You may know Jeffrey Veregge from the covers of Marvel Comics’ Red Wolf title. An enrolled member of the Port Gamble S’klallam Tribe (who are located in near Kingston, Washington) and an honor graduate of the Art Institute of Seattle, Jeffrey is ready to take the next step in his career by venturing into interior comics art. His first story, written by Paul Allor and about the S’Klallam tribe, will appear in the Past the Last Mountain collection. You can help fund Past the Last Mountain and earn a copy of Jeffrey’s story on Kickstarter.
For starters, your covers are absolutely gorgeous. On your website, you separate your work into “Old School Jeffrey” and three sections of newer work, which contains much more superhero and pop culture content. What was the event that separates Old School Jeffrey and New School Jeffrey?
Thank you so much for such kind words. It wasn’t an event so much as it was a realization. When I was going to art school, I wanted to be an action figure, toy designer. Most of my portfolio was comic, Star Wars, Star Trek related or influenced. After graduation, I came close to this goal, but ended up accepting a job as a graphic designer for a marketing agency. As I hit my eighth year, I realized I had no desire to become a Creative Director or remain in that industry for the rest of my life. I remembered why I went to school to begin with—to have fun. After talking it over with my wife, accepting who I really am, I just slowly went for it and worked my way out of that daily life and now dwell in the worlds of robots, aliens, heroes, and villains and couldn’t be happier.
You have spoken in the past about your educational experience at the Art Institute at Seattle and how you studied under the Tsimshian carver, David Boxley. But going back earlier than that, when was the first time you picked up a drawing instrument? What led you to realizing that art was your calling?
My whole life has led me here. Since I was old enough to both grasp my first action figure and Crayola, I have been a drawing and creating fool trying to extend myself into these worlds I love. My mom has in my baby book at age four, me drawing robots and Star Wars; this was 1978. I simply never really stopped. It wasn’t until I had an interview with the FBI at age 23 that I had that moment of clarity that had me thinking of art as a career. I remember sitting in this intense interview to be an intern at the local FBI field office thinking to myself, “Is this what I really want to do with my life?” Then they told me I would still need an education and that sealed it for me, I said thank you, left, and went home and told my wife that I was going to enroll in Art School. After that moment, I have been on this path you see before you now.
The Past the Last Mountain collection, which is on Kickstarter now, marks your first venture into interior comics art. Your story in the collection must be close to your heart, because it’s about your tribe—the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe. What attracted you to the project in the first place, and was the initial idea for your first full comics story to to come from such a personal place?
I love Paul’s work and sense of humor. When he reached out to me telling me he was looking fort artists, I thought to myself, this seemed like the prefect project to tackle as my first interior art. When I found out it was going to be on my reservation and home turf, I was beside myself with joy thinking this was how I would have wanted my debut to be. My fellow Tribal members and Natives will be happy to see us represented with such care and respect, and Paul will be well loved for giving this local S’Klallam a chance at such a fantastic project.
What surprised you the most as you worked on this project? Did you face any particular challenges or receive any good advice?
It sacred me, really scared me. But Paul has written it in a way that will help me to tackle this visually that will allow me to use my strengths as an artist. What has surprised me is that all the newsletters, catalogs, and magazine layouts I have done as a graphic designer are actually making this much easier in terms of flow and visuals. To me, the most important part of a book, no matter what you are reading, is readability. Does the story makes sense, and does the art help, rather then hinder great writing? It all has to sync for an enjoyable venture for the reader. No detail should be overlooked: color, composition, font choices, everything needs to have a purpose and feel like it belongs.
I will never stray away from the worlds I love, but I am having more opportunities to create my own work and imagery. I got an agent back in the fall and am working on my own Native led Space Saga. The world building and plot development has been energizing as anything I have ever worked on before, as it is all mine. Everything I have ever loved has influenced this work, and I can’t wait to share later this year.
I have been returning more to the expressionist feel of color and chaos to my pieces, but mainly touches. As for more traditional takes on the Moon and Sun, you can expect to see varying degrees of this, but I want to leave the traditional Native Art to the experts. As for me, I’m just having fun, and the only way I can do that is to be true to myself and the art you see today is just that—a big kid from a tiny reservation in Washington state rediscovering the magic of a blank piece of paper.