Art of The Shepherd: An Interview with Ryan G. Browne
One of the fun aspects of having a book coming out with Scout Comics is that Scout offers local comic book shops the opportunity to do exclusive variant covers of its Issue 1s. The Shepherd, Volume 1, Issue 1 is no exception. Recently, Pharcyde Comics in Montréal, Québec, commissioned Ryan G. Browne to do an exclusive for them.
We fell in love at first sight, so we decided to discuss the piece with Ryan:
ANDREA: Could you share with us how you first got started in art? Was there a seminal moment you can look back on as “the moment” or was it really a series of events?
RYAN: I first got started in comics back during the big 90s boom, when every 16 year old kid thought they were going to be the next Lee, McFarlane, or Liefeld. I submitted stuff for a few years and was actually rejected multiple times by the big companies. Looking back, I realize all I was doing was copying my favorite artists. It took me many years and tons of different art related jobs (architecture, graphic design, tattoos, advertising) to finally come back to drawing comics. I finally started drawing again about 10 years ago and, with the help and support of my amazing wife who forced me to quit my retail job and pursue art full time, I’ve never looked back. I think I hit at the right time with certain things and created a good fan base that is still with me to this day.
ROBERTO: I am curious, as an artist just approaching our character, what aspects of the Shepherd spoke to you? And how did you go about capturing what you perceived as our character’s essential elements?
RYAN: I have to say, one of the first things that struck me about the Shepherd was long coat, hood, and staff. I love a mysterious looking character. Once I did a little research and found out about him, I was hooked. Even if I didn’t get the cover, I was still going to draw something for this. I love anything that involves the story of life and death and afterlife/limbo. The Crow by James O'Barr is my all-time favorite comic story. This book reminds me of that world a little, it’s obviously more mystical—but something about it reminded me of that.
ANDREA: I want to dovetail off of Roberto’s question. I note two distinctive and unique aspects of your painting: 1) the TREE with (hostile?) creatures imbedded in it and 2) the living skulls that are scattered around The Shepherd. Could you speak to your inspirations for these elements? Frankly, when I saw the animated skulls in the ground, I thought of the powerful scene from the Robin Williams movie, What Dreams May Come (1998).
RYAN: I actually never even thought of the film “What Dreams May Come,” but that might have had an unconscious influence on it. I wanted to do something that was kind of a minimalist cover, I see covers that tend to have tons of stuff going on in them, and this felt like an opportunity to do something with “less”—if that makes sense. I wanted to try to do something with little or no background to try to convey emptiness. As for the tree, I’m not really sure where that came from, but again, I wanted something that would play off the good and evil type of feeling. I love drawing creepy or stylized things like that, and it just seemed fitting to have the tree be “evil” along with the half-buried skulls.
ROBERTO: I am curious about the physical appearance of The Shepherd. He looks pretty buff. In fact, when we posted your artwork, one of our artist friends, Walter Ostlie (author/artist of Scout Comics’ Shiver Bureau and artist of Metalshark Bros) commented, “Someone’s been working out.” Can you comment on your depiction of the Shepherd’s physical appearance?
RYAN: As for the “buff” version of him...I was going for a more sullen or hunched/ exhausted version. I thought someone who does what he does would be very contemplative and was shooting for that type of look. Also, maybe he was hitting the gym a little before this! :)
If you are interested in seeing more of Ryan’s work and/or following his adventures on social media, check out these links: www.ryanbrowne.storenvy.com @zombiepetz_rgb (Instagram) @zombiepetz (Twitter).