Emily and Rudy character illustration by Michael Salsbury
Artwork by Michael Salsbury

Artist Michael Salsbury Talks On His New Webcomic Boundless!

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A painting may be worth a thousand words, but comics like Boundless give us plenty of words to keep us reading!

Michael Salsbury is a talented artist with a captivating webcomic series named Boundless!

His artwork is definitely unique, and feels like a totally new take on the typical webcomic format. In this Q&A we’re digging into Michael’s history as an artist, how he gets ideas for Boundless, and where he hopes to take it in the future.

Plenty of great advice for aspiring comic artists here! And if you’d like to see more of his work take a peek at his Boundless Patreon page, or even the official Instagram account @boundlessthecomic.


When did you first start drawing and what do you love most about comics, or art in general?

I would say I first started doodling as a kid in elementary school.

I didn’t really work that hard at it, but I had fun. After learning that no matter what I did I was going to have to bust my butt as an adult in the workforce – I decided to go back to art school.

I started to really focus on illustration about 2-3 years ago when I went to CGMA 2D for environment design. The teachers were awesome!

I think I love comics because it gives me an opportunity to continue to push my art, while doing the same with my storytelling capabilities.

Character illustrations under a tree
Artwork by Michael Salsbury

What’s the history behind Boundless? When did you first start the comic and where did the idea come from?

I was actually sitting at a desk job a couple of years ago, and I decided to just doodle some goofy characters.

All the while I was going back to art school at night, and didn’t really see the comic getting any traction so I abandoned it. After finishing art school and freelancing I decided to work on the comic again as a release. Comics were always home for me.

I started posting Boundless on a blog and one reader sent me the nicest feedback. They were moved, motivated, and loved the characters.

It was probably one of the only people who came across the comic at the time. After that I shrugged and I figured if one person could enjoy it, so could a lot more. It’s kind of been just spiraling up ever since.

 

Do you have any personal favorite comic artists that you’d recommend readers to check out? Or any that you’ve drawn a lot of inspiration from?

Bill Watterson of Calvin and Hobbes for sure. His comics are brilliant.

Foxtrot by Bill Amend is classic, and I would also recommend reading Maus by Art Spieglman.

That graphic novel isn’t about humor, but it shows you that you don’t need to like comics to love good visual storytelling.

Dancing character illustration scene - digital painting
Artwork by Michael Salsbury

Do you prefer to always work digital, or do you ever use traditional mediums for any of your work? What’s the biggest reason you use digital drawing/painting for comic work?

The beginning of the Boundless story was on paper, but honestly that holds me back a bit when I recreate it in digital form. Instead of redrawing the episodes entirely, I rework what I already have.

Soon I won’t have to do any of that and I can do all digital work.

Biggest reason I go digital is for quality and speed.

I can work way quicker in the digital realm, and bring in elements I wouldn’t have been able to duplicate with traditional media.

I was motivated by a lot of story art, color scripts, and concept pieces in the Game and television industry.

I was just wowed when I saw what they could do with lighting and how quickly they could do it.

 

On the topic of digital work, what’s your preferred stack for software, plugins, brushes?

I use Photoshop to paint or illustrate.

I have a brush set I mess around with from Kalen Chock that is fun for painterly effects. That’s not too often though.

I usually just use a standard ink brush. I recommend working in traditional media first, because the tech will never make your work look good if you don’t have the right foundational skills.

A lot of beginners make the mistake of thinking the computer or the brush will fill in all of the knowledge gaps of being an artist. It doesn’t.

 

How much planning goes into each panel before you draft the final piece? Are you testing a lot of compositions, dialogue, stuff like that?

Not so much.

For new content I usually just make a frame and physically write the setting in a quick sentence. Then I write the dialogue at the top of the frame.

This way when I get to the panel, I can photo reference or get inspiration from other artists. Unfortunately I am still working with my old hand drawn manuscript for the next episode or two.

Once those are over the work will get exponentially better.

Character illustration floating in the ocean
Artwork by Michael Salsbury

The Boundless! Website looks really well done. Did you learn to build the site yourself? Any tips/advice for readers looking to setup their own webcomic site?

Thanks! I set it up myself but I most certainly didn’t code it myself. That’s not my skill set, but a lot of websites out there offer great website building tools and templates.

I use Squarespace. I would recommend using them, Wix, or something similar so you don’t have to spend so much time researching coding.

If you need something a little different done, I would hire a freelancer to assist.

 

And finally, could you share any parting advice for artists interested in comics & illustration?

Focus on building; strong characters, relationships, and storytelling skills.

Take the extra time to hone in your art skill through research, schooling, or YouTube videos.

It’s a never ending challenge to become an illustrator. So when you choose what stories you want to create- make sure your “why” has been figured out.

As an illustrator your determination will be tested, and the “why” will be the foundation of whatever home you decide to build for yourself.