Early Development of Willie Nelson: A Graphic History

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Early in the pitching and proposal process of Willie Nelson: A Graphic History, the plan was to do every part of the book myself – the writing, drawing, and everything that goes along with that. It’s a daunting and intimidating thing imagining the work that will go into a project before you start it. In 2017 and 2018, the plan was still to do it all on my own. It wasn’t until really feeling truly overwhelmed by it all that I considered bringing collaborators into the mix. I spoke with Terry at NBM, and he suggested I bring in different artists for each chapter – similar to NBM’s recent Beatles biography. This seemed like a great idea to me for a few reasons, but getting to choose collaborators I admired and friends I’d made throughout my career seemed like a great benefit. I could also devote more of my time to writing the script. The rest is history! Graphic History, that is.

Here are some very early art pieces I worked on while developing the project.

For more information on Willie Nelson: A Graphic History, go here.

 

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Whiskey River, Take My Mind

pittman panel cropThis past fall, before the global pandemic shut down the very idea of live music, I attended the Outlaw Music Festival in Saratoga Springs, NY – with Willie Nelson and Family headlining. Before Willie took the stage, my friend and I got a bite to eat and ended up chatting with some fellow devoted Willie fans. I mentioned in our conversation that I was writing a graphic novel about Willie’s life – and as a sort of test of my fandom, they quizzed me on the song that opens every live Willie show.

Whiskey River, of course!” I said, referencing the Johnny Bush cover that Willie has since made his own. I passed the test!

I’m surprised my brain worked at all that night, considering the amount of secondhand smoke in the air.

Anyway, take a look at this cool silhouette panel from Chapter 5 of Willie Nelson: A Graphic History, illustrated by another fellow Kubert School Alumni Jason Pittman. If you get a chance and need a great graphic novel to read, check out Jason’s book The War For Kaleb.

For more information on the book, including how to order, click here.

 

 

 

 

Walmsley Does Willie

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My good friend Adam Walmsley, from Cabot, Pennsylvania, did a bang-up job on artwork for Willie Nelson: A Graphic History. A fellow Kubert School classmate and graduate, Adam also took over my staff artist job at Archie Comics after I left – So we have lots of shared experiences and training. Before this year’s obvious world events, he ran a successful business caricaturing at various events. Also, he’s recently been doing lots of private commissions for art lovers of all kind. So, knowing that he’s been making beautiful watercolor realist art, I thought his work would be a great addition to the Willie project. You’ll see his illustrations in the book at every chapter break, as well as the title page ( where you’ll see a peek of the art above ), and the introductory sequential pages. I was lucky that Adam was available and willing to contribute to the project – as it certainly classed it up.

See more of his work here and here, where he shares lots of process posts and behind the scenes info on his work.

Be sure to preorder Willie Nelson: A Graphic History – available this September!

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Willie Nelson: From Depression To Quarantine

Willie BW Sketch

Willie Nelson, now living through a global pandemic at 87 years old, was born in Texas hill country in 1933. No one could’ve predicted the longevity of Willie’s music career, and the fact that he’d still be releasing new music at his advanced age. Yet this month, he released his 70th album, First Rose Of Spring – another collection of recordings produced by Willie’s longtime co-writer/collaborator Buddy Cannon. For someone who was born during the Depression, it’s amazing to think about also living through something as massive as the COVID-19 pandemic. There were many unforeseen cancellations for Willie this year as a result of the year’s events – Farm Aid, Willie’s  Fourth Of July Picnic, The Luck, Texas Reunion – that had to ultimately become virtual events. For a humble guitar picker that loves life ‘on the road,’ that can’t be an easy adjustment – to shelter in place, to not interact with fans and audiences one on one – that’s just not as fun. It can’t be an easy adjustment for someone that’s spent three quarters of a century performing for live audiences. Luckily, for Willie, he’s able to continue to make music at home and ride out these uncertain times with his close knit family. We can’t wait to see him – and the family – on the road again.

For more information on the upcoming Willie Nelson: A Graphic History from NBM Comics Biographies, go here.

 

 

 

 

T.J. Kirsch Talks Willie Nelson: A Graphic History

This week I sat down comfortably in my office and talked to Chad Burdette from the Times Union – Comics Multiverse Blog. We talked about the impetus of Willie Nelson: A Graphic History and my experience of the process overall.

Be sure to pre-order wherever books are sold!

Times Union Comics Multiverse Interview

Find out more about the book on the NBM website – Willie Nelson: A Graphic History

And find an independent bookseller to preorder from on Indiebound.org

-T.J.

 

Willie Nelson: Cover Process

Hello Readers!

I have been working hard behind the scenes, as I often do, to make sure the books I create are of the highest quality in the land. That means plenty of post production, page formatting, art correcting, re-lettering, and general file handling. Very exciting stuff – some might say glamorous even.

Some time last year, when things were very different, I illustrated the cover for Willie Nelson: A Graphic History – you know, the book I haven’t been able to shut up about for the past (at least) two years? The very same book in which I edited, and partly illustrated? Yes, that’s the one. Well, the process for this particular piece was recorded in a digital program called Procreate, on a portable computer called an ‘iPad’ and with a writing instrument called an ‘Apple Pencil.’

As it turns out, you can watch the whole drawing process, in a sped-up timelapse sort of way. Pretty interesting to look back on. This is, of course, just the black and white line art – which was then colored in Photoshop. The typography on the cover was done in Adobe Illustrator. Are you asleep yet? Anyway here’s the link, right below here.

Willie Nelson: A Graphic History – Line Art Process

From the book’s description;

Since he was a child in Hill County, Texas, he has been writing and performing for adoring crowds. Though his mainstream success did not come until later in his life, he has been determined to take his unique sound and voice to the people even before he was a household name. There have been tragedies, missteps, IRS troubles, good times and bad along the way, but Willie continues to shine his positive outlook and project his humble voice out into the world. In this graphic novel biography, all the chapters represent a different era of his life and struggles – each illustrated by a unique indie comics talent.

 

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Willie Nelson!

 

Hello readers! It’s been quite a while. I’ve been behind the scenes quite a bit working on my next project…and here it is!

In September 2020, NBM Graphic Novels will release an extensive comic biography of country music icon Willie Nelson, written by Yours Truly! It will cover his entire life and career, beginning in Hill County, Texas in 1933. We’ll see all the ups and downs of his long career, family and activism up until the current day.

I’ll also be working on some of the art, along with an amazing group of talented cartoonists, including;

Adam Walmsley
Jeremy Massie
Jason Pittman
Håvard S. Johansen
J.T. Yost
Coşkun Kuzgun
Jesse Lonergan

Stay tuned right here for more info – coming very soon!

T.J. Kirsch