Wednesday, July 12, 2017


Dave Kopka engages in books, story boarding, comics, and pre-production work, but is fascinated with exploring a wide spectrum of illustration and being a creative force in visual narrative.
site and contact:
an exhibition showcasing the literary work of Edgar Allan Poe
 interpreted by contemporary illustrators Dave Kopka, Nancy Doniger, Donna Miskend, Carol (Klio) Burrell special guests: 
Michael Patrick Hearnauthor of the forthcoming An Annotated Edgar Allan Poe, James Armstrong, playwright, Charlie Vazquezauthor and director Bronx Writing Center
DM: Talk to me about your interest in, and influence of fantasy art on your work.
DK: My work currently revolves around representational elements mainly, so I'm always looking to find ways to create the kind of imagery that a camera might have a very difficult time in replicating, visually or viscerally. I always look forward to the challenge of doing so, to create these worlds and scenarios that might not otherwise exist the same exact way in someone else's mind, and a prevalent effect is that the work has elements of the fantastic in it. I've always been a nerd about old and new school fantasy though (trading cards, scifi/fantasy novels, comics, table top games, etc), so I'd be remiss if that didn't have a strong influence on the work as well.

The Premature Burial,©Dave Kopka 2016/17
DM: Who are the artists you admire in the fantasy genre? 
DK: Interestingly enough, I try to expose myself to as many, if not more artists working outside fantasy themes. Artists include (but certainly aren't limited to) Diego Velázquez, Alberto Breccia, Degas, Mikhail Vrubel, Donato Giancola, Frazetta, Victor Vasnetsov, William Heath Robinson, Bernie Wrightson, Scott M Fischer, Goya, William Renner, Greg Manchess, Van Gogh, Ivan Bilibin, Jeffrey Allan Love, Edmund Du Lac, Harry Clarke, Kay Nielson, and most particularly Käthe Kollwitz. I am always looking for a good combination of current artists and ones from past-eras, and finding out who took or had influence in both groups. The list grows everyday. Indeed, we stand on the shoulders of giants! 

DM: Some of your illustrations for Edgar Allan Poe Illustrated has a distinct fantasy style element. What was it about his writing that moved you in that direction, or did something just click like an image that popped into your head?
DK: The way that Poe writes conjures up shadowy and spooky imagery. There's something elemental and passionate woven within the writing, utilizing a powerful sense of commonality (to me at least), and that was important to try and capture visually. Aiming to retain that energy guided most of the decisions made throughout the entire process. From this, some of the stories or poems lent themselves to be more interpretive than others, and allowed me to introduce an otherworldliness that I felt suited the written piece(s). It was a challenge I had so much fun being engaged with, so hopefully that shows through as well.

DM: Tell me about your illustration process. (All artwork,©Dave Kopka 2016/17)
DK: I don't currently have a traditional studio set-up, so I have been cultivating my process according to limited parameters, which I've found works out better in the end as I LOVE experimenting with many different mediums and approaches and find it difficult to decide what to move forward with. 

For the Poe illustrations, the process started with various rounds of thumbnails before settling on a composition. 
A slightly bigger sketch is done, solidifying all the design elements. That's scanned, scaled up slightly more, printed, and transferred to drawing paper. Artist-made reference photos and additional research for props are made and utilized throughout the rest of the process.

Refinements are made and the loose blown-up sketch is turned into a more finished preliminary drawing. 
A final high-res scan of this drawing is made to-size, and the paint is all applied digitally (after a series of greyscale and color studies are done, to keep the composition unified), with the preliminary drawing serving as a solid guide underneath.
El Dorado,©Dave Kopka 2016/17
DM: Did you discover something new or interesting while doing your research for this exhibit?

The Pit And The Pendulum, ©Dave Kopka 2016/17
DK: There was a lot of new territory to explore while looking through Poe's written works. Something that struck me while reading was that many of the stories present themselves for so much interpretation; the poems even more so. For instance, throughout the cast of his characters, we don't necessarily always have a solid grasp on who they are/what they look like specifically. Much of their image is made up of what we project onto them (another reason why I think Poe's writing was so good, it tricks the reader into doing a lot of the work in creating a visual image). This is fantastic, because it allows me as an artist to conjure up something that might look different than someone else's vision of the same story, and opens up a dialogue - visually or otherwise - to learn from folks with different perspectives. There's a lot of potential space to explore creative freedom too. Whether or not it was intended, Poe really lets illustrators take the writing and make it their own. 

DM: Do you have any upcoming events? 
DK: Some story pitches and a small line up of paintings are underway. A few smaller personal projects are on the docket as well, not to mention my continued exploration in sequential art. There's always something in the works! Feel free to follow me on Instagram (@drawkop), Tumblr (@davekopka), or Twitter (@DaveKopka) for updates and developments on current projects. 
James Armstrong  more to come
For more information call the visitor center 718.365.5516 or visit their website calendar under Poe Park Visitor Center.
Nancy Doniger, artist
Carol (Klio) Burrell, artist
Charlie Vázquez, author and Director, Bronx Writers Center  
James Armstrong, playwright
Michael Patrick Hearn, author and literary historian books
Donna Miskend, curator, artist news