Shane White’s illustration skills are on display in North Country (NBM), The Overman (Image), Fear Agent (Dark Horse/Image), Hawaiian Dick (Image), and Comic Book Tattoo (Image). He’s currently working on Things Undone, a new OGN that will be out in 2009.
Question 1: When did you first decide that you wanted to create your own comics for a living?
I’d been drawing cartoons since very early childhood. It was at the age of twelve I realized people made money drawing comics. I could hear the gears of evolution click into place at that very moment.
Question 2: Who has had the biggest influence on you outside the comics industry, and how did they affect your life?
I had a mentor while in college who I met through working at a restaurant. He was a wealthy man who owned the building the restaurant was in. We struck up a friendship and he helped guide me through much of the social graces I missed along the way. Without his influence I wouldn’t have sought out such a balanced life.
And oddly enough I didn’t realize it until I was married how much my wife has been a big influence. I remember I was about to embark on my first graphic novel, North Country and she sat down with me to talk about it. I was like, “Why are we having a conversation about my book?” Truth to be told it was an eye-opening revelation. Rarely, if ever, is anything created in a vacuum worth a damn. Just her knowing what I was doing and being involved along the way helped her understand, support, and shoulder much of the burden outside of the creative hell that goes into these things. In the end I realized why it’s taken so long for me to get published, and it was bigger than me.
Question 3: Who has had the biggest influence on your comics career, and how has that person changed your work?
No one person has really influenced me. I feed from a very large pool of art and entertainment like many people. I wished it was more focused sometimes but ultimately I think I benefit from the variety. On any given project I can pull more from one area than another and it directly shows up in my work. It’s not just artistic style. It could be storytelling, shadow rendering, line control, and sensitivity of atmosphere or any number of things. There are too many great people to just think one person is the be-all end-all. But to be less obtuse, I tend to look at a lot of old illustrators and early comic strip artists as a foundation to my work.
I try to break away from the studio and travel as much as possible. Whether it’s hiking in the Cascade Mountains or trekking around Thailand, breaking the routine and opening up to unfamiliarity breeds wonder and imagination. These I found for me are two essential ingredients in the creative process.
Question 5: Describe your typical work routine.
Wake up at 6-6:30.
Hit the gym 4-6 days a week.
Come home and work until 10:00.
Read until 11:00.
Question 6: What writing, drawing, or other tools do you use?
I use what everyone else uses to one degree or another. For writing, I use Word. For drawing and inking I use several types of pencils to draw with: Sanford blue pencil for roughs, mechanical pencil for details and architecture, lead-holder for fine figure work, regular Dixon Ticonderoga pencil for figure work and a W&N no.2 brush for all my ink work. For coloring I use Photoshop, watercolor or what-not.
Question 7: What element of your work gives you the most personal satisfaction?
What gives me the most satisfaction is the smell of the printed page and putting the book on the shelf with my other books. Also, knowing that someone really enjoyed what I was trying accomplish or when people pick out an obscure detail in my stuff, that’s the best.
Since I have done so few I like to think every one that I have chosen to work on has been a rewarding experience. I know…that sounds lame. I’ve learned something while doing it and gave it my best effort. Maybe in years to come that will change. What I do know is I have two projects in the pipeline now that I think if they turn out the way I hope I could walk away from comics and feel satisfied that I set out to do what I really wanted.
Question 9: We’ve all met very talented newcomers who are trying to get their first professional projects. What’s the best advice you’ve ever heard given to a promising new creator?
I’ve never heard any good advice given to a creator. Seriously. I’m the one whose been given advice but it was quite specific to my work. Really though the best advice I wish people would start giving is, “Be original.” That old saw about “everything has been done before” is usually said by those who gave up trying long ago. At least if you’re trying to “be original” you’re not following in someone else’s footsteps.
Question 10: Time to get philosophical: What’s the most important “big idea” that you’ve learned in life – in or out of comics – and why is it important?
Anything worth doing is worth doing right. Also, know clearly what it is you want from life, what you’re passionate about and figure out how to do it. I read a cheesy book on business years ago but there was a core philosophy I still use to do this day.
What are you passionate about?
What drives your economic engine?
What can you be the best at?
If you can answer all three of these and adhere to them with conviction you’re more likely to reach your goal. Miss out on any one of them and you’ll continue to flounder.
I get asked often, “How do you find the time to make comics with a full-time job?” Like the writer Elmore Leonard says about his style of writing, “I cut out all the boring parts…” Your mileage may vary.
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