You've probably seen this guy's comics displayed up front and center in our many posts over the years. Gray Day is one of the biggest in the fandom, with incredibly detailed projects in a style that looks even better than the official MLP comics. Whether its the epic that is Of Kings and Changelings, or just a silly joke based on an episode, there is always something to laugh at or enjoy in his Deviant Art Gallery.
Below the break, we bombard him with a bunch of questions then post a bunch of his awesome art, comic and otherwise. Just look at that adorable Marble Pie up there. How could you ever say no to Marble witch?
Go get it below!
Q:) How did you stumble upon My Little Pony? What was your "origin" story if you will?
A:) I think my origin story with Friendship is Magic and the fandom is as deceptive as they get. Sometime around the beginning of season 2, I was simply minding my own business on the Internet but the repeated mention of small cartoon horses there was difficult to miss – sometimes as silly memes and sometimes as objects of genuine admiration. Now, I’ve always been a huge fan of cartoons and animation, watching and reading them regardless of my age – they’ve just always appealed to me. But not even with my sincerest effort could I believe that there was actually a fandom growing around something belonging to the My Little Pony franchise.
My curiosity eventually got the better of me. I figured I needed to see for myself what the big deal was and how so many people could possibly enjoy what I believed to be a simplistic cartoon aimed at a younger demographic, so one evening I sat down to watch the first episodes. My impression was that the characters were cute and interesting, very likeable, and the show was wildly unlike what I’d presumed and it could be overall entertaining to anyone. Once I was done, I wanted to see what happens next in the story and eventually watched the remaining episodes which were available at that time.
So my story was deceptive: like many other people in the fandom, I watched something on the Internet out of curiosity. But little did I know the show would prove itself to be very fun and in turn bring me to a group of fantastic folks and guide me to a new form of creativity.
Q:) I think most people immediately think of comics when they see your name after so many years of awesome ones. What made you take the plunge from traditional artist to the super time consuming world of comic artist?
A:) I suppose that plunge wasn’t taken from a very great height. (: Comics were kind of my go-to medium from the very beginning. That is, once I decided that I want to contribute to the fandom creatively. I wasn’t a stranger to dA at the time as I did and still keep a separate photography account, so you could say I transitioned from that. Once I started following the cartoon I also began to observe other artists’ comics and soon came to the conclusion that getting involved in that must be as fun as the show itself.
For some reason my limited experience with digital graphics (I knew how to use Photoshop) and absolutely no knowledge of drawing didn’t stop me. I first used ready vectors created by the community to “assemble” comics, sometimes made my own in Illustrator and eventually became interested in digital illustration. I began reading tutorials, invested in a drawing tablet, practised on it and that’s how I got started.
Q:) How do you usually come up with your jokes in said comics?
A:) The comic ideas just come to me randomly during the day as I absent-mindedly think about them while busy with work or chores, playing games, watching shows, talking to people, etc. Unfortunately for my friends, torturing people with puns and quips during conversations is symptomatic of that process. (Shout-out! (; ) I usually consider references, crossovers and ways to satirise some part of an episode’s plot. I don’t think I’ve actually drawn many comics whose concept originated from sitting down and trying to come up with something. And when you operate like that, I cannot stress the importance of writing your ideas down in a list. They can get away from you quickly.
Q:) What is the process you usually go through when drawing something new? What tools and programs do you use?
A:) I do all of my sketching, lining and colouring in Paint Tool SAI. I leave my lettering and any post-processing to Photoshop.
My process differs at the sketching phase depending on what I’m working on. When working on a comic’s page, I like to have a written script with all the dialogues and scene descriptions available, so that I can visualise and lay out the panels beforehand in my chosen page dimensions. When working on a strip with identical or similar panel sizes, I create a separate SAI file for each one. It’s particularly handy for instance when the background doesn’t change significantly between them. With standalone drawings, I just strive for fair consistency as far as dimensions are concerned.
Lining is my favourite part of the process with any illustration. I love to add lots of tiny details to my lineart, which is not rarely a little excessive and yet I cannot help myself but do it like that anyway. I still try to think ahead and separate layers of lineart that will later be key to the colouring phase from the ones that just comprise the “extra lineart”.
Colouring and shading is a bit of a chore to me. I have ready swatches to sample from in multiple contexts or prepare new ones when the need arises. Solid lineart helps with making this phase a much quicker one since it serves well as boundaries within which to create the colour fills. I don’t question the significance of colour; I’m just not yet proficient enough with it to make it really stand out in my works.
Adding any additional effects to an illustration depends on the desired result. Experimenting here is actually very welcome. It’s useful to look up tutorials and try out what they recommend. I consider that a vital part of improving.
Q:) Your “Of Kings and Changelings” was one of the most detailed and colorful comic series in the fandom. I can only imagine how long a single page would take. Do you have any estimation on how long it took to complete in drawing hours?
A:) It’s one of my most significant works for this fandom and I’m very happy to hear it described in such terms. (: What made working on its pages faster was certainly the fact that it was a commissioned work, with its complete script written by my friend – Lionel23. Otherwise, following the process I’d described above, drawing every page required a few evenings in a week and a good chunk of a weekend to complete. My work patterns are erratic when I’m occupied with other things, so specifying them in hours is slightly beyond me. I can tell for certain that the erraticness influenced the project negatively. I really think it could’ve been completed faster.
Q:) Do you draw professionally? Or is this a side thing to another career or job?
A:) As much as I’d love to claim to the contrary, I’m a 100% self-taught amateur. I’m actually a freelance Polish-English translator. I’ve worked on software, teaching materials, subtitles and a plethora of other, much duller stuff. Translation is also my academic interest. I’m currently completing a doctoral thesis in the field of translation studies as a postgrad.
I’ve offered commissions, but mostly to people I’ve met and my patrons. While I absolutely don’t think it’s okay to operate like that as an artist, it’s an issue of time. I’m afraid I would struggle to meet deadlines if I ever officially opened commissions. Another issue is that I just can’t make up my mind about pricing. For all the research I’ve done, I’m still having a hard time determining what’s fair to commissioners and not disadvantageous to me. Outside of the world of fandoms, I guess the most serious art jobs I’ve picked up related to designing promotional materials for my institute.
Q:) Who is your favorite pony? And if it's different, who is your favorite pony to draw?
A:) I really like Twilight Sparkle and Princess Luna. I’ve been often criticised for making a banal choice in that department but I have my reasons. (; I suppose I identify with Twi to an extent, being kind of bookish and nerdy, oftentimes even awkward. But I also appreciate her for what I tend to lack at times, which is organisation and genuinely great dedication to what she does. Luna is an equal choice for how on the one hand (or rather hoof) she is regal, distinguished, enveloped in this aura of benevolent darkness. But on the other, she has canonically and fanonically broken off with the gravity of her station to a most humorous effect and that’s just truly loveable about her.
I can favour drawing any pony as long as it means I’m making them a part of interesting content that we’ll all enjoy seeing. And that’s a challenge too. I can’t claim I succeed at it every single time.
Q:) What kind of challenges do you usually run into when drawing a character or subject for the first time? Has there ever been an image concept that completely stumped you?
A:) The biggest challenge of a subject you attempt to draw for the first time is naturally having it to look like what it’s supposed to be when the picture is done. In the course of trying to overcome that you can end up with disproportions, unsightly results and generally things you didn’t want there in your image at all. I consider myself fortunate when I can tell these errors and just resign from correcting them for the time being. But frequently, the problem when you’re learning is that you can’t tell what it is that makes an error. This is where constructive criticism comes in. Receiving it and listening to it is an integral part of improvement as an artist. It’s also the reason why I owe a lot of my own improvement to the fandom.
What stumps me currently is attaining flexibility and ease when drawing humanoid characters, together with their commonly recognised accompanying bane to budding artists – hands. Although I’ve made attempts in this area, I realise I still have a lot to learn before I draw them well.
Q:) Socks, sweaters, silly hats, swimwear, full body armor, ponies have worn it all. What is your favorite accessory to draw ponies in?
A:) With the right accessory, a pony becomes a lethal force of cuteness. As a viewer, I approve of anything that makes them heart-meltingly adorable. As an artist, I enjoy working on all sorts of armours and uniforms. They’re excruciatingly difficult and time-consuming but there’s just incredible satisfaction to drawing them as both believable in execution and really rad-looking with all the little intricate details fitting in just the right places.
Q:) What do you like most about Friendship is Magic? What keeps you drawing so many awesome ponies?
A:) I like our fandom, I want to continue being a part of it and I want to keep contributing to it just like I have from my first day. What I like the most about Friendship is Magic is that it’s just an enjoyable and balanced cartoon – neither extreme in any way that would make it questionable nor restrained to the point of becoming dim.
What keeps me drawing is the thought that there is an audience for what I create and that I can make someone happy if they get to view it, as I’ve been told. If I said I didn’t care about the views, favourites and watchers, I’d be dishonest with you. It’s a significant part of my motivation. But most of all, this is a really enjoyable hobby, which allows me to express my love for people who are close to me and the cartoon I greatly appreciate. It’s also tangibly creative. It allows me to take a step back and say “Yup, I’ve made that and I feel good about it.” (At least most of the time. (; )
Q:) Do you have any tips for newbie artists looking to improve?
A:) If you want to draw, make sure you do actually draw. I used to think that ‘practice makes perfect’ is just one big cliché but speaking even from the little bit of experience that I now have, I can already state with full conviction that this is the way to go. Whatever I do today is the result of nothing else but trying again and again and learning from feedback and self-evaluation.
Complete what you start. Correct your mistakes with each attempt or improve some aspect of your technique. If you can’t think of anything like that, push yourself to try something new, even the littlest thing. None of the works you finish are a failure; each one can be a step towards improvement.
I’ve been told that artists never really finish improving their abilities and I’ve grown to believe that myself. I am fully aware that my skills are easily left in the dust by trained professionals and I am not at all shocked to think that it may be like that forever. Absolutely no one should care where their works stand relative to those of other artists. No one knows how far they’ll go. Do you enjoy doing this? Do you want to do better next time? Then you will in fact at least go further.
Q:) Why do you think My little Pony Generation 4 has been so successful? What keeps you here involved in the community?
A:) I believe the community that grew around the 4th Generation of My Little Pony is precisely the cause of its success. I’ve been given many accounts of our origin – from a dumb image-board joke that just spun out of control to an alternative way of life for which we were all desperately and rightfully yearning. I think it may have sprouted from either of these reasons or (more likely) for no determinate reason at all. What truly matters to me is that the community is exactly like the medium that cultivated it – the Internet. We are a little bit of everything.This is an inclusive fandom. I’m in it and I continue to be in it because I can easily find my place here. And while that means you’re as likely to find things that you abhor as you are to find things that you adore, you can almost certainly count on being able to find a way to become a part of its community. Although we may need a little intervention every now and then because of our inclusivity, I believe we’ll keep going strong as long as we maintain it.
Artist's Top 9!
Of Kings and Changelings - Cover by Gray--Day
Ponyville Crush - Backglass Art by Gray--Day
The Past Has Found the Future by Gray--Day
Folk Fluttershy by Gray--Day
Stress Relief by Gray--Day
How Cheddare You! by Gray--Day
She Roams Around by Gray--Day
Favourite Niece by Gray--Day
Fanon Can Cannon by Gray--Day
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