CEDAR CITY – “Whatever your life’s work, do it well,” so goes the quote from Martin Luther King, Jr. It can be said that this is the philosophy that professional illustrator Chad Hardin lives by. Through passionate and persistent effort, he has achieved what so many others have attempted, yet often fall short of; Hardin has achieved his dream job.
Students attending Southern Utah University will know Hardin as the teacher of the Sequential Illustration class. In the broader world where sequential art is king (sequential art being a fancy term for the art you see in comic books), Hardin is known as a professional, freelance comic artist. In this capacity he has been able to work with famous industry names like J. Michael Straczynshi, the creator of the Babylon 5 series, and Stan Lee, the mastermind behind Spiderman and the X-Men.
“I wanted to be a comic artist since I was 12,” Hardin recalled as he related the story of how he grew into comics.
Inspired by the cartoons of his youth and the comics of the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, Hardin cemented in his mind that he wanted to make a career of drawing for comic companies like Marvel and DC. To this end, he sent regular submissions to each company from the age of 16. With a chuckle, he recalled that he once received “a very encouraging letter of rejection.”
A native of Las Vegas, NV, Hardin moved to Utah and attended Southern Utah University. He then attended graduate school at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, CA, specializing in illustration. Hardin went on to land a job in the video game industry working for Origin Studios. One of the more notable titles he got to work on was “God of War” for Sony of America.
“I had it pretty cushy in video games,” Hardin said. He remembers his time in the video game world with mixed feelings. It was a steady job and he worked with some great people, but he describes others he dealt with as being tyrannical and “the worst kind of capitalists.”
While working at Origin, Hardin began working as a freelancer for independent, online comic publisher Digital Webbing. This is when the big boys of comics stood up and took notice. Marvel and DC, along with Disney’s Boom Studios, came calling.
“Do I stay in video games or go into comics?” Hardin asked himself. There were risks involved in leaving the stability of the video game industry for the potential uncertainty of being a freelance artist. A close friend and coworker, Robert Gonzales, finally convinced Hardin to take the plunge. “I’m living the dream for us both,” Hardin said. Since then he’s worked for Boom Studios, DC Comics, and Marvel.
“I love working in comics; everyone’s a down to earth person,” Hardin said as he compared his current job to his previous occupation.
Recently, Hardin was chosen by Boom Studios to be the primary artist for Stan Lee’s new series, “The Traveler.” Until then he had been the “fill in guy,” the artist who did a comic book here and there, always building on someone else’s work. “I’m defining the entire [Traveler] universe,” he said. The current project also allows Hardin to work with Mark Waid, the critically acclaimed writer of DC Comic’s “Kingdom Come” and “Superman: Birthright,” miniseries.
Something that helped get Hardin his current job with Boom Studios is that he is committed to the detail and quality of his work, no matter the amount he’s paid. “My artwork is the same no matter what I get,” he affirmed. Thanks to the consistency in his art and the integrity not to cut corners due to paycheck size, Boom knew he was the man they wanted.
To anyone looking to break into the comic industry, Hardin offers this blunt advice: “If you’re not passionate about comics, do what you’re passionate about. You can’t be lukewarm about it.”
“You have to keep drawing.” Practice makes perfect; so whatever you love to do, do it often so that you can do it well. Take pride in your work and don’t slack off just because the end result may not be as grand as you hoped.
Hardin concluded by saying that a person should never, ever take no for answer, because it only takes one person to say “yes.”
To this end, Hardin counsels anyone with a dream to be utterly “unswayable and persistent.”
Visit Chad Hardin Studios at http://hardinartstudios.blogspot.com/.