Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Everything Matters

The Spring breeze is in the air, the night is just warm enough to walk through without a jacket, and life is teetering at the edge of one of those great precipices. I feel a blog entry coming on.

I've been waiting to write this one for a while, on a couple levels. This month is a huge month in the life of little Nicholas Kole. This week I was allowed to officially reveal the book project I recently finished up for Disney Publishing, along with it's cover. Tomorrow PAX East begins, and I'll be in there to reveal to the world the webcomic I am currently lead artist on. In a week or two after that, the Maleficent book will release and the comic will be rolling full-steam ahead, 3-pages-a-week. I am excited out of my MIND.
It's like Christmas, but you know...warmer.
Spring is here, literally and figuratively.
(And I do realize how seamlessly this segues from my previous entry. Not even planned. NAILED IT :p)

I'm getting a little ahead of myself, but in summary: this is basically one of the best weeks ever.
These are the good times. don't know about the book? The webcomic? OKAY I'LL TELL YOU IN DETAIL, TWIST MY ARM.

I drew this!

THARR SHE BLOWS! All titled and stamped with the Disney logo right at the top. O_O
Still pretty surreal.
The book is a YA novelization related to the upcoming Maleficent film (the one with Angelina Jolie!)- and I just got my first copy in the mail! I painted the cover and 25 full-color interior illustrations. It's available for pre-order on amazon and will be out in stores at the end of the month! It's a very lovely hardcover printing that looks like this:

Which makes me feel like this:


I'm really excited to show you guys some of the interior work and even walk through some of the process of illustrating it! In the coming weeks I'll do just that!
It came together almost out of nowhere, and over the course of 3 months and,  from my erstwhile bedroom in Mom & Dad's house, I ran through the entire series of Buffy on Netflix and cranked this baby out
Looking at it now, some of the illustrations still savor strongly of Buffy to me :)

Such a blessing- by taking on this job, I was able to finally pay off my student loans and move out of my bedroom and into a new studio space.
It's hard to contextualize how neat it's been- the book itself is cool, but what it represents in the course of the past two years is better. More on that later!


The Dawngate Chronicles kicks off THIS FRIDAY

I can't even. I just. Guys. Comics. COMICS!

On Tuesday we announced: I'm leading up the art on the upcoming Dawngate Chronicles, an ongoing (interactive! eventually!) webcomic that tells the story of the world and characters of Dawngate- the MOBA game I'd been working on with Waystone/EA Games.
There's even a neat press release here!

Alongside me is good buddy, strong right hand, Magic The Gathering otaku, and serial collaborator John Loren. He's working with me on color and backgrounds, and his help has been a huge boost for the project. He's awesome- you should totally click his name and check out his stuff!

To kick it all off, I'll be at PAX this weekend, and will actually be livestreaming- drawing and talking about the comic from 4pm-6pm EST at the Waystone Twitch channel.

I know there's nothing but a teaser image to show right now- but if you like my work and my comics...well...just keep an eye out!
I think we're making something pretty special.

But I didn't come to post here just to rub my recent successes in your face.
Well, maybe I just did that a little.
I'm sorry. I'm just excited.

In the middle of all this, I have this moment to pause and reflect. And if this blog isn't for moments of navel-gazing reflection, I don't know what it is for.
But there's something else going on here, and it's more important than my relatively small art-projects becoming unsecret- I think it's about story, and it's definitely about God.

An anon on tumblr recently asked me for tips on how to smile "like a bowl of sunshine in your book selfie".
I thought about it for a second, and then I laughed a little...

Step 1: Have your life fall apart.

Step 2: By the grace of God alone through the good will of your family and dear friends, get back on your feet over the course of two years. Pick yourself back up. Be picked back up. Realize that God loves you and isn't going to give up on you even when you're tempted to give up on yourself. Don't give up on yourself, let prayer and scripture and friendship hold you together and stand you back up on your feet. Learn to work hard again.

Step 3: 2 years later, hold something that reminds you that things can and do get better.


Honestly, the experience of holding the book for the first time was kind of disappointing (in the way that only an artist can be disappointed in something they've made). There are a handful of focal points that landed dead in the gutter between pages, and one of my favorite illos was cut for narrative reasons.
As in most cases, actually holding the book itself, you realize that it's not that big a deal. It's just a book.
If I'm honest with myself, I thought it was going to be so much more.

But then I thought about what's happened in between April of 2012 and now. (If you're curious, just scroll on down this blog or skip to this entry. I don't keep too many secrets.)
And I am so, so grateful. Suddenly, this book and this comic mean a lot more in light of the story they're a part of.
One moment it was just a book. The next it was another ebenezer- a reminder along the way of what God has done- a victory. And all I needed was a change in perspective.

After 38 Studios collapsed, I think a lot of us quickly grew a very thick skin of "It's Whatever". And you do that because that stuff hurts, and you don't want to get hurt again- so you stop caring too deeply about any given project. Everything becomes "just work" and you can shield yourself the next time it all comes crashing down.

But screw that.

It's not whatever, and it never has been.
In school, one of the greatest gifts one of my professors ever gave me was the permission, as an adult, to believe that this could all be more. I was allowed to care, to believe, and to aspire.
I have deep, real feelings about Lord of The Rings, the Lion King, Kiki's Delivery Service and Wreck-It Ralph. That stuff matters to me.
But I learned to think of it as "whatever" because it hurt when people made fun of me.
Like anything- it is simultaneously "just a cartoon show" and "a morality play about life, death, good, evil and love on a grand mythological scale". These are the stories we are telling ourselves, over and over again. These are the building blocks of our cultural values. These are also all available on Netflix for the low low price of $7.99 a month.
It matters when we make bad movies, comics, art, and games. We give life to ourselves and to others when we do it well.

As Christians we should be aware of this always- acknowledging that there is a deep spiritual truth to everything that is happening that seems mundane. That's what it is, I think, to live in the Spirit- it's to see things as more than they appear- to change your perspective and learn to read the story God is writing underneath the surface.

Theory: When we nerd out, I think we are closer to the Spirit of God- we are open to things being more, mattering more. When we pretend things don't matter, we are further away. Don't hide behind irony. Nerd hard.

And this isn't about art, either- that's just where I live. But it's coffee, haircuts, a well cooked meal, a brilliant thesis, a well made pair of shoes, a friendship, good conversation, a timely gift.
It can all matter, if you let it- it just might mean you get your feelings hurt. It might also mean that everything is more amazing.

It's not a new thought, but it might be a thought someone other than me needs to hear. So if you need it, you have my permission to care. To dig deeper than the surface and find the good stuff.

Today, I want to celebrate the story that God is telling under the surface of my life. The stuff of it is cool: comics and books! But the truth behind the stuff is cooler, and it's for everyone and not just me. The Lord is good and he gives good gifts, even though he takes away. He is for us, and deserves praise and more than praise.
When things are hard and when things are good, to God be the glory.
In Winter and in Spring.


You know who made a better book than me? Fabiola Garza. She wrote and just published a serious labor of love, which you can check out an pre-order here. Go do it, you won't regret's beautiful and well worth your time.

You know who cuts better hair than me? Maddie Harkins. She writes a blog about Hair and Jesus when she's not cutting my hair and making me look rull pretty. You should give her a read if you like either of those things- and especially if you like both. Check her blog out here.

This is not my hair.

Thanks for sticking around and reading- I am super thankful to have amazing readers and the support from all around the internet this week has been humbling- I hope you like what's coming up and will stick around to see whatever's next. You guys make me want to art.

Enough talking from me. Back to work- stuff ain't gonna draw itself.
More art soon
Much love,



Leah Kwok said...

Really love all the honesty you put in, all those internal discussions I imagine you have with Jesus just really come out so beautifully here. Congratulations on the book and the webcomic, I can't wait to see what wonderful work you crank out. Cheers!

Breana Melvin said...

Congrats on all the great news! Everything is finally coming together, huzzah!

Also, as always, you've seem to post these moments of art/Jesus reflections just when I personally need them, so thanks for the encouraging words, and I wish you the best of luck on your continuing walk with the Lord.

MimiTrammell said...

I am so glad things are going well for you- your blog posts always are a joy to read. Even the ones when things didn't seem to be going so well, your joy with life seems to shine through. And this seems a very apt post coming in before Holy Week! I -am- curious- is there a specific branch of Christianity to which you adhere?

Adri H. said...

Congratulations on your book! I think even though you may have built it up for yourself a bit, it's still a huge accomplishment to see your work in print. I remember the first pattern of mine in print - I was all "squeee!" and then I hoped I hadn't made any errors in the writing. :P You've worked hard to get where you are! Can't wait to see what you come up with next! Looking at Dawngate Chronicles as I type. :D Also, whoever made fun of you for having real feelings about stories that moved you is probably not worth the energy it takes to explain or "convert" them to your thinking. We're all living out our own life experience, ya know? Some people don't have the space in their hearts for whimsy.

Ryan Bouton said...

I'm so thrilled for you, Nick! I'm happy for you with such great projects coming to fruition, and even more so to see you continue to engage with the Lord through all of this!

Not to create any work for you, but is there any way I could purchase a copy of the new book with your autograph? I'd love to read it with my girls!

Akuiso iso said...

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Sarah said...

I read this from your tumblr - what a lovely reminder. I believe that there is nothing more antithetical to the gospel than cynicism and apathy. After all the God who I rebel against daily [who should be cynical to my selfishness and my unfaithfulness] is still incredibly faithful, incredibly good, incredibly hopeful for my future, that He who began this good work in me WILL be faithful.

It is easier to not care, to check out, to not be passionate. But if Jesus didn't take the easy way out of not-caring, neither should I.

Josh Foreman said...

Preach it brotha! Also, I work with a couple ex-pats from 38 here at ArenaNet. Good people. Also also, you might like my blog:

sindos said...


The feel is strong in this one.
Dang it's good to be encouraged by another person who feels strongly for "nerdy things". To be excited to find stronger truths on fiction, while surrounded by people who doesn't try to understand.
There's something I'd like to do about, find some people to share that fire and create new things, tell big stories. Friends as the ones who supported you on your hardships. Thank you for the inspiration!

That smile is the consequence of the trust on God, and that's specially wonderful, because it brings not only your joy, but his own glory as you thank him and more people can know him because of you.
May his glory keep shining on that face! ;D

Congratulations on the book and the comic!

gabriel macedo said...

oh, my god

you know that feeling when you a have a lot of things to do and you're just procrastinating 'cause there are all of these open tabs on your browser and -- anyways

you know that feeling when you're just about to leave internet and go outside, but then you're still taking some time off to i don't know, dig out some maleficent and sleeping beauty pictures on tumblr?

that's what i was doing. i was just looking for some cool images -- no reason, nothing much. and then i ended up on your blog

and apart from the beautiful work you just shared with the entire world (i can't even), i have to say i'm super excited about what i just read. i think i had to do it

and as i was scrolling down your website, i thought what am i still doing here? 'cause normally we are so hasty and impacient, we just wanna get out and jump on other tabs.. but then i continued reading and all i can say right now is thank you. i can't even congratulate you enough, so i hope i have the chance to do it later

so what i can do right now is thank you (again) because you just told me exactly what i needed to 'hear' about god

i could almost cry as i was reading your entry. so please, pardon my intrusion and let me 'waste' a lot of time later on by checking out the dawngate chronicles

Mayumi Elisa said...

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Shazia hashmi said...

Thums up great

Siddique Hashmi said...