I had the great pleasure of sitting on a kaffeeklatsche (a sort of small get-together) with Blair Shedd at the most recent Gallifrey One convention. Blair is an illustrator best known for his work on IDW Publishing’s Doctor Who comics. So when I decided to do some interviews for the blog, Blair was the first person to come to mind. So I asked and he was kind enough to answer a few questions for me:
For those not familiar with your work, can you tell me a little bit about yourself, where you’re from and what you’ve worked on?
My name is Blair Shedd, and I’m a freelance illustrator. While it’s fun to say “I’m a comic book artist” – and I do say that – I do many and varied things when it comes to what kind of projects I work on, so it’s a bit more accurate to just say “illustrator.”
I was born in the Philippines but grew up Stateside. I’m currently based in New England.
I’ve had a little formal art training, at The Kubert School, but while I did learn a whole lot there, it was my experience they’re more about refining the talents and skills you brought to the table.
After graduating in ’99, I formed a “studio” on the web, and called it oneGemini. While I’ve had “normal jobs” since then, the whole time I was working on freelance art, with my first major gig as a art department assistant for a national-scale “event marketing” company, where I later became lead concept artist.
I eventually left there, but since have worked as cover artist for a few magazines and novels, children’s book illustrator, sketch card artist, and work-for-hire-artist for many businesses and private individuals, not to mention commissioned artist creating pieces for many individual’s private collections.
I experimented with screenwriting for a couple years, getting as far as semifinals (top 100 out of 5000) in the Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting. This got me a few meetings in Hollywood about my super-hero-esque script. One of the things I heard a lot at those meetings was “this seems like a comic book – is there a comic it’s based on?” There sorta was, in the sense that I based it on a comic idea I never followed through with.
So I took the idea back home, and started to write and draw the comic. I put out one self-published preview issue of the book, and realized I missed drawing and working with comics.
Since then I’ve done pinups and stories for a few indie and more mainstream titles, and of course, landed a gig on DOCTOR WHO for IDW Publishing.
As a fan of Doctor Who, were you excited to have the opportunity to work on the comic?
When I heard that IDW would be publishing Doctor Who comics (this was back in 2008), I picked up the first few issues of the six-art “Agent Provocateur” storyline. I read those and thought, “I’m a huge Doctor Who fan, so maybe I should see if these guys have any upcoming projects I can be a part of.
I did up a sample (based on a script I wrote) and sent to the general IDW mailbox, but didn’t hear anything at first. In the meantime, I had posted a few pieces of fan art on my deviantArt page. Soon one of those pieces, an image of the (then) Ten Doctors got a little attention on the web, landing a “Daily Deviation” (or featured image of the day) on deviantArt and it also popped up on a few Doctor Who fan sites.
I began working on a second four-page Doctor Who sample (as persistence and dedication is key). At the same time, my fan art caught the attention of one of the Doctor Who colorists for IDW, Charlie Kirchoff. He recommended I send in the new samples, and that he’d try to put in a good word with the editor.
I sent in the second batch of samples, and included Publisher/Editor In Chief Chris Ryall in the email (which is not something one should normally do for various reasons). Chris himself did get back to me, said he liked what he saw, and gave me the contact info for Denton Tipton, the editor working directly on the Doctor Who books. I began an email dialogue with Denton, and while there was nothing he could give me at the time, eventually something did come up, as you can tell.
Who is your favorite Doctor?
I can narrow my favorite Doctors down to two; Tom Baker (the fourth) because he was the first Doctor I saw on PBS back in the day. If it wasn’t for his performance, and the writing at the time, I might’ve found the show too odd – and when it came down to endless corridor/quarry chases – too boring. Luckily it wasn’t.
And of course I like David Tennant (the Tenth Doctor) as well, one, because of his performance and much of the writing during his run, and two, because he was the Doctor I drew during my initial IDW run.
But I’m of the mind that it’s all the same guy, so I’m a fan of the Doctor on the screen at that time. So I’m a fan of Matt Smith right now.
What other comic would you love to work on?
I’d love to draw Batman, but my style has drifted away from that, and I’m afraid I’ll be labeled “too cartoony” for books of that nature. But still…
With that said, I’d love to draw Spider-man, be it regular, Ultimate, or even the former “Adventures” version.
I’d also love to have a go at “The Mask” (the Dark Horse Comics character portrayed in the movie of the same name by Jim Carrey).
Did you always want to be an artist?
Pretty much, yeah.
Sometime in elementary school, I told my parents that I wanted to be a comic book artist and/or rap artist. Much to their credit, and probably their later chagrin, they said “do whatever you want to do – just do it well.”
Apparently you need rhythm or something to be a rap artist.
You do commission work, too. What are some of your favorite pieces that you’ve done?
Usually my favorite commission is the last piece I completed. That goes for most of my work.
What mediums do you mostly work with (hand-drawing, digital, etc.)?
I’m about 90% to 95% digital. A small percentage of my Doctor Who run had any penciled work that went into it. The zombie story I did after had absolutely none.
Everything I do digitally is hand-drawn on a 2003-era Wacom Cintiq 15x. I used to use Photoshop CS2 for my comic book line-work, but have recently switched to Manga Studio EX 4.
Can you tell me anything about projects you are currently working on?
I recently drew a pinup for a comic book at a major publisher. The pinup had likenesses in it again, big surprise, and it’s a licensed property. Other than that, I can’t say what comic, as I don’t even know when it’s coming out (later this summer? Maybe fall?).
Past that, I’m working on scripting, drawing, coloring, lettering, EVERYTHING my self-published comic book project that is based on that screenplay from long ago. I’ll eventually start up a Kickstarter campaign to help me through it (to pay for printing costs, and for money to keep food on the table, as I’ll have to refuse commissions and other projects while I’m working on it).
All I can say is that it’s part police-procedural, part super-hero vigilante action. It’ll be an oversized (meaning extra-long) one-shot, stand-alone issue, with few surprises along the way. I’m not even going to reveal the hero’s (?) identity within the book… or am I? (DUN DUN DUNNN!) More info when that’s ready to go.
Do you have any advice for anyone who may want to become an artist?
No matter your medium of choice, be it song, illustration, dance, writing, or sculpture, only pursue your art professionally if you’re doing it for the love of said art. Very few people make a living doing exactly what they dreamed to do. Even fewer make a good living. So if you don’t enjoy it, and you’re doing it because you believe you’ll become rich and famous – think again. You’re in the wrong line of work.