Paolo Rivera is not your average watercolor artist. Before he even graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design, he was already working as an artist for Marvel Comics®. When he started his career with them in 2002, he was just doing comic book covers and sometimes illustrating entire issues. Now, he says he tends to “save the painted work for movie posters or limited-edition prints.” He considers himself lucky because he “didn’t have to ponder” what he wanted to do with his art education since Marvel hired him before he completed his senior year in college. However, he did briefly consider becoming a concept artist or industrial designer.
When asked if he was a fan of Marvel before he started working for them, Paolo said, “Definitely. I don’t think you can work for them without being a fan first. It just takes too much time and dedication for someone who isn’t in love with the material.”
Part of Paolo’s creative process when sketching or painting super heroes (and villains) is to find a point of reference. Sometimes the reference comes from a clay mold with light shone from above to emphasize how shadows might fall on a sunny day or from photographs he takes of himself or other people in action. “On a purely conceptual level,” he says, “a reference of any kind is all about knowledge; it informs us so that we, as comic book artists (illustrators, cartoonists, whatever), can inform our readers. Ideally, this is done so smoothly, so unobtrusively, that the richness of detail in subject and setting enters the reader’s mind without conscious consideration, submitting focus to the narrative while simultaneously supporting it…. Viewers can often tell when you aren’t familiar with your subject matter, even if they aren’t either.”
Although Paolo worked exclusively with Marvel for “over a decade,” he has since “worked for every major publisher creating covers, posters and comics.” Currently, he is working on a poster for a movie called Mute and completing some Planet of the Apes covers. In addition, he has an issue of the comic Hellboy and the B.P.R.D (Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense) coming out in March, 2018.
Over the years, Paolo has used different brushes for both his work at Marvel and for his own original artwork, but some of his favorites are Silver Brush Black Velvet®, Golden Natural® and Renaissance® brush series.