Eight Questions: Interview with Tim Gibson

Tim-Gibson-Profile-PictureTim spent three years illustrating worlds, characters and monsters for Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson, with film credits including Tintin, District 9 and Avatar to his name. Moth City is the project he’s been secretly working on along the way, and was named as one of Comixology’s top comics of 2013.

He does strange things like post Moth City in it’s entirety online for free, give it to Mark Waid and Thrillbent to do the same, and still sell digital editions online and in person.

Tim lives with his smoking Kiwi wife in Wellington, New Zealand. He occasionally gets himself in trouble when writing in the third person.

Experience his first comic, free and in HD via COMIXOLOGY
Harass him on TWITTER
Read his blatant self-promotion and insights re: comics and self-publishing on his WEBSITE


What is your daily creative routine like?

That’s a hard one. I ‘batch’ my creative stages, meaning I’ll often focus on one process, like scene cards, for weeks before moving onto writing etc.

When I’m in illustration mode I’ll start early in the morning by breaking my script into suitable page and panel beats to ensure good suspense and timing, and then proceed with thumb-nailing those selections in small sketches with notes. When I’m creating the final artwork I’ll use these thumbnails instead of referring to the original script.

Then I create my compositions in a 3D animation package and bring things into Photoshop for illustration. I’ll normally ink (create black and white illustrations) across a whole setting, like a character’s laboratory, in one efficient pass regardless of where those scenes appear in an issue.

To avoid hand cramps or zombie gaze I’ll go for short walks or do simple Alexander Technique tricks to relax. I have been accused of napping. Sometimes I go to scenic locations to write to make nine-to-fivers jealous.

What does your drawing space look like? What are some of the must-have devices and apps that make up your artist’s toolbox?

Weta Workshop spoiled me with dual screens and screaming PCs, so that’s essential now. I’ve resisted buying screen-based painting tech like Cintiqs and instead use a trusty Wacom tablet. When I started working on Moth City I played with programs like Painter and Manga Studio, but I’m most comfortable with Photoshop, which has great digital illustration tools plus all the bonuses.

I rarely use traditional media anymore, so I have a haunted garage filled with lonely art supplies and moldy drawings. I keep a lot of my favourite graphic novels and reference books by my desk and have hard drives filled with stuff I’ve collected over the years. If I used the reference as much use Facebook I would be a better person.

Tim Gibson's desk/Drawing space

When you come up with a story, do you think more in terms of visuals first, or dialogue, or both? Also, how did you learn how to frame your shot (find the right angles to draw each scene from)?

I get struck by mood or genre notes a lot, and that sometimes includes a flash of an image. Because it’s all internal at that point, I already know what type of character is occupying that scene and go from there. My early scripts drafts focus on plot and visuals – I worry about forgetting great images by the illustration stage so I embed them ASAP. Most of the later draft tweaks happen to the dialogue as I try and move speech from ‘necessary’ to ‘honest’.

The framing of panels is about finding the best compromise between practical story-telling (i.e. we need two characters – one acting and one reacting) and picking the most dramatic angle or focus within those boundaries. Comics and film share a lot of language and approaches here too, so a scene will often transition from establishing wide-shots, to mids and close ups or vice versa.

For me, this framing is decided in the thumb-nailing stage I mentioned earlier, not in the script.

What are some of your biggest creative challenges and how do you overcome them?

Time is always a problem. Drawing comics is a time consuming, and freelance illustration offers a more immediate bang for your buck. Or buck for your bang. I was fortunate to win arts funding from Creative New Zealand which allowed me to work exclusively on Moth City for a while. That was great.

Who are some of your strongest influences?

In the illustration sphere I’m a big fan of David Mazzucchelli, Tim Sale and Hugo Pratt. When it comes to story I’d say anything from 70’s Kung Fu movies to Agatha Christie, Elmore Leonard and Tom Waits have had an influence on my comics.

Moth City on iPad

What is the best creative advice you’ve every received? 

You have to give a f*&k and not give a f*&k simultaneously – Greg Broadmore.

What’s next for you?

It’s been a wild ride so far, I’m enjoying the exposure from Moth City with fun things like Graphic Novelist Exchanges and pieces in Le Monde.

Though it takes full advantage of the digital format, I’d also like to see Moth City in print at some point. That’s high on the hit list.

What do you want your legacy to be? 

Horrific debt and amusing funeral stories.


About David Wright

Dave is the co-founder of Collective Inkwell, in which he and Sean Platt re-invented serial fiction. Hailing from the quaint town of [REDACTED], Dave's renown for putting children in jeopardy (in his fiction, anyway) has made him world famous.


  1. I loved every bit of this interview. Great humor 🙂

  2. Brad Peirson says:

    I just dusted off my old Graphire tablet about a month ago. It definitely takes a TON of practice to get used to digital vs. physical drawing…

    • I hear that a lot, so I guess I have just been lucky to feel at home from the moment I got my Intuos 2. It felt no different than drawing on paper to me 🙂

      In fact, I now feel totally uncomfortable drawing on paper, because there’s no cmd+z, layers etc. I should probably do it more often, but I just love my Wacom <3

    • Hah, I know what you mean, but I struggle with real drawing. There’s always this pink fleshly thing inbetween my face and the paper and I can’t see what’s underneath the pencil.

      • I struggled with that, when I got my Cintiq. All the sudden I had my freaking hand blocking the view. Got used to it, but it took a couple of weeks to not get annoyed by that.

        • Same, the screen heat freaked me out too. I suspect they’ve got better since. I’m enjoying Procreate on the iPad with a stylus as well.

          • My cats love the heat from the screen 😉 I use a glove to cover my littlefinger, so when it’s resting on the screen, I won’t get heatburns. Not burns because the screen is so hot, but the combination of the heat, and dragging the same spot of the side of a finger over the screen for hours and hours, will do that.

            I don’t know if it’s better on the newer versions.
            Mine is an old 21 ux, there have been several new additions to the Cintiq family since that came out, so perhaps they have improved. On the other hand… a screen will get hot no matter what, won’t it? My iMac screen is way hotter – happy that I’m not resting my hand on that screen – lol 😀

            Procreate on the iPad is great, but I don’t use it as much as I’d hoped, when I payed $99 for my stylus, after paying an insane amount of money for my iPad mini 😉 If I was outside more, I’d use it for sure, but since I’m in my appartment anyway, it seems pretty silly to have the restrictions that comes with that choice, when I could go play on my Cintiq in Photoshop instead.

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