Happy Friday and here is another installment of The 360BEYOND Show, where I interview some of my favorite artists.This time is SHAWN ALLEYNE from Philly and this Brother is a talented illustrator and creator whose talents I’ve enlisted as well to bring some of my ideas to life. Let’s get it on…..
As it relates to your earliest memory as an artist, did Art choose you or did you choose Art? Explain.
That’s tough one..I’m not sure. I’ve always loved drawing, but I’m not too sure how much I believe in “destiny”. I believe even if you’re talented in a certain skill you still have to choose to pursue that course. What if I had grown up in a family of coal-miners, you know? Maybe a combo of the two is the best answer.
What were your earliest inspirations and influences that introduced you to art/comics/writing?
My dad gets the most credit for this. My earliest comic memory is of him showing me how to draw Daredevil, who to this day is one of my favorite characters. Then my mom, seeing my interest, fostered it. My other influences from young were different cultural mythologies, Enid Blyton books, and those early Marvel guys– particularly John Byrnes, Walt Simonson and Art Adams.
And who are your influences now and what about them are inspiring?
I’m still a big comic book guy so a lot of the superstars of today influence me- guys like Travis Charest, Bart Sears, Eric Battle and more. My influences also range and include people from the late great Frank Frazetta, to Masamune Shirow, to graffiti artist Phetus. Writers such as Alan Moore, Peter David and Stephen King. What’s so inspirational about these artists is the fact they have such distinct styles. I want to leave that sort of impression.
Of the influences that are artists, do you admire them as a fan or do you really study their style/expression?
Both. I think that goes hand in hand actually. Besides that though, I want to mention I’m inspired and influenced everyday by everything I see. If it’s hot, I try to pull from that. It can be an “unknown” artist, a puddle, a movie, or anything that sparks my imagination.
How important is it to study your art?
Without question the only way an artist can get better. And being self-taught I have to go a little extra than others.
What are some books that are on your personal shelf?
Right now I have 3 sections: one for reference books– like “Perspective! For Comic Book Artists” by David Chelsea, and “Drawing The Human Body” by Giovanni Civardi. The second section is for Artbooks– like “Capcom Design Works” and “Guilty Gear”. The third section is for my manga and graphic novels– stuff like “D Grey Man” by Katsura Hoshino, “Shaman Warrior” by Park Joong-Ki, and Battle Chasers by Joe Mad. I’m more of a single issue and anime man though so my collections’ not that huge.
Are there any titles that you are currently reading?
I’m a little behind on books right now, but usually anything by Peter David and Warren Ellis are sure things, X-Factor and X-Men:Xenogenesis respectively. Scalped is good, as well as Thunderbolts and this new book Halcyon.
When not doing commissions for clients or working on your personal projects, how do you keep your skills sharp? For example, but not limited to: Advanced Art/Writing Classes, Doodling? Exercise?
On occasion I’m asked to teach kids comic book illustration, and I tell you, there’s nothing like having to teach someone something to really drive home basic technique. I run a comic book network group called Xion where we hold monthly drawing challenges that emphasis working outside one’s comfort zone. Exercises like speed challenges, character design challenges, etc, so I jump in on those. I also recently started a daily sketchblog.
Self-expression and self-identity are closely related, if you have a nickname or unique name what does it mean to you and to others? And does that name reflect in anyway how you approach your art?
The pen name I used to use on message boards was M.D Geist, a name I took from a popular anime. Geist was the name of the character and the initials “M.D” stood for Most Dangerous. I loved it cause this guy was such a bad-ass and did things his way I wanted to reflect that. Now I just use it for my music personae. With art I want people to know the name Shawn Alleyne, who I really am. I came up with the name Pyroglyphics for my “studio”. It roughly translates to “Hot Images”, which is what I try to capture in my art.
Give us a description of your Creative Lab or Studio where you work and how is the environment a co-creator or partner in ultimately what you create?
It’s a pretty basic set-up: I have my art table with lightbox; my comic book collection to the left; my reference books and inspirational sketchbooks to the right; posters up of things I love like The Matrix; and most important, my music collection and radio. My Studio is my sanctum and that’s why I can’t do any real work in coffee shops and such like other people. I need to be immersed in my world-I’m too easily distracted. lol
If Art can save the world, then that makes the Artist a Superhero; and every Hero needs theme music. Name the song or songs that you listen to for inspiration as you create?
Right now my little brother-in-law makes some of the best beats out there. He’s got one called The Matrix that’s tailor made for me. When I do go for lyrics normally any album from the Wu-Tang or Canibus gets me going. There’s a female MC called Eternia that’s been getting me hype recently too.
What techniques & tools do you employ to bring ideas to life?
I’m straight up old school: a simple pencil and paper with some inks are all I use for now. As far as techniques goes? Sweat, prayers, luck and repetition. Lol
How would you describe your style or artistic technique?
I’m not sure, I just try to do the best job I can and let people put their own title on it. I’ve heard some people tell me my style is “gritty new age urban comic book styling”. Whatever the hell that means. lol
It’s been said that the difference between a professional and amateur/hobbyist is that a professional gets paid for what they do more often than not. What was the tipping point where you transitioned from being a hobbyist to a professional?
For me it’s been such a gradual process I can’t say there’s been one particular instance, it’s been more of a series of events. I guess the most major tipping point was the year I lost my 9 to 5 and decided to jump into the art game fully. I still have a ways to go in my professional career though.
In the beginning, what was the most challenging aspect of working freelance?
I would say treating it like a business. It’s hard to make that transition from just drawing for fun to worrying about deadlines, invoices, client’s feelings, and of course, getting paid what you’re worth. Then there’s dealing with the constant fear of “where’s my next gig coming from?” There’s no more safety net of a cushy office gig paycheck, there’s a lot more at stake when you’re basically working for yourself.
How have you changed since, as they say, ‘Going Hard’ doing your art for pay?
I’ve become a little more steadfast in my resolve. As more people seem to like what I do, I try to stand my ground in regards to my fees, while still trying to be reasonable. You come to realize that some people will try to get over on you if you let them, so you have to stay focused.
What types of commissioned projects do you prefer to work on and why?
The type where the client asks: “what do YOU want to do?” I find I do my best work when the client allows me to put my spin on a project.
Do you have set commission rates or are they negotiable on a project by project basis?
I try to keep pretty set rates, but they have been known to vary slightly based on the project and the client. My clients often times come from varied financial situations, and I try to take that into account based on what they want.
What really stimulates your imagination to the point where your ideas pour from your subconscious onto the paper and you look up when the flood is over and you’re like WOW!
Did I create that? Give me an example of what that piece of art may have been.
The thing that gets me stimulated is when I see something so new and fresh, so original and beautiful you can’t help but say to yourself: “Self..you need to cut loose.” One particular piece of art that stemmed from a bout of that was a fan-pic I did of a friend’s character called Pyschosis. >>>>>>
Describe one gratifying moment, where a client was extremely satisfied with what you had created and how it had impacted them?
One moment was with Eric Cooper when I drew a poster for his character Knight Seeker. He loved it so much he used it for the cover revamp to his novel, then for business, then for other promotional items. It was just supposed to be a convention poster but it’s taken on a life of its own. Seeing someone like your art so much they want to use it to represent their flagship character is really moving.
In terms of personal projects, what is the Flagship creative project for your company and how did you come up with the idea for the concept?
I have so many ideas that the Flagship keeps changing, but I’m currently developing a character by the name of Aizan, a female hip-hop-urban-vigilante-ninja type. The idea came after watching “The Sword of The Stranger” and having one of those inspirational overloads you asked about earlier. I set out determined to develop a character that would go against the norm of comic book super-heroines, as well as provide me with an outlet for the kind of stories I wanted to tell.
What are some of the most immediate follow-up projects?
My personal projects are on the back-burner as I kick out work for my clients. There’s a project called Surian Seed I’m excited about.
Tell us about Surian Seed.
Surian Seed is the creation of Raheem Manders, a writer of African descent who approached my with the story a few years ago. He came with a story and some concept art from another artist, with the request for me to re-vamp the characters. I did, and as I got deeper into the world, and as me and Raheem became friends, I was able to share some comic knowledge as well as story elements to the concept.
Without giving too much away, the story centers around a group of siblings who are all superheroes. Unbeknown to them, they have a secret origin tied into an alien race that is now coming to conquer Earth. And of course our heroes must fight them. It’s going to have a mix of sci-fi, martial arts, social commentary and modern day super-heroics. As far as the pics I sent, Jayden is one of the siblings and she is the common sense of the team. She’s not your average female superhero either, she can whup butt with the best of the guys. Jayden has telekinetics and telepathy.
Cinderblock is the muscle, with an extra heat generating ability. There’s a nice twist on his origin as well.
I’m doing the chapter art for a great fantasy novel; but the first major thing to come out I’m excited about is going to be the Street Team project I’m involved with. We’ll have a comic, game, and tons of other tie-in merchandise.
Writer’s Note: Since this interview, the initial phase of the Street Team project which Shawn Alleyne collaborates with a host of talented illustrators & writers is completed and can be purchased here >> Street Team and you can donate to the Street Team Video Game!
Now back to the intervew:
Talk about the difficulties of being an independent artist and the hurdles you’ve overcome to produce and publish your own works.
As I mentioned before, one of the hardest things about being an independent artist is not having that steady financial backing from a large corporation. Everything you want to do you have to finance yourself.
If you had to choose which medium of expression to use for your stories / images which would it be- comic book, graphic novel, animation or movie?
All…I know that’s cheating. Lol If I can’t have all, probably animation. I feel you have more freedom with that.
Here’s a fun question. Name a mainstream project/character or an independent project and/or character that you’d love to work on or revamp and what would you do to put your twist on it?
I would love to get my hands on The New Warriors. I’ve loved those characters from the first time I saw them. My twist on them would be the most obvious, emphasis the “New” in the name. Have them be almost anti-superhero– with no tights, a firmer stance to the world’s problems, a large rotating cast depending on the situation– the example of what a 21st century hero can really be.
For the independent artist, as one who does commissions and/or personal projects, how has technology affected the way you are able to do business or make progress on your art? For example, but not limited to: Finding Clients? Artistic Collaboration? Getting work done?
Wow, I don’t know where to start. Being able to send an email with an invoice and have someone put money into your account almost instantly has come in handy on many an occasion. Lol. Having the ability to advertise yourself to potentially millions of people via the tons of sites designed to network and showcase your skills has helped level the playing field a lot. The lack of overhead and the resulting savings can really aid a new business. Finding clients anywhere in the world. There’s no getting around it, technology shapes our world.
About Merchandise, what types of products are you hoping to create or produce in the future?
Right now I’m working on a possible clothing line with a local Philadelphia designer. But really I want to do it all: statues, clothing, toys, anything. As long as the products are fantastic and justified. Nothing worse than sloppy merchandise done for the sake of a dollar with no creativity or purpose to it.
Here are two questions about event presentations, conferences, fairs etc.
What are the conferences that are on your yearly schedule to attend?
Safe bets are usually MegaCon, Wizard New York and Philly, and the New York Comic Con. I always try to fit in whatever ones I can though.
What advice do you give to aspiring artists of all mediums about the importance of events and how do you prepare to maximize your potential at these fairs?
The biggest piece of advice I can give to an artist is to be honest with yourself. If you know in your heart your product may not be ready not the best, or you hate people, or you don’t HAVE any product, don’t go to the shows. Also, start with the small cons and work your way up. These events are great for many reasons though: 1) acquiring new clients 2) learning how to work under pressure 3) learning how to deal with people 4) seeing firsthand what people like or don’t like 5) expanding your fan base 6) networking with fellow creators. And the best way to maximize your potential at these shows is simple: be friendly and draw pretty stuff. Just takes practice.
Artsentience (To recall details of what, when and where you were when you created the art piece.)
The image of Pyroglyphics Book Cover. Tell me about this image, who/what it is, what it means and take us back to the situations, feelings and times you experienced during its creation..
This piece’s origins go back to 2003-2005, when I wanted to create business cards for my humble “studio”. I’ve always loved Shaolin kung-fu flicks (I even studied Shaolin Mantis for a few years) and wanted to came up with a mascot that resembled a mystical Shaolin warrior. I even called my studio “Shaolin Studios”. It didn’t stick but I kept the little mascot guy. So flash forward a few years later when I enter an art contest where you had to come up with a “hybrid creature”. I came up with this character that represented the five elements of life: man, animal, bird, nature and energy. The character ended up looking a lot like my old mystic Shaolin guy, so I thought; why not combine the two and use him as my new mascot? The character seemed to spark some interest, then took on a life of its’ own in my head. So now I’m planning on drawing a whole race of the little guy.
Also, ZioNkosi 3(from DA) & Knight Seeker Book 2 & Hero’s Diary:Verdict Color
Zionkosi was fun as hell. This was a character design for a client that forced me to push my creativity further. I was tasked with incorporating African themes into a sci-fi character, and anytime I get to mold those two elements together it’s a treat.
With the Knight Seeker cover I was at a place in my life where things were beginning to “fit”. This was the first time I was asked to be the cover artist for a book, and it was a huge honor. After that I went on to do 3 move novel covers. So that opened the door.
The Hero’s Diary poster was a personal statement I wanted to make with my art. I did a version of it years ago, and looking back on the original piece I was really ashamed of what I was looking at. When the time came to do some new promotional art for Hero’s Diary, I wanted to re-do the piece and challenge myself. As I looked at the pieces side by side I saw the new one was miles apart from what I had originally done. I feel it’s one of the most accurate signs of my growth as an artist.
On the idea of Art Imitates Life or Life Imitates Art, is the role of Art in human existence a catalyst for behavior and community building or is Art a mirror to reflect the world of what was and what is?
It’s a chicken and egg situation. Art and Life follow each other in a continuous loop of creativity like the Infinity sign.
Due to budget cuts for schools, classes and after-school programs, primarily in black and Latino communities, the youth are not getting exposed or are exposed to very little physical education and the arts. How important do you feel the arts are to the lives of the youth?
I can honestly say that if our kids lose the love of the arts, our society as a whole will crumble. The future will be a bleak, lawless land devoid of creativity and productive expression. It’s one of the reasons I’m so passionate about the Comic Book Design course I teach to young Black and Latino kids.
Whether it’s the concept of Six Degrees of Separation or Its A Small World, the culture or communities we belong to are smaller than outsiders know. To bridge the gap between yourself and your peers, do you belong to any artist groups or forums, if so which ones?
Yup. Penciljack, Blacksuperhero.com, Devinatart, facebook, Myspace and Drawstick. The one I’m most proud of though, is my self-started comic book networking group Xion. You can find it at www.meetup.com/xiongroup and www.thexionnetwork.com
Now to bridge the gap between your art and the public at large, give the name and address of your sites and forums where people can see your creativity and how people can get in contact with you for commissions and/or to follow your work?
I can also be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
What impact would you like your art to make on the world?
I would like to get to the point where people talk about my work long after I’m dust.
What are your favorite quotes or philosophies of life that help you improve as a person or artist?
“Excellence is never just given to man, it is awarded for hard work.”- I forgot who said it but I think it’s very true.
Is there anything else that you want the readers to know, feel free to elaborate?
I just want to thank everyone who made it this far in the interview. Lol I also want to thank everyone who has stood by me, friends and family. Thanks to you Nubian for the interview. Most importantly, I want to thank everyone who ever put me down, critiqued me, or doubted me. It truly made me stronger. And I mean that sincerely.