Interview with Tim Shumate
Featured Artist for November 2003
Interviewed by Patrick Keith
Tell us about yourself, where you're from, your background?
I guess I am the typical story of small town boy moving to the big city. I went to the same private school from 4th grade through high school graduation. My dad is a pastor and my mom is an organist. I grew up in a small town on the Illinois /Wisconsin border...felt trapped...ran away to Chicago the first chance I got. Now I'm in the process of finding myself...BWAHAHAHA...so cheesy.
Most of your art tends to have a comic book type of look. Are you pursuing that venue as a professional comic creator, or do you have other plans for your art?
I loved comic books since the age of 5. I taught myself to draw from obsessing over them day and night. I originally thought there was not much of a demand for them so I tried being a graphic designer for a few years. Then I think it was late 2001 when I applied and got accepted to the American Academy of Art, which is known for spurting out big names in the comic industry. Alex Ross graduated from the Academy, me and my roommate ran into him a few weeks ago and got him to sign our Kingdom Come comic books...which is pee-in-your-pants exciting for a comic nerd. So to answer your question, yeah...the professional comic thing is slowly becoming more and more of a reality for me.
Tell us about some of your favorite artists and influences.
Vasily Shulzhenko... he is a Russian fine arts painter that does these Cold War, cracked out, circus type paintings...soooo bizarre. He is my favorite right now. I wouldn't say I'm really influence by him at all though. I am usually influence more by music and sounds rather than other artists when it comes to my work.
Many of your pieces, especially some of the recent ones, are Manga style. What do you find the most interesting about Japanese influences on western art styles?
I watched this documentary about Anime. They said the Japanese draw characters with big eyes and colorful hair because they are trying to make them look like Americans... but then I thought... Americans don't like Anime because we think the characters look cheap and gaudy... I find that kinda funny.
Most of the work that you've posted is digital. What do like about working digitally as opposed to other mediums?
It's very rare that I do a piece that is completely digital. I am a very traditional artists, I find it very annoying not to have my hands on a physical piece of paper through at least part of process. A lot of people love to hate computers when it comes to the arts and I never understood why. Blaming a computer for being generic is as silly as blaming your tube of oil paint. Since I am a fanatic, I am going to quote Bjork now
"If I hear one more person who comes up to me and complains about "digital-music has no soul" then I will go furious. The computer is just a tool, if there is no soul in computer-music then it's because nobody put it there, and that's not the computers role. It's the role of the songwriter. A guitar will never write a song and a computer will never write a song. These are just tools."
Your piece "Fire Bird" was completed on very short notice in oil. It even nabbed an Editor's Pick! Do you have any plans or interest in creating more work like that?
I was totally floored when that received an Editors Pick. I have very little experience with the medium. It's hard to get my usual detail with oils, so I tend to stay away from them. I just started an advanced oil painting class a week ago. My teacher is letting me do a lot more experimental/stylized paintings now that I am done with the fundamentals of oil, so I am sure you will see many more things like "Fire Bird".
Can you describe your creative process - how you come up with ideas for a new drawing and how you take those ideas and create a finished piece of art? Describe your working method and technique for creating your pieces.
Math and Health classes usually trigger my creative process. It sounds absurd...but if I have a free day I will sit in front of a blank piece of paper for hours... put me in a "fundamentals of calculus" class and I will draw MAD little manga critters all through the lecture. I would say 90% of my drawings are due to daydreaming in school. I wish I could give you some deep, draw-dropping inspiring speech right now...but nope.
Has any of your art been published? If so, where?
I have done logos, characters, and web designs for people, but mostly for little RPG companies trying to start something up. I'm really horrible about keeping track of them after I am done. I couldn't even begin to tell you where they are now.
What advice would you give to new artists who are just beginning to develop their talents?
Hmm...That's so hard. I don't feel that I am in a place to be giving advice. I guess if anything, you have to find the core of what you do. It was the most difficult thing for me to find my own identity when it came to art. I had so many influences that it seemed like I was just learning how to copycat the people I looked up to. I'm only 21, so it would be ignorant of me to say I'm coming up with things that never existed before. I just think it's so so sad when someone shows you their portfolio and it looks exactly the same as their idol, ya know?
What do you think the most important thing is for an artist to learn, technically speaking?
Style. Back in the day, everyone would hire these illustrators to do totally realistic renderings for everything. Since Photoshop came out there isn't really a need for that anymore. You can just take a digital photo and touch it up in the computer and bam you have a movie poster. That's why in the past couple years illustration has become so abstract. Pick up a Starbucks' mug and you can hardly even tell what the drawing on the cup is. It's so important to be distinctive and sell your style. Of course, this is the corporate bastard in me.
What formal art education have you had, and what role did it play in your artistic development?
I went to a small private high school that didn't have any art classes. I threw a fit so they put me in a room by myself and gave me some awful book like "100 Fun Things for Your Kids to Do!". They told me to do the projects and they would send a teacher in every month or so to grade me. That actually was the best thing for me. I was left to my own devices so I became very isolated and weird, in a good way. I do regret it a bit. My first year of art college all the kids had already been doing perspective and things like that for 4 years, so I immediately fell way behind. The teacher had to sit me down and show me that a t-square could be used for things other than swords.
What do you do when you're not working on art? Got any interesting hobbies?
Well, I just turned 21 and moved to Chicago. So right now I am all about clubs, bars, and things like that. I am trying to get the frat boy out of my system I guess. Other than that...umm...I really like to hide grapes in people's shoes. You would not believe how amazed people get when they find produce in their shoes. It's very entertaining.
If you could work with absolutely anyone (artists, companies, writers--anyone at all) on a project, who would it be?
I would have loved to work with this computer graphics company called www.mecompany.com, but they seem to have gone down hill in the last couple years. I would also love to work with this guy called FSC...he is really mysterious. He does this comic called "Nightmares & Fairytales". It's a black and white comic and I don't know if it's even nationally distributed. He does AMAZING work, but it's also very loose. I would love to just tighten his doodles up and color them
And, it wouldn't be an Epilogue interview if we didn't ask, what cartoons did you watch as a kid?
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