Born in Madison, Wisconsin in December of 1956, Steve “The Dude” Rude is an award-winning comic book artist, illustrator and fine artist. His career path in art started after finding the how-to-draw books of Andrew Loomis in the 5th grade. He graduated from high school in Escanaba, Michigan and took a year off before studying at the Milwaukee School of Art and Design for two years. Steve returned to Madison and furthered his training at the University of Wisconsin and Madison Area Technical College. In 1981 his career took off when together with writer Mike Baron he created the groundbreaking “Nexus” science fiction comic book series. The “Nexus” series, set 500 years in the future, featured over a dozen alien races that were designed by Steve and often dealt with themes like addiction, guilt and justice. Lasting over 100 issues “Nexus” was first published by Capital Comics; was later continued at First Comics, Dark Horse Comics and finally his own Rude Dude Productions. Steve has also worked for Marvel Comics and DC Comics where he has drawn most of the major characters including Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, X-Men, Captain America, Thor, The Fantastic Four and many others. In his many years as a comic book artist he has earned a Russ Manning Award a Kirby Award and numerous Eisner Awards.
Steve became disillusioned with the “Modern Age” of comic books in the mid 2000’s stating that it seemed like the fun had been taken out of them. He found that he enjoyed painting models so he pursued something that was more fun for him, fine art. As a fine artist he is comfortable with many mediums such as oils, watercolor, gouache, pastel, and others. Recently he was bitten by the comic book bug again and looks to get back into the industry. In 2007 the book “Steve Rude: Artist in Motion” was released which covers his comics, illustration work, life-drawings and sketchbooks. The book also includes a how-to section showing a painting project from start to finish. Presently there is also a documentary on Steve’s life and career that is in the works by Ian Fischer.
What is your favorite pen to use?
There's a certain marker that I use to ink-in commissions drawings. It's not waterproof, but I like its effects. I cut the tip with a razor blade to get a bevel effect that gives me thick and thin lines. Too bad they stopped manufacturing them.
Do you draw in pencil first and if so do you use a standard pencil or a mechanical one?
Yes, I draw in pencil first.
Do you do your coloring by hand or on the computer?
I've tried both methods, preferring to use a computer to color the interiors of my books, but everything else is hand-done with actual paints and brushes, and always will be.
What type of paper do you use?
That depends on the job. For comics, it's the standard 2 ply, I guess.
What thing(s) do you hate to draw?
Research on things I know nothing about is always a pain. The first issue of The Moth had custom-built motorcycles everywhere. I've never even driven a motorcycle. Thankfully, once you're into it, it's not that bad, but it does take a proper amount of time.
Do you buy your supplies from big chain art store catalogues/websites or a local one that you physically go to?
I used to buy everything from art stores in the area, but some things are always out of stock. Now, I'm finding the usefulness of mail-order catalogues.
Are there any rituals that you do before starting to draw?
I usually like to warm-up on various things in my sketchbook before I begin working, but it's not a set pattern. This can be anything from feet or hands, heads and ears, or other difficult things that may be nagging at me. Also, I enjoy drawing and studying the work of any other artist I admire, usually the old illustrators or vintage comic artists. Anything that catches my eye is game for my sketchbook.
Do you listen to music while you draw and if so what genre?
Yes, I'll usually listen to Talk radio, books on tape, or CD's. They help pass the time and keep me company.
Did you read comics as a kid and if so what was your favorite?
I read comics since the age of about 10. Always the old Stan and Jack comics from Marvel. I still think they're the best!
What is or was your favorite comic strip?
My favorite strips as a kid were the humor strips, like Family Circus or Blondie. Early on, I use to draw Charlie Brown characters at the dinner table all the time. Nowadays it would be Prince Valiant, Rip Kirby, or any of the Roy Crane strips.
What was your favorite book as a child and do you still own a copy of it?
Most kids seem to have read at least one of the classics when they were young. Me--all I remember was Rikki-Tikki-Tavi from the Jungle Book. I always preferred reading comics, which always struck more exciting, creative heights with me, or watching my cartoons on TV. During the day I would always be out playing with my friends (often talking about the cool comics or TV shows).
Did you have any formal art training and if so where did you receive it?
I've had degrees of formal art training since I graduated from High School. But yet---no actual degree. Once I learned what I could from one teacher, it was on to the next one who could teach me something new. I still attend life-drawing classes and painting workshops to learn from the many great teachers out there.
Do you feel that the Internet is a blessing or a curse?
The Internet is progress. Some use it, some abuse it.
Did either of your parents draw?
Yes, I use to having drawing sessions with my Dad, whom I called "Douses". I never used to call him "Dad", since I always had different than usual names for everything. "Douses" and I use to draw animals all the time, since I had my sights fixed on being a zoologist someday.
Who in your life is/was the most supportive of your art?
Most everyone I met seemed to be supportive. Comics were the cool thing in art college and everyone loved them. The cool people were always part of the comic’s crowd.
Do you keep a sketchbook?
At present, I'm up to number 28.
Have you ever taught cartooning/drawing and if so did you enjoy the experience?
Yes, I've taught anyone who's ever inquired about how to learn, and enjoy passing on what I know to those eager to fill in their "missing gaps". Several single-session workshops have been taught in many places over the globe.
Do you feel that talent or passion is more important in drawing?
It sure helps.
Do you collect anything and if so what?
I haven't collected actual comics in probably 20 years, but I still find an old Marvel or work by Jack Kirby that still provides a missing section in my collection. Kirby's canon of work seems limitless.
If you were an animated cartoon character who do you think you would be?
Well, in comics, the character I most wanted to be was Spider-Man. He could beat up thugs with or without a costume and had a gorgeous blonde girlfriend around his arm.
Are you a righty or lefty?
I'm right-handed. Always have been.
If you weren't an artist what would you want to do for work?
Hmmm...I'm currently drawing a blank on that. Something unconventional or non-conformist, I suppose.
In one or two sentences describe your drawing area.
In the early days, it just consisted of a small desk and a table lamp. Now I have a whole large room to myself, with all the required necessities for "finger-tip access", as I call it.
Do you play any musical instruments?
Nope. But I've always fancied the drums were I to play in a band.
If you could give one piece of advice to someone who wants to pursue drawing as a career what would it be?
My advice: Perseverance--and know that you yourself are always the final arbitrator of your path.
Who is your favorite artist?
Jack Kirby in comics, with John Gannam, Harry Anderson, and several others from that school, in Illustration.
Thanks again for your time Steve!
A thank you also goes out to Mike over at The Comic Archive for posting the tour of Steve's studio.