Art of The Shepherd: An Interview with Walter Ostlie
Comic book writer and artist Walter Ostlie of Orlando, Florida, has been a part of Team Shepherd’s journey for quite some time.
Roberto is the one who met Walter first. We were exhibiting The Shepherd, Volume 1 at our very first Free Comic Book Day on May 8, 2016 (about one year after it was published) at Fashion Square Mall in Orlando. During a lull, Roberto went wandering around to check out the booths of some of the other creators who had set up outside Coliseum of Comics and bumped into Walter. Walter and Roberto hit it off and ended up trading copies of our books, getting a copy of Walter’s Shiver Bureau, now published by Scout Comics (https://www.scoutcomics.com/collections/shiver-bureau) and giving him a copy of Volume 1 in exchange. Eventually, Roberto brought Walter around to our table and I got to meet him for the first time.
As I prepared this article, I looked back at our pictures of that day and was unable to find one with Walter in it. Ironically, I did find this picture of Roberto at our table. If you look carefully, you can see a purple book near Roberto’s left hand. That’s Shiver Bureau! As I write this, I find myself snickering because I remember Roberto sitting at the table and reading Walter’s book right on the spot—typical Roberto.
As for me, I didn’t read Shiver Bureau that day, but later that week, I did curl up with it and found that I enjoyed it thoroughly. It’s kind of a Dr. Who meets Ghostbusters, very fun and fast-paced. I knew that I really liked Walter’s art, so much so that it wasn’t long before I reached out to Walter and asked him to do a couple commissions for Team Shepherd. The result was that in August 2016, Walter delivered what would be two of the most popular promo pieces ever commissioned for The Shepherd (and we are at something like 50 and counting)!
For the purposes of this article, our focus will be on the one we call, The Shepherd and Legio in the Seam. It is, without doubt, the most popular promo of our characters. The reason we know this is that Team Shepherd has a sales policy where anyone who buys any one of our Shepherd volumes gets to choose a free promo print from our book of commissioned prints (which now stands, as I noted previously, at around 50 unique prints). Trust me, no print is selected more often than this one.
ROBERTO: When you start a new piece of art like The Shepherd and Legio in the Seam, how do you decide where you want to draw the viewer’s eye?
WALTER: I don't approach pieces with that in mind. I tend to think about the character and what pose or action can best encapsulate their essence. Then I start sketching those ideas. The concept of focus or leading the eye is more of an involuntary action—either the composition is or isn't working—the focus just falls into place.
ROBERTO: Which character is more visually appealing to you, The Shepherd or Legio?
WALTER: The Shepherd for sure. I get the sweats anytime I have to draw a non-human animal. Don't get me started on cows. I've always had a thing for characters in long coats. Gambit from The X-Men is one of my favorite characters.
ROBERTO: Are there any artists that you feel have really influenced your path as an artist?
WALTER: There's a bunch, but I was very influenced by Jhonen Vasquez, Ben Templesmith, and Skottie Young. All successful artists with very unique and very not mainstream art styles. It was like permission for me to draw however I wanted. I didn't have to be a Jim Lee clone, though I do love Jim Lee.
I remember starting with action poses, The Shepherd jumping around, swinging the staff. It just didn't feel right. It wasn't the right tone. So I started going with a more somber route. That's when I got that image of the two walking towards the viewer, not angry, not screaming, just chill, just invading your personal space like they own the place. Thought it captured the quiet power of the series.
Art for me was always a tool to tell stories. Yeah, there is the over-achiever in me that wants to be the best artist in town and get all the accolades, so I have to tell that part of me to be quiet. I have to remind myself often that if my art is good enough to clearly tell a story, then that's as good as it needs to be.
Interestingly enough, Walter was also with Team Shepherd at another important milestone. Walter shared a booth with Team Shepherd at PalmCon in September 2016 (West Palm Beach, Florida). He joined Team Shepherd artist Cristóbal Torres and Roberto, while I did my first ever cosplay of The Shepherd!
Now, Walter and Team Shepherd share a publisher in Scout Comics (Fort Myers, Florida).
Over the years, Walter and I have crossed paths at many conventions, ranging from New York City to Denver to Orlando and Tampa to Atlanta and Charlotte. He has given us lots of good advice and been a great friend. He is a very talented creator and, more importantly, a great person. He has the moral compass of Captain America—but with way cooler hair! If you run across his booth at a convention, do yourself a favor and pick up a book and a print.