Johnny Destructo interviews artist PAOLO RIVERA!

Hey there geeks and geek-ettes. Johnny Destructo here with my transcribed interview Paolo Rivera. If you like beautiful comic art, you are probably well aware of his amazing work. Both his cover work and his interiors are breathtaking, and it was a pleasure to sit and watch him as he painted a Spider-Man commission for a fan.

Johnny Destructo: At what age did you first pick up a brush?

Paolo Rivera: Uhh, brush..I can’t say for sure, but I started drawing at about 2 [years old].

JD: Wha? Wow.

Paolo: Yeah, I grew up in an art supply store, my parents had one back in the 80’s.

JD: Where was that? Where did you grow up?

Paolo:Datona Beach, Florida.






JD: When we were talking about that art piece [Cover for Spectacular Spider-Man 14] earlier, you said that was one your first things for Marvel. What were you doing BEFORE you were working for Marvel?

Paolo: I was going to school. I was actually going to school WHILE working for Marvel. So, I started at 2002 and I graduated in 2003.

JD: What? ….You’re kind of a jerk. (laughs)

Paolo: (Laughs)I am, lots of people tell me that all of the time.

JD: Where you always into painting, or did you start off wanting to do pencils and painting was something you grew into, or ..who did that work out?

Paolo: No, I actually started out doing painting…actually I think that’s one of the reasons I had such an easy time breaking in, and then I actually ended up “backing into” penciling in about 2008. So it…took awhile for me to get to it, but now I just kind of paint every once in awhile. Not too often.

JD: Really?

Paolo: Yeah, I I just paint covers, no more really interior work.

JD: Do you find that to be a luxury? Is that a lot easier?

Paolo: Penciling?

JD: Well, just painting cover work.

Paolo: Well, yeah, but mostly I’m just doing covers for my own books, because I’m trying to get Daredevil out on a fairly regular basis. Aside from that, the only other thing I’ve done recently is The Twelve. Other than that, just commissions here at conventions. Which is nice, because otherwise, I don’t know how often I would paint.

JD: How tight are your pencils? With all the details, before you paint …do you lay out everything pretty tightly with pencils first, or how do you work?

Paolo: It kind of depends on what kind of piece it is. At this point, for my pencils…if it’s going to be inked by my dad, who I’m collaborating with now, my pencils have gotten tighter, because I’m telling him exactly what to do. If I’m penciling for myself, it’s looser. If I’m penciling for a painting, I usually leave it fairly loose, because I do think about things while I’m painting, so I never..never stop drawing. Unless of course it’s something fairly technical, like know, any kind of technical background. That I will pencil out pretty precisely and then try to stay within the lines.

JD: When doing backgrounds and stuff, do you do any sort of PhotoShop-ing? Or is it all photo reference.

Paolo: It’s usually a combination of various things. Sometimes I go to Google Earth and I’ll use that as almost a kind of a Perspective Grid and then I’ll build buildings on top of that. Other times, I have a Perspective Grid that I use in PhotoShop, and I’ll print that out in a different color, and then just kind of paint on top of it. It’s just whatever works the easiest.

Sometimes I’ll take a photo of the edifice of a building and then distort it in PhotoShop to match my perspective and then print that out and draw on top of it.

JD: Do you have specific brands that you use, or are you one of the guys that just kind of use whatever you can find?

Paolo: Well, right now I’m using a Windsor & Newton watercolors, but my favorite are probably Holbein, but they don’t make it in the right kind of tube size that I like. This is a Windsor & Newton set so it just all just kind of folds over and you can carry it and take it to a con. At home, I use Holbein gouache and a little bit of acrylic gouache, also by Holbein.

JD: Back to PhotoShopping, do you ever do completed works IN PhotoShop? I have a Wacom 21UX and I’ll pencil and ink something but sometimes, I’ll pencil and then do onto the Wacom and ink it and color it in PhotoShop. Do you ever do anything straight through, digitally?

Paolo: The only thing that I do straight through are color studies. So when I’m doing my layouts and preliminary sketches to send to my editor, those are all done in PhotoShop…uh, mostly for covers. If I’m doing an interior, page layouts, those are usually done in pencil.

JD: Are there any other mediums that you’d like to try as an artist?

Paolo: Well, I actually do a lot of sculpture. I don’t get to do it as much as I’d like, but I’d recently started doing digital sculpting, using the program Sculptris, which is like the little sister program of Zbrush. I love it because using it, I only have to sculpt one HALF of everything, because it automatically duplicates it! It’s so much faster. And also, once you make your basic head, you can just kind of push and pull in proportion and turn it into something completely different, without having to re-sculpt everybody’s ear, every time. So it’s saved me a lot of time and now I’ve started doing digital maquettes for everybody that I have to draw.

JD: Yikes, that’s…awesome. I know a lot of artists are pretty…down on ourselves, I guess? We are always our worst critics…what is the thing that you haven’t figured out yet, as well as you’d like? When you look at your work, what are you still disappointed in?

Paolo: Well..umm…

JD: ..Or are you perfect? (Laughs)

Paolo: It’s funny..when I’m working on something, I usually hate it. And once I have some time away from it and come back to it, I’m like “Oh, that wasn’t as bad as I thought it was!” But I have to distance myself from it and then look at it with fresh eyes, or otherwise all you do is see that “I made a mistake there and there” but eventually, you forget all that stuff when you come back to it.

JD: Yeah usually I’ll throw down my inking brush at the end of the night and I’ll go to sleep and in the morning I’ll go “Oh. OH! Hey, that’s..that’s alright! Yeah! I don’t have to hate myself THAT much!”

Where can we find your stuff? If anyone wants to get a commission or..

Paolo: I don’t really do commissions at home, but I have a blog that I update twice a week called and then I also have an art dealer: and he sells all of my original artwork.

JD: Awesome, I guess that’s pretty much it, thank you so much!

Paolo: Alright, thank you.

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3 Comments to “Johnny Destructo interviews artist PAOLO RIVERA!”

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  1. Kire says:

    He is one HECK of a nice guy. Just met him at Boston Comic Con.

  2. JD (Host) says:

    did he have the ultra-cool Mirror set up so that passers-by could watch him paint?? Very impressive

  3. scrote says:

    Nice interview JD. He’s an extremely talented guy and doesn’t appear to have an enormous ego; nice combo.

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