We interviewed Shawn back in 2009. We recently checked in to see what he has been working on.
Job description: Illustrator / Tattooist
Bio: Shawn Dubin is the co-creator and illustrator of the book series, “The Misadventures of Dreary & Naughty.” He spent much of his time growing up immersed in comic books and watching creature double features on Saturday afternoons. An alumnus of The University of the Arts, he resides in New Orleans, Louisiana, with his wife and their brood of cats. Shawn has been drawing since he could first hold a writing implement and will most likely die drawing.
Upcoming projects: Dreary & Naughty Book Four: Home for the Hellidays, Masters of Mathematics (Comic book), The Night Before Krampus (Ebook), Untitled Graphic Novel
You recently relocated to New Orleans from Philly.
Relocating to New Orleans has been one of the best life decisions I’ve made. I’ll always love Philadelphia and consider it home, but felt like I was stagnating there. Having never left to live anywhere else over my whole life was beginning to suffocate me creatively. New Orleans has been incredibly nurturing in terms of new stimuli and its overall love of the arts. I’ve been involved in two art shows and local arts markets around town since landing here.
You’re involved in book illustration and tattoo art.
Yes. I illustrate a book series- The Misadventures of Dreary and Naughty, the fourth of which is in development with John Lafleur.
I’ve been tattooing in New Orleans at Idle Hands Tattoo Parlour with Flex Wenger and am there four days a week. It’s an awesome place and I’ve really found myself enjoying tattooing/ taking it to new places. I’m working on a number of large custom pieces. It’s wonderful to have the trust of the folks that come to me for such things.
I’m currently focused on putting a presentation together to send along to publishers as well as applying for a comic book grant for my graphic novel.
What have you been working on recently?
I’ve been working on an as of yet untitled graphic novel in between other projects for the past decade. It’s a coming of age fantasy tale that revolves around an imaginative young boy involving parallel universes, hope, and the end of all things. Over the last two or three years I finally sat down, outlined it, and penciled the first chapter. I’ve been working out a system to color and letter it digitally. The second chapter is thumb-nailed and ready to go. I’m currently writing the third chapter. There’ll be seven in all.
You’ve had work published.
I have, along with John Lafleur. Two books in the Dreary & Naughty series were published in 2003: “The Misadventures of Dreary & Naughty” and “Friday the 13th of February.” Our original publisher folded, so the third book languished for some time. We found ourselves with Schiffer Publishing in 2013, producing tenth anniversary runs of the first two books and putting out the third, “The ABCs of Being Dead.”
Can you discuss some of the themes your work revolves around?
I tend to draw characters and creatures that would be described as spooky or monstrous doing mundane things and lean toward the fantastic. I like to focus on a sense of the other and turn the idea of normalcy on its head whenever I can while exploring themes that affect us all. Magic, darkness, hope, redemption and humor are signposts I visit often.
Describe your current work.
In whatever down time I can find I’ve been getting back to the basics, doing a lot of pencil drawings and portraits of folks that have passed away. This year has been pretty brutal. I’ve also done a bunch of ink drawings and played around with pop culture stuff through my own lens in drawing and paint since moving to New Orleans.
What materials and supplies do you prefer?
Pencil, ink, paint, and the wacom cintiq which I’ve used to digitally “paint” a number of recent illustrations. When I actually paint, I generally use watercolor or acrylic these days. I fantasize about old age and being able to work in oil again, provided my hands allow me to.
What else are you currently working on?
I have a number of comic book projects swirling in the ether with multiple collaborators. They range between historical fiction, science fiction, and modern day sorcery set in our often tumultuous world. Outside of these projects, my wife and I have put together an ebook, the second of which I’ll hopefully be illustrating before the holidays this year.
What kind of creative patterns, routines or rituals do you have?
There are periods of extreme drive/inspiration that last weeks and sometimes months. In between these periods I sit down and try to make sense of all that was produced within. I then set to organizing it, weeding out the good from the bad, and figuring out where to apply it. When working under deadline I set aside a certain amount of time each day for the work.
What’s your art/ music background?
I went to The High School for Creative and Performing Arts in Philadelphia and The University of the Arts (also in Philadelphia).
I’ve been drawing as long as my memory stretches back and have been playing guitar since I was five. I played and sang in multiple bands from high school until fairly recently.
Currently, I mostly focus on the art and tattooing.
What’s been happening in your life?
The biggest thing of late has been making a decision regarding Dreary & Naughty. A few years back, John Lafleur and I entered an optioning deal with Disney to create a television movie based on our books. It was very exciting initially and we got to work with some great folks. We renewed the agreement twice, but when it came time for the contracts to end this month, we opted to leave and explore other options. We are now embarking on a journey toward having a 3-D animated, streaming series based on the books made. It’s a process we’ll have a lot more involvement with from the pitch to the final product.
What’s next for you?
Hopefully getting Dreary & Naughty out there onto screens and finishing work on the graphic novel.
Which creative medium would you love to pursue but haven’t yet?
Animation of some kind. I’ve dabbled a bit with drawing individual frames and photographing them in order. Would like to explore plugging them into some kind of software and expanding on the process- adding music and voices.
What’s inspiring you?
Walks through the city, music being everywhere, the overwhelming vibrancy of life here and in the surrounding areas. The live oaks, beautiful decay, second line parades, smells of amazing food wafting down random streets. The ghosts. The living.
Do you have any shows coming up?
Is any of your work (art/ music / writing) political?
I draw political cartoons whenever something disturbs me enough or strikes my funny bone. When writing song lyrics, they sometimes lean into politics.
What is one of the biggest challenges you face as a musician?
Picking up my guitar and devoting meaningful time to it.
Are you involved with any organizations or groups?
My wife Jen and I have marched with the Intergalactic Krewe of Chewbacchus come carnival time each year since we got here. It’s an awesome parade full of a ridiculous level of creativity that brings folks from all walks together.
Do you collaborate with other artists / musicians / performers?
I regularly work with other writers and am always open to new projects/ ideas.
Is your wife Jen an artist as well?
Jen writes. We worked on a fun project together called “The Dark Elf on the Shelf.” She’s written a follow up called “The Night Before Krampus” that I’ll hopefully have illustrated and ready for the holidays this year as an ebook. She’s ridiculously creative and would scoff at me for saying so.
What are a few of your favorite spots in New Orleans?
It’s hard to choose, as the whole city is my favorite spot. Some highlights are City Park, The French Quarter (especially along the river), Audubon Park, the Garden District, some of the clubs on Frenchmen Street, the cemeteries, Holly Grove farm and market, Crescent Park…If I get into restaurants, I may have to write a novel. It’s a challenge to find a bad meal here.
What are you reading?
The internet, Guillermo Del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities, Hellboy in Hell, old issues of National Geographic from the 50’s and up, cook books.
Fiction authors who inspire you?
Tom Robbins, Stephen King, Douglas Adams, Anne Rice. Also, animators like Hayao Miyazaki and the team behind Kubo and the Two Strings. Jim Henson, Shel Silverstein, Edward Gorey…
Non-Fiction authors who inspire you?
Howard Zinn currently.
What are you listening to these days?
Listening to a great deal of local music. Between the numerous festivals and our local radio, there’s always something new to explore. Brass bands are pretty amazing, as well as the various forms of jazz, zydeco, and street music. Lately I’ve also been rediscovering music I grew up with in the eighties and nineties.
What was the last show you attended?
What was the last exhibit you attended?
“The Essence of Things- Design and the Art of Reduction: An Exhibition of the Vitra Design Museum” at the New Orleans Museum of Art. The exhibition brought together approximately 150 objects covering 100 years of design history.