James Art Ville is a graphic designer and digital illustrator from Oregon. He has worked both on his own projects (including some with his writer wife Shiloh Ville), and as an artist for hire on other people’s.
His has provided art for numerous companies including:
- Batterystuff.com (2010-2012, Batterystuff.com)
- Super Hero Enterprises (2006-2012, Super Hero Enterprises)
- HIgh Caliber BBQ’s Home of the Pistol Grill (2012, HIgh Caliber BBQ’s Home of the Pistol Grill)
- Yvonne Perry’s Sid Series (2009, Yvonne Perry’s Sid Series)
- Soul of the Woods (2010, Yvonne Perry’s Sid Series)
- Raress Unique (clothing, 2011, Raress Unique)
- The graphic novel adaptation of the novel Raising Dragons (by Bryan Davis), for which he helped organize a successful Kickstarter campaign ($15,131 pledged of a $15,000 goal).
His YouTube channel (youtube.com/user/jamesartville) has several QuickDraw sequential art demonstrations, as well as a trailer for Raising Dragons.
James talked to Indyfest about his work and future plans.
IM: What is Raising Dragons about?
JAV: Raising Dragons is a story about dragon heritage and survival. Thousands of years ago, Merlin saved the dragon race from the bloodthirsty slayers, by turning them into humans. Now, in modern times, these long living “dragons” have married normal humans and produced offspring with dragon traits. A boy learns he has dragon breath and meets a girl who was born with dragon wings. They work together to escape the clutches of a modern-day slayer who wants nothing more than to rid the Earth of all dragons and their half-breed children.
IM: Was Raising Dragon a work-for-hire job, or are you a co-creator?
JAV: It was definitely a work-for-hire. In 2013, I was commissioned by author Bryan Davis to adapt his first novel, Raising Dragons (published in 2004) as a graphic novel. My wife Shiloh Ville adapted the original novel to fit nicely into 150 pages in comic book format. I illustrated the book using her script adaptation.
IM: Who is the target audience for Raising Dragons?
JAV: The book is targeted for a general audience aged 12 or higher. Readers who love a good wholesome fantasy story, such as fans of the Chronicles of Narnia and Lord of the Rings, will appreciate this story the most.
IM: What is Beelzebed about?
JAV: Beelzebed is a children’s book that Bryan Davis commissioned me to illustrate in 2013. The story is a bedtime tale of a boy, who literally battles with his bed at night to try to sleep. His menacing bed keeps him up and gets him into trouble. Of course, as soon as mom and dad show up, the bed assumes its stationary position. The story was written to encourage children to confront their fears and laugh with the silliness of the events that the boy goes through.
IM: What is Hallow Statum about?
JAV: Hallow Statum is Latin for “Holy Stance”. It’s a fantasy story series that my wife and I have written based on an old story that I wrote as a ten-year-old boy. It’s a religious story of good versus evil, where the heroes are able to fight against dark spirits, using a unique form of martial arts that uses faith as the source of power. “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you could move mountains.” The story has a dear place in my heart, and I hope to publish it as a series of graphic novels in the future.
IM: What is GunSkins?
JAV: GunSkins is a company that produces vinyl camouflage wraps for firearms and gear. They’re a great alternative to painting or hydro-dipping, because GunSkins are non-permanent and cost a fraction of the price. This is great for hunters, airsoft players, and gun enthusiasts alike. I have been offering my graphic services for them since they started in 2013, and I am good friends with the owners.
IM: Where you involved in the Kickstarter for Raising Dragons?
JAV: It was Bryan Davis’ suggestion to seek crowd funding for this project, since we wanted to self-publish and cover the cost of printing and distribution. However, I was responsible for setting up the Kickstarter campaign, managing the rewards, and everything else involved.
IM: What upcoming projects do you have in the works?
JAV: I’m currently working on the special edition version of Raising Dragons, which will contain bonus story content, concept artwork, sketches, and other extras. This will be an exclusive version with a limited print run. After this, I hope my next graphic novel will be a story that my wife and I make together. She is a writer, and together, we have so many good stories to tell.)
IM: Are you planning any appearances in the near future?
JAV: I plan to appear at local book signings and events in Southern Oregon. I hope to also speak to the local middle school and high school students—especially to the art classes—regarding digital illustration and comic book creation.
IM: How do you market your work?
JAV: The majority of my marketing consists of online interaction with fans and the community of like-minded artists. My website and blog will play a major role in bringing great content on a regular basis, in the form of new artwork, articles, tutorials, and web comics. As I gain momentum, I hope to make more appearances at events throughout the country and embark on a book tour.
IM: How do you distribute your work?
JAV: Raising Dragons is available online from my website, Amazon, and other online marketplaces. However, the book is also available at local book stores, including Barnes & Noble. The book can be easily ordered using the following ISBN: 978-0989812290.
My artwork is distributed for viewing online only. Most of my illustrations comprise fan art; however, I do offer prints featuring original work for sale on my website. I can also be found on all major social media networks @jamesartville.
IM: How important do you think it is for creators to have their work in bricks-and-mortar shops as well as online?
JAV: I think there will always be a place for physical books and book stores. Just like there are online communities, there are also communities that gather at local bookstores, and it’s important for fans and book enthusiasts alike to have a safe place to go to read, buy, and hand out. It would be a missed opportunity not to have a presence in bookstores. As a consumer, if I had the ability to walk into a store and buy a book on the spot, I would prefer that to online shopping any day.
Indyfest: Do you think the internet has made it easier for people to self-publish, and distribute their work?
JAV: Yes, the internet has definitely made it easier for creators to self-publish. However, it’s a double edge sword. A flood of new content from authors with little reputation creates a flood of books that can easily overwhelm the market. For sure, there are great self-published works, but unfortunately, there are many other books that, in my opinion, were published too easily or too early, and therefore, don’t contain the quality content one would expect from a book published through a traditional publisher.
IM: What made you choose Kickstarter over the other crowdfunding sites?
JAV: Kickstarter was the only crowdfunding site I was aware of at the time. When people think of crowdfunding, I’m sure Kickstarter is always mentioned, because it was the site that put crowdfunding on the public radar. However, looking back, I believe I would rather have used a different site, because of Kickstarter’s strict funding goal campaign policy.
IM: What advice would you give someone planning to crowdfund?
JAV: I would highlight that the work put into a crowdfunding project before launching the funding period is of the utmost importance. The campaign page has to be phenomenal and easy to understand. You simply can’t expect readers to scroll through and read a dozen paragraphs before deciding if the project is worth their time and money. Image-filled, concise and clear messages go a long way to attract and retain visitors, convincing them to believe in the project enough to pledge. There’s an emotional aspect that needs to be addressed. Without good incentive (aka: rewards), it’s going to be difficult to obtain enough donations to meet the funding goal.
IM: Is there anything you’d like to add that we haven’t covered?
JAV: My experience breaking into illustration has been unique. If it weren’t for meeting Bryan Davis and initiating conversation regarding his story, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to publish Raising Dragons, my first graphic novel. Rarely do people find success by going it alone, not even self-publishers. It’s important to put yourself out there and make connections with people in the business. Conversing with fellow authors/artists is a great way to gain advice and constructive criticism. Don’t be afraid to show your work to anyone willing to look at it. It may be humbling at times, but it will strengthen your work for the better.
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