Stanley Lau, better know as Artgerm to his fans, is one of the most multifaceted artists out there. He's an illustrator, designer, concept artist, creative director and co-founder of Imaginary Friends Studios — a world acclaimed digital art studio that produces high quality art for the companies such as Capcom, DC Comics, Marvel Comics and countless others in the entertainment and gaming industries.
He has been taking the comic book community by storm with his beautifully rendered covers for the past few years now. His covers are so highly coveted that not only do they usually sell out, their price skyrockets on the back market.
Stanley is truly an artists artist. He lives and breathes art. Not only does he work on his own art, but he shares his gifts with new artists as a teacher as well. He does it all.
COMIC LOUNGE: I wanted to start off with, how did you first get into the comic book industry?
ARTGERM: Well, I got into the comic book industry pretty late, I would say about 10 years ago. I had been running an art studio, we do a lot of illustrations for games, animation and a lot of other stuff. So comics is something new to us. We started working on comic covers about 10 years ago and I've been running the studio for about 15 years.
COMIC LOUNGE: Who were some of the artists that influenced you to wanting to work in comics?
ARTGERM: To be honest, I'm not even really a comic book fan because I don't read comics. I grew up on Asia, I was born in Hong Kong and moved to Singapore when I was 17. So my main interest is pretty much Anime and Manga stuff. I had very little exposure to the comic book industry, especially American comics.
If I need to name a few names, I would say, people like Adam Hughes and James Jean. Those are some of my favorites.
COMIC LOUNGE: You primarily do covers, do you have any desire to do full interiors on the books?
ARTGERM: As a studio, we do a lot of comic book interiors, but none myself. I've been approached many times by Marvel and DC, asking if I would be interested in running my own title and doing interior work. I declined them because I don't have that level of commitment or interest to sustain myself of doing issue after issue. I don't think I have the passion to do that. I like to try different things and I don't' like to stick with one thing for a long period of time.
COMIC LOUNGE: I've been a huge fan of your cover work for a long time. They're usually a must buy for me when I can get my hands on them. When you get your cover assignment, where do you usually draw your inspiration from when designing each cover?
ARTGERM: I remember when I first started working with DC, I worked with Marvel later but I started with DC, they pretty much gave me the liberty to do whatever I liked. They would give me a general idea. I remember when I was working on the BATGIRL series, it was always raining, so the whole series (of covers) is about rain. They would say "Ok, put Batgirl fighting or posing in the rain", so that was pretty much about it. Sometimes if I ran out of ideas, I'd ask them about a storyline that's going on in the BATGIRL issue and draw inspiration from it.
So far, DC has been giving me a lot of liberty and creative freedom to do whatever I like.
COMIC LOUNGE: When starting your cover out, do you start it out digitally or do you rough sketch it traditionally and then transfer to digital?
ARTGERM: I'm pretty much a digital artist from the get go. I've been doing digital art for over 20 years, close to 25 years actually. So I own the very first Wacom tablet that ever existed on the market. I only stared illustrating in a more traditional approach 6 or 7 years ago, for the reason that people kept asking me to buy my originals. I said " Ok people like to buy the original piece". So I started buying Copics and learned to do the traditional medium.
So some of my covers start out in Copic and then scanned into the computer where I add more colors.
COMIC LOUNGE: What are your preferred tools when illustrating?
ARTGERM: Digitally I use Photoshop and Corel Painter. I've been using these two programs since the beginning of my digital approach. For traditional, I use mainly Copic markers and regular ink pens.
COMIC LOUNGE: Are there any particular projects you would like to work on in the future?
ARTGERM: This is a question my clients always ask me, "What's the next book you want to work on?". I guess I've pretty much worked on everything that I would like to work on. I've drawn so many covers, so I don't have any particular desire to work on any particular character. But if the concept is interesting or the particular costume is interesting wher I feel like I can bring something new to the table, I'm always game for that.
COMIC OUNGE: Have you ever thought of doing an original character of your own?
ARTGERM: In fact I did. I have this character called, Pepper. I've been drawing her for the past 20 years I think. A few years ago, Sideshow Collectibles actually produced a statue of my original character. I'm also thinking of making a comic book of her, but it's an uphill battle for me. I know there's Kickstarter, but I would have to stop every other project and that would hurt my relationships with my existing clients.
COMIC LOUNGE: Are there any current projects you're working on that you can talk about?
ARTGERM: So far I've been working on a lot of comic covers, especially in recent years. I'm considered the "B" cover artist. As you know, that is mainly to boost sales for the book. Sometimes fans have this misunderstanding that, or think that I'm trying to fight with "Cover A". They say I should do more action sequences, something that's fighting the villains on the cover. But those jobs are usually for the "Cover A" artists. I like to create a cover that compliments the A cover, so people won't choose to buy either or, they want to buy both covers.
So I've been doing that, a lot of covers. Now I have my own collectibles and my own brand, so I'll be pushing out a lot more interesting covers under my own name. On top of that, I also design lots of statues. Mainly for Sideshow Collectibles and other companies focused on Video Game characters.
COMIC LOUNGE: Can you talk a little bit about your work outside of comics?
ARTGERM: Many comic fans didn't know who I was before I started doing covers. In fact we've worked on so many entertainment related projects. From trading card games, for things like Star Wars, Street Fighter, King of Fighters to advertising. We do the advertising campaign artwork for our clients. We also work on a lot of other game related projects, like game developments.
Those are things, outside of the comic book industry, that comic fans are not really familiar with. We've been doing that for many years. We also work on some feature films as well.
COMIC LOUNGE: What are some of the films you've worked on?
ARTGERM: We worked on this movie called, "Hercules". We created the concept as a comic book, which eventually turned into a movie. We also worked on "Oblivion", the Tom Cruise movie. That film also started out as a concept for a comic book.
COMIC LOUNGE: What does being an artist mean to you?
ARTGERM: Being an artist I pretty much my calling. I believe, that I live and breathe with art. If I'm working, which I'm not really working, I draw. When I'm not drawing, I draw as well. There's a few facets of my life as an artist. I work on commercial projects and I'm also a teacher. I teach young artists to draw and how to become professional. I also manage my own art community on an app called Discord. It's a community of artists, about six to seven thousand people, we interact every day. I do live stream for them exclusively and share some tips and tricks with them for their art journey.
I'm pretty much an artist in all spectrums. I always tell my wife, Monday thru Friday is my holiday. My weekends are my work days, when I need to manage my kids and keep my wife happy. So that's pretty much my life.