The Kubert School Spotlight recognizes a chosen Kubert School instructor or alumni, showcasing their work and journey as a comic book professional.

    Talent from The Kubert School


    Tamra Bonvillain


    Tamra Bonvillain is a 2009 graduate of the school. A talented artist and digital painter, she’s making a name for herself as a colorist in the comic book industry.


    Interview by Michael Kraiger

    The Kubert School:  Do you remember when you first noticed comics or comic books?


    Tamra: I had an issue of X-Factor and a few other random books in the 80’s that got pretty beat up when I was very young. I didn't have a lot of comics at home, but I remember always checking them out at convenience stores or spinner racks when I was younger, and occasionally I was able to bug my parents into buying some for me.


    TKS: Do you remember when you started drawing or perhaps drawing better (or more) than the other kids?


    Tamra: I always liked to draw and was making dumb, little kid comics from when I was in elementary school. I was interestedin taking art classes at school or on my own from a young age. I didn't really know all that many people around me that were serious about drawing until much later.


    TKS: What were some of your earliest artistic influences?


    Tamra: I was super into cartoons around the 80’s and 90’s when I was a kid, but especially Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I loved comics, but had very few. I kind of supplemented my knowledge of comics when the 90’s X-Men and Spider-Man cartoons came out. I also really liked Batman: The Animated Series. Any comics I was able to get around this time were usually featuring these characters.


    I might have known some artists here and there, but the first one to really impact me in a big way was Joe Madureira. When he was drawing Uncanny X-Men I started to collectall the issues as they came out. Before [this], I had only bought single issues of random comics that stood out to me. I also really liked Mark Bagley on Spider-Man, Greg Capullo on Spawn, and the Kuberts on other X-Men books around this time. 


    TKS: At what point did you realize that being an artist was a career choice you were moving towards?


    Tamra: I don't think I ever seriously considered a different career path. I thought I should major in something other than art in college as a backup before coming to The Kubert School, but after a semester or two I just started taking a bunch of art classes and declared that my major anyway.


    TKS: How did you learn about The Kubert School?


    Tamra: I don't remember exactly. I read a lot of books that Adam and Andy drew back in the 90’s. I probably saw one of the ads for the school andthought it would be a good idea. I considered going to SCAD for a while since I was already living in Georgia, but I decided at some point to go to The Joe Kubert School, instead.


    TKS: Is there any particular class or lesson that stands out from your three years at the school?

    I loved pretty much all of them, but I got a lot out of Gabe Bridwell's classes. He tried to cram as much information into our heads as possible, often going above and beyond the scope of the class he was teaching. I really valued his opinions, so it felt awesome if I got a good grade in his class.

    Did you ever doubt you'd made the right choice coming to the school?

    Not really. There were times I worried about being able to make ends meet once school was over, but that didn't have anything to do with the school itself. It was a lot of work, but I really enjoyed my time at the school.

    What was your first professional work after attending the school? How did it come about?


    Tamra: During my third year at the school, Mike Chen contacted me about a job opening at Spiderwebart Gallery working for Jean Scrocco and Greg Hildebrandt. I started during the last year for a few hours a week, then started full time once I graduated. The first book I colored professionally was Grimm Fairy Tales #71 for Zenescope, a few years later. I got that job from dropping off some coloring samples at their booth one year at NY Comic Con.


    TKS: What sparked your interest in pursuing a career as a colorist?

    Tamra: I always really liked coloring my own drawings. When I was younger, I used colored pencils and other traditional media. When my family got a nicer computer, I started to learn lots of art programs like Photoshop. I got a job flatting with Avalon studios back in the early 2000s for Marvel, DC, and Image books. That helped me get a better handle on what I was doing, and I tried to make nice color choices just to practice. I got a few coloring jobs from my connections with the school, and things just started to come my way here and there, and then pretty regularly. I felt more confident in my coloring abilities, anyway, so I just went with it.

    Coloring often sets the tone for the whole book, so how much collaboration or input do you get from the artist or editors?


    Sometimes an artist, writer, or editor will have a specific look in mind for a book, or we spend some time discussing the look we're going for, but usually they just trust me to do my thing. Some artists put notes on the art itself to give me a little direction, and writers may do the same in their scripts. That stuff is helpful, and it's rare that any of their input is restrictive. 

    Are their any mistakes or wrong turns you made when you started out that are easily avoided now you know what you're doing?

    I've been pretty lucky in how things have come together and that I haven't made any huge blunders as of yet. I have never been stiffed on a payment, but I did work for one company that kept putting off my payment for months, and I had paid a flatter upfront to help me on some of the pages. I was down about $700 before I saw any money from them. I was eventually paid and I did okay in the meantime since I had a day job, but I'd definitely recommend that you check up on a company's reputation before working with them.

    Is there anything you love and/or conversely hate about coloring?

    I really enjoy coloring, and I get to work with lots of different art styles and subject matter, so it keeps things fresh and interesting. Most everyone I work with is great and they value their colorists' contributions to a book. Unfortunately a lot of interviewers and reviewers could care less about colorists, often neglecting to mention their names, and many books that are sold digitally don't credit colorists in their listings.

    Are their any misconceptions about coloring or colorists you'd like to clear up?

    Some people seem to think that digital coloring and digital art in general is like just pressing the right keys on the keyboard and “magic-ing” up some art. They also don't really appreciate how much color can help or hurt a page. I've heard many times from various people how all digital coloring is the same, and yet there are so many colorists with distinctive, vastly different styles that make that statement ridiculous.

    What's a typical workday like for you?

    I'm not very good about regimenting my work on a daily basis. I worry more about hitting weekly goals. I wake up and putter around for a while, answer some emails and eat something. I try to get started an hour or two after I get up, then work throughout the day. Some days I'll take long breaks, run some errands, or attempt to have a life. If nothing's going on, I'll work most of the day with short breaks. It also depends on how much work I have at the time. Some days are just a few hours, but often I'll work 10 hours or more.


    What projects are you working on now?

    I'm coloring Wayward, Penny Dora and the Wishing Box, and will soon start onPisces, all forImage. I'm wrapping up Path of Exile for Dynamite, and just finished Dream Thief for Dark Horse (with fellow alumni, Tadd Galusha), and Sleepy Hollow for BOOM. I recently did all the art, colors, and letters on anindependent book; Bakersfield, Earth.


    TKS: What's next?

    Lots more coloring! I've done some fill in work on Fantastic Four and a couple covers with Marvel, and am working on a mini-series there that hasn't been announced yet. I'd also like to be able to do full art on some projects, but I am very busy with coloring right now.


    TKS: Any bit of advice you'd give to a first year student or someone considering coming to the school?


    Tamra: Be prepared to draw more in the three years at The Joe Kubert School than you have ever drawn before. 


    Anything you'd like to add about Joe Kubert?

    Before coming to the school, I was more familiar with Adam and Andy than with Joe since I grew up on their books. Obviously I learned more about him when I became interested in the school and once I attended. He was a great teacher that pushed us to work very hard and taught us a lot, and I was very lucky to have him as a teacher before I graduated. 



    Boom, Image, Dark Horse, Marvel