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Invisible Tools: Illustrating Rust

The story starts 46 years from now. But which now is it? The answer lies between the silver-embossed covers of Rust, by Royden Lepp.  In the past, there was a war with uniformed soldiers, some human, some not. In the now/future/past of Rust, we meet Roman, a young farmer who is struggling to maintain the family farm after his father’s unexplained absence. Roman communicates to his father in unsent, typewritten letters, and tinkers with the abandoned robot parts he finds lying around the farm, hoping to build a machine that can help take over some of the work on the farm. But as we know, technology may or may not be the answer.

Though based in the future (we think), Rust was born from Lepp’s memories of growing up on a wheat and mustard farm in Manitoba, Canada. “My love of science fiction, robots and jet packs collided with my childhood memories of prairie isolation. Roman's work shed is the same as my dad’s and Mr.  Aicot, was a real neighbor. My dad was also an amputee who was missing his right hand.”

Workflow: Alternating Between Drawing and Writing

Lepp, who uses a Cintiq 24HD, a Cintiq Companion and Adobe Photoshop, estimates that each page of Rust takes about four hours to complete. The writing and illustrating happen in tandem -- sometimes even on the same page, depending on what's happening in the scene. For an action scene, he’ll thumbnail and block it out in storyboard form, but for a dialogue scene, he will write it out like he would for a screenplay.

“The use of digital tools does not make you a better artist, for some people it may not even make you faster, but it will make you more efficient.” 

 The thumbnail stage is where things are fluid and changeable, where he can reorder, rewrite, or throw something away. Once the final line work is on the page, Lepp says he generally doesn’t change much. He’ll sometimes add pages, but he rarely takes anything away.

“The true test of any tool like the Cintiq is its invisibility. You forget that you're working on a digital device. There should be a transparency in any tool, be it a pencil, a paint brush, a white board marker, or a stylus. So after a few minutes of working, it's just you and the idea and the canvas.”

Lepp takes advantage of both the touch screen and the touch strips on the Cintiq 24HD. “I set my touch strips to be hot keys, so I slide up to access the rotate tool on the canvas and slide back down to access my brush. It's easier and faster than a hotkey.”

True Confessions: Art Means Sacrifice

Lepp believes that there is no set career path for any artist. “The best advice I can give someone who is starting out is to be professional and work diligently. Create deadlines, create goals, and work hard. And realize that you too will stumble into a place that you never thought you'd be. Your specific skills may not be best suited for your greatest desires. You may be better at fashion design than comic books. You may be better at graphic design than 3D modeling. Look for your strength and then apply yourself to become a master of your skill.”

For Lepp, mastering a skill means both improving his illustration and art constantly, and continuing to focus on his family. “I'd love to be remembered as a great storyteller or artist, but I want my identity to be more than that. I want to be a greater husband and father. I want to be great neighbor and friend. Those aren't the things that'll make me most memorable, but I refuse to let my art be my sole identity.”


Keeping Up with Royden Lepp 

Rust is currently a series of 3 graphic novels, suitable for all ages, published by Archaia/Boom Entertainment with a fourth volume coming soon.

Check out the first three below:

Rust: Visitor in the Field

Rust: Secrets of the Cell

Rust: Death of the Rocket Boy

To stay up-to-date with Lepp follow him here:

Twitter: @roydenlepp

Facebook: Royden Lepp Rust

Reptile Photography