“Dredd at his best works best for the pessimists” 2000ad PJ Holden on drawing Dredd and going digital

Dredd-head-PJ-HoldenIf anyone was going to embrace the world of digital comics then you’d think the ‘art droids’ of legendary British comic 2000AD would be there at the forefront. To find out just how much they are loving this new high-tech world of comics, we cornered long time art-bot PJ Holden, who has been slaving away at Tharg’s drawing desks for more than a decade, and we got him to spill his circuits on whether he has banished his pen and ink brushs to the trash heap and  just how the world of digital is affecting the the Mega City One lawman.

From what I read on your website you seem to have a bit of a love/hate relationship with digital, so which side of the fence are you on at the moment? Loving it or hating it?
PJ: Right now, by virtue of the fact that I’ve decided to largely go all traditional this year, I keep looking longingly at my [Wacom] Cintiq and assuming that every line I draw with it would be ten times better than anything I’m currently inking. But that’s just a grass is always greener problem.

What do you find are the pros and cons of producing work digitally?
PJ: On the pro side : it’s a nice clean medium. No messy splatters of ink, no fighting with gunky tools that need cleaned and no wet ink you can accidentally smear all over the place when you work. On the con side, for me, personally, even when I do a piece that I’m happy with, I always feel a bit of my soul has died because it’s not on paper.

There’s a satisfaction to getting it right with pen and ink (or brush and ink) that is just lacking digitally for me.

That said, a large part of the job ISN’T about whether I’m a happy creator making pictures for himself and is largely about whether I produce good work in a timely fashion. But still, the soul of drawing belongs in viscous black ink.

dredd-paintingHow do you think your fellow art droids at 2000ad (and in the comics world in general) are embracing digital? Is it unanimously positive or are there some who will hold on to their traditional techniques?
PJ: I know many people who’ve pretty much moved wholesale to digital and are more than happy. As I’ve said, the process of computer drawing feels a bit soulless to me (even if, for many people, it’d be impossible to tell computer art from hand drawn art).

I think in a generation or two pretty much all comic artists will move to digital (some kicking and screaming), comics is a commercial art form and digital drawing offers so many advantages over traditional media that its hard to imagine people switching back once they’ve gone digital.

So, are you an iPad user? Iif so, what do you make of the experience of reading comics on an iPad and what books would you recommend?
PJ: Long term iPad user (currently on my second iPad, the first has become the family iPad, the most recent is the iPad 3- would LOVE the iPad mini, but will save it for the inevitable retina resolution version.)

I find it a great way to consume comics, if not a great way to savour them. My preferred reading medium is digital for stuff that I want to read and to buy those books in hardback form that I want to keep. Mostly that means reading Locke and Key and buying the hardbacks. I discovered Locke and Key digitally, and it’s a real masterpiece. Can’t recommend it enough.

I’ve also been buying Godzilla on going, but have found myself not reading, but wanting to own it in print. Some amazing artwork.

Have you tried drawing on your iPad, and what did you make of it?
PJ: I’ve done lots of sketching on the iPad, and lots of colouring with it. I think, right now, its absolutely possible to do a full comic on it, but it may be a little while before we see anyone do that. I suspect the generation of kids who grow up with tablets will think nothing of using it to create comics, whereas people who have used pen and ink will struggle with the very idea of spending that much time wrestling pixels on an ipad to make a comic.