Interview: Artist Rich Kunz Talks Influences, Social Media, And More Ahead Of ACE Comic Con Northeast

"The Money Train" oil on canvas. Image courtesy Rich Kunz.

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As part of Nerds and Beyond’s coverage of ACE Comic Con Northeast, we were fortunate to have the chance to speak with Rich Kunz (@diligentvisual)! Rich is an artist who runs Diligent Visual, a freelance art company that has created licensed art for films and television series like Game of Thrones, Marvel, and DC Comics among many others.  Rich shared with us his beginnings in the industry, his favorite pieces he’s created, and more!

Rich Kunz. Photo courtesy ACE Comic Con.

Nerds and Beyond: How and when did you know you wanted to be an artist?

Rich Kunz: When I was around 5 years old, I drew a picture of Mickey Mouse and friends using a vinyl record cover as a reference. I was greatly inspired by Disney style animation. I did my best to copy the artwork as accurately as possible. My mother found it on the floor in my parents’ bedroom and thought that my father drew it (he would draw and paint occasionally as a hobby). I told my mother that it was my drawing and she refused to accept this as the truth. She told me that I was in big trouble for lying and would relay this to my father when he got home from work. I cried.

My father came home and confirmed that this was not his drawing and after some debate, my parents concluded that the oddly accurate sketch was indeed the work of their 5 year old son. My mother cried.

The rest is history.

Nerds and Beyond: How did you get started as a professional artist?

Rich Kunz: I have been a high school art teacher for 22 years. Every summer, just before the school year would resume, I would attend a local con as a fan. I would walk the aisles of artist alley, chatting with artists and showing my portfolio to anyone willing to take the time to review it. I would leave the con with newfound enthusiasm and inspiration. That would last for a month or so and die out again to the hustle of life and the need to focus on my full time career. I did this for approximately 5 years.

This turned around for me in 2008, when one of the artists looked up from my portfolio and said, “every year you come here with your work and have us (artists) look at it. Why don’t you get a table? You are here anyway and your work is great.”

Again, the rest is history.

Nerds and Beyond: You have an interesting combination of pencil sketches, digital paintings, and paintings in your portfolio. What is your favorite medium to work in?

Rich Kunz: That is almost like asking me to choose my favorite child (which I probably could do by the way). But seriously, I love them all for varying reasons. Primarily, my goal is to combine media to take advantage of their individual strengths and produce work that is difficult to identify as a particular medium. I enjoy when a fan looks at a piece of my artwork and asks, “is this traditional or digital?”

Nerds and Beyond: Who or what inspires you as an artist?

Rich Kunz: I have always been inspired by popular media. Movies, TV, Animation. The fantasy genre has always been my favorite. I have actually gone so far as to introduce my two sons and my two nephews to the game Magic: The Gathering in an effort to collect massive quantities of impressive fantasy artwork.

Nerds and Beyond: Do you have a favorite piece of art that you’ve created?

Rich Kunz: My favorite piece to date is “The Money Train” Oil on Canvas.

Nerds and Beyond: How has the rise of Instagram and social media in general changed how you reach people with your art? Has it affected the way you create?

Rich Kunz: Definitely. Social media has allowed artists to bring their work to the attention of thousands of people that would have otherwise never seen it. It has affected my process in that I now tend to document my work in stages more than before.

Nerds and Beyond: Aside from being a professional artist, you are also a high school art teacher. What is it like to teach the next generation of artists?

Rich Kunz: When you phrase the question this way, it sounds so important! Teaching what you love is a double-edged sword. It can be incredibly rewarding and completely soul crushing. Students who are hungry to learn, serious and passionate about art are delightful. Those who have been turned to the dark side of entitlement, teen angst and laziness … not so much.

Nerds and Beyond: So much fan art that’s available online whether by professional artists or amateurs is based in the fantasy genre. Do you think there’s something unique about the fantasy genre that lends itself to artistic interpretation and seems to inspire so many artists?

Rich Kunz: I was heavily influenced by the fantasy genre as a young artist and it just stuck with me all along. If you look into art history, fantasy is probably the most popular genre for artistic interpretation, second only to religion. There is something that just draws us to the subjects and stories. It is really quite interesting.

 

Nerds and Beyond: What advice do you have for aspiring professional artists?

Rich Kunz: In the end, there are only two options available to any human attempting to excel at any skill related profession. Get good or give up. My advice is to find what you were meant to do and get good. No matter how long it takes.

Nerds and Beyond: For those interested in following your work, where can they find you?

Rich Kunz:    Website: www.diligentvisual.com   Social Media: @diligentvisual

Nerds and Beyond: We are a nerdy site after all, so we have a few rapid-fire nerdy questions for you!

Which house would you belong to on Game of Thrones?

Targaryen … I mean, come on … Dragons!

Which superhero would you choose to fight alongside you if an alien invasion happened today?

Iron Man. The after party would be amazing.

Porgs or Ewoks?

Not even close. Ewoks. I am old.

What color would your lightsaber be?

Unfortunately, red. Sorry. I gotta be me.

Rich Kunz will appear at ACE Comic Con Northeast on all three days. For more information and to buy tickets, head over to ACE’s website!

Jules

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I am a nursing student and dedicated fangirl from Boston! When I'm not at work, I'm rewatching old favorites like Supernatural and Lost or discovering my new obsessions (too many to count!). I'm a huge Disney fan and my happy place is the Happiest Place on Earth! When not fangirling, I can be found reading, writing and listening to a true crime podcast. You can find me on Twitter @juleswritesblog for more nerdy nonsense and occasionally rants.

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