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I'm Kelsey Shannon. I've been a professional illustrator and designer for the last 10 years. In that time, I've been lucky enough to work on something like 40 comics for various companies, including Marvel and DC, on titles like Batman Adventures and X-Men Unlimited. It's also been my pleasure to work briefly in animation as a concept designer and storyboard artist on Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius (The movie) for DNA/Nickelodeon/Paramount and G.I. Joe: Spy Troops for Reel FX/Hasbro. I've recently returned to comics in hopes of working on those sweet high profile type books.
When did you first decide to become a graphic designer/ illustrator? Was there a pivotal moment?
I always drew pictures as a kid, but it was mostly cars and trucks. It wasn't until high school that I discovered how cool comic books are and from then on I made a concerted effort to improve my artistic skills.
Who or what inspires you?
My inspirations are vast, and thanks to the Internet, they have become endless. Starting out, I loved Jim Lee and Rob Liefeld. Their work was easy to pick apart to see how they were doing it. I quickly found Marc Silvestri and Whilce Portacio, Todd Mcfarlane, and Dale Keown. Pretty much all the original Image crew. It was flashy and exciting. Perfect for me at the time. It's also important to mention how much Mike Mignola has inspired me throughout the years. Since his work on the graphic novel, Batman: Gotham by Gaslight, he has amazed me with his totally compelling simplicity. He can deliver so much mood and atmosphere with very little effort. Well, it seemed that way. He probably struggles as much as the rest of us. From there I started to branch out to classic illustrator's like Norman Rockwell. It was with him that I started to understand the value of storytelling. Rockwell could accomplish so much story within one image. Also during this time, the work of the Gaijin Studios crew came to my attention. Brian Stelfreeze, Adam Hughes, Cully Hamner, Tony Harris, Karl Story, Dave Johnson, and Jason Pearson. There style and storytelling abilities were always so much superior to those of mortal comic book artist. But that level of detail and finish comes with a high price in comic book land. It takes a long time to do things right and comics is just not a place for doing things that way. Only on occasion, for special projects.
Honestly, I could write a book on what inspires me. What I've just mentioned was the beginning. There's also film and animation such as the work of Steven Spielberg, Hayao Miyazaki, Don Bluth, John McTiernan, Katsuhiro Otomo, David Fincher and many, many others. I'm also very inspired by music from artist like Dan The Automator, Mike Patton, Jerry Goldsmith, Ministry,
and DJ Shadow. Like I said, the list is endless.
Where does your training come from? Self-taught? College/Art School?
Completely self-taught, but I've had a lot of guiding influences. Most notably is Brian Stelfreeze. Like he has with so many others, he taught me the value of story and how everything your doing as an artist can aid in that goal. Color, layout, acting-virtually everything you do can and should be used to create story. After all, that's what we are really doing here. We're telling stories.
How do you keep "fresh" within your industry?
I don't know how or if I manage to stay "Fresh" in this business, but I study, study, study. New and old film, artists in comics, animation, music, and illustration are all key. Japanese manga and anime are great and contain some of the best design ever created, and the French are hot on their tails. It's important to stay on top of what's current and how we got there. I think it's silly when some of these guy's settle. For example, some artist's latch onto Alex Toth and it stops there. They are denying themselves of a world of possibilities and it makes me sad.
What are some of your current projects?
I'm working on a mini series with Greg Thompson, called Atomic Chimp. It's a fun and fast, Looney Tunes kind of thing, not to be taken seriously. Just enjoyed. I just finished my contribution to a book on storytelling process that should be out next year. I don't know what it's called yet, but it's being put together by John Lowe and includes super talented artist like Mark Shultz and Chris Brunner. It's going to be a hell of a book. I'm working on a card set for Upper Deck and there's also a possibility of working at Marvel again, but it's too soon to say for sure. I'll post updates on my blog about new things.
Which of your projects are you the most proud of? And why?
I'm very proud of Bastard Samurai; a book that Mike Oeming, Miles Gunter, and I did with Image a few years ago. That really ushered in a new stage in my work. Color. It's the first time that I really started to take control of what it was I wanted to accomplish. It's rough, but a lot of fun. Image is releasing the trade again, with a new cover by me. I'm also very proud of the work I've contributed to NYC Mech, another book at Image by Ivan Brandon, Miles Gunter, and Andy MacDonald. It's a high concept book, with a lot of balls and bite. I think it's been one of the best titles on the shelves over the last couple of years.
Are there any areas, techniques, mediums, projects in your field that you have yet to try?
Nope. I've done it all. At one time or another, I've written scripts, penciled, inked, colored, lettered, and designed comic books. The only thing that I haven't done is to execute a long run on a big title such as X-Men. That's always been a dream of mine, and it's something that I'm working hard to do.
Any advice to the novice designer/ illustrator?
Learn to do it all. There's nothing like being able to do a complete piece on your own. If you're able to do that, then there is no stopping you from accomplishing your goals. And never settle. Study, study, study!
What makes a designed piece or illustration successful?
STORY! It doesn't matter what it is, it has to tell a story. Even if it's just a character standing still, you could be telling a story about that character. Is he or she hot or cold? Are the happy or mad? These are the very basics. You need to figure out first what it is that your trying to say with your' drawing and then figure out how to say it.
What do you do to keep yourself motivated and avoid burn-out?
I study! I browse the Internet and look at books. I read novels and watch movies. Seeing all the cool things that are happening around me makes me jealous and it makes me work harder.
And finally, what is the best thing on prime-time TV right now?
I don't really watch TV, but LOST is the one thing I make time for. If you want to see great story in action, then all you have to do is watch LOST.
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