Published Oct 29, 2016
J.K. Woodward on Klingons and Trek Art
J.K. Woodward on Klingons and Trek Art
By StarTrek.com Staff
J.K. Woodward is an accomplished illustrator whose most recent projects have included IDW Publishing’s Assimilation2, an eight-issue Star Trek/Doctor Who crossover miniseries, as well as IDW’s acclaimed adaptation of Star Trek: The City on the Edge of Forever: The Harlan Ellison Original Teleplay, and the covers of the recent Star Trek/Green Lantern crossover miniseries. He's also one of the artists tapped to create a piece for 50 Artists. 50 Years, the acclaimed global art exhibition commemorating Star Trek's 50th anniversary. His piece is a big, bold acrylic on panel that's titled "Klingons" and captures the essences and images of some of Trek's most memorable Klingons.
StarTrek.com caught up with Woodward during a gallery showing of all 50 pieces in the collection, and actually chatted with him right in front of his contribution. Here's what he had to say about his long Trek affiliation and about "Klingons":
You've done a LOT of Star Trek work. How far back do you and Star Trek go back?
I've loved Star Trek since childhood. When I was growing up we were watching The Original Series in syndication, and there weren’t 300 channels back then, so unless you had money to go to the movies, all I had was Star Trek. I remember Star Wars came out and I was the one kid who didn’t see the movie. But I had Trek, so I think it kind of got cemented there. And instead of it kind of fading out as I grew up, my love for it just kind of grew with Next Generation coming out, and then TNG movies coming out, and it just kind of fed more and more into it, and it just never went away.
What do you love about it?
Probably, and it’s a cliché answer, the hopeful message was always something I liked. I grew up in a diverse neighborhood when I was a kid, and I also liked that there were other people represented on a show that you don’t often get to see. One of my problems when I first went to see Star Wars... I was like, "Where’s the black people?" But it’s not only that; it was a very U.N. feeling on that Enterprise bridge. You had the Russian guy, you had the Scottish guy, you had all sorts of cultures. And they didn’t shy away from it, either, even though they were part of the same Federation. We looked at everybody’s differences, we explored their cultures, and they’re all from the same planet, but all very different.
Let’s talk about your contribution to 50 Artists. 50 Years. Specifically, why Klingons?
I've always loved Klingons, always loved Klingons. When they first mentioned they were doing this 50 for 50 thing, they basically asked me, “50 years of Star Trek. What do you want to do?” And I was like, "Well that’s kind of huge. I don’t know, how do I whittle that down to something I can work with? And I was like, “Is anybody honoring the Klingons?” They said, "Nope." I said, "Then, that's what I’m doing." They’re my favorite Trek species, and always have been. They're feudal Japan Samurais mixed with Vikings, mixed with a biker gang, wrapped up in a kind of death-metal look. How do you not love it? So I started thinking about all of the Klingons, and I was like, "This is pretty manageable until you get to the starring roles." Klingon starring roles are really... I couldn’t think of that many. There really aren’t that many once you try to think about it. I think I got like 25 Klingons in here, and three of them are Alexander at different stages in his life.
Tell us about actually creating the art, because looking at it, it almost looks 3D it’s so alive.
Thanks. Well, this was done on an illustration board, which is basically compressed cardboard that’s treated, and it was done in gouache, which is a very difficult medium to master, but it was kind of what they used in advertising a lot in the 60’s and 70’s, before we moved on to computer-generated stuff. Basically what I did was I did a sketch first, and then I projected that sketch with one of those opaque projectors on to that so I got all of the proportions down. And from there just one step at a time. I drew all the likenesses. I went back and did all of the shadows and blacks, so it almost looked like a comic book at first. It looked like an ink piece. And then you go back and you do the colors. I spent about a week on that, and about 10 hours a day, so it was a big project.
Do you prefer to see your art on a wall at a gallery as a piece of art, or on a comic book cover, or in the pages of a comic book?
If I’m going to be completely honest, the comic book because ever since I was a kid I just wanted to be a published artist. I just want more people to see it. I love seeing stuff in galleries,too. This is actually where I started. Before I was in comic books I was hanging art on walls. But I’ve got to say it’s nothing like being published because not only is it published now, it can be published again in re-print, and it will outlive you. I’ve always been obsessed with my own death since I was a little kid, and I want my work to outlive me. I think you get a better chance at that with publishing, because it kind of exists in the digital ether out there, you know? It never goes away.
If you had to guess, how many Star Trek covers have you done for IDW?
Hard to say.
You’re kind of their go-to guy in many ways.
Yeah, especially with a retail or incentive, any time they need a second cover they come to me, and it’s... I couldn’t even begin to guess.
Are we talking 100? Are we talking 200 over the years?
I would say at least 100. At least 100. Let’s do the math. I do at least once a month, and I’ve been doing this since 2007 or 2008.
So roughly 108 covers.
Yeah, roughly. There we go, there’s your answer... 108 roughly.
What does it mean to you to have your piece among the 50 being used to celebrate the 50th anniversary?
It's a huge, huge honor. In fact, when I first got approached about this it was too huge for me to think about. I had to put that aside. I couldn’t come up with a concept. I was just like, "What do you do for 50 years?" I’m one of 50 artists celebrating 50 years of Star Trek, something that meant a great deal to me my whole life. I didn’t even know where to begin. It’s impossible to describe the honor. And to walk into the exhibit... The first thing I said when I walked in was, "I love living in a world where this exists." You can actually have my two favorite things, art and Star Trek, and here it is, all together, wrapped up in one big bow.