Whether you’re wandering the aisles of a convention or navigating fandom spaces online, it’s impossible to go long without coming across incredible fan art if you spend any amount of time in the geeksphere. And there are so many talented artists bringing our favorite characters to life that it can be hard to keep track of all the original creations. One artist who will make you pause and take note, though, is Terry Huddleston, whose colorful and unique style offers a fun look at characters from classic franchises and beyond.
Huddleston was introduced to the world of geeky pop culture properties by both live-action and animated TV shows such as The Incredible Hulk, Wonder Woman, and Spider-Man. Growing up in a small town, he didn’t have access to comic books as a little kid. Before he came across his first comic, he wanted to make movies. Then around 11 years old, he discovered Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles by Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman.
“It blew my mind. It was one of those big bang events where it just changes everything. A buddy of mine had it and I was like ‘this is a way for me to draw my movies.’ Of course, I was obsessed with Ninja Turtles for the next five years,” Huddleston told SYFY WIRE. “That’s how I got in. It was just ‘oh, this exists.’”
The art started off as a hobby for Huddleston, who ended up doing a little bit of everything to pay the bills — from pizza delivery to sales to working for the military — until he realized he would never be happy working for someone else. Even then, though, he didn’t immediately think of making a living from his art.
“At that time, I’m 28. I've got three kids, now four, but I felt like it was irresponsible to be trying to pursue something as childish as drawing comic books for a living," Huddleston says. "But a friend of mine took me to my first comic con, once again another big bang event, where I saw artists sitting at tables selling artwork. I was like ‘I can do that’ and I ended up setting up a couple of years after that and I think I made something like $647, which was almost near what I was making as a paycheck at my job so my mind was once again blown like, wait a minute I can make money doing this stuff? That’s what got me thinking ok, this is viable. I can do this and then I started to grow it from there.”
Now you can find Huddleston’s captivating art online and at various conventions as he’s a full-time artist these days. His work is often colorful and much of it is in a portrait style that focuses on one specific character. The art is inspired by a range of fandoms including Dragon Ball Z, Steven Universe, and Marvel.
It’s a style that evolved over time according to Huddleston, who describes himself as “kind of a contrarian.” When he sees things, he starts to reverse engineer them and consider what something would look like the other way.
“Being on the comic book scene, you see there’s a lot of this or that already, whatever the aesthetic is. Action poses and this and that. I always liked the monolithic, almost religious style, stain glass window-style art," he says. "So I think the very first art I had was hero shots and it did OK. Then I reformatted them into these profile shots."
Huddleston discovered through the artist Dave Givens a symmetry tool inside a program he had for two years and never used. This was another big bang moment for Huddleston, as it led to the headshots as they are now.
“They ended up giving me a brand name that I didn’t have before. I didn’t do it on purpose. I didn’t think it would work,” he says. “I never assumed it was going to work like 'Eureka, this is going to be the thing that gives me a brand name,' but it definitely made me feel like I had some kind of voice in comic con and it fit that pop art aesthetic I was looking for. It was all a fluke.”
You won’t find his work just in fan art, either. Huddleston has been offered gigs at major companies. He’s done quite a bit of work in independent comics.
“Because of the entertainment industry, there’s a cottage industry of fan art. There’s such a huge demand and what I think is fascinating is that the major companies, for the most part, allow us to do our fan art. We are there to fit a demand,” Huddleston says. “It’s been almost 10 years now and I’ve often wondered if they’re going to do their own version of what we’re doing and kind of knock us out, but what ended up happening is they use us as a recruiting ground. A lot of us, myself included, have gotten a lot of nice gigs with the major companies because they just basically come in and say, 'Hey, let’s hire this guy to do it' and they left it to be its own free market thing.”
Huddleston describes the fan art area as self-regulated for the most part, with the community making sure nobody is doing anything nefarious or creating bootleg artwork.
“We won’t stand for it because it’s going to mess with all of us. As much as the freedom is nice, we all feel like it can be taken away if one guy abuses the system,” he says.
While Huddleston’s art brings to life many amazing characters from various media in a wonderful way, he also creates his own original characters. He has an original series of work coming out called the ICONS series that is female-centric. Huddleston has noticed that when you look at what’s available in the larger entertainment sphere, there isn’t much that’s female-centric or ethno-centric that shows the “diversity of diverse" — sometimes artwork shows women of color but shows only one color. With this series, he wants to represent a lot of global cultures. According to Huddleston, his work showing different ethnicities and body types is something that his customers respond to.
It’s certainly welcome to see a talented artist like Huddleston making diversity an important aspect of his work. Diversity represented in art is still much needed in what we see these days and knowing we'll see more of it in Huddleston’s iconic style makes us even more eager to see what he releases next.
You can see more of Huddleston’s work and find out what conventions he may be at next by checking out his Instagram.
Get to know Terry a bit better below: