Sam Shearon talks with Heavy Music Artwork
Sam Shearon Aka ‘Mister-Sam’ is a British Artist born in Liverpool in the United Kingdom. Specialising in horror and science-fiction, his work often includes elements inspired by ancient cultures, the occult, industrial/art/revolution-eras as well as classic literature and the often controversial side to the study of the supernatural, the paranormal and the realm of cryptozoology. Best known for creating ‘Dark-Artwork’, his previous clients are varied though all sway towards the darker side of the entertainment industry both in print, music and film. Previous clients in the music industry include Jason Charles Miller, Rob Zombie, Rammstein, A Pale Horse Named Death, Fear Factory, American Head Charge, Godhead, Piranha, stOrk, Crowned By Fire, HIM and Iron Maiden among many others…
He has also created guitar graphics for ESP and Dean Guitars. Other clients include Pro-Tone Pedals, Coffin Case, and Dig Deep Entertainment. Sam’s work has been published by a variety of magazines, books and comic books, including – FANGORIA, LA WEEKLY, HEAVY METAL Magazine, The Fortean Times and most notably IDW Publishing. Through IDW he has illustrated cover art including ’30 Days of Night’, ‘Angel’ and ‘KISS’. He has also fully illustrated the hardback books ‘The Call of Cthulhu’ by H.P.Lovecraft and ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ by Oscar Wilde.
His client list continues to grow…
Sam studied at the College of Art & Design in Leeds, West Yorkshire in England where he received a Degree with honours in Visual Communication. He is also a qualified Art teacher gaining his Post Graduate Certificate in Education from Huddersfield University in England shortly after his Art Degree. His exhibition work has sparked outrage and fascination alike, both online and in local and national newspapers due to the macabre content and subject matter. This has led to coverage from both The Daily Telegraph and the BBC, spawning live interviews and online debates as to whether his ‘gruesome’ artwork should even be considered art resulting in the question ‘Is this Art’ to be printed on the front page of his local newspaper. Some have even called to boycott one exhibition in response to the mutilation of toy bears and the combinations of animal remains and mechanical elements included within his sculpture work. Sam continues to create his Dark Art travelling the world, illustrating books, comic-books, album sleeves, guitar graphics, dark portraits and much more…
HMA: Your resume is really impressive, Iron Maiden, Cradle of Filth, Rammstein, A Pale Horse Named Death, etc. to name a few. How did you get started in designing and creating artwork for Heavy Metal bands?
Sam Shearon: I guess the desire to create artwork for bands really started when I began collecting records as a teenager and following these favourites such as Type O Negative and Nine Inch Nails. I was such a fan of these bands that I literally wanted to become a part of their history and contribute something back to help fuel their future so that I can in turn hear more from them knowing I was part of it.
I saw opportunities in their releases where I could elaborate and illustrate their messages and themes with my own work. So few bands do this and it saddens me when you buy an album that has minimal artwork, if I’m buying an album, I want a package! So with the advent of MySpace, it finally gave me a clear channel to reach out to the bands directly and show them my work. Naturally it was an honor to hear back from people genuinely interested in my art… Those first few phone calls you get from the person you have a poster of on your wall, really makes your jaw hit the floor! Then as I grew up through my twenties, things really started to pan out and I saw a career path growing.
HMA: How did the first paid job land on your lap?
Sam Shearon: I wouldn’t say it landed in my lap, I take pride in the fact I’ve done the whole art education route, got the degree, done the exhibitions etc… I work hard – I make things happen. Nothing is ever just given – it all stems from somewhere. On the back of my work being online, some of my earliest band work was a result of being head-hunted by ‘Bravado’ for the bands HIM and Iron Maiden. The company saw my work on my then MySpace online gallery, I then continued to pursue other bands and solo artists from there and in turn other bands began to approach me and the client list grew.
HMA: In your artwork there is a vast amount of symbolism i.e. occult, mythology, science fiction, etc., do you have any personal interests in these kinds of literature? And how does it influence/inspire you work?
Sam Shearon: I’ve grown up collecting books on mythology, the occult, the supernatural, the paranormal… cryptozoology, demonology, ancient civilizations and cultures. All genres of the unexplained fascinates me. So naturally these elements find their way into my work with purpose. There are indeed hidden messages and codes in the artworks… all will be revealed in good time. As a child I’d spend days on end reading about Aleister Crowley or Dr. John Dee and other strange characters from history… then spend a week burying my head in natural history books drawing my own conclusions about bigfoot, sea monsters and other unknown animals of the world. This age of wonder and fascination never really left me and so a lot of my art is highly inspired by these subjects and continues to fuel my work.
HMA: Do you often get direction from the bands?
Sam Shearon: Not always, but occasionally and I prefer they didn’t… I’m not a painter and decorator. It’s ok to have a discussion about what the album concept and theme is, if the band has an idea for what they want to see then cool… But if it’s paint by numbers with them holding my hand every step of the way – I’m not interested at all! Again, I consider myself an artist – I’d rather be hired as one.
HMA: What is your artistic vision and philosophy?
Sam Shearon: In short – I’d like to show the beauty in the unknown, remove the fear and increase the fascination… from that, we can all learn and enjoy… I’d like to welcome the monsters from under the bed to join us and stand proud. We fear what we don’t understand, but that doesn’t mean we have to shun it!
HMA: What are your views when it comes to experience music and the visual arts?
Sam Shearon: I think both audio and visual arts go hand in hand and are often left aside from each other. Some bands succeed with pure sound, but it makes me wonder just how much more successful they’d be if they had visuals to complement and accent their messages and subject matter. It seems an awful waste to create a full length album and then not even attempt to fully utilize the opportunity of having an array of images to accompany what could be a very powerful package. On the flipside, I’m always thinking about soundtracks and music to accompany my own work for gallery shows and online releases – I think National galleries should pump the relevant music into the rooms that correspond with the eras that the art in question were created in. The great in gesture to the great is a missed marvel to me.
HMA: Your style and technique is described as Dark Steampunk and/or Dark Surrealism, can you give us more insight?
Sam Shearon: I think these labels are merely the interpretations and pigeon-holes people have created in order to understand and categorize my work. Naturally the subject matter that I illustrate most is both horror and science fiction related and thus it is labeled accordingly by reviews from the press and the general public. ‘Steampunk’ in general as a movement, has grown out of control and has become this ugly pop-genre that almost forgets where it came from and so my work doesn’t necessarily fit into that ‘scene’. So I’ve been labeled as ‘Dark’-Steampunk. It seems people feel more comfortable with something if they can put a label on it, even if it means stretching the boundary or mixing the genres. Though I wouldn’t describe my work as anything more than, ‘Dark Art’.
HMA: In terms of style and techniques what are your inspirations and why?
Sam Shearon: I think in terms of techniques, I find greater strength in trial and error than anything. Art in school honestly only really opened my eyes to possibilities not techniques. My skills are self taught and I’ve had a pencil in my hand since I was able to hold it. My inspirations again, come from the books I’ve collected and buried my head in since childhood. But I do draw from experience in life a great deal as I travel around the world, whether it be at Comic Conventions, Rock Festivals or sat at the top of a mountain in the middle of a redwood forest looking for bigfoot… reality and personal experience is the best influence.
HMA: Are you involved in any art group or organization?
Sam Shearon: Nope. I’m a one man Army.
HMA: What are your immediate artistic goals, in terms of style and perfecting even further your talent?
Sam Shearon: I think if anything I’d like to be able to set aside more time for my pencil and ink work. I love freehand drawing and illustrating from life, people, nature, ruins etc. A lot if not all of my creation time these days is taken up with digital enhancement of my work and there leaves little room for hands on dirty art such as sculpture or even film work. So this is something I’m aiming to manage and return to in the new year.
HMA: What is your set up i.e. software, computer, live drawing, studio, etc.
Sam Shearon: I work from a home studio, surrounded by my inspiration and personal collections. I have my books, my taxidermy and skull collections, (given to me by loved ones and friends), antique oddities, boxes of mechanical junk and electronics, circuits and wires. My paints and pencils and of course my machines… Everything seems to find its way through a machine these days.
HMA: What are you currently working on?
Sam Shearon: Right now I’m creating artwork for a variety of bands as usual including the new album sleeve for the band MINISTRY and also for ORGY and Jason Charles Miller (formerly of GODHEAD).
I’m also creating the movie poster artwork for a cryptozoology company Small Town Monsters for the their latest film regarding the Flatwoods Monster. I’ve previously created all of their film posters and DVD cover artworks including The Boggy Creek Monster, The Beast of Whitehall and The Mothman of Point Pleasant among others. To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the famous Patterson Gimlin film footage of Bigfoot, I’ve also created a wrap around piece of artwork for David Weatherly’s new book ‘Wood knocks Volume Two’ as a follow up to his first release that I also created the cover artwork for.
I recently did some work for Stan Lee’s ‘Lucky Man’ TV show and also wrapped on the new Clive Barker’s Hellraiser anthology hardback, both were a mixed bag of insane inspiration and motivation – love those guys! Right now I’m creating a variety of cover artworks for Vesuvian publishing who also released my own adult coloring book ‘Creepy Christmas’ which is available via Amazon now. Aside from all this, I’m creating portraits for people, merchandise designs and logos for bands… there’s so much more going on that some days I don’t know what day it is. I’m also in the early stages of putting together my own solo art exhibition that I’ve been invited to show at the Dark Art Emporium next Halloween…!!!
HMA: Do you have any exhibitions or special events programmed for the future?
Sam Shearon: I’m always appearing at Comic-Con San Diego or New York each year, also the NAMM music trade show in Anaheim California. I never charge for autographs, I’ve never understood that, it’s not work it’s pleasure! These events often have my work on show on various products and releases whether it be, guitar graphics or comic books… so again, keep an eye out via Facebook for all that up-to-date info!
HMA: …any final words?
Sam Shearon: Nothing is final.
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Copyright 2012 © Interview with Alex Milazzo from Heavy Music Artwork all rights reserved.