Thursday, 2 February 2012

Simon Sherry Interview

Simon Sherry was brought up on the same sort of things that I was and as a result, creates art work that I absolutely love. Dark, edgy and not without humor, Simon mixes mediums to create his striking art and has a style that lends itself well to the comic and pop surreal genres.

Lloyd Harvey: Hey Si, thanks for taking the time to answer some questions. What makes me warm to your work in a really strong and immediate way is the sheer amount of monsters and kill-bots you create. In my opinion, you can never have enough Kill Bots, especially if you are a Sci-fi villain.

Other than your staple dietary upbringing of Dungeons and Dragons, The World of Tolkien and comics (to name a few impressionable influences) what is it about these types of creatures, characters and worlds that make them so irresistible for you to create your own and that these creatures and concepts sit at the core of your personal art?

Simon Sherry: No problem at all Lloyd – a pleasure and an honor to be asked to take part.

As for why I find these sort of subjects so irresistible? It's a good question, and one that, to be honest, I don't really have a definitive answer for. The influences you mentioned above definitely played a big part in my formative years as a kid, and really helped shape and direct my imagination.

Beyond that, I guess a big part is my fascination with monstrosity in general. Imperfections, mutations, grotesqueries, they're just a hell of a lot of fun to create. They also allow for a lot of scope in terms of ambiguity – sympathetic monsters provoke some uncertainty in the viewer. On one hand we're repulsed, but on the other, we can be fascinated and empathise with them. In my head, none of the creatures I create are strictly evil – even the Killbots. After all, they're built to perform that function, so in a way, I guess they're victims of circumstance. 

Fall to Dust © Simon Sherry

Looking at some of your personally driven projects, such as the one based on a deck of cards with 52 characters, the Rorschach Kill Bots and the chess epic Game of Kings, which you and 10 other artists collaborated on and where you created may of the dark chess pieces and their back stories, I can draw a number of conclusions.

a. The first is that you like to deal with characters and the creation of stories around them. How do you conceive characters? Do you come up with a look first and build a story around them? Do you have a story in mind and then create the character’s look afterwards? Or do you create both the story and look simultaneously?

It's really a fairly random process, and all of the above sums up how it can go. More often than not, I'll start scribbling and an idea will come into my head and just grow organically from that. Full Deck is really the best example of that – the original Ace of Spades character started with some 'headless horseman' style sketches that just evolved from there. As the sketches took form, the idea started to gel more and more, and the other characters spilt out from there.

Game of Kings, on the other hand, really started from my desire to work with a bunch of people I admired, and after having some positive responses to Full Deck, the idea of framing it around another game seemed like the best idea. There's an existing framework of characters and situation that, unlike say an existing story or world, still has a vast amount of 'open territory' that artists could explore.

It's funny, as recently I've been rediscovering my long-dormant inner-author, and recent ideas are coming more from a story locked in my head as opposed to just springing from the sketchbook. Funnily enough, I suspect that at some point something will creep back off the pages soon enough...

You Cannot Kill What Does Not Live
Tankfist Steelhammer in HELL! © Simon Sherry
The second conclusion, I may have incorrectly to jumped to, is that you like to work on very large scale projects that must be all encompassing as apposed to creating singular, stand alone images. If this is true, what is it about the epic approach that you like when undertaking personal work? How do you stay focused on the end goal and maintain a continual degree of passion for the concept? Have you ever made it half way through a project and become less enthused (for what ever reason) and stopped?

Oh, definitely man – most definitely! There are whole stories sitting dormant that I've gotten to a point where I say 'can't do it now!' I'd be surprised if most creative folk out there didn't have a draw or two stuffed with artistic mishaps!

I'd be lying if I didn't have a fondness for more 'epic tales' over smaller scale ones. One of the big concerns in a lot of my work (obvious to viewers or not) is the conflict between humanity and the great, big, scary that's the rest of the universe. Whether it's one person's encounter with an indescribable horror, or the clash of armies on a cosmic battleground, at the end of the day, for me it's stories about people (I should probably say, 'lifeforms') fighting against something that they can't really defeat. No matter the scale of the conflict, it's still fairly epic in my opinion.

The Black Queen © Simon Sherry

The Black Queen's Rook © Simon Sherry
A little more on the Game of Kings project because, at the time of this interview, the GoK series is being released and people are becoming aware of its depth and rich history. I read that you spear headed this projected and invited other artists to work along side yourself on some of the illustration and story conception. You yourself took on a large amount the work and designed all of the black pieces.

Yup the black army is my baby – the original brief was my 'team of one' against an opposing team of eight.

How did this project compare to your other projects? As in, what was it like working with 10 other artists? How did it feel delegating some of the creative control to someone else? What did you learn from the whole experience that you feel will help you in other creative endeavors?

In a word – crazy. As far as how it felt to delegate/release some control in the project to other people, well, the whole point was to use the project as a vehicle for collaboration, so having so many great artists that I respected not only agree to, but throw themselves into the project with so much passion was both humbling and incredibly inspiring. Getting writer Danny Nolan on-board to help tie the characters together (particularly within the 'white army') and write the 'game' storyline, along with adding another 10+ artists to help visualise and illustrate it, was even more so.

As for what I learnt, well the biggest lesson would be to make sure you take whatever passion your collaborators bring to the project and throw it back two-fold. It's a bloody big responsibility to keep everyone excited on a project like this – particularly when you have people involved later on in the process who may not have direct ownership of the characters and concepts that they're playing with. You have to really keep people excited and build an environment where everyone feels comfortable and excited about what they're doing. I was particularly lucky in that no one brought an over-inflated ego to the project, and everyone seemed as genuinely jazzed to be working together as I was. That certainly goes a long way to getting a successful result out of all of us!
Charge of the Mastodon © Simon Sherry

The Black King's Rook © Simon Sherry
With possible future personal (or professional) projects in mind, what sort of arenas would you like to take your work into? Owing to your art influences, maybe a graphic novel? Maybe you’d like to develop your own board game? Tell me, what would love to apply your creative mind to?

It's funny you mention that, as I've got a couple of things in the works – one (at least), that I'm hoping will pan out into a comic, and another that is more of an illustrated novel. I had a get-together with my co-conspirator on the latter of the two today in fact, and I think that we're cooking up something pretty exciting.

As for a boardgame? Shit – hopefully I'll finish Full Deck in the next few months and I'll have a fully illustrated card deck to shill. If there's a boardgame company out there that wants to talk to me about working with them, I'll certainly be all ears ;o)

Something Weird © Simon Sherry
Question Set 2 – Questions for every artist

What has been your career highlight to date?

A couple I can think of would be the Game of Kings project purely for the experience of working with such a great group of incredibly talented folk, and my inclusion earlier this year in Gallery Provocateur's Frazetta Tribute Show. Being accepted by a judging panel that included Brom and Simon Bisley, not to mention sharing wall space with some personal heroes including the great man himself is something I'll be treasuring for the rest of my life. Frazetta is probably one of my biggest inspirations, and sharing a gallery with one of his works for a few weeks was a dream come true.

What was the best piece of artistic advice you have received or can offer?

Advice? Be prepared to work your arse off, don't take gigs for the promise of 'exposure', and absorb everything you can from the world around you – not just technique – it's all helpful.

What do you think is the most effective way you market yourself and your work?

Network, take advantage of the great online communities out there – most of the gigs I've landed have come as a direct result of talking to people and getting actively involved.

Dawn of the Dumpty © Simon Sherry
As an artist, what are your biggest challenges that you face?

Self-doubt. It's a bitch, and it's always there, but you've just got to put your head down and ram through it or you're screwed.

The Randoms Question Section

Other than art or drawing, what hobbies do you have and frequently partake in?

Hobbies? What are they?

Can you play a musical instrument? If not, what would you want to play?

If I could, I'd be the greatest drummer that ever lived. Unfortunately, my sense of rhythm is somewhat useless!

DiscDevil © Simon Sherry
In the event of a Zombie Apocalypse, what plan of action would you undertake? What would you do first?

Take the tunnel to my island hideout, strap on my jetpack and laser rifle, activate the killbots and go a-hunting!

A small meteor is about to hit your house and destroy it, your family are already out and safe, you have time to save one thing, what would it be?

My LP copy of the soundtrack to The Phantom of the Paradise.

And finally, what is your favorite flavor of crisps?

Crinkle-cut and salted.

Simon Sherry can be found on the internet in a number of different places. Find a the vast bulk of his art via his Redbubble account: and you can stalk him on Twitter and Tumblr.

Interview by Lloyd Harvey

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