Joshua Sway (SwayArt) is teaming up with Zoop to release his latest project, Swayonce: The Mini Artbook!

As his second art book, we at The Beat reached out to SwayArt for an interview. We discussed his humble beginnings, the creative process behind his book, and what he hopes fans will take away from flipping through its pages.

DIEGO HIGUERA: Could you tell us a bit about your background and how you got started in the art world?

JOSHUA SWAY (SWAYART): Well, I will say like, the cliché sort of stories that I’ve been drawing my whole life, you know, I’ve always been into comics, pop culture, video games, and the arts of the conceptual world. I was always the kid who was drawing and got into a lot of art programs and art-centered schools. Then, around college, I went to SVA. From there, I learned a lot about the industry since I majored in cartooning. While I did learn stuff, I also felt like I didn’t really need to go to school; it was more because of my mom. For me, I’ve always been drawing, always practicing my skills.

I got into the industry through a mix of luck and timing, during the pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement. A lot of editors and people in the industry were asking for black creators to show their work. At that time, I had just graduated and didn’t know what I was doing, feeling like the whole world was crumbling. So, I decided to show my stuff. Rick Remender picked me to do one of his covers for his upcoming book. Then, Vault Comics came to me for a cover. From there, I started working with Marvel, after a talent agency contacted me, which led to doing covers for Marvel.

This opportunity was followed by working with Entertainment Weekly, DC Comics, Marvel Studios, Square Enix, and Dynamite. Everything happened so quickly after I graduated. It was just pure luck and timing when I posted my work, and I felt like maybe it was time.


HIGUERA: So a lot of just right place, right time moments, but also the amount of work you’ve put into your skill is amazing.

SWAY: Yeah, so it was really just taking that moment where I was thinking about the police brutality within my community and needing more black voices and artists in big companies and fields. I wanted to get into the industry and do comics. So that was kind of how I went with it. So, yeah.


HIGUERA: What has been one of the biggest influences on your art style?

SWAY: Well, it was between seeing a lot of Adam Hughes‘ work and Terry Dodson’s work, which is kind of crazy because I had known Dodson since I was in high school. I met him by showing my sketchbook to him, and he was very impressed with my work. I always went to New York Comic Con to show my work and get advice. He was the first person in the comic industry to see my potential. He gave me tips and advice, and I’ve always asked him questions.

He has been both an inspiration and a mentor to my work, along with Olivier Coipel, Phil Noto, and painters like Norman Rockwell and Sargent. There are many others, but these are the major ones. Anytime I do my work, I see it from my perspective influenced by their work. So, yeah.


HIGUERA: What inspired you to create SWAYONCE, your newest art book?

SWAY: Well, at first, I made the art book, the first edition, because I wanted to have a collection to sell at New York Comic Con. I felt like, at the time, I should make something where people could have a book with a lot more of my work rather than just prints. Also, I wanted to create something that people outside the States could get. So, I decided to work with Zoop for crowdfunding, as their company seemed like a good fit.

HIGUERA: How does your second edition differ from the first? Are there new themes or pieces included?

SWAY: There’s a lot more additional art—a lot more eye candy. There’s a lot of stuff I didn’t get to include in the first book that I wanted to put in this one. Since this is a mini art book, I still wanted it to have good content without being overloaded. I carefully picked and chose pieces, creating things that I felt people would be interested in buying.

HIGUERA: You’ve been working on coverage for both DC and Marvel. How do you balance your work on mainstream comic covers with your personal projects?

SWAY: Yeah, so I think, for me, well, I’m still balancing it. There are moments where I’m just like, “Ah, okay,” because I have done mine and I have stuff. This is personal stuff but also a mixture of commissions. There are things people have commissioned me to do that I’m working on and adding to the book. But I’m also trying to squeeze in some personal work or pieces I really want to include. It’s a balance between working on projects for companies and the industry and finding time to do sketches or process more of the work I want to put in the book. I’m still figuring it out, but I’m slowly balancing it and getting through.

HIGUERA: Which of your recent cover works are you particularly proud of?

SWAY: The Starfire cover! When I told my editor that I wanted to do something ironic with Starfire’s name because she’s a star, I really wanted to create something inspired by paparazzi and how stars are swarmed by photographers. I wanted to capture that candid feeling of paparazzi snapping their pictures.

I saw a picture of someone being swarmed by people taking photos, which inspired me. That image sparked the idea for Starfire, and I wanted her to have a spotlight moment. Seeing how much the Starfire fans loved it and called it the best cover they’ve seen for that character made me feel like I did something right. So, yeah, recently, the Starfire cover has been something I really love. It’s amazing.

HIGUERA: I feel like, especially with your work and with your new art book coming out, you explore comics, fashion, and pop culture. How do you blend these elements to create your unique art style? It seems like these influences play a big role in what you put out.

SWAY: I think it’s a lot of internal engagement with pop culture and the people I really look up to, like Beyonce, Lady Gaga, and Hollywood itself, with all its glamour. Video games also influence me. I’m always nitpicking and taking things I see and like, then putting them into my work. I also look into fashion and fashion photography, incorporating a look or style I want for a character into my art.

It’s a lot of taking and adding, bringing ideas together. It’s a process when I work on a cover. I try to make a story with it. I always look at pictures and designs that I feel a character would wear. From there, I’m constantly sketching and figuring out where certain elements fit. Then, I talk to my editors and share the ideas I have for the cover. So, yeah, that’s fantastic.

HIGUERA: I can only imagine the amount of tabs you have to pull up on your computer.

SWAY: Yes, but I also use my phone a lot. I’m always on Pinterest, Twitter, and Instagram. I’m constantly Googling and saving pictures. I find inspiration from various sources and keep them for reference.

HIGUERA:  How many times have you thought, Oh, this is perfect, only to find one thing that makes you say, I got to change this up?

SWAY: Yeah. Sometimes I’ll see something and think it’s really good, especially when I do thumbnails and find good poses for a character. But then I get nervous about which one the editors will pick. I try to make the best of the two or three thumbnails, so whichever they choose, I won’t feel like I don’t want to draw it. There are moments when I suggest a different option, giving them a reason, but I don’t do that all the time. I usually go with their choice and work on it.

I make sure to create my best three thumbnails or sketches and present them to the editors. Whatever they pick, I can look forward to drawing the final piece and that’s amazing.

HIGUERA: What do you hope people take away from your art, especially from your new art book?

SWAY: I think with this book, I hope it gives a sense of confidence or fierceness. A lot of my work has attitude and drama in it, especially the way I draw certain characters. So, for me, I wanted this art book to showcase that fashion-forward aspect present in both my personal and cover work. I also wanted to share my thought process and include elements that you might not typically see in my other works or covers.

When people see my work, I hope they feel inspired and can see themselves reflected in it. It’s important to me that my art resonates with others in a meaningful way.

HIGUERA: With so many different places to choose from, why did you go ahead with Zoop?

SWAY: I first considered Kickstarter, but then I realized if I reached my goal, I’d have to handle all the shipping logistics myself. When I heard about their plans and how they support artists, especially in the indie scene, I decided it would be better to go with them instead of Kickstarter.

HIGUERA: Any last words for your fans?

SWAY: Right now, I’m currently working on something with Magic: The Gathering. They’re collaborating with Marvel, and I’m involved in that project. As for what’s next, there are some other things in the pipeline, but I’ll have to see what unfolds after this. So yeah, for now, it’s mainly focused on this Magic: The Gathering project.

To find out more about the project make sure to check the campaign on Zoop!