blog interview z_focalpoint

Focal Points: Shane Johnson

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An illustrator truly cut from a different “canvas”, Shane’s technique is a medley of vibrant, colorful, and action-oriented tones that breathe life into his pieces of work. Unlike the techniques of his contemporaries, his comic-book style approach is a refreshing change of pace that incorporates the traditional necessities of clients with a modern appearance capable of grabbing the attention of audiences both young and old.


Q1. Your illustrative style is slightly different than the other illustrators of Freda Scott Creative. Describe in your words what makes your artistic style so unique?

A. My art style is inspired by comics and other forms of sequential storytelling so it’s more narrative and action oriented. Very little of what I do tends to be abstract or conceptual.

Q2. What served as a source of inspiration in your growth as an illustrator?

A. My primary inspiration is my love of comics, cartoons and movies. My other interests such as science, history and the outdoors also find their way into my work.

Q3. What project or client was your “big break”?

A. There are two individuals in particular. in 1997, a year after graduating from college I landed my very first freelance job Illustrating a ghost story collection for Hawaii author Glen Grant. His book provided me with my first published portfolio pieces and gave me the experience I needed to pursue illustration as a career.

In 2001 my friend’s father Tom Speitel was working as head of the Education Department at the University of Hawaii. Tom brought me on board as a contractor to work with his team creating distance education websites for the Department of Defense. We spent two weeks in Germany meeting with educators to help deliver their online curriculum. The experience inspired me to quit my day job and begin freelancing full-time.

Q4. Is your art digitally created or do you go by hand? Which do you prefer?

A. I prefer to start out with hand drawn pencils. These are scanned and inked digitally using a Wacom tablet and Manga Studio. I then add color and effects in Adobe Photoshop. Much of my work is also done as vector art in Adobe Illustrator if the project calls for it. I’ve come to appreciate working this way as it makes it much easier to make revisions. And I revise a lot before the client even sees it.

Q5. As an illustrator that works in a graphic novel artistic style, what are some of the pro’s and cons of today’s comics, in your opinion.

A. In general I think the bar is set much higher regarding the quality of comic art and writing compared to when I started collecting 30 years ago. It has become a more mainstream form of entertainment. The one weakness I see in the art is more technical or factual errors. This may be because younger comic artists tend to draw reference more from other media than actual life experience.

Q6. What’s your all time favorite comic? Why?

A. I would have to say Mike Mignola’s Hellboy series. The simplicity and dark atmospheric quality of his art and writing have always been kind of a standard to which I compare my own work and other comics.

Q7. What’s your most memorable piece of work? What was it for?

A. In 2004 I designed a mural for the Chicago Marathon. The mural covered three sides of a warehouse near the Kennedy Expressway. The client had me create dozens of runners tearing off their street clothes superhero-style to reveal their running clothes underneath. I have family in Chicago so my wife and I visited them after the mural painters were finished. We drove down the expressway and I snapped photos out of the car window. Part of the artwork was used on a billboard near Wrigley field and we went to see that as well.

Q8. If you could have any superpower, what would it be?

A. My daughter says I have super daddy strength so let’s go with that!

Q9. If you could work on any project/movie/show in the world, what would it be?

I would love to illustrate anything combining my many interests. A sci-fi/ supernatural/ western graphic-novel perhaps.

Q10. Any exciting pieces of work we can look out for in the near future?

A. Yes, but I am sworn to secrecy.

Click below to see more of Shane’s work:

view his work