“I work out of a spare bedroom in my house, and it gets constantly re-organized, as I’m always trying to find that perfect set-up. I’ve got a regular L-shaped desk for my computer and tablet, and a drafting table for sketches or inking work on comics.
I’ve just started working on a graphic novel that’ll be published in January, so I use any wall space as a makeshift reviewing area. I tend to overthink my work, so it helps to have it up where I can make notes and see everything as a whole, and hopefully remind myself it’s not as bad as I think.
I always enjoy subdued colors, but then I look at my office and it looks like a little kid lives here. So I guess I’m wrong about that. I’ve got a small but growing collection of toys and action figures which make for good inspiration. The look of an action figure still in its package with its accessories displayed around it is the look I try to achieve with my paper dolls, so it helps having those hanging nearby. Toys and books are the only things I really collect, and it’s so great to have a whole world of comics and novels in arm’s reach whenever I need some inspiration.”
Kyle Hilton is an illustrator. He contributes to publications like The New York Times, TIME, New York Magazine, and The Hollywood Reporter. His series of paper dolls based on his favorite TV and film characters, have been featured Vulture and The Huffington Post. Kyle’s currently finishing his first full-length graphic novel to be published January 2013. He lives in Jackson, Mississippi with his wife.
KYLE HILTON: I do most of my work digitally, drawing with a tablet in Photoshop. I’m trying to get back in the habit of drawing more things by hand. Digital methods can become a crutch if you let them, so I’m trying to be careful about that. Nothing beats being able to make a lot of mistakes on paper.
KH: My bookshelf of comics and novels. Like a lot of people, I have so memories associated with when and where I read a certain book. I have a copy of Essex County (by Jeff Lemire), that sits in the middle of my shelf that means a lot to me. It’s the one book that first drew me into writing and drawing comics.
FYD: What is your favorite or most required work tool?
KH: At the moment, my Macbook and tablet are my essential tools. Working from home, I use these every day, but if I run out for coffee I’ll take a sketchbook to do really loose thumbnails.
FYD: Those blue rocks (see photo above). Is that Walter White’s crystal?
KH: It is Mr. White’s! Last summer the art department on Breaking Bad saw my Walter White paper doll online, and were kind enough to hire me to do a whole set. They generously sent me some great stuff, including this sample of the rock candy they use as White’s famous meth. It’s delicious, with a cotton candy flavor, but I’ve had to stop myself from eating all of it.
When I write comics, I try to follow the structure of a 30-minute TV show.
FYD: Your paper dolls are all the rage. Is it safe to say you like the edgier material?
KH: The paper doll format works best when the subject matter is furthest from typical paper doll material, like characters involved in drugs or violence. Action films aren’t necessarily my favorite genre, but make a nice contrast for the paper dolls concept. I enjoy characters that have a secret identity to them. Something that can be conveyed visually, whether it’s a jacket or a mask, like in the case of Drive, really works in the paper doll format.
FYD: What kind of comics did you grow up on? Did you see Dark Knight Rises?
KH: I grew up on Spider-Man and Batman comics. In college I got more into the “literary” comics of Adrian Tomine or Jeff Lemire, but I’m still a sucker for a good superhero comic every now and then. I’m coming off the high of seeing The Dark Knight Rises. Truly incredible. Christopher Nolan has figured out what makes a superhero story interesting and relevant to a real world. The way each of his Batman films have become larger and expanded into how the concept of a masked vigilante might affect a city is genius. I love how the costume isn’t everything in these films, too. The way it’s used and not used says a lot about what a hero is. I’m a sucker for that kind of sentimentality.
I think Scrubs was one of the best shows on TV.
FYD: What do you love about good television?
KH: The serial nature of television lets things breathe especially when it comes to character development. Television characters have room to become complex and dimensional over the span of seasons. I also love the structure of comedy in television. Each episode’s ability to stand on its own as a complete story, but contributing to a larger whole. It takes a lot of creativity and planning to pull that off well.
KH: Definitely. The TV format allows for more complex stories, or at least allows for a story to be told in more interesting ways. Breaking Bad is a perfect example of a story you could only tell in the TV format. The nature of film has too many constraints to dive any further than its initial concept. More higher-profile actors and filmmakers see that lately, and as a result we have shows like Game of Thrones and Boardwalk Empire that are film-quality productions, but with more freedom to tell a better story.
Nothing beats being able to make a lot of mistakes on paper.
FYD: What TV show do you miss most?
KH: I think Scrubs was one of the best shows on TV. I’m glad it ended when it did, because all good things have to, but I can’t think of a better mix of characters that I could watch forever. The balance they found with humor and emotion was perfect and taught me about storytelling. In a perfect world, a show like that could go on forever and tell about any story.
FYD: If you are writing a show, what is the premise?
KH: I wish I had that talent. When I write comics, I try to follow the structure of a 30-minute TV show and pretend I’m writing a TV series whenever I do that. I love shows with an odd couple dynamic and an unusual living situation. A show like New Girl is basically the show I’d want to make. Just having a central setting with about five very different characters, and you have endless potential.
KH: Walter White. I felt so bad for what happened to Vincent, but I don’t think I’d be able to say the same for Mr. White. We’ll see, I guess!
FYD: A date with Hannah Horvath or Carrie Bradshaw?
KH: Definitely Hannah Horvath. Carrie is great, but I think Hannah and I’d have more in common. She’s neurotic in a way I think I could relate to. And her friends are a lot less intimidating, if I’m being honest.
FYD: You need help cleaning up a nasty spill, you call….The Wolf (Pulp Fiction) or Mike (Breaking Bad).
KH: Mike all the way. Not only would keep me from going to jail, but I’ve got the feeling he’d buy me ice cream after to calm me down. He’s got that lovable grandpa side to him.
FYD: What’s in the brief case in Pulp Fiction?
KH: I kind of love that we’ll never know. If I’m being practical, I bet it was a bunch of new lines shoved in there so they could read them really quickly. Or maybe a nude photo of Tarantino, just to get that stunned look on their faces.