Written by Neil Greenaway
Fort Collins Comic Con is always an interesting show for me. Even though it is a relatively small show, and the vendors are almost all artists from the local scene, I ALWAYS see projects that I was not previously aware of and meet people whose work I have never seen before. Such was the case with FCCC 2018 and the illustration work of Rio Burton.
As a student, Rio had lived in the UK for 6 years and earned her BA Degree in Illustration before taking a few years off to travel the world with her husband, Rob. Now settled in Colorado and working full-time as a freelance artist, she recently released the third issue of Lucid Dreaming - her self-published comic about a boy living in a world without dreams (available on Comixology and WebToon).
I thoroughly enjoy Ms. Burton's art. She draws an elegant, effortless looking line with her inks and uses a lighting technique (combined with pops of bright color) that lend her pieces an ethereal, backlit glow. I am excited to see what she does next, she strikes me as an artist with a lot left to say.
Neil Greenaway: Can you start us out just a little bit by telling us what Lucid Dreaming is all about?
Rio Burton: Sure. Lucid Dreaming is set in a dystopian future, where everyone has lost the ability to dream. It’s a crappy world and no one is happy. So, everyone finds their escape through a drug (called a “Fix”) which enables them to dream - but it has negative side effects on the body. You end up just overdosing and deteriorating mentally and physically. In this world is a boy that can dream naturally, but unlike the drug - which gives you these really good dreams - his dreams are a mix; they can be bad. They cause him to question his life, and he wants to find answers as to why the world is the way it is. His dreams push him to seek out answers, and he is travelling to find these answers - but he doesn’t know really what they mean. That is (basically) the story.
NG: How far into it are you?
RB: I am currently working on the third chapter. Each chapter is about 30 pages long and I am planning it to span 12 to 15 chapters.
NG: What is your release schedule like on this? How often does it come out?
RB: I am trying to release it once a month, but it depends on how much client work I get during that month. So sometimes it is every other month.
NG: What sort of art do you do for your client work?
RB: Right now I am working on comic books, but I have in the past done various projects: book covers, table top games, random things. It’s quite interesting because this year is my first year going full time into illustration. Before that I was working a second job, and we have had kind of a roller coaster of a life - let me tell you. I used to live in England. My husband and I went travelling for a couple of years around the world and when we went back we found that they had changed the immigration rules. So all of a sudden I had to move back to America. We had to get his green card, and I just got so caught up in working a dead end job - just to try and get all that sorted out. I felt like I had lost my opportunity to work as an illustrator full time. It was kind of a dark time, and I am so happy I climbed out of that.
NG: What motivated you to get back into art?
RB: Well I never stopped. I was always working on it on the side, but I just felt like I missed the opportunity to do it as a career. It was actually talking to Jen Bartel that... She really gave me a kick up the butt, like, it’s not too late. Just go for it! So I did, and ever since then doors have been opening. It’s only really been a couple of years since that conversation with her, but it has really changed my life. I owe a lot to her.
NG: That is so cool. Looking at your art, I see that you have quite a few wolves. Is that because wolves factor into one of your projects or is it just a personal fascination for you?
RB: That’s a personal fascination. That actually is how Dailen Ogden and I bonded.
RB: Yes. I love wolves, I always have. I started doing a couple wolf pieces and found that there is a market out there for people who also love wolves. It’s really fantastic. I love to do wolf pieces for comic conventions.
NG: You find that the fans like them as well?
RB: Yeah, yeah.
NG: Wolves are awesome. When you are creating your art, do you usually work traditionally or digitally?
RB: I used to start off traditionally. I would ink traditionally, scan it in, and do the rest in photoshop - but now it’s all purely photoshop. That took a while to get used to.
NG: As someone who used to work traditionally and moved into digital, does it bother you not having a piece that you can hold at the end of the day?
RB: It actually doesn’t. I find that my work is more flexible. I feel like in a way I have more confidence working digitally.
NG: Really? Why is that?
RB: Yeah. At first, it didn’t start off like that at all. Now I feel like it’s easier for me to make mistakes and easier for me to change the piece as I’m working on it. Whereas when I was inking traditionally it was kind of just set in its way, now as I am working digitally I can change things so much easier. So I feel more confident in my work. I also think about the environmental impact that is might have, you know? The effects that it has on the environment producing paints and paper. So, it’s an interesting thought.
NG: Speaking of that, I think the European rules on cadmium in paint just changed. I have been hearing a lot of artists complaining because paint companies are going through and removing all of the heavy metals - and a whole lot of popular colors are disappearing off the shelves. I am a fan of traditional art myself, but I think that the change in color availability might affect more people going digital.
RB: Yeah, it is interesting. I mean, I love digital because I have all the colors I want right there. I can pick and choose. I adjust my hues, saturation, and colors all the time - like a DJ. So, it’s really easy to make those changes and have all these colors you want without having to buy every color off the shelf and stick to it.
NG: Going back to Lucid Dreaming for a minute, are you the only one working on it? Do you write and draw?
RB: Yeah, yeah.
NG: In your mind do you have the whole story planned out? Do you know the whole arc of the story?
RB: Yup. I have the whole script written out.
NG: Oh wow.
RB: I haven’t divided it all up into the chapters yet, so I am kind of doing that as I go along, finding good stopping points for each chapter. That’s why I only have an estimation as to how long it is going to be. But yeah, I have the full script. It’s just actually making the comic now.
NG: That is a huge step. There are a lot of people doing web comics, just sort of making it up week by week, and I honestly can’t fathom how that works in their brain.
RB: I can’t fathom that either. I like to know where I am going. I think I would get a lot of anxiety trying to think of what’s going to happen next each week, so you know hats off to them for being able to do that.
NG: As your story deals with dreams primarily, is there going to be – I don’t necessarily want to call it dimension hopping because it would be dreams - but will he be visiting different versions of the dream reality in the story? Or is it a stayed world when he goes to the dream place?
RB: It’s more like very quick clips and visions; snapshots of different scenes. I wanted it to not quite make sense because it doesn’t make sense to him, so it leaves you kind of questioning, "Ok what was the meaning behind that dream?" I just saw all these little snapshots and him trying to piece together what it means. And some of his dreams are flashbacks to his background story so you get an insight also into what drives him forward.
NG: Nice! If you were to classify this story, is it a fantasy, mystery, horror perhaps?
RB: A sci-fi drama.
NG: A sci-fi drama, very cool.
NG: And just because it is the hot topic these days, could you ever see it transferring to other media or is this one comics only?
RB: I would love to see it transfer to other media. I would be fascinating to see especially if someone else was working on it - to see their take on it, what they take from the story and their vision. How they would envision his world. I would find that very interesting.
NG: It used to be such a pipe dream, you had Marvel and DC making movies in a void - but these days I have found there’s quite the well spring of little film start-ups just like there are little comic start-ups and a lot of them are looking at smaller indie comic projects to do short films on. In the past year or two I have had several friends say "Some film company approached me and wanted to do a little short movie." It is happening more and more.
RB: I think it’s great. I love it. I love all forms of storytelling.
NG: If you love all forms of storytelling, if I may go back just one step further, what inspired you to start writing? If you had started as an illustrator.
RB: I actually always loved writing, I just never went down that path because I saw myself as a concept artist for games. I got into that when I was little, playing Final Fantasy VII, going through the guidebook. I just loved all the character art and that’s what I wanted to do. I would develop these characters to go along with these stories I was writing in school, instead of doing my schoolwork. I just fell down the illustration path and didn’t really focus on writing so much. Now I’m veering back towards that passion. It’s just interesting to see where your life takes you.
NG: Yes ma’am, it sure is. Now that you have the writing bug again, would you ever consider moving yourself into a different medium? Do you have any interest in a novel or perhaps writing a script?
RB: I do. I actually have a novel in my head that I don’t know if I am ever going to get the opportunity to write, but I don’t see it as a comic. That is just kind of up on the shelf. I don’t know if I’ll ever touch it, but it interests me. I consume books and films.
NG: I have noticed a lot more novels springing up at comic cons. People obviously like the artistic aspect but novels are also selling here so…
RB: Yeah, and I think it is easier now because you can self-publish. More people are able to try and get themselves out there.
NG: I know that CreateSpace has helped a lot of people out with the print-on-demand option. That is a cool thing that the industry is doing. I know that you are working on other comic projects that you can't talk about, so I won’t ask. Aside from those and Lucid Dreaming is there anything else on the horizon for you?
RB: Well so far, I just recently quit my second job and went into this full time. I have some savings set aside so that I can just focus on Lucid Dreaming. I really want to push myself and get that out there but as I have been working on it other opportunities have opened up in comics. So I am kind of juggling everything right now.
NG: Such as the variant cover you did for Dailen Ogden's book The Liminal?
RB: Yes! Dailen is such a sweetheart and hopefully by the end of the year we will be working on a comic together, she wants to write it and I will be doing the art. We are both very excited but trying not to get too excited right now, so we can focus on our other work.
NG: Yeah, got to get through the other projects first.
NG: Cool. As a closing question for you - if people wanted to know more, if people wanted to find you online where do we look?
RB: You can look on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook those are the major ones. I am @RioBurtonArtist Twitter. On Instagram it’s just @rioburton and it’s Rio Burton Illustrator on Facebook, and I have a website rioburtonillustration.com.
NG: Also, if people were to reach out to you, are you available for commissions?
RB: I am, yes. I have some information on my website concerning commissions. Feel free to reach out to me. Depending on my schedule, hopefully I can help you out.
NG: I think that about wraps it up for us, thank you for your time.