Comics: Travis Hanson on Adventures for a Lazy Afternoon and The Bean

The inspired life…and how to live it

By , Columnist

Travis Hanson's Adventures for a Lazy Afternoon cover perfectly captures the creative joy he hopes his Kickstarter funded project will inspire in his readers.

One of the best parts of working in the arts, generally—and of the comics industry, in particular—is that you get to meet some truly amazing and inspiring people through your mutual friends and acquaintances. I’ve been introduced to any number of creators and fellow travelers by friends over the past 15 years, both in person and, increasingly, via social networks. My guest today is a perfect example of the latter.

I discovered Travis Hanson’s work via James A. Owen, creator of the Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica series, who mentioned Travis’s latest Kickstarter campaign in one of his recent posts on Facebook. Intrigued with the glimpse of the art I saw, I clicked through to Travis’s Kickstarter campaign seeking support for his Adventures for a Lazy Afternoon project. In short order, I was exploring the nooks and crannies of Hanson’s website. Soon, I was smiling broadly, mightily impressed with the depth and breadth of the work I discovered there, and the spirit in which it was offered.

I think that you’ll be impressed with Travis’s artistry. And it honestly won’t surprise me at all if you discover yourself being swept up by the enthusiasm and joy evident in every aspect of his work…and smiling broadly, too.

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How would you describe your latest Kickstarter project to someone who knows nothing about it?

I would describe it as an art book dedicated to the power of one’s imagination and the spirit of adventure. An artistic essay of sorts that is geared to reminding others that life can and should be fun.

Who’s your target audience for that project? Is this something intended mainly for fans of your art and those who want to be artists, or do you have a broader audience in mind than that?

Its audience is the young of heart, the dreamers and believers. Each piece and page in the book is, in reality, its own story. Many of my fans are familiar with my prints and drawings, which has made many of them excited that I am finally putting these pieces into a book. Yet, it is not just for them and is really for anyone that just enjoys art that encourages a good time.

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I gather that you’re passionate about the positive power of creativity. What’s that belief based upon, and how universally applicable is it, really?

I am extremely passionate about the power of creativity. I find it to be an incredible release and I have learned this from my own family and many of the artists I look up to. I personally believe that everyone can be creative, yet everyone is unique and [people] are creative at different levels. We are not all the same. I also know that creativity is not just art, but can deal with the written word, music, poetry or—in some cases—just building with Legos.

I like to think of it as a cleansing power, a release of sorts—an opportunity to stretch one's mind and kind of recharge. I believe, though, that this works best when you are using it for personal projects and not just for work. Work, though important, can create stress and sometimes that is just not healthy.

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It sounds to me like you hope that people get a little more than just entertainment from their support of this project.

I do. I know people will just enjoy the art. I understand there are those that will support it because they are good friends, and I also know that there are people that will find some of the deeper messages I have put into the artwork. At first it was more about just a collection of prints and sketches, but the more I laid it out and put things together, the book began to have a much more powerful message.

Well, what are some of the ways that you’ve incorporated those ideals into the art book and the premiums that you’re offering as part of the campaign?

I think the biggest are the coloring book and the prints. I want people to have a chance to do more than just look at my art. I want them to play, as well. It's good for the soul to play, to have fun. The coloring book actually just felt right, and the response has been huge. I also decided that on some of the rewards, that one might be able to help me, in a way, create a piece just for them. It allows them to have ownership of the idea, as well, and to feel a part of what is going on.

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According to an essay you recently posted on your website, you’re also a firm believer in Kickstarter. What are some of the things about that service that led to your conclusion, and just how important is the concept of crowdfunding to the development of both the creators and the arts they practice?

Kickstarter as a funding platform is an incredible tool for creators of all arts. It gives them a chance when, before [crowdfunding], they might not have had one. This creates opportunities. Many of the artists and creators that use Kickstarter are used to doing everything to make their projects work. They usually lack the funding.

If done correctly, Kickstarter creates the tools to fund these projects. What a wonderful way for both creators and fans to support one another. I have noticed that a lot of my new fans have been created because of my own campaigns. They would have never known I existed if it hadn't been for the Kickstarter site.

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Now, does all of that mean that you’ve no interest in working with any of the larger corporate imprints, or is it more about matching the project to the right publishing house?

I would not mind working with a publishing house. I think that publishing houses are good, but I don't believe that it is the only way to make a piece of work successful. I also believe that to a degree it is about matching the right project to the right house.

I also think that there are times that you have to finish your version of your dream and prove that it works before the right publishing house comes along. If the right publisher comes along, I would be more than happy to talk with them.

What about small presses and indie publishers—do you have any interest in working with that section of the industry at some point, or is do you think that you’ll be going to be DIY most of the time?

I like creating. I am picky, though, on the projects I choose to do. I have a family to feed and so I pick projects these days that help me do that.

I also love working on my own books and stories. There is a freedom there that I would think I would have elsewhere. As an indie publisher myself, I find most are alike—we all seem to have our own projects that we are married to and find it hard to work on someone else’s dreams at times.

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You’re also doing an ongoing webcomic, The Bean. How do you describe that strip to those who haven’t yet encountered it?

The Bean is the story of a young boy who works for a bunch of ogres in an inn called the Silver Dagger. He is sent out for mushrooms and while out is kidnapped by a crazy troll. During this time he finds a sword that needs to be healed, and so his quest is to figure out how to do so. I guess if you boil it down, it is the epic fantasy tale ... of a dishwasher.

What provided the initial idea for that strip, and how much did it change from your original conception as you developed it?

My hatred for doing dishes and watching my kids grow up. I wrote the ending first and it hasn't changed much. What changes as I work on it is the middle. Yet, for the most part it has stayed pretty true to my original vision.

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Given that The Bean is first published as a webcomic, rather than being done as a print-first project, I was wondering why you’ve chosen to present in black and white rather than in color. Does that choice allow you to approach the storytelling or art in a different way than you would if it was intended to be seen in full color?

I call it the Jeff Smith [creator of Bone] comic model. Color takes a lot of time, especially when you are a one-man show. I found that when I colored a page it took the steam out of my desire to work on the story. So I modeled it after the way Jeff Smith drew Bone. He drew the story completely in black and white before adding color. Mind you, this is a 1600-page epic graphic novel.

It seemed to me that telling and finishing the story was way more important to him than adding color. I agree with this. I want to finish the story. It is a long one and coloring it would only prolong it even more. So, I will draw the entire series first and finish it before I go back and color it or get someone else to color it for me. I would love to see it in color and the art is set up to be colored. It is just not the right time for color. By doing it this way, it allows me to create a constant and steady work flow. I can produce pages a lot quicker and, in doing so, that pushes the story along as well.

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What do you get from a project like The Bean that you can’t get elsewhere?

Satisfaction that I did it all myself. That I get to tell it the way I see it, before I give it off to someone else for publication. There is something about holding a project that you completed from start to finish that is unequaled to something you just partly worked on.

How about a something like Adventures for a Lazy Afternoon? What does working on a book like that provide you with that you don’t necessarily get from doing The Bean?

Adventures for a Lazy Afternoon gives me the ability to tell other stories in my head. Bean is a very linear story, set in an established environment. I do get bored at times and want to change gears and do something else. The artwork in Adventures for a Lazy Afternoon offers that release. It lets me get ideas out that would otherwise just sit and decay. It gives me a bit a freedom and release from The Bean until I need to return to the story.

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What do you hope your readers and fans get from The Bean?

I hope they get a fun, exciting and good adventure. One the moves the heart and stirs the soul. And the idea that heroes can be very ordinary people put in rough situations that, in the end, still try to do the right thing.

And what about your work in general? What do you hope that they get from your art?

That life can be fun. Art can be thought-provoking and that [proves] you can go anywhere if you want to. I want to show that art can be enjoyed by both adults and kids, and that bridge between the adventures of the young and memories of the old is not very long. I hope they see that there is power in dreams and that dreams do not have to fade away.

That is what I want people to get from my art.

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Anything else to add before I let you get back to work?

That if you want something bad enough, show me, do not tell me. You might not be able to control the circumstances that life brings you, but you can control how you react to them, which in turn lets you control where life will take you.

Be creative—you never know who you will inspire.

Watch Travis at work, penciling and inking:



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A veteran journalist who has covered the comics medium since 1998, Bill Baker is also the author of Icons: The DC Comics and WildStorm Art of Jim Lee and seven previous books featuring his extended interviews with Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman and other notable creators. You can learn more about Bill’s work…

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