The Universe According To Fantasy Illustrator Shannon Potratz

The Universe According To Fantasy Illustrator Shannon Potratz

Spend ten minutes talking with Mr. Shannon Potratz and you will know at least two things about him for certain. One, he is an affable guy. Somewhat self-effacing, he has a good sense of humor and (despite the bad ass pic above) a cool, sweetness about him that makes him easy to talk to. Second, he is passionate about his art, his comic books, and Star Wars. 

Spend more time with him and you’ll also find that he is an intelligent, hard-working man. A loyal friend, he is one of those guys who appreciates the people around him, and finds inspiration with them. Genuine and real, keep reading to learn more about this incredible fantasy artist!

SnS – Please tell us, what got you into art? Did you have a mentor?

Shannon – My father was a huge influence on me. As an accomplished (but frustrated) artist himself, he encouraged me to pursue a career in art. Growing up, he never had any encouragement from his dad, who thought art was a “waste of time.” So he spent 40 years in a job he hated. Both my mother and father were insistent that my brother and I find something we love and make that our career.

SnS – What would you call your style of illustration?

Shannon – Fantasy art. Of course, that encompasses a variety of genres from science-fiction to comic books. I’m also currently working on a couple of independent comic projects. Some of the art for them can be seen above, but I really can’t tell you much about them yet.

SnS – What mediums do you work with and what is your favorite?

Shannon – Pencil, pen & ink, Copic marker, acrylic, and digital are my primary mediums. I love the raw energy of simple pencil sketching. I like that sense that everything is always in motion.

SnS –  Are you classically trained or self-taught?

Shannon – I’d say a little of both. I picked up a pencil at a very young age (probably around 4 years old). I took every art class I could throughout junior high and high school and received more formal training when I went through the graphic design program at Spokane Falls Community College.

SnS – So many artists and writers that I speak to, tell me that they are never really satisfied with their work. Do you find this to be true?

Shannon – (laughing) Of course. There is always something that can be tweaked.

SnS – Where do you find inspiration to create? (Do you read, jog, snap packing bubbles, maybe slam Monster energy drinks?) 

Shannon – My inspiration comes from many different things and often at the most random times. I love movies and reading books and comics. But much of my inspiration comes from interacting with other artists. The creative banter back and forth between creative minds is an invaluable tool. I also periodically have dreams and will wake up in the middle of the night with images in my head. That’s when I have to grab a pencil and paper and quickly jot those ideas down, otherwise I’ll forget, haha.

SnS – Do you have a day job, if so what do you do?

Shannon – I work full-time as a graphic designer for Bassett&brush Design. I also do freelance work for a company called Outland Entertainment.

SnS – Do you have any other hobbies / talents / interests?

Shannon – I mentioned my love of movies, books, and comics. I also love getting outdoors and exploring new places. It’s amazing the wonders you can discover in your own back yard. I’m also a bit of a Star Wars nut and enjoy building costumes and authentic looking movie props. I’m a member of the 501st Legion (a world-wide Star Wars costuming group). I’m currently building my own life-size Han Solo in Carbonite, haha.

Due to the fantasy nature of your illustrations, I have to ask. Do you play any RPG games, LARP, or otherwise geek out?

Shannon – I used to play some table top games. In fact, years ago I collaborated with my close friend, Daniel Davis on a world we called Agyris. We used this as a backdrop for tabletop gaming with our friends. We had fun with that for a while, until the demands of family life took precedence. Daniel has since gone on to create his own company called Steam Crow, having developed a huge fan following, which he calls the Monster Scouts.

SnS – If you could invite any 4 artists (from any genre – musicians, painters, etc.) to picnic with you, who would it be and why?

Shannon – I would love to have a sit-down with Ralph McQuarrie, Frank Frazetta, George Lucas, and Frank Herbert. I’d be WAY in over my head but the discussion would be fascinating and I can’t think of anyone I’d rather learn from about the mysteries of fantasy, science-fiction, technology, myth-making, and the universe.

SnS – Now for the serious question. . . Star Trek or Star Wars? Why?

Shannon – Isn’t it possible to love both? But if I had to pick, it would obviously be Star Wars. Now that’s the universe I want to explore and live in. It straddles the line between fantasy and science-fiction (leaning a little more towards fantasy) and has that gritty realism that seems more immersive to me. From a world-building perspective, Star Wars is unparalleled.

Star Wars defined my childhood. As a kid, I would run down to the local 7-11 to buy Star Wars comic books. I still have the very first comic book I ever bought, Marvel’s Star Wars issue #6. It’s a little beat up, but it is priceless to me. It is framed and hanging in my home. Though Star Wars was my main thing, it introduced me to the world of Marvel. I still have most of my Marvel comics, including Thor #337. The beginning of Walt Simonson’s legendary run, and the first appearance of Beta Ray Bill. I love the cover art on that issue!

I think this original sketch of Shannon’s speaks for itself, and his love of all things Star Wars 😉

sw_sketch_retro_by_skp

SnS – Do you have any causes or charities you support that you’d like to mention here? 

Shannon – As a member of the 501st, I’ve done many events that support several charities, including Communities in Schools, and the Wishing Star Foundation, as well as several cancer research organizations.

And finally, please list any websites or galleries where fans (old and new) can find more of your work.


http://folkloreforge.com/
http://voya.deviantart.com/gallery/

Coming soon!

Coming soon!

An interview with the People’s Choice winner of the “Origins of Fear” exhibit at the Little Dog Art Gallery

There are still 3 days left to vote. If you haven’t stopped by to experience the chilling art work or to cast your ballot yet, you’d better run down there. RUN, RUN FOR YOUR LIFE!

Then, stay tuned guys and ghouls, to find out who caused a shiver to run up the collective spines of all those visiting the gallery this month, and learn just how twisted they really are! Muahahahahahahahaha!

Outside the PNW, my tre”Maine”dous trip through Kennebunkport’s art galleries.

Outside the PNW, my tre”Maine”dous trip through Kennebunkport’s art galleries.

It started out as a work training trip for my mechanically inclined hubby but, thanks to a serendipitous find of cheap plane tickets, I was able to accompany him to Kennebunkport, Maine. We treated the trip like a belated 25th anniversary adventure. At night we both enjoyed traipsing through the various gift shops, and savoring the local food specialties, especially the lobster! Or as the folks of Maine would say, “lobstah”. During the day my husband went to work while I explored the towns plethora of art galleries, so of course I decided to share a few of my favorites here.

Click on the links to see what I’m so excited about!

One of the first places I found was located at 8 Western Ave. Deborah Randall Fine Art  is owned and operated by its namesake. Even in the few moments I got to spend speaking with Deborah, I can tell you she exudes strength and passion in person, as well as in her art. The front of the gallery displays her amazing Maine seascapes in large, small, and even smaller amuse bouche sizes. Water, clouds, and earth in every shade capture the many moods of the surrounding area in a majestic and magical style. The back of the gallery doubles as her studio / office, but also houses her more whimsical enamels. Smaller 5″ x 7″  paintings, these bold offerings are fun and thought provoking little petit fours of artistic expression.

**I fell in love with two pieces “Big Red Sky” and one of the chicken enamels. Love!

The Maine Art Gallery  at 14 Western Ave. was my next stop. Filled with paintings and sculptures from many incredible artists. I was blown away by the eclectic nature of the works offered. Paintings of every discipline graced the walls, while sculptures both wood and metal filled up any blank spaces. In fact the metal sculptures continued to the outside parking lot as wind catching whirligigs. Gallery Director, Amy Lewia, kindly answered my questions with a smiling enthusiasm that drew me in and kept me browsing. From ethereal to earthy there was something to appeal to every taste.

**My favorite sculpture was a perfect sphere, nearly as tall as me, made out of rusty old horse shoes. Amazing!

David P. Fouts at 31 Ocean Ave. The Landmark gallery was painting a seascape featuring a tall ship when I walked through the door. That didn’t stop him from getting up to shake my hand and inquire about my day. Personable and talented, his work as well as that of many other regional artists, both painters and sculptors, is displayed in this lovely renovated firehouse. Sea birds, ships, boats, beaches, waves and sand, the offerings in this gallery are representative of all things nautical and lovely. A total treat for the eyes, the styles ranging from dreamily impressionistic to amazingly life like are well worth looking into.

**David P. Fouts’ painting of St. Ann’s (sorry I lost the title!) and David Tutwiler’s “Thunder of the Iron Horse” stood out to me. Gorgeous!

Northlight Gallery , 33 Ocean Ave. is right next door to The Landmark and one of the owners, Harry Thompson, was jamming out to 60’s music when I stepped in. I had to admit, the music drew me in and put me in the mood for a bit of funky art. I wasn’t disappointed.  This gallery displays artists of all kinds. Paintings, photos, and sculptures don’t compete for space as much as share it and compliment each other. Harry himself, besides being a talented artist, is a warm and lively host / curator with a quick smile and great sense of humor. Creative to the core, he asked me to compare and contrast east coast (Maine) artists against west coast (Washington) artists. Well Harry, that topic is way to broad for this old broad (jet lag being what it is) so instead I’ll give you all the highly generalized short version: Kennebunkport vs. Spokane.

The artists I enjoyed in Kennebunkport, despite their wildly different styles, all seemed to have a couple things in common: a sense of life and inevitability. Like the ocean they live by, the waves against the shore, ever changing, ever the same, their work can be counted upon to create feelings of  wonder and awe. Motion and mystery.

The artists I know and love in Spokane share a different aesthetic. Evergreen forests and animals inform much of their work. The wildness of the ocean is traded for the ruggedness of mountains and river valleys. Spokane artists tend to honor native traditions, question authority / reality, and highlight nature’s bounty, and wrath. Their work invokes appreciation of and respect for inland nature, as well as a sense of mirthful irony.

**So many great artists to choose from here, I have to say I was struck by Stephen Maka’s folded photographs, Harry Thompson’s colorful dorys, and Jack Standish’s clean, minimalist paintings. Overwhelmingly cool!

My final visit ended up being the most amazing. Little did I know when I walked into the  W. Robert Paine Gallery  who I was meeting or how lucky I was to do so.

The screen door squeaked when I opened it and I was greeted by the sound of small dogs barking. I was looking at two 8″ x 8″ paintings hanging just inside the doorway; waiting for my ankles to be attacked, when a door opened and a gentle voice shushed the enthusiastic pups. A tall, elderly gentleman approached me and apologized for the noise. I joked about his “vicious guard dogs” and inquired about a familiar painting above his left shoulder showing George and Barbara Bush sitting with their dog. That one question started a forty-five minute conversation that would keep me smiling for days.

Turns out, the elderly gentleman was none other than the artist W. Robert Paine. Ninety three years old and still as sharp as a tack,  Mr. Paine shared many lovely memories about his paintings, his family, and his friendships. Incredibly charming and elegant, he regaled me with stories of serving his country, going to art school with renowned American artist Norman Rockwell, creating those iconic Palmolive dish soap ads, and hanging out with both Presidents Bush and their families.

Agog at his history, I asked him if he’d ever considered writing an auto-biography. I should have known better. Mr. Paine strode across his studio and picked a book off his coffee table. Together we leafed through it as he pointed out past work he’d done and people he’d known. The book is out of print now, but as I promised him, I tracked one down. It’s used, but I’m hoping if I send it to him, he’ll sign it for me. W. Robert Paine has lead an amazing life. I am honored to have gotten to spend time with him, and wish him all the best. I also wish I lived closer so that I could visit this amazing and kind man again. God bless you Bob!

**Favorite painting at W. Robert Paine’s house? “God Bless America.” Great story attached to that one. Thanks again for sharing it with me sir. 

**A quick mention** On our way to catch our return flight home, the hubby and I stopped by  the Franciscan Guest House and the adjoining grounds of the St. Anthony Monastery and Shrines. If you appreciate Catholic / religious icons and statuary, or just wish to enjoy a walk through beautiful garden-like areas, drop by.

 

 

The Intricate, Imaginative Illustrations of Kim Long

The Intricate, Imaginative Illustrations of Kim Long

 

Yet another incredible find at The Little Dog Art Gallery . I first saw artist Kim Long’s work at the Exquisite Woman exhibit. A colorful, acrylic portrait of a woman’s face peeking through the purple, dread-like fronds of an amaranth called “Love Lies Bleeding” hung opposite to an amazingly detailed charcoal and pastel confection called “Living With Your Heart Wide Open.” (pictured above, top left)

I was amazed by both works and my first thought after the shock and awe wore off was, “This artist has some range to her! I have to interview her.” Thankfully she agreed to meet with me and we spent an honestly fun hour or so together where I learned that she is just as warm, layered, and original as her works of art.  Read on to learn more about the intricate, imaginative illustrations of Kim Long.

Q. When did you first discover your talent / love of art?

A. Art / Drawing has always been a part of me for as long as I remember. There have been times in my life when I thought I had to set it aside and concentrate on more conventional business pursuits, but they were trying times, and it never “fit”.

Q. As a writer, I get the not fitting into the whole 9 to 5 thing. What was the worst job you ever had?

A. I was managing a small business. Something I’d done successfully before, but at this particular job, I was asked to keep track of too much. The owners would call me and expect me to spout numbers and figures at a moment’s notice. I just can’t do that. Numbers, facts and figures are not my forte’, though I am very detail oriented in my art.

Q. Have you gone to school or taken classes to learn your craft or are you self taught? 

A. I have very little formal training. I have just kept showing up at the drawing table. There have been hits and misses, but I believe I have cultivated a unique style. 

Q. From what I’ve seen, you have an amazing way of blending nature into your work. What do you call your particular style?

A. Best guess, Magic Realism? I also describe my work as intricate, imaginative illustrations.

Q. Do you have a favorite subject (animals, trees, people, concepts, etc.) from which to create?

A. I find the natural world divine. I love animals and people. 98% of my work has eyes! At one point my boyfriend walked into my studio and exclaimed, “Everything is looking at me!” It made me laugh, but I just love expressive eyes.

Q. What is your favorite medium to work within?

A. Drawing (dry media: pen, pencil, charcoal) is what I love most. Painting and gold leaf are secondary supports.

Q. Who are some of your favorite artists?

A. Illustrators are my very favorites!!! I love Alphonse Mucha and Frank Frazetta. I’ve had people look down on me for enjoying the works of illustrators, for wanting to be like them, but I enjoy what they do, and what I do.  

**For the record, this interviewer thinks their work is amazing also, and finds Kim’s work to be an incredible morphing of their individual styles into her own. So poop on any naysayers!

Q. What is your process and where do you find inspiration? Do you listen to music, take walks, visit galleries, drink enough Red Bull to spawn hallucinations? 😉

A. Close with the Red Bull, but for me it’s coffee! I have converted my living room into a studio, and the second bedroom into a “chill room”, so every morning after coffee I hit the drawing table. I have been solely supporting myself with my art for approximately two years now, and take my inspiration from life, my friends, and my love.

Q. Can you give me an example of finding inspiration?

A. Yes. The picture called “Dandelion” (shown above, bottom left) came to me while a friend and I were on vacation. We were out walking around and we saw a girl wearing what I think was a white, afro wig. It intrigued me, but the idea of it looking like a dandelion didn’t come to me until a little while later.

Q. That’s really cool :).  Now, can you tell me a bit about your love? Where did you meet? Do you have any pets?

A.  I met my boyfriend while showing my work at Arbor Crest. He and his group “The Dog House Boyz” had been hired to do the music. We’ve been together for five years now.

We do have a cat, Allycat. She’d been letting herself into a vacant home nearby, via a pet door. When some friends moved in with their dogs it became obvious she needed a new home.  Every time I visited, she would sit by my shoes and stare at me. We bonded instantly. She and I fit together perfectly. 

Q. Are you currently working on any new projects?

A. I usually have five things going at once. I’m most excited about the beginnings, so it helps to have pieces in different stages of development. This allows me to choose what fits my day / mood. My next show will be at The New Moon Art Gallery in October / November.

Q. Do you have any other interests or passions?

A. I enjoy the natural world and Archaeology. The history of man is most fascinating.

Q. Final question. If you could travel ANYWHERE in space or time for your art, where would you go and why?

A. I would travel to the Lascaux Cave in southwestern France, about 17,o0o years ago! I would be so interested in seeing the people making ancient art. It is estimated by the depth of the (then) floor, that they must have constructed scaffolding. Were they really all that different from us? Was there a ritual? Was it to bring good hunting? Or, were they like us, needing to impart beauty / feeling upon a surface?

I don’t know the answer to that one, but I’m sure glad that Kim Long has decided to share her talent with all of us!

If you would like to see more of Kim’s art you can visit her website at KimLongArt.com