Flashback to issue 110 when Maxx Marshall shared his inspirations, techniques, and a look into his medley of pencil, ink and marker creations


I am a 2D/3D artist and animator originally from Detroit, but my art has lovingly taken me to many of the places I’ve dreamed of going. I’ve worked in Japan, England, California and am currently in Seattle. I’ve done art and concept for games like Little Big Planet 3, God of War PSP, Daxter, World of Warcraft, Okami, and many others.

I draw constantly. I draw on the bus, at the bus stop, at family functions, bars, pubs, coffeehouses, etc. My sketchbook is filled with things that I’ve liked over the years. The thoughts and ideas are inspired by random people, places and things I’ve seen in my travels.

There is something about black ink against white paper that I am madly in love with; the contrast, the edge, the battle of light and dark. This is a silhouette that has more form because of the internal markers. Markers first, inks second, that way the ink isn’t dulled/smeared by the markers.

Inks. I personally “pull” lines. Meaning, when inking, I start my hand/lines farther away from me, and pull the pen towards me. I find that “pushing” for me tends to create wobbly lines. In the end it’s your choice what feels best for you and gets you the results you want.

Inspiration and Ideas

I am inspired by the people and places I see. Be it a concepting job in Akihabara or a calming vacation in Edinburgh with my family, I am always on the lookout for new and interesting ideas. I’m a self taught artist who grew up on comics, role playing games and videogames; these helped me focus in on the type of artwork I wanted to make. I like to sit back with markers, pen and pencil and just sketch out random ideas.

Prismacolor people from buses, coffee houses, vacations and more. As I get faster and faster with markers and sketching I can capture the things I am attracted to in random folks and keep these things near when I need to make my next comic or game character.


I usually sketch on thick almost Bristol paper and I prefer very bright paper. I have 15 or so clear plastic clipboards that I place my paper in as well as a piece of Bristol card to stop markers from bleeding through. Other than holding my paper straight and tidy, the clipboard seconds as a lightbox for when I want to iterate on an idea.


I have lead holders with 3H and HB leads for pencil work. I use a mixture of Prismacolor and Copic markers to add color to my ideas. When inking, I always use Sakura Micron pens because I like how they feel on the page. I like markers because they are fast and an amazing production artist tool, but I’ve been getting into watercolor more and more.

I like fun kinetic action. This was drawn to capture a fast paced moment in time. It started a series of schoolgirls vs. monsters illustrations.

I like the thought of the orcs wearing mismatched armor pieces, as it adds to their chaotic nature.

Sketching Techniques

When starting an idea, I usually see an iconic shape in my head that is based on the person on the bus or character. That shape is quickly and lightly drawn with the 4H. If I’ve decided to use markers, I’ll color at this stage with only the lightest pencils so that there is no smearing or smudging. If I’m not adding color I then erase any and all construction lines and start in with the HB leads. I’ll use the HB to find lines I want and lines I don’t. I will then go in with the pen and ink the whole thing.

I was thinking that a great game environment section in a zombie-apocalypse city would be a squatter’s tent area. He and his friends would shamble out and try to eat your brains… I have an actual irrational fear of zombies… really…

My buddy Tom Burns and I are always coming up with fun game and comic ideas. This one was a story about a baby troll king.

Ink with conviction

With a good pen or brush, understand that the ink will get to the page. Your focus during the inking stage is making sure your pressure and control are “on point”. I was letting my daughter use one of my pens a while back and she bent the tip from using so much pressure. A good friend of mine later used a pen of mine during a drawing session and bent the tip as well. A light touch will still get the ink to the page; pressure aids in line weights, but excessive force can make your pen bleed or worse.

While taking the bus to work in Sheffield, I would draw the people around me as zombies and creatures. One afternoon, I was greeted by a bus full of kids who pushed through one by one to look and comment on these guys.

After some concept on God of War PSP I started learning about Native American mythology. This guy’s legs were the basis for the four seasons. In my head the player finds him dead and the feet protect his dead body in a boss battle.

Anti-Grav pigtails. I like to pencil, go in with my markers (Prismacolor in this case) then toss in some inks. I usually choose 3-4 shades of cool grey markers for things like this.

Teach and learn

While playing a game of Street fighter, an amazingly talented fighter told me that he feels part of his job is to bring more people into the fighting game community. I tend to see the artistic community the same way. I also feel that teaching and learning from each other is extremely beneficial to the community as a whole. I was recently discussing nail polish with a make-up artist who gave me a few great ideas based on how she applies the coats of polish and the overall effect.

This guy was based on a biker in Irvine California. He was sitting by us and he outfit was so retro, that i just kept adding and adding until he is what he is. As a game character, i assume he’s a sniper.

All art is valid

I’ve worked with many amazing artists in the past – people who have made me want to pack up my pens and shuffle off to flip burgers. As time has passed, I understand that my personal loves and happy button pushing imagery isn’t for everyone. I can talk for days with zombie enthusiasts, but when at home with my daughters respect the artists on their favorite cartoons. Our community is a creative one; we won’t all like the same things. When it comes to art and design, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” still rings true. As creators we need to remember that intolerance towards certain genres of artistic expression doesn’t help our community. Embrace your fellow artists… or I will send the Zerg after you!

Years ago my sister left her markers in my care. Until 5-6 years ago I did all my game concepts in grayscale. Since opening her old markers and adding color to everything, I feel I have grown as an artist and production artist.

Markers, markers, markers. Markers with pencils, markers with black pens, markers with charcoal, markers with brown pens. I like to test what things will look like. I recently bought pencil leads from the Czech Republic because I couldn’t find them anywhere else. Testing, learning and subsequently showing my work = bliss.


Click here to buy issue 110