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Shane L. Johnson’s superpower is illustration

What does it feel like when a movie franchise that’s grossed $1.6B worldwide picks you to illustrate their latest tie-in book? It feels like you can fly.

“They asked that I submit sample art for Hiccup, Toothless and Astrid,” recalls Shane. “Character designs hadn’t been released yet, so I created samples using the characters as they appeared in the previous film, but rendered in a new line-art style developed by the studio.”

Shane proved he was world class, and that he could keep secrets. Specific plot points and new characters are often kept under wraps because of the very real danger of leaks. New characters can still be in development while the tie-in products are being produced.

Researching a project is nothing new to Shane, but this didn’t feel like work. “In addition to studying reference material from the studio, I watched the first two movies for background,” he explains. “Many key scenes in the books were also in the movies, so I had that available to me as well.”

Turns out, drawing dragons is as hard as riding them. “One of my biggest challenges was Toothless,” Shane confirms. “There was a lot of trial and error on my part to use just the right amount of black so the details of his body and face would be readable. The studio’s blueprints of Hiccup’s flying harness were also very precise.”

Every frame, every character, every detail is meticulously reviewed by the studio’s art department. Revisions are indicated by a sketch overlay of the submitted frames until Shane delivers the final art.

“This project was a deep dive into the Dragons series, of which I’m now a real fan,” reflects Shane. “It is always fun to work with characters beloved by so many – myself included.”

If you need your next project to take flight, check out the rest of Shane’s work here. You’ll start to believe that anything is possible.