Hello, my name is Shawn Bowers.
When did you first start getting involved with art?
I started drawing when I was but a tiny child…mostly, I was trying to copy art from comic books that I liked, and that’s kind of how I “learned.” I also remember checking out a VHS tape from the library over and over again that was like an instructional video on how to draw sci-fi cartoons? Or like how to draw a space station or something? I wish I remembered enough about it to look it up, I’d probably still learn a lot from watching it.
As you grew up, you got to a point where you felt like you weren’t good enough at art and you figured you would be better at writing and performing. What sparked your interest to pick yourself back up and get involved with art again?
No idea! I’d been writing and performing for many many years, in Kansas City and then in Chicago, and…it’s a grind! It’s a grind, and also with performing or filmmaking or whatever, you tend to need a bunch of other people to actually make something happen. I kind of like working alone, and taking my time to do what I want, and so it made sense to turn back to art where I could work happily in my little vacuum. I knew I had a lot of work to do, to find a style of my own (something I’m still not fully sure I’ve done), and to get good enough that I wasn’t ashamed to share my work…but I like new challenges, and figuring those things out became a very zen experience where other forms of creativity were constantly stressing me out.
Do you approach projects differently now due to that break?
A little bit, I think I felt in a rush to “catch up” at first, though I’m not sure what I am or was catching up WITH. I spent a while changing up my style way too frequently, just to see what stuck, and reassuring myself that that was okay. If anything, the Internet changed how I approach projects the most because I like making things for an audience, so I tend to follow the threads of what people are responding to when I post. When I was doodling as a teenager, that was less of a “thing.”
While scrolling through your artwork, it seems like you are attracted to pop culture….
Ever so slightly. I’m a mass cult enthusiast, what can I say!
When it comes to your artwork, you create based off of a theme and create pieces in series. Do you think that comes from your love for comic books and telling a story?
It’s more from my love of lists, honestly. When I started doing Garfemon, my project where I’m re-drawing every Pokemon as a Garfield, it was a major mental relief because I had a list of 151 characters to just work through without thinking. I like repetition and sequence, and seeing a theme beaten to death to see what new things can be discovered once you’re “proven the point.” This is a long way of saying that I’m lazy and fear the unknown, and doing art in a series gives me a semblance of structure.
Talk about this series you’re working on where you’re doing art pieces inspired by every Garfield comic from the year 1978
Heck yeah! It’s called Infinite Mondays and it came out after I’d finished the first round of Garfemon, I’d done 151 of these daily character drawings and it was fine, but it didn’t feel super artistically “fulfilling” and I wasn’t really able to lay claim to their “style” because they’re reimagining existing forms. With Infinite Mondays, I still had the structure of “I have x number of comics to create original pieces” from, but I was more free to interpret them as I please and focus more on composition versus free-floating drawings. A lot of the things that I now think of as my “style” came from this project…flat colors, thick linework, empty faces and always working within a panel. Those traits are present in most of my work these days. Also, Garfield is my rock. What started, probably, as an ironic love has turned into a lifelong challenge to see how much creative work I can wring from his fat little cat body before I never want to make art again.
You recently joined up with Stephen Winchell to create a comic based on Aquaman. How was it working with Stephen and putting together these projects?
It’s great! Steve and I have known each for many years, and we’ve made many things together. We wrote a radio play about Frasier’s dad together, we hosted a live lit show about comics together, he’s who I always text excitedly when I’ve read a great new comic. We’ve done three Unsinkable Aquaman comics now, and each one has been a great learning experience. It started with him, it was fully his idea, and I was just helping him color. On the second, I was inking and coloring. By the third, we broke the story and scripted together, he penciled and then I inked and colored again. But it emboldened me to finally start trying my own hand at making some short comics, even though I think I’m kind of rubbish at sequential storytelling!
If you could pick one superhero to recreate a comic book on who would it be?
Funny you should ask, cause that’s the comic I was emboldened to make…my top dude is Cyclops from the X-Men, and he’s been dragged through the wringer over the last decade. So I made a super quick little comic where he does what every disgraced hero always does when they’re trying to make a comeback: go on a walkabout through the backroads of America.
And to end this, it would only make sense to ask for you to list your top 5 favorite comics
This is like asking a man with 1000 children to pick 5 children who most deserve trophies. I’ll be an X-Men fan for life, so any X-book from any time period takes one giant top slot, specifically the mid-to-late ’90s stuff. Recently, Tom King’s work on Batman and Mister Miracle has been making me happy. Mark Waid and Chris Samnee’s work on the latest Captain America reboot is the thing that makes me the happiest of all comics these days. There’s so much joy and fun in that comic which, as it happens, is about Cap doing a walkabout of America after having been disgraced. And number 5…I probably owe Garfield a slot here, huh?