Casey Silver has spent his life discovering, creating and telling stories. A writer, artist and designer based in Seattle, Silver has created graphic content for Image Comics, Dynamite Publishing and Z2 comics as well as creating his own visual entertainment with 80% Studios co-founder, Dimi Macheras.
Macheras is a comic book illustrator from Alaska. He began his career working for his family’s tribal government designing language curriculum and children's story books. He’s taught drawing classes and painted murals. He’s been published in multiple comic books and graphic novels. His art style is dynamic, colorful and energetic with an emphasis on exaggerated anatomy and emotion.
Seattle Refined: How long have you been creating? What mediums do you work with?
Macheras: I’ve been drawing as long as I can remember. I’ve always just used pencil/pen and paper. Some of my earliest memories were spending countless hours drawing away at my grandma’s kitchen table.
Silver: We founded 80% Studios, a visual arts publisher, in Seattle in 2010 and have been working together ever since. We primarily make comic books and have self-published 6 comics, co-founded a “Heavy Metal” style anthology exclusively featuring Seattle artists and even threw our own convention called Hometown Heroes in 2016. With our new project, "Chickaloonies," we have expanded to live storytelling and comic art workshops where we teach kids to think visually and tell stories through the medium of graphic novels.
Can you tell us about your artistic process and how the different stages work into it?
We approach making comics as if making a song. We both work on all aspects of production — writing, art, editing, lettering, etc. — and have been working together long enough where it comes out as a cohesive stream. The goal is to make our work feel as if one person created the material rather than two. It’s a constant state of back and forth where we sculpt our initial idea into a more focused finished product.
Tell us about where your inspiration for your art comes from.
Silver: We’ve both been extremely influenced by comic books, the genre in general, and how primal and powerful it is as a medium. Comics use both parts of your brain and the idea of telling stories with pictures is one of the oldest forms of human communication. I learned to read on black and white Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comics and haven’t looked back since. Electronic music and anime are also big influences and the idea of creating comics that feel like music videos is a big goal for us.
Macheras: Growing up hearing my Grandma tell me our Tribe’s traditional Ya Ne Dah Ah stories was one of my early inspirations to become an artist. I would draw characters such as Raven and Lynx similar to my favorite cartoon, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
Do you have a specific "beat" you like best – nature, food, profiles, etc.?
The main focus of our art, our stories, will always be the characters. It is the most vital aspect of story creation — to be able to make the audience engage with the characters you have created and make them care what happens. If you can do that, the details of your story become almost a backdrop to the emotional arc of your cast. When we were kids, we'd make up worlds and storylines while acting them out with our action figures which is honestly, what we're still doing. If it feels like we're channeling something from a ten-year-old's fever dream in cartoon form then we know we're on the right path.
Do you have one piece of art that means more to you or is extremely special to you?
Our newest project, "Chickaloonies," which is an all-ages, Alaskan Tribal adventure steeped in traditional Ahtna-Athabascan mythology, has become by far the best thing we’ve ever published. Creating something that represents Alaska Native culture in a truthful and respectful way is something that is vastly missing from modern pop culture. We’re trying to take the themes, values and lessons of these age-old tales and present them in a new way for a new generation. It is a very personal project to both of us and has opened doors to take 80% Studios to the next level, including partnering with the Smithsonian to further develop our storytelling workshops.
What experiences in your life have affected your art the most?
In August of 2021, we did a two-week tour of Alaska to celebrate the release of the first volume of "Chickaloonies." Rather than just doing book signings, we developed a live storytelling element that became the focus of the tour and showed us a different perspective as to present our work. The comic itself almost became secondary to the live element and directly led us to developing the storytelling workshops and the direction to which 80% Studios is currently following.
Macheras: After I graduated from High School, I went to work for my tribe, Chickaloon Village. Along with creating art for interactive Ahtna Athabascan language CD-ROMs, I illustrated the Ya Ne Dah Ah stories into comic books as a way to preserve our family’s heritage. When I met Casey in 2008, I was finally able to begin making new stories and carry on my family’s storytelling lineage.
Silver: I feel like every experience, good or bad, influences my art in some way, as it is an outward reflection of my inward self. Forming 80% Studios with Dimi was a pivotal point in my life and is the foundation from which I have grown ever since.
If we want to see more of your work, where should we go to find it?
You can order copies of our current graphic novel, "Chickaloonies" on Etsy or follow us on Instagram @80percentstudios to stay up to date with everything 80%. For more information about our workshops visit the Smithsonian Learning Lab website.
We are currently building our official website which will launch in the coming months.
What is next for you? Anything you're working on right now that you're really excited about?
Currently, we are working on the second volume of "Chickaloonies," as well as expanding the scope of our live storytelling workshops across Alaska and the lower 48. It’s been really magical to connect with Native and non-Native youth across Alaska and show that everyone, no matter what culture you hail from, can be a storyteller.
Lastly, how do you take your coffee? (We ask everyone!)
Silver: Mocha or Cold Brew
Macheras: latte with almond flavor
About 'Artist of the Week': Seattle might be notorious for niche coffee shops and scenic waterways, but locals know it's also home to an array of people who love to create. This city is chock-full of artists who we love to feature weekly on Seattle Refined! If you have a local artist in mind that you would like to see featured, let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org. And if you're wondering just what constitutes art, that's the beauty of it; it's up to you! See all of our past Artists of the Week in our dedicated section.