For my next installment in my KC Creator series, I’d like to introduce you to Levi Hoffmeier. I met him at Planet Comicon, and picked up the first book in his Mayflower series – seriously gorgeous art, which you’ll see below. Read on to find out how he uses humor to make his stories more real, and what he loves about Kansas City.
Please introduce yourself.
I’m Levi Hoffmeier and I am a writer/illustrator who focuses on comics and video games.
When did you first become interested in art/writing?
My memories of drawing in lined notebooks go back as far as any other memories I have, but I probably first started writing for enjoyment sometime in late elementary school in an attempt to craft my own Tolkien universe or Final Fantasy world.
In middle school and high school, my writing shifted to melodramatic poetry and ripping off George Orwell in short stories. By college, I was trying to make the projects I daydreamed about a reality so I was writing comic and video game scripts alongside the concept art and storyboards I was making.
Comics are especially great as they allow me to write and draw my stories without a large team or big budget – I can even do it alone!
How would you describe your art and writing styles?
With my artwork, I attempt to blend realism and human subtleties with iconic silhouettes, clear designs, and bold colors. Many games and films these days are full of high-contrast, desaturated visuals and highly-complicated details – I’m sort of trying to do the opposite! I take a lot of inspiration from 60’s and 70’s sci-fi art and the classic illustrators from the 40’s and 50’s. Ralph McQuarrie and J.C. Leyendecker are two artists that have been a big influence on my style in the last few years.
On the writing side, I use naturalistic dialogue from characters that have sat and baked for a while in my mind. If you get to know the characters, you don’t have to make them say anything, you just know what they’d say in any given scenario. Sometimes that dialogue flows into more poetic, passionate monologues as the drama escalates, so I try to offset some of that seriousness and keep the work from coming across as pretentious or preachy by amending those scenes with contrary or comedic elements.
I view it as a kind of test or gauntlet for my more heart-sprung writings. If they can survive getting holes poked in them or being laughed at, it means they’re worthy of being heard and may not sound too trite in the ear of the reader. And from my experience, people still laugh during arguments, or when they’re hurt, or even at funerals, so humor can actually be a realistic way to embellish a story while making characters seem relatable and human at the same time, even when they’re facing down megalomaniacs or cosmic beings.
When did you begin working professionally in your field?
Before and after graduating college, I was constantly revising my portfolio and sending it out to any art directors that seemed to be doing work that was up my alley. I think I got my first gig about 6 months after graduation, but with a career like freelance illustration, you basically have to keep working on your portfolio and networking your whole life! Unless you’re a known name, you feel like you’re always ‘beginning’, but I think that constant drive keeps your art growing.
What projects have you been involved in, and what are you working on now?
The work you might see at a bookstore would be in Halo: Evolutions Vol. 1 or a number of Shadowrun RPG sourcebooks. I’ve also contributed art for a number of indie comics and video games, and in terms of Kansas City-centric projects, I provided the the logo for the Coda bar and grill (now closed) on Broadway in the Crossroads.
My main focus right now is my creator-owned comic series, Mayflower, a sci-fi adventure about a clandestine group trying to create the first Faster-Than-Light engine so that they might escape the totalitarian governments that control their fully-colonized Sol System. One of the initial goals of the project was to paint interiors that were as good as the covers, which means it’s taken a long time to make this comic! There’s three issues online for free at MayflowerComic.com at the moment. A fourth issue is about to drop, which will push the total page count over a hundred. My back hurts just thinking about it!
What do you love about creating?
That’s actually hard question to answer well. I suppose I love the act of ‘creating’ itself. I like taking something out of my brain and making it exist. When I finally finish a page of my comic, I feel content and relaxed like the work was a meditation or a yoga session. When it feels like actual work, that’s when I know I’m doing something wrong.
Where do you find creative inspiration?
The big stories I work on come from personal places. Their stories I feel I have to tell. But it can oftentimes be difficult to find that quiet place within you where these stories flow from and not let the noise of your life or the Internet distract or trouble you. So creating a routine and an established work-methods helps tremendously. It gives you an infrastructure you can fall back on. For me that usually just means good coffee and the right album playing, but extreme distractions sometimes call for extreme measures like phones being silenced and ethernet cords getting unplugged!
Tell us about a particularly memorable moment in your professional life.
Meeting the creators at conventions who inspired you when you were young, or who are still inspiring you, and seeing them respond positively to your own work is always wonderful and motivating. I’m lucky to have had that happen a few times now and it’s easily the best part of tabling at conventions.
What future plans lay ahead for you?
After issue #5 of Mayflower, I’ll be collecting the first arc into a revised, collected edition on Kickstarter, sometime in 2018! That’s the big goal I’m driving towards right now.
How long have you lived in Kansas City, and what’s something you love about living here?
I’ve lived here all my life. Seeing the city grow into a more varied and welcoming place over the last decade has been exciting, and hitting a lot of midwestern conventions in the last few years have made me really appreciate our city even more. There’s just so much more to do now! Arcades, board game cafes, and coffee shops galore. I really love walking around Prosperos or Half-Price Books for an annoying amount of time and then accidentally almost buying a book I just sold back to them.