Published on May 5th, 2015 | by JCDoyle0
Ten Questions With… Rachael Stott
Earlier this year Rachael Stott made her comic book debut illustrating the genre mash up Star Trek/Planet of the Apes: The Primate Directive, which was published by IDW and Boom Studios. The work she produced was superb and captured the essence of each of the franchises.
She graduated from Birmingham University with a degree specialising in illustration and has produced art work for the Royal Shakespeare Company and In Print Magazine. She is currently working with the British Gymnastics on an ongoing collaboration where she is creating energetic figure work based on various sports. Check out her web site to see the different work that she produces.
Luckily for us, Rachael took some time out of her schedule to answer a few of my questions, although I have further questions after her answer to number 8.
NTC: The Primate Directive is your first fully illustrated comic book work. So, starting there, how did this project come about? Were you approached by IDW/Boom! Studios or was it the other way around?
RS: It’s crazy- what a book to have as my first gig! But basically the abridged version of how it happened was that I was at London Comic Con last year with my portfolio, and got sort of picked up on the spot by Chris Ryall (IDW EIC), who was just walking by whilst I was showing my pages to Dan Slott. He put me in touch with Sarah Gaydos, the Trek editor.
I had no idea what I was auditioning for, so she’d send me emails that at the time seemed totally random ‘Can you draw Charlton Heston..?’. Then eventually I got one asking if I wanted to do a Trek/Apes crossover- to be honest I was pretty certain they’d mixed me up with someone else. It seemed to amazing to be true!
NTC: Leading on from that, have you always had an interest in comic illustration and aimed at working in the industry or is it something that developed recently?
RS: It’s literally been the only thing I ever wanted to do. I was drawing my own little Beano comics in primary school, then when I got older it was Spiderman, x-men, etc. I used to copy Frank Miller Daredevil pages and stick them to my wall when I was still at an age where I was happily oblivious to the fact I had drawings of prostitutes and gangsters lining my bedroom. My degree final project was a cheesy fantasy comic (I’d been reading a lot of Fables at the time). It’s lucky they weren’t grading me on the writing.
NTC: I understand that you’re quite a big comic book fan (I read in another interview that you’ve been reading comics for years), so what are you reading at the moment and do you have any recommendations for our readers?
RS: I used to buy issues, but for the last few years I just get the trades, so I’m generally about six months behind everyone else- at best. It’s better for me as I was never buying comics to collect them- I’d really treat them badly. I had friends who would go crazy if they saw like 3 issues of something just rolled up in the bottom of my bag, so trades are good because they can take a little more punishment. Although I do think IKEA should do a ‘comic lovers edition’ of their bookcase- those are not built to support glossy pages.
As for recommendations- a friend lent me Black Science recently, it’s great, and really gorgeous artwork too.
NTC: The Primate Directive is steeped in both Star Trek and Planet of the Apes lore, did you have to do much research around the subjects? I mentioned in one of my reviews that Kirk and Spock’s ‘civies’ bared a remarkable likeness to the costumes worn by Burke and Virdon in the Apes TV series. How many visual nods to the franchises did you try to get in? Were you given much freedom to add these or were the scripts very specific about such things?
RS: I’m glad you noticed that! I saw a guy on twitter complaining, saying he didn’t understand why they were wearing those outfits, and I was like- uh oh! Fake nerd boy alert!
Before starting I was a huge TOS fan so that was pretty easy, and the original Apes film is one of my all-time faves, but I’m not so well-versed in it’s lore. But the two writers, Scott and David Tipton, were so incredibly helpful. You can tell they know their stuff from things they would put in the script- it’s peppered with brilliant little nods for the die-hard fans- like those costumes and such, or little call-backs to things in the dialogue.
It was great working with them because we’d all chip in suggestions throughout the process. The cutaway of the Enterprise in issue 4 was something I fancied doing, the guys sent me reference pictures of a mirror on top of Ape City that’s a nod to the tv show- it was a very collaborative process.
NTC: Personally, I’m more of an Ape’s fan than a Star Trek fan. Did you have a favourite before starting the comic and did this change over time (basically, is it more fun to draw Kirk and crew or Zaius and the Apes)?
RS: I’d only ever seen the first Apes film before I started- I’d somehow got the impression the sequels were terrible? I’ve watched them since then, and they do vary in quality but on the whole they’re pretty enjoyable!
I’ve only been a Trek fan for about 4 years, but I love it. Before I broke in I was drawing my own short Trek fan comics- so it’s quite surreal to have it as a job! So I do geek out a little more about the Trek parts- but drawing Apes is SO fun. The Tiptons were very insistant, and I agreed completely, that they should look in the comic like the original John Chamber’s makeup. So that was really interesting- trying to capture how the actors moved, and their facial expressions in the prosthetics.
NTC: Comic book illustration is a very collaborative process, you have to work with writers, colour artists, letterers to name just a few. How does this process compare to the other illustrated work you’ve produced for companies such as The Royal Shakespeare Company?
RS: Something that was a great change for me moving into doing comics, is that when you’re a freelance illustrator, most of the time you’re commissioned by people that don’t know anything about art and design. So you’ll send them the piece and say ‘How’s this? Is this what you’re looking for?’ and they’ll reply going ‘I don’t know- is it?’.
Whereas now I’m working with people who have a hundred times more experience than me, so my editor will send me things back saying fix this part, tweak that, remove that thing- and it’s so helpful I can’t even begin to tell you. My artwork has improved tenfold since starting, just through having a trained eye going over it and giving me notes.
NTC: With Comics come Conventions and you recently attended your first (I believe) in London as a guest. How was that experience? Was there anything about it that you didn’t expect (in a good or bad way)?
RS: Yeah, it was fantastic. Well looking back this seems pretty silly, but I didn’t expect anyone to know who I was! When they opened the doors, almost immediately I had someone at my table asking me to sign some things- I didn’t have a sharpie or anything because I didn’t think I would need it! I had to borrow one off someone. It was great though, a really positive experience. Although Neal Adams came up to my table to say hi and I just made squeaky noises at him.
NTC: Now you’ve broken into comics, have you any other projects in the pipeline that you’re allowed to share with us?
RS: No comment!
NTC: While I was searching for some example illustrations you had produced for The Royal Shakespeare Company I came across some old programmes that had you listed as an actress. Had you previously considered a career in acting before Illustration?
RS; Haha, what?? No! Omg that’s hilarious. There are a surprising amount of Rachael Stott’s around though- hence not having the @myactual name for my twitter account.
That’s really funny.
To be honest you won’t find the RSC pics online, as I contracted the rights for them to the RSC for the duration of the play’s run- and it’s just moved to the West End, so they requested an extension. That was a great gig for me though, as I’ve always been a science/space/physics person- when they asked for samples I already had a couple of Richard Feynman portraits to send that I’d done for fun.
NTC: And finally, our Need To Consume. house question, were you/are you a fan of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and if so who is your favourite turtle?
RS: I literally have zero TMNT knowledge- sorry! I think I lose nerd points for that.
My favourite turtle is Crush from Finding Nemo.
My thanks go to Rachael for making me laugh and realise that I’m not the only one who has issue with Ikea shelves. I recommend that you check out The Primate Directive, especially if you are fan of either franchise, and keep an eye out for Rachael’s work; I have a feeling that we’re going to see some amazing stuff from her in the near future.