarter, were you nervous you wouldn’t meet your goal? What were those final days of your Kickstarter campaign like for you?
Kraft: Each campaign was different, but I think most of them were funded early on so it was less me worrying about the goal and more me worrying about my personal goals. Several campaigns shattered what I’d hoped, and others felt like they underperformed a bit, but hopefully these books find good homes and people enjoy them.
AU: Who are some artist that have inspired your work?
Kraft: I’m a big fan of a wide variety of artists-I really enjoy Paul Pope, Terada Katsuya, Otomo Katsuhiro, Moebius, Hayao Miyazaki, Frank Quitely and Ronald Wimberly.
AU: On your website, it says your work has been heavily influenced by Japanese culture, who are some Japanese artist that have been an inspiration to you?
Kraft: I really enjoy the works of Yasuhiro Nightow, Terada Katsuya, Otomo Katsuhiro, Osamu Tezuka, Naoki Urasawa, Inoue Takehiko, Noriyoshi Ohrai, Yoshiyuki Sadamoto and a super long list of others.
AU: When it comes to your illustrations, what are some of your favorite subjects to draw?
Kraft: Technology stuff is always fun. Monsters, mythical creatures and samurais are a pretty close second.
Illustrator: Devin Kraft
AU: You went to school to initially pursue film, do you think your time in film school has helped you as an artist and illustrator? If so, how?
Kraft: I learned a lot about storytelling in college. I originally wanted to be a screenwriter, so that background helps me in constructing plots, I hope. I used to draw in all of my classes, so I’ve been training on the side for a long time now.
AU: Your brand name is ‘Cheshire Cat Art’, why did you choose this name? Does it have any significance?
Kraft: I was really into Alice in Wonderland in high school, and my friend Logan and I started a Deviant Art account with the name ‘cheschirecat’-I misspelled it accidentally. I just kind of kept the moniker from there, but the motto on my card is ‘Live. Draw. Disappear’, and it kind of entails my philosophy of drawing as much as I can while I’m alive.
AU: What is your ultimate goal as an illustrator and artist?
Kraft: Honestly, I’d love to find a steady gig somewhere, be it writing, penciling, or some combination, and just be a workhorse who gets the opportunity to push himself over time and is eventually respected for putting in the time and effort. That’s sort of the ideal.
AU: For those who are interested in pursuing the arts but don’t quite have the confidence, what would be your words of encouragement as a successful artist?
Kraft: I always say graphic design is more apt to pay, so it’s good to learn that in addition to illustration if you can. Beyond that, listen to your audience-you’re drawing for them, so create something with value to other people in addition to yourself.
AU: What should we be expecting from you next? Do you have any new comics coming out or projects that we should be on the lookout for?
Kraft: I’m working on wrapping up the final arc of Silence right now. I’m almost done with a samurai comic as well, and a project I worked on awhile back just wrapped up a successful Kickstarter as well! And of course, I’m always updating my websites with new prints.