This week’s installment of Colorists on Coloring we interview Rico Renzi. You’ll recognize his iconic work from Marvel’s Squirrel-Girl & Spider-Gwen. Rico has a very innovative mind and a sweet heart. You can support him by picking up his work from No Longer Mint, attending Heroes Con in Charlotte, NC or giving him a digital hi five over @whoisrico
Where did you learn to draw?
I don’t know, I’ve always drawn. I remember drawing lots of jets and superheroes in first grade. Mom and Dad both drew but I didn’t really find that out until I was older.
What was your best portfolio review?
Brian Stelfreeze or Tomer Hanuka. Both put ideas into words that have stuck with me. Brian has taught me too many things to mention. Tomer looked through my portfolio and told me my work was had “too much harmony”. He suggested I add some tension by working in a color that would be visually uncomfortable. I’ve clung to this idea pretty hard.
This explains your neon palettes. Can you talk to us a little about controlling your neons so they all look bright but don’t clash?
I actually don’t mind clashing, color vibration pleases me. It’s something I love to do on covers and single illustrations. It can get tricky to control in a sequential storytelling environment though so I dial it back on interior comic pages usually.
How do you think about neon colors for print versus how they look on screen?
One day I’ll work on a project that is solely for screens and not print and I will melt faces but I haven’t really had that opportunity yet. I just try to keep my neons pure and saturated for print. I’ve never been super bummed about how something printed aside from it being too light or too dark, I try to make sure the color relationships will hold up if something shifts a little at the printer.
How do you build these palettes initially?
I used to build these little 9 block palettes. I would make them when I would think of them or see some interesting combination of colors. I have made one of these in many, many years. Generally, I just wing it, it’s pure instinct, I probably have some crutch colors I lean on.
Do you use HSB sliders or color modes to render?
Both! If I’m rushing to get something finished, my fastest method of rendering is a 50% multiply layer for shadows.
What do you do when you get stuck?
If the deadline is tight, I try to do a task that doesn’t require as much or any creativity. It could be paying flatters, setting up pages that already have a defined palette, something like that. If I have time, I’ll just turn everything off and go do something else.
Can you talk to us a little about your collaborative process with Erica Henderson? With Robbi?
With Erica and Squirrel Girl specifically, we hadn’t talked much before starting to work together so just did homework, looked at how she colored herself, how she did the promo images and character designs for the book and went from there. This dates me but my Squirrel Girl approach begins with Saturday morning cartoons and I just add little flourishes from other influences on top of that.
When I color Robbi it’s a bit different because we’ve known each other for a lot longer. He even admitted to me that he was influenced by my coloring style so once he had a decent page rate for color he wanted to get me on a book with him. So I’m much more “myself” on Robbi’s stuff and I go with my natural instincts more often. A lot of our collaboration is unspoken, I can get an idea of what he would like by the way a file is built. Areas where he’d like color holds are obvious because of the way he sets up our files.
Your teams all have a wonderful sense of women’s fashion. Do you all share a pinterest board or do you each just enjoy fashion? Do you read many fashion magazines?
No Pinterest boards but that’s a good idea! Erica is way into clothes and she will usually send me a color guide for outfits if she wants something specific. I’ll only diverge from that if I can’t figure out a way to make the colors work with the environment/action. I used to be into fashion and I’d get tons of magazines but these days I just try to pay attention when I’m in a hip area and take mental notes. I’m pretty much always in a t-shirt, jeans and sneakers so I don’t base anything on myself obviously.
You have some very interesting merchandising concepts. Did you table much before you were a colorist? Do you have some sort of background that inspires your merchandising?
Working the merch table for my bands and friends’ bands is probably what inspires what you’re noticing. Band flyers and t-shirts were my first public work I guess.When you’re on the road with a bunch of guys and you’re broke, going into a Goodwill and buying every windbreaker they have for $5, sewing on patches and selling them at a show that night for $20 is just good survival instincts. If I see some Moleskines with blank covers for a low price I’ll buy them, draw on them and sell them. I try to have something for every budget at shows, from buttons for $1 to limited edition vinyl records by fictional bands in comics I color.
Do you make your own photoshop brushes?
I’ve made a few but since I started using Kyle Webster’s brushes I haven’t needed to make new ones. Even if I had an idea for something new, I’d ask Kyle. He makes amazing PS brushes.
What is your favorite thing about your flatter?
I have 3 or 4 people helping me out currently and they are all great and very easy to work with. I could color exactly zero monthly comics without their help.
What are some of your favorite magical girl comics?
Zodiac Starforce! I’ve only watched Sailor Moon on TV, I’ve never read the manga. Fake Magical Girl Boy t-shirts are on my current to-so list. I have a list of dumb t-shirt ideas running at all times.
Hot dogs are really important to you, can you talk to us a little bit about your love of hot dogs?
I just really love food in general, it’s a problem. I’ve lived in two towns with great hot dog joints, Ben’s Chili Bowl in Washington D.C. and JJ’s Red Hots here in Charlotte, North Carolina.
More important than hot dogs is your wonderful family. Would you like to tell us anything about them? How are you balancing work/life to enjoy time with them?
My wife and daughter are super awesome people and it is a great privilege to share my life with them. My current coloring set up is right in a common area of our small home so even when I’m working on art I’m not far from them and I’m available if my daughter needs homework help that isn’t math.