ABOUT ME / BIO
Tariq Hassan is one of the artists I came across in the artists' alley at this years Dragon*Con, his colourful imagery catching my eye. And you know I can't resist asking for an interview when I spot real talent!
Sequential Tart:Tell us a bit about your artistic background. Did you go to school or are you self-taught? And what projects have you worked on thus far?
Tariq Hassan: I went in a bit of a loop as far as my career is concerned. I decided I wanted to be a comic book artist way back when I was 15, and seriously practiced drawing long before then. My mom was a graphic designer and my dad was an architect. While they didn't push me into this career, and specifically sit down to teach me how do draw, I had every resource available whenever I became interested in a new aspect of art. They always had plenty of anatomy books, perspective books, paints, pencils, drawing tables, etc.
I went to school, Georgia Tech, for industrial design, and pursued comics the whole time that I was in school. In fact I met many of my fellow artist/studio mates at that time. I missed quite a few classes going to comic conventions.
After school, I really tried to get into comics. While working at the firm that created the Super Soaker, I spent half the week creating samples for comics. I created some kickbutt samples and took them to San Diego, and got some positive nods from some professional artists who also introduced me to some editors there. But nothing came of that, and while I wasn't dejected, I realized it wasn't just going to be hard work that got me into comics. (Note this was way before message boards and such. Conventions were the only way to meet editors and show your work.)
I then got referred to a storyboard studio here in Atlanta, Ted B Studios. And it was there that I learned a lot of the business, and especially the customer service part of illustration. It was there that I learned how to do storyboards using markers, and also dealing with art directors and agencies. The job paid great, and I really enjoyed working on the projects — and mainly seeing my the final incarnation of my work in print and or commercials.
Things happened and work slowed down at the studio, so I did my first venture doing storyboards on my own. I created a nice flyer with some updated work, and literally called every ad agency in the phone book. Amazingly I got some bites, I think four or five, and within three weeks I was making as much or more than I was with Ted B Studios. I even was working onsite with an ad agency, where I got the advertising bug. Working there, I learned a lot about Photoshop and other design programs. I basically was an onsite illustrator.
Money was coming in and life was great, so I felt it was time to fulfill one of my goals at that time: go live in Japan .... So with all the extra money I had, I packed up my life in the U.S., bought a round trip ticket to Japan, stopped off in Germany as well, and landed in the Land of Rising Sun, August, 1999.
Japan life; it was great, but another story entirely. But while in Japan, I taught myself to paint in oil, did a lot of photography, and discovered a new love, graphic design.
Three years later, I returned to Atlanta, a year after 9/11. The advertising market had changed a lot. Art directors were saving money and cobbling together their own storyboards using Photoshop. So I started doing freelance graphic design, and of course keeping practice with comics as well. A couple of years later, with a lot of design projects behind me, I got my first 9 to 5 job doing graphic design, and the next year I was a Lead Artist at Home Depot, and the following year I was an Art Director managing two designers (that was last year).
I managed to still do some comic and illustration work, and joined Studio Revolver as well. I did a few commercial comic projects for The Executioners (a DJ group), a card for the DC Comics Versus game, a full-issue independent comics named Arkadian, a large storyboarded project for Microsoft, and notable some character illustration for the Star Wars Mini line for Wizards of the Coast.
Like a lot of companies, mine was hit in the recent recession, and I was presented with the opportunity to do illustration full time. I have to admit, I had gotten a little worn out with the corporate life, and I've decided to focus on illustration and comics. This year I did illustrations for three White Wolf gaming books, illustrations for Catalyst Games, and most recently storyboards for My Super Psycho Sweet 16. My future has more storyboards, comics and doing comic covers.
ST:What is My Super Psycho Sweet 16 about, and how did you get involved with the project?
TH:Psycho 16 (my shortened name for the movie) is basically a satirical take on the MTV show that most of us have at least heard of. Basically take the spoiled kid of any rich or famous person/celebrity and let them spend a ridiculous amount of money to show off to their friends how rich they are. Most of these kids are basically trying to spend enough money so that no one can ever top their party. And give a 16-year-old over 20 thousand dollars to spend and you'll definitely get some tacky and gaudy ideas.
Psycho 16 basically follows one of these rich brats, Madison, up to her lavish party, and then throws a psycho killer into the mix who chops up the insufferable kids. But the main character is the daughter of said psycho killer (who is supposed to be dead), and we see how she and her nerdy best friend are treated by the "in" group of kids at school.
I got involved when I was recommended for the project by David Brucker — who got my name from David Atchison, a writer friend that I've worked with more than a few times over the years. The movie was directed by Jacob Gentry, who was a co-director with David Brucker on the indy hit The Signal.
It was pretty fun working in my home city, and working at landmarks that I've known for over 20 years. Along with two other studio mates, Casey Edwards (he worked on the graphic designs within the film) and John Christopher (he did the conceptual design for Charlie Rotter, the slasher guy of the film), I worked closely with the director and main photographer to map out the action. I even had a chance to meet the actors and go on set to see some of the filming. It was a rush to see them shooting a scene with my storyboards hanging up next to the director's chair.
ST:How does storyboarding work? Do you imagine the scenes based on the script, or are you given more specific details to work with?
TH: How and what you storyboard depends mainly on what the director asks for. Storyboards are best used for difficult-to-shoot scenes that require a lot of planning or scenes that will require a lot of special effects. Storyboards also help to put the script into a visual form, allowing the director to see if what's on paper actually works in reality.
For Psycho 16, Jacob Gentry, the director, mainly wanted help with the action/slasher scenes. When I came on board, the locations had been selected and most of the set had been designed, so I needed to translate the actions in the script to work with the sets they created. After talking with Jacob and getting a feel for tone he wanted for each scene, I'd sit down and create visuals of how things could go. Quite often I would create more than one scenario, giving him some options during shooting. I also worked to give each scene a good set-up and work out any continuity problems.
I'll highlight one example of this. For Charlie's (the slasher guy of the film) first kill, in the script the kid that Charlie kills at one point breaks a pool cue, and then later trips and breaks his ankle. When I was storyboarding this (by the way, this is set in a skating rink and the kid is in skates), I thought it's kinda strange to just trip and break your ankle, so I set it up that after he breaks the pool cue, he throws in onto the skating rink, and trips over the same pool cue (instead of tripping over nothing). That really tightened up the story and the storytelling.
You also help with ideas on how the camera should move, and how shots will transition from one to another.
My main goal is to make sure that when fast action is happening, the viewer understand how one shot is related to the next, and they should never get confused.
ST:Which is more challenging, doing a comic page or a storyboard?
TH: I would say that both can be pretty challenging, but storyboards for me are more fun because you really get to see your ideas come to life. And you get the chance to sit down with other creative people and talk about how to make a movie. The challenge of a storyboards mainly depends on how good the script is. If it's well written you just have to make sure not to mess anything up. If it's not so good, you have to become the writer yourself and make things make sense.
To actually answer the question though, comics are definitely more challenging, because suddenly I'm the director, the cameraman, the actor, the lighting director, and any other role needed to make a comic page.
ST:Tell us about your process.
TH: My process depends on how much time I have. I had to really knock out a lot of storyboards in a short time for Psycho 16. I was doing about 30-40 inked boards per day. I have an office, and it's already set-up to my taste, and after that I'm pretty flexible. My only schedule is to get things done before the deadline. I try to keep a daytime schedule, but I'll pull an all-nighter at the drop of a hat.
For Psycho 16, I talked through the script with the director and make small sketches for later reference. Talking through the script mainly helped me to know how many shots each scene needed to be broken into, and the know what parts of the scene to focus on.
ST:Who are some of your all-time favorite comic characters?
TH: My favorite characters ... hmm .... That's hard for me, because I'm more in love with the medium than any specific character. Give me a good story about any character and I'll read it. When I was younger, my main comic was Spider-Man, pre-, during, and post-McFarlane (I was a big fan of his, too, at the time).
But if I were cornered in an alley and told to give five favorites or be whipped silly, I'd say Spider-Man (great costume and I grew up with Peter .... Man, they had some great stories back in the day), ROM (I loved this dude as a kid), Colossus (he just seemed the coolest when I was young .... I'm not the biggest fan of the new, brooding Piotr), Nightcrawler (he's a fighter, he's a lover, he's a poet ... did I mention that he got the girls?), and maybe Batman (he's just fun to draw).
ted Alex Toth Zorro book.
ST:Are you a gamer? (If so, what do you play?)
TH: I have to admit my lameness on this question .... I don't game at all. I used to be a big Virtua Fighter fan, but that's about it. I like to watch others play games because I don't have the patience to keep doing things over and over in order to get past a level .... I've been thinking that I might enjoy playing the Wii, because a lot of the games are simple sports games with immediate gratification. But I have to say I love game art!
ST:Tell us about yourself outside of art: What are some of your hobbies? What else do you like to do in your free time? And do you have any pets?
TH: I'm married with a great wife and friend, Tanika ... "Hey baby!" And my wife would back up this statement: my activites are soccer, salsa, and art. That's all I really need. I've been doing salsa for the past 10 years, and that's how I met my wife ... we were dance partners a few years before figuring out we should date.
And I've been playing soccer since high school. It's my sport outlet, and one of my favorite things to do. I carry a soccer ball in my car (I never know when I feel like practicing).