Interview by Natalye for Silver Sprocket
Tell us about yourself.
I’m a pretty unmotivated self-promoter, but I make a lot of art.
How did you get involved in As You Were?
I was introduced to Avi by a mutual friend who liked my comics and thought I should publish with them. I liked Avi immediately and gave them the rights to everything. Well not really, but essentially, as far as I’m concerned. So, anyway, they asked if I wanted to contribute, and my answer was yes! Bam! Did it!
Your contribution to As You Were #5 is about the life and job of a sock monkey. What made you decide to tell a story from that perspective?
After going through my personal list of bad jobs (Walmart, KFC, Taco Bell, to name a few) and all the realities of being a pawn of the system, I decided that I didn’t want to write about any of them ‘cause it’s all just too obvious. So, instead I chose to tell a lesser-heard voice, that of an anthropomorphized inanimate object. Why? ‘Cause sock monkeys are easier to stitch up than the horrors of capitalism, and the answers to sock monkey’s problems are more solvable. Also, I relate to Bezby.
The comic is also a collaboration between you and Sturgeon. What was that process like?
He wasn’t so sure throughout the whole process that he wanted me to make the comic. By its very nature it was going to shed a strange light on him, since he is essentially the job that sucks, right? But it was a fun collaboration. We started with storytelling and photo shoots. I have some real keepers of him peeing in the yard and pretending to be drunkenly passed out, etc. He also helped a lot with some of the visual details, like the “nihilist Bezby” bedroom decor. Lost Prophets and Bill Cosby were his suggestions. He’s a really fun collaborator for lists and ideas, very imaginative and creative.
What’s your “artist origin” story? How did it all begin for you?
It began in a republican suburb of St. Louis, Missouri, where I was a very big weirdo. I was baffled by people’s personal choices from a very young age, cause I’m a natural-born autonomous radical leftist of the extreme variety.
My motor skills have always been pretty sharp, and my art skills kinda defined me in my public school days, so I went with that to express myself. I really liked making satanic art in my Catholic art teacher’s class, especially since she had to give me As since I was the best artist in class. I learned that this gave me an upper hand in some form or another, and I’ve been making art ever since.
A lot of your artwork is incredibly detailed, and the themes seem connected to nature and humanity. What sorts of things inspire you?
I like to stay informed on what is going on in both politics and nature. I like to tie the two things together as a sort of “state of the union” by using images of plants and animals that are struggling to survive because of certain laws or policies and creating an allegorical narrative. Some of my drawings have such a deep narrative that you’d really have to care to pull out the full story. This is a result of me reading and geeking out for weeks on the background of a vulture in India or something like that, and finding connections to society, personal feelings, etc. It’s a pretty obsessive process.
You also seem to work with a lot of different mediums. What is your favorite?
I guess pen and ink is my favorite because it’s so versatile for means of reproducing. I used to oil paint and I want to get back into it. I also like to write funny poems and have been dabbling in music a bit. I’d like to write some funny songs.
Word on the street is you just built a house? A shed? Both? What can you tell us about that?
I’m a self-employed handywoman; it’s my job. So yeah, I built a power shack. It’s beautiful, and it’s what I live in, and it’s in my friend’s backyard. I had been living in the best squat in all of California ‘cause it was mine and my partner’s and we had two bedrooms and two bathrooms all to ourselves. It was owned by Fannie Mae, and finally the eviction process began and I got to drawing plans and diggin’ a foundation. We (my friend, partner, and I) built it in about 2 months. It’s got a million outlets, a chandelier on a dimmer switch, even three-way so I can turn it on and off in my loft. The shack rules! But I do miss that squat.
What other kind of things do you do (I heard something about avocado margaritas)?
Avocado margaritas were invented by Jerry Buchanan of East Bay punk fame, and I ripped him off just like many others will from now until the end of civilization. Throw an avocado into that blender and you will see it’s been the missing ingredient the whole time.
But as for other things that I do regularly, well… a friend called me “contentious” recently, which can sum up a lot of my social life. I also enjoy yelling at people who are harassing service workers. Other than that, I basically do everything.
What are you working on now (or planning on working on) that excites you?
I’m currently working on some of my non-comic elaborate pen and ink drawings. I’m starting one today about my feelings on young girls being raised in misogynistic cultures, as I have had that subject hit close to home a lot lately. It will be magical, dark, and metaphorical, as per usual.
I’ve curated a group art show with four of my favorite artists, and we are opening that on November 17, 2017 at Oakland:Secret. It’s gonna be great; y’all should come out! That is very exciting ‘cause I hardly ever do art shows but I really like to go all out for them, and this one is gonna be the best yet!
Of everything you’ve ever made/created, what would you say you’re most proud of or is most representative of you?
Probably this drawing I made where a bunch of dogs are fighting under a rail bridge in East St. Louis. It’s really beautiful to me. It’s my favorite ‘cause it’s pretty raw, but it’s very still and familiar, and I drew it when I was living out of my truck, so it was drawn on many a friend’s table with lots of memory attached. I’ve never reproduced it, but I probably should. Second favorite is a painting I made of my couch when I was 20. Very representative of my interests.
Off the top of your head, who are some artists whose work you love that fans of your comics should check out?
Artists to check out? Hm. Dori Seda and Lynda Barry are among my favorite comic artists. Vania Zouravliov is my favorite living illustrator. Roger Miller wrote the best songs to laugh to, Blaze Foley wrote the best songs to cry to. John Steinbeck is my absolute favorite novelist, and I do love a lot of those. Fiona Bearclaw is a friend of mine, and she’s an amazing artist.
What question do you like to be asked / wish you were asked but never were… and what’s the answer?
The question would be phrased like this:
“You seem tired, but I want to keep talking at you for a while longer, because I love to hear myself talk. Is that okay?”
My answer would be phrased:
“That’s very polite of you, and while it is OK in a sense, I prefer you leave me alone now.”
And then they would leave me alone, feeling content with their politeness, and everything would be easy and simple and perfect. The end!
To see more of Shannon’s work, take a look at her Etsy page and follow her on Instagram. You can also see her contributions to As You Were: Living Situations and As You Were: This Job Sucks!