A real treat this month as I get the chance to interview the lovely Liam Shaw who has been the talented cover artist for three of my books and is currently slaving away over the design for the first Bobby Normal novelette which is due out next year.
Could you please give us a quick introduction to yourself and tell us where you’re based?
I'm a Portrait/Poster Artist based in Wigan, a have a college degree in graphic design and fine art, a university illustration degree and 8 years’ practice in life drawing. For 6 years now I have been creating artwork, working together with creatives or creating fan art of my favourite characters. I also attend comic cons in the UK, mainly in the north areas, but would love to go to other comic cons around the world.
How would you describe your style?
My style has always been evolving into something new. I specialise in portraits and posters but I do experiment in new and fun ways of painting digitally and in inks. I take inspiration from incredible, well-known artists such as Drew Struzan, Mark Rahts, Paul Shipper and many other incredible that artists I follow.
Do you have a preference of either digital or inks, or does it depend on the project you’re working on?
Ideally digital as the client will have adjustable needs such as changes, altering a pose and it works better for me with deadlines. I would work on inks, watercolour or painting if the project needed it but there has been a decline in that area for me and it takes a lot more patience and time as it’s a delicate process, I normally work with those for events such as Inktober or private commissions.
How did you get into your profession? Were you artistic at school or did it grab you more as you got older?
I knew I could draw but I never thought I could earn money from it. Tutors would notice I would excel more at drawing than graphic design.
Half-way through university I would not get that praise as my work had no passion in them as the projects weren’t appealing to me and they wouldn't allow me to draw what I wanted. I wanted to draw people and experiment with digital painting and traditional portraits.
After university, I pushed myself towards drawing portraits and posters drawing most nights until 5am, promoting myself online more and attending craft fairs then eventually onto comic cons. I still have plenty to learn.
It’s been fascinating watching your style evolve during the time I’ve known you. What sort of projects are you working on at the moment and what sort of projects would you like to get your teeth into if you had the chance?
The projects I am currently working on are with a company on large wall art, custom illustrations for Dungeons and Dragons characters, a few projects with specific book companies but I'm not allowed to say who.
The projects I would love would be anything movie or game related like posters, merch or even t-shirts.
The dream would be too see my artwork at the cinemas on advertising posters/billboards would just make me so happy and actually proud of myself.
That would be so awesome! I could stand there and go, “I know him and he’s created cool work for me!” Do you find digitally created art is seen with the same respect as “traditional” formats these days, or are there still some people stuck in the dark ages who think it’s “not proper work”?
There are many ways people look at digital and its always the struggle to make someone realise from time to time that it’s drawn or created by someone as it can be so easily done by applying a filter or tracing but there is no fun or soul into the piece then.
People tend to think it’s just a click of a button and it’s done, but what people don't realise is that so much thought goes into these pieces such as the ideas, planning out, sketching out, drawing the line work, painting your solid colours, adding more layers on top of them the list goes on and you notice all of this when you look closer at the image when you see the markings of a style in there and has a similar process as traditional.
It’s the same methods for graphic design and photo editing.
I think digital is becoming more popular now and people are not afraid/not just sticking to traditional as I do love traditional work myself but we have to remember to pay equal respect to traditional artists and digital artists by admiring and supporting them.
I encourage anyone who just uses traditional to try out digital as it is so much fun to mess around with there are also free programs out there such as Clipstudio (free trail) Photoshop alternatives and Inkscape (illustrator alternative)
And of course, someone might have certain ideas about hands... (Thinks about Face cover... Cough, moving on...) Have you found the COVID situation with a lot of comic cons being cancelled a hindrance or a curious help in freeing up creative time?
Haha don't remind me...
COVID is a weird one as I took 3 months away from working and used that time to study and learn from various online tutorials and build myself a new work station (PC) for bigger projects in future.
I have certainly lost out on a lot due to the comic cons not being active but I have found myself more time to work towards commissions.
I know what you mean. It’s been the same here: the lack of income has been a pain but I have written far more than I normally do at this time of year.
If you could meet an “old master” (and I’m not limiting that to Rembrandt and co.) and have a natter over a pint, who would it be and what would you want to ask them?
Yeah, it’s taken its toll on many people losing jobs but we must carry on and stay strong.
You have stumped me a little there but the person I would love to meet and have a pint with is the one and only Drew Struzan (seems a little cliché) as, since a kid, I have been in love with his work ever since I saw the Hook movie poster and followed by many more of his work, I think I would start off with asking how they are etc. but I would just love to know why he had drawn it that way and what makes him realise that the work he produces really impacts into your memory and gives you a whole story in just one piece of artwork just is something incredible skill and hard work.
It’s crazy as if you list any of the artwork he has done you can just remember it all so well like the first harry potter movie poster or even the Hellboy poster that never got used.
It’s something I wish I can accomplish one day where someone would see a piece of my work and still remember that in years to come.
What advice would you give to anyone who wants to pursue a career in producing artwork?
The advice I can give is keep working hard and don't give up. The start of this career is the hardest part and you need to stick to it in order to succeed. Sometimes other people may get to their goal quicker than others, but never compare yourself to someone who has been doing this for years.
And finally, where can people find you and purchase your amazeballs artwork? (Links etc.)
People can find me on social media at Liam Shaw illustration and you can buy limited prints and originals at - www.etsy.com/uk/shop/LiamShawillustration
Thank you. Austin for the interview it’s been a pleasure.
Thank you Liam. It’s always great to catch up and have a natter.