Black Ship Interviews Stjepan Sejic

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1. Your work is largely high quality digital paintings sometimes blended with 3D. This is certainly a different approach to most mainstream comics (where several people – a penciler, inker and colorist) might create the art. Can you tell us a bit about your personal process of creating a finished comic book page? 

Stjepan Sejic: I can do one better, I can give you video examples
Generally, all my approaches start with the layout stage. In this stage I search for the placement of panels and for the most effective way to tell the story in a (hopefully) interesting way

That looks something like this:

From there on depending on the approach I take, it is either straight to digital painting:

Alternatively, flatting and inking:

And then, ultimately shading

2. What would you say are your biggest artistic influences? Are you influenced more by art styles or by individual artists?

Stjepan Sejic: I had many over time, be it Marc Silvestri, Michael Turner, Alex Ross, or a swarm of excellent concept artists whose works I have admired.

They affected me each in their own way.

However ultimately I had to discard the influences, as there is an inherent danger of being inspired by a style. A style is in a way artistic handwriting. As such, it distorts the visual language. Artists make conscious deviations from reality to accentuate forms, movement and compositions.

Emulating style means adapting all of these conscious mistakes without having developed the consciousness about why they are there.

This means that whenever you try to take another artists style for a ride in the uncharted waters you will find it falling apart and you will wonder why.

Ultimately, I had to take a few steps back, return to basics and build from my own foundation.

3. Ravine is an epic fantasy of the sword and sorcery variety. High fantasy tales are a genre seldom seen in mainstream comics. I know you worked on several fantasy titles for Dynamite. Was that part of what lead you to develop Ravine? And can you tell us more about what inspired Ravine?

Stjepan Sejic: Ravine was something that kind of just happened. I was in college and dating a girl who would end up marrying me. I drew her a lot in those days…hell… i still draw her a lot.

So one day I drew her wearing armor…and…Oh well.

That is the thing with all my stories. They all kind of happened. Restless mind will not leave a drawing alone. Same happened with sunstone and death vigil and inevitably, same will happen to both the clan and navigator…

Ravine had many stages to its existence. Story had many iterations, and while some things remained a constant: Lynn, Stein, Nebezial, Aertes, Delphi, Azriel, Calisto, Freya and Melchial.

Others ended up changing drastically over time. Style changed many times over, beginning with the initial ink and watercolors and then going through endless experimentations with styles and digital techniques.

In truth, I have thrown away three pages for each page published.


4. I was blown away by the graphics and the sheer scale of Ravine. For me, it was reminiscent of epic fantasy films such as the Lord Of The Rings saga and Beowulf. Of course, the comic medium is very different from film. What were some of the challenges creating epic fantasy in a comic book form?

Stjepan Sejic: Efficiency of work. Speed. Two major hurdles in any large scope project and ravine is just that.

Over time, I found a way to get it done. It involved learning several programs, most importantly working in a 3d modeling and texturing program called zbrush. Without it, I am fairly certain that I would have given up at some point.

Ravine is partially painted, and partially 3d modeled, and the magic is in getting those two aspects that work together.

Modeling and texturing a dragon for ravine

However, this process is not without its own perils as, whenever style meets extreme realism, you inevitably venture into uncanny valley.

That is something I have learned to accept with this approach

5. The lore in Ravine is very intricate and the world of Ravine is extremely immersive. Obviously there was a fair amount of world-building involved. Did the background lore evolve naturally over time or did you create it more methodically?

Stjepan Sejic: As with any attempt at writing it is an inevitable result of trial and error. Of tossing a crapload of ideas at that wall and seeing what sticks, and then for what stuck, you start building a foundation of the world, and the rules it operates under.

This was how ravine was built up over time.

Price for magic, maturation of dragons through forging, customs of the Shivas, and the histories of nations… they are all the fibers that comprise the canvas on which ravine is painted.

Except…you know… it’s a digital painting.


6. You’ve worked with some iconic comic characters in the Image/Top Cow universe. Do you have any favorite characters that you prefer to illustrate? If so, can you elaborate on why?

Stjepan Sejic: I had many and I liked them for different reasons. I liked drawing Witchblade for the creative stuff I could do with the armor.

I liked drawing the darkness for the sheer coolness of Jackie Estacado and the versatility of cool, scary, and funny I could get with the darklings

I liked drawing the angelus, because I have over time grown to like the character of Dani

7. If you could totally redesign any major comic book character from any publishing house, which character would you choose and how would you redesign her or him?

Stjepan Sejic: None really. Designs are just a matter of taste. I can appreciate the classics as much as the modern approaches, each for their own reasons.

I tend to have fun redesigning heroes at times but it is just that, a bit of fun 🙂

8. Sunstone is a genre-breaking webcomic combining a slice-of-life approach with a BDSM-flavored love story. Unique to say the least! I believe it began as a way of breaking through art block and has now evolved into a much-beloved series. What inspired you to create Sunstone and do you feel that, like all great stories, it’s now taken on a life of its own?

Stjepan Sejic: The second option. Sunstone was never supposed to be Sunstone. It was merely the solution I needed to overcome a complete and total creative blockade.

Then again ravine was supposed to be a doodle of my girlfriend in armor and death vigil was a doodle of a dude pulling a boat full of angry draugr…

Truthfully, Sunstone started as a bunch of fetishy drawings. Then these characters started talking…

I never had an intention of this being a story…but whether I wanted it or not a story took shape. First through out of context and out of order events, short strips, bunch of unconnected moments.

That went on for a while until I realized I was in too deep and there was no turning back. Then I started filling in the blanks and the first chapter took shape.

After that I just unplugged my mind and let the characters kind of play it out on their own.

Now, here we are. Four graphic novels worth of webcomic almost done. First graphic novel about to come out in print

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9. The main protagonists in Sunstone are a lesbian couple. Do you see Sunstone as a LGBT comic or is their gender largely irrelevant to the story?

Stjepan Sejic: Interesting question.

They were more interested in figuring out what they were to each other than what they were to the society around them.

Aaand then she gets to introduce her new girlfriend to her family… buut more on that later 🙂

10. Many kinksters, myself included, enjoy the fact that Sunstone demonstrates a clear understanding of BDSM and shows it in a positive light. In fact, some parts almost read like an essay on things like safewords, consent and even the dangers of BDSM. Is this intentional? Are you aiming to educate as well as entertain with the comic?

Stjepan Sejic: It was never a conscious decision. That just kind of happened. I was writing kinksters, and…well… kinksters are sexual nerds, and like any kind of a nerd, if anyone shows any interest about your personal nerdiness , they respond with a hearty: welcome to my lair!

It was an inevitable aspect of the book. However, we will learn over time that Lisa is not speaking for everyone. When we get to Alan’s side of the story, we will see that experiences may vary significantly. With different experiences come different outlooks.

Because, that’s the thing when you try writing people…There is no way of summarizing any group and saying these characteristics apply to everyone.

11. At this point in the story, neither Lisa or Ally yet acknowledge how deep their bond is becoming or the possibility that they’re girlfriends. This is a marvelous source of dramatic tension in the story. As the creator, how would you classify their sexualities? Straight, gay, bisexual? 

Stjepan Sejic: In love.

12. Will we ever see Alan in drag as promised 😉 ?

Stjepan Sejic: That depends on how Anne develops as a character. Only time and chapters 6 to 10 will tell

13. You and your wife are very involved with online art communities, mainly Deviantart. Does this mean you see the internet as positive for the comic industry?

Stjepan Sejic: Very much so. With internet one can create amazing comics and find one’s own audience without ever having published anything. This is especially true nowadays with crowdfunding being a viable option. I believe we are witnessing a new digital renaissance of comics.

14. You’re an extremely proficient artist/writer. Can you briefly tell us about some of the other major comic book projects you’re also currently working on?

Stjepan Sejic: Death vigil, which I am writing and drawing
Ravine, which I am drawing, and co writing with Ron Marz
Generation 9 which I am drawing and Matt Hawkins is writing

15. Finally, where do you see yourself in five years time? What goals would you like to have achieved creatively?

Stjepan Sejic: Hopefully I will have finished the entirety of 20ish chapter of sunstone
And with some luck I will be getting ready to start a bunch of new projects.

I just want to tell stories and I hope people will be there to read them.

LJ Phillips
About LJ Phillips (82 Articles)
LJ Phillips is an ex-bodyguard and professional artist who has had three solo exhibitions. He has also published numerous articles and pieces of short fiction. His interests include Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, over-analyzing pop culture and staring into the abyss. Currently he lives in SA and spends his free time working on his various creator-owned comics.

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