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Paul Shipper is a freelance Illustrator based in Manchester, England. His clients include Lucasfilm, WizKidsGames, Penguin Books, ITV/Granada and GQ Magazine.

When did you first decide to become an illustrator? Was there a pivotal moment?

I used to draw pictures as a child all the time...but, my first experience of what illustration is and what an illustrator was really came from having film posters all over my bedroom walls as I was growing day I looked to see who might have created these amazing pieces of art and found that it was an artist called Drew Struzan and he was an Illustrator! Ever since then I have pursued a love of illustration...and a dream of one day creating a poster design for a blockbuster movie...

Who or what inspires you?

Well, Drew Struzan is the obvious choice here, but I am inspired by lots of other artists, probably too many to even mention...but I really loved the work of JC Leyendecker and Norman Rockwell...that era of American illustration really does it for me. And their relationship also is an inspiring one to me, as Rockwell was a fan of Leyendecker's and he used to follow him all over the place and I thought well, if Norman Rockwell can do that and have a really successful career, then there is hope for someone who begins a career in illustration based on the obsession of another illustrators career... I have a real passion for music too that inspires me, particularly music from movies. I would collect soundtracks from an early age, and this is where my Struzan Syndrome (from your first question) comes in to play once again, where I suddenly realized that a lot of the music I loved and enjoyed so much was created by the same composer! Which at that particular moment happened to be John Williams!... If I am ever going to buy an album -these days from iTunes- chances are I will check out the soundtrack listings before any other.

Where does your training come from? Self-taught? College/Art School?

This is a tricky one...can you learn or be taught to draw? I think it is really a natural progression from early in a pianist...I have always said that if you do something long enough, eventually you will, or should at least become pretty adept in your chosen profession, and I think that is true of illustration. Sure, you can study a subject and know all the facts, but when your soul and passion shows through your work, and your work has an affect on people, when that moment comes you know you are on the right track.

Getting back to the question, my training has been primarily studying the works of the people that have inspired me. I did well through school in the arts and design...went through to art college and then on to University studying Illustration and Animation...I have a BA with Honours Degree from that course, but not one lesson I learned during University helped me break into the real world of the Illustration industry. That you have to figure out for yourself it seems...and it was a shock.

How do you keep "fresh" within your industry?

Fresh...I dont really think of my work as being that fresh really, definitely not stale though! Perhaps more of an homage to the old ways but with a bit of a modern twist. Most of my professional work these days is created digitally. I have kept the traditional style that I have, but created within the computer. Thus enabling me greater control of colour and not forgetting the ease of getting a finished digital file to a client instead of FedEx-ing the original paintings to them for scanning. Time is of the essence in this industry and I pride myself on meeting deadlines, completing on time and on budget.

What are some of your current projects?

Current work includes a project for Lucasfilm. I am also working on Marilyn Monroe sketch cards for Breygent, a poster for an Indiana Jones inspired movie called Treasure of the Templars and artwork for a GQ magazine article.

Which of your projects are you the most proud of? And why?

I am particularly pleased with the upcoming Star Wars artwork I did. It is my first official work for Lucasfilm and the Star Wars brand, and I hope it won't be the last. The Lucasfilm connection has been a dream come true for me, especially being such a fan of the franchise. Other projects in recent times that have had a special place in my heart are some of my Indiana Jones work for the folks over at The Raider.Net... Together we have worked on lots of artworks relating to Indiana Jones, even down to the website design that I had a large involvement. I guess there is a pattern forming here...! It's not that I only want to do projects from based on the Projects that George Lucas creates, it's just that I feel such a strong connection with these franchises, that they fill my heart with joy and wonderment...and thus I have tried to get involved with them as much as I can.

Are there any areas, techniques, mediums, projects in your field that you have yet to try?

There are many things I have not tackled yet... What I have found with Illustration is that a lot of the time you just don't know who is going to come knocking on your door. From time to time a job comes in and you scratch your head and say "How do I accomplish this...?" But when that happens it stretches you and pushes you in ways that may not be too comfortable, but you've got to always do your best to make it work for yourself and more importantly, the client. In the end it can be a very rewarding experience, and an exciting one not to know quite what might be asked of you from your next job. I had an opportunity to work on designs for an upcoming movie that was in pre-production, unfortunately I was too busy at the time to commit and we couldn't make it work, but that is something that really interests me. Also, comic book covers...I would love to illustrate something in that realm whether it be super-hero related or more of an independent label...

Any advice to the novice designer/ illustrator?

The best advice I can give to an aspiring illustrator is to get your name and your work out there as soon as possible. Exposure is really important... Advertising yourself can be very costly, but effective. If your budgets are tight, try more wallet friendly activities like PR, newspaper stories, create a blog, create a web portfolio and link up with other websites that attract the kind of work you would like to do, web folios are a great start because they do a lot of advertising and they are very willing to help you make an impact if they believe in you - like theispot . Also as boring as it sounds, get yourself familiar with the business aspects of illustration, pricing, negotiating, these are skills that a lot of people in the arts world do not acquire until later in their careers and can be very helpful in building your Illustration Empire!

What makes a designed piece or illustration successful?

Composition is pretty much key. Followed closely by execution and style. Actually, I think all three of those elements should be counted as equals... I have seen great compositions turn to mud because the finish of the piece has been so poorly executed...which is such a shame because a lot of the time, getting the comp right can be one of the longest processes!

What do you do to keep yourself motivated and avoid burn-out?

I really love to see what other artists are doing - that really keeps me on my toes and striving to do more...I find that very inspiring. I have been following this dream of illustration for so long now and my motivation still holds true to my beliefs in myself and what I have and have not yet achieved. I will continue to create images until my last breath... It is a pure labour of love for me, it is in the fabric of my very being...
Avoiding burn-out - I love to spend time with my family as much as I can. I have a 7 month old daughter who really is an amazing thing... My loving partner Donna really inspires me and knows when I need a break...and when to get me back on track! We have been renovating our home and recently put it up for sale and we intend to be moving to New Zealand in the near future. Donna is from NZ and moving back there has always been our plan. The future and the plans you lay out before you certainly are dreams in the making...

Finish this sentence. "If I weren't an illustrator I would have been a..."

I would most probably be a film composer. I have loved film music for as long as I can remember, running around our living room to the music from Star Wars. I remember seeing a program on TV a few years ago and the composer Hans Zimmer was showing the interviewer a clip from a movie he was composing. It was Crimson Tide, and I remember Hans playing along with the film with his amazing array of sounds connected to his keyboard through a computer and the sound of a huge male voice choir was oozing out from his studio - it was amazing... I thought to myself, i would LOVE to do that job! I do make my own music when I find time and it is one of the most enjoyable things to do...In a way I think I find it more liberating than my illustration work! ...but I'm not as good a musician!

And finally, what is the best thing on prime-time TV right now?

I am a huge '24' Fan but missed the latest series because we have cable and Virgin Media have had a bit of a fall-out with Sky over here in the UK, so I am having to wait for the DVD to be released...can't wait for that!


Choper Nawers! said...

wickely made indeed...great work man love oyurs pencil style is just grreat i wish i could draw like that....!bets, Choper!

imnatron said...

you bet brother, great stuff man. I'm a graphic designer now, but would love to break into freelance illustration on the side. Trying to get there...

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