Shawn Dubin Q&A

Shawn Dubin is a Philadelphia based illustrator and tattoo artist. He has published a number of books, including Dreary and Naughty and Friday the 13th of February.

Shawn Dubin is a Philadelphia based illustrator and tattoo artist. He has published a number of books, including Dreary and Naughty and Friday the 13th of February.

MD: You’re currently working on a new series of paintings?

SD: They were initially based on memories from Halloween throughout my life, starting in the late seventies and stretching up to the present. Once the idea solidified a bit, I felt compelled to illustrate those old costumes that came in a box- paperboard masks with terrible plastic jumpsuits that tied up in the back. If you were lucky they came with a cape or your parents got you one separately. My imagination always made them far more amazing than they actually were. From there, the series branched out into other time periods and less kitschy costumes. I could probably spend the rest of my life doing these.

MD: You’ve got quite a collection of work. What’s next? What are some of your goals and/ or plans?

SD: At the moment, my writing partner Jason Ridings and I are preparing a package to send out to a few major comic book companies for consideration and keeping our fingers crossed.

Outside of that, I’ve started writing a follow up to the Untimely Endeavor (which is getting sent out to publishers for consideration this summer along with Land of Broken Dreams), begun work on the halloween paintings, plotting out a line of t-shirts/miscellaneous articles of clothing, and started writing something of a children’s story. There are also more comic books in the pipes. It never ends.

I’m also hoping to find a gallery that’s willing to show my work in the next year or so.

MD: You’ve published quite a few books…

SD: I had the fortune of working with John Lafleur on the Dreary and Naughty series a few years back. The first two in the series (which is slated to run up to seven books) are still available online. The third book, The ABC’s of Being Dead, is finished and awaiting publication. As of the moment, the premise is floating around in Hollywood limbo with talks of it becoming a movie one day.

This summer, writer Glen Feulner and I are self-publishing a book called Worlds Without End which revolves around a female protagonist who travels throughout multiple realities, ultimately bringing about the end of each. Uplifting stuff. It will be available through Amazon, Borders, etc.

MD: The Untimely Endeavor comes across as mournful and poetic, with really interesting backgrounds…

SD: I wanted to explore the use of a “dip pen”; to illustrate something the way someone would have a century ago. I also wanted a chance to illustrate a number of different locales throughout the world that interest me while placing a fantastical character in each to stretch/warp the boundaries of the mundane. Naturally, I chose a well dressed skeleton named Wallingford for just this purpose.

The first illustration came about as an accident one night while sketching and is now the second plate in the book. It created the flavor for what would ultimately become the overall plot: Skeleton finds shrunken head in soup, shrunken head engrains itself in skeleton’s day to day life, skeleton reject and abandons shrunken head, skeleton searches the world over for shrunken head, skeleton finds shrunken head. Ultimately, it’s a story about friendship, loss and appreciating what you have.

MD: In addition to illustration, you’re also a tattoo artist, yes?

SD: I’ve been tattooing in Philadelphia for twelve years now at Moo Tattoo on South Street. Recently I’ve been doing a lot of work that’s similar to my illustration style. I hope the trend continues.

MD: You’ve worked on a number of comic books.

SD: I’ve been working with Jason Ridings (writer) for the better part of a decade on a number of projects. When we met I told him I’d never draw super heroes. He proved me wrong when we did a story called Guardians. It was a one shot comic chock full of super heroes of our making.

We’ve also been working on Thirteen- an ongoing supernatural thriller which is much further up my alley. The first issue is completely inked with the other five issues in the initial run thumb-nailed and ready for production. Conservatively, we have enough material for this series to last at least five years. I’m ridiculously excited about continuing work on it.

My cousin, Alex Dubin, and I worked on a project called the Eighth Dwarf which re-imagines the snow white story through a darkened lens. The first run of the series is written and thumb-nailed through to completion. He had originally written it as a screenplay which, conveniently, lends itself to being story-boarded into a comic book format quite readily.

I’ve also been working off and on for the last ten years or so on a vampire comic about a powerful family that stretches all the way back to the Roman Empire and their degeneration/search for humanity as their respective worlds fall apart.

If none of these find a home with an established comic book company, the plan is to self publish and see where things go.

MD: Your miniature paintings have so much detail. What’s your process?

SD: I use ridiculously small brushes and sit hunched over these little bits of illustration board for hours on end, nearly going blind. It’s actually a good deal of fun.

MD: Have you exhibited your work?

SD: Years ago. I’m in the process of looking for a venue to have a show some time later this year or early next year.

MD: If you were to build a house out of unorthodox materials, what type of house would you build?

SD: A hobbit hole or a giant tree house attached to a sequoia.

MD: Favorite movies?

SD: I’m a big star wars nerd.

MD: Playlist of a few favorite songs:

SD: Hard to pinpoint songs- but on any given day i’ll cycle through some Arcade Fire, Neutral Milk Hotel, Howlin’ Wolf, Pixies, Mulatu Astatke, Sinatra, Talking Heads, Johnny Cash, Radiohead, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, etc.

MD: What are some of your interests?

SD: Music (making and listening), gardening, travel, good food and drink (both preparing and ingesting), history, living…

MD: Historical figure you’d like to have a beer with, given the chance?

SD: Aleister Crowley.

MD: Favorite comic strips/ comic books/ graphic novels?

SD: I really loved the Lucifer series put out by Vertigo. Collected the whole thing in trade paper backs and made my poor wife read it. She actually enjoyed it.

Also- The Preacher, V For Vendetta, Watchmen, Kingdom Come, Matt Wagner’s Mage and Grendel, BPRD, Hellboy, Marvels and the current run of Captain America stories.

MD: Favorite visual artists?

SD: Salvador Dali, M.C. Escher, Maxfield Parrish, Heironymus Bosch, Edward Gorey, Shel Silverstein, Alphonse Mucha, Arthur Rackham…

MD: What is your background? How did you get involved with art?

SD: I’ve been drawing since I could hold a writing implement. Haven’t been able to stop since. My mother was a big supporter early on and really nurtured the bug. My neighbor/surrogate big brother was also something of an artist. He’d sit me down and show me how to draw things like Popeye and Snoopy for hours while our parents watched television and talked.

I went to the High School for Creative and Performing Arts in Philadelphia before it was in the gorgeous building it now inhabits. Also went to the University of the Arts briefly.

MD: Have you held any jobs/ careers that you’d like to discuss?

SD: I was a record store/book store clerk for Tower for more than two years. While there, I drew a bi-weekly comic that went out with paychecks based on experiences I and my co-workers had. For the holidays one year I did an entire comic called “Tower of Babble” in which we, the employees, locked the doors of the store and massacred the customers. My boss sent it around to other branches both here and in England. It was quite cathartic. Nowadays I’d probably be reported for disturbing behavior that may lead to a nasty incident. All in good fun.


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