Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: When did you begin your work as an artist, and what intrigued you about working with animation?
Shane Murray: I have always been into art. I was always drawing and making movies with my mother’s VHS camcorder. But in Ohio (where I grew up), it never seemed like a real means of making a living. I still gave it a try, though. I tried to become a photographer right after high school, and that’s when I taught myself Photoshop. That dream hit a hard wall when my house was robbed. I stopped with art things, moved to California for greener grass, and ended up joining the Army.
There was a strange time for me when I was on my way home from Afghanistan, when I realized that I had finished a big chapter of my life, a nice bit of money, and nothing at the moment to struggle for. The uneasy discontentment that had been my deepest motivation up to that point was still there. I started in art school soon after I got home. I had always wanted to be an animator. I figured I needed a goal that made me happy while I was chasing it.
Animation feels alive. There’s something special about starting with a blank screen and soon (or not so soon) seeing something that used to be imaginary living there. I think I always wanted to make things come alive in stories, and animation always seemed like the closest I could get to that.
BD: Your recent pin-up work possesses a beautiful color palette with very kinetic characters. Do you prefer working with different art styles and/or mediums (i.e., pencils, inks, paint, digital, etc.), or do you find that one style or medium defines your art?
SM: I love to work in many mediums really. I even practice 3D modeling and traditional sculpture when I get the time. I am at home with pencil and paper, acrylic paint, or digital painting in Photoshop. Still, I feel that digital art especially defines my art in a way. I do most of my art there and anything else feel like a field trip. I have always loved film and animation, so movement is very important to me, even in my one-frame projects. I feel like digital art is the best way to practice and implement all of the things I love into my art. Sometimes, I even do a few frames of animation just to get the push a pose or make sure the “movement” looks right. Also, digital doesn’t ruin my clothes.
BD: How would you describe your creative process?
SM: Nuts. I’m always pushing my limits and trying to make sure I’m not doing the same thing over and over. Because of that, I am constantly trying a new way to apply color or lighting to a composition. Usually, I try to imagine a scene as if I’m watching a movie from a really cool director like Quintin Tarantino or something and so I can find a cool “shot.” That, sometimes, will get ruined once I get new ideas during the sketch.
I like to start right on the Cintiq so I don’t break my rhythm. I have the most fun in the sketch. If I already know what I want to draw, I like to do tons of research, even if the subject is not from real world. Usually I’ll make up a story while I’m sketching around to and draw details from that story in. There’s so much that the viewer doesn’t really get a chance to know. It makes it more real to me. A lot of the time, it surprises me that people get it right away.
After Sketch, then I ink. Sometimes, I take off the lines later.
Then, I usually fill each subject with a flat color, or I’ll paint in the values if I feel like that would work better. I am more comfortable with values than color, so if I feel like it’s going to be more realistic or detailed, I’ll do value first like an underpainting.
After I start with the colors, my process always becomes much more organic. I TRY to stick to a relatively limited palette, but mostly I just do whatever I need to do at this point until I like what I see.
BD: What are the most challenging (and rewarding) aspects of being an artist?
SM: I think the biggest challenges are the various mental aspects. It’s difficult to get into a mindset to create sometimes, and another to draw what I’m SUPPOSED to. Then, there’s the infamous challenge of trying to make a living with art. It’s probably a part of every new artist's challenge is getting the rest of the world to take art and its value seriously.
The rewards are similar to the challenge. There is a lot of time you get to spend with yourself. The process of creation turns time into a blur, and you get to disappear for a while. There aren’t many things I can do that give me the feeling I get when I come back to the part of my brain that speaks English, and find something that I didn’t exist before.
BD: Are there any new pieces or projects on which you are currently working, and would you care to share those projects with our readers?
SM: I am always working on a thousand digital paintings on my own. I am also getting more and more into comics recently, and there’s an idea about aliens that I’m kicking around with a buddy. I want to make a short thing out of it. I’m also making a story about a little girl with imaginary monster friends. That one will be animated. It’s called Me Myself and Monsters. I will keep more posted on Instagram and Twitter about them and any new painting that I work on.
BD: Which creators or projects have inspired your work?
SM: I started to take my art seriously because of my love of animation. John K’s crazy shapes and Chris Sanders’ ladies and storyboarding have amazed me for far longer than I have even known his name. The digital art world is weird in the way that often you don’t know whose work you’re looking at. But one name that I HAVE learned is Sam Spratt. It’s always the people that can do something I don’t quite understand that inspire me. Their work possesses a quality that I find strangely satisfying, almost like their subjects are alive and feeling like I could touch them. I want that in my art.
BD: Lastly, what would you like to tell fans who want to learn more about your artwork?
SM: Ask me! Some of my art I prefer to let people put their own take on, but a lot of it I’d be happy to talk about. Art is what I do all day, every day. I love to talk about it, and I post everything that I can. I’m even thinking about posting my sketches and not just my more finished stuff, too. If anyone requests me to post my process of anything like that, I’ll do that, too. I’m on Instagram and Twitter (@MuriTheBold)!