Words from Shamus

When did you discover your passion for art?

When I was a kid, I loved newspaper comics, and cartoons on TV. I drew all the time, but almost always at school. I drew so much that I nearly failed out of my freshman year of high school. My notebooks were full of monsters, instead of notes. The school I was in came down hard on me, and I basically stopped drawing at school. And, since I didn’t draw much at home, I pretty much stopped drawing, until my mid 20’s. I unfortunately equated succeeding in school with NOT drawing. My renewed passion for drawing coincided with discovering Robert Crumb. It was the first time I realized that I could evolve my comics characters into art.

Who is your favorite comic character?

I would say maybe Bugs Bunny, who has the wit of Groucho Marx and the physical savvy of Charlie Chaplin. Really, though, instead of a favorite character, I had favorite strips: Peanuts, Bloom County, Far Side, Calvin and Hobbes. The 80’s were a sort of golden age of great, multifaceted newspaper comics, and I read them every day, for years. That world has disappeared, with few exceptions.

What is the most unconventional thing that you’ve used as a canvas?

I do a lot of work on bottles. I’ve worked on bowling pins, car parts, stone, wood, paper cups… I’m guessing these are not the most enticing answers. Um… the body of a dead hooker I found in a roadside motel in Dallas?

If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?

I live in Ithaca, NY, home of Cornell University. It’s a lovely little Mayberry of a town, and a great place to raise my daughter. But, if I had my druthers, I would probably move out west, to San Fran, or  LA, somewhere with lots of the kind of art I love. I’d kill a barnload of people to be able to see the work of the great artists who routinely exhibit in those cities. Like Alex Pardee’s Vertigo show right now, at Corey Helford.

How many siblings do you have?

Too many to count. My daddy was a rolling stone.

What is the last book that you read?

The last book I read was All The Pretty Horses, by Cormac McCarthy.  A damned fine novel, and a good movie too.

I notice that you are drawn to faces (pun intended). Where do you derive your inspiration?

You’re right, I mostly draw faces. Bodies are secondary, and God forbid I have to draw backgrounds. I don’t know where this comes from. I never took art classes, so maybe I focus on faces because they’re easier to draw than bodies, especially bodies in motion. I had to learn that stuff later. Plus, coming from a comics background, the head is everything. Bodies are just there to hold the heads up. The emotion and energy of a character is in the face.

Paper or plastic?

I asked my first wife, Bubbles, this, as a joke on our wedding night. Her absolute incomprehension was a sign of the dark times to come.

If you could choose a superpower, would you rather fly or move objects?

Are these the only options? Flying seems like it would be good, but it’s very visible. I’d alarm people. Fighter planes would probably be scrambled to intercept me, and I’ve never been good at dogfights. Plus it’s cold up there. I’d need a big fur coat and a coonskin cap. I don’t have either. So I guess I would move things. Maybe I could make a few bucks with it anyway.

What are your favorite mediums to work with?

I use paint markers a lot. Woodcrafts. And pigma microns, and pen and ink. Really, anything resembling a pencil. I lack confidence with a brush. It’s something I have to get over. By God, I’ll do it some day.

Where is Ithacon and do you travel there by camel or hovercraft?

Ithacon is a convention held by the Comic Book Club of Ithaca, which, apparently, is the oldest such club in the country. It’s a little con, held about two blocks from where I live. Ithaca is a quirky place. If I rode a camel, the animal rights people would be up in arms. If I took the hovercraft, I’d have to put a “Biodiesel” sticker on the side of it, to distract people from its nuclear reactor. There’s some good people at the Ithacon. I met Frank Cammuso, a political cartoonist from Syracuse NY, and the creator of the excellent Max Hamm graphic novel. Jay Lynch, the great Wacky Packs artist, and creator of Nard and Pat, has been there. Jim Coon of Eight Ball Graphics, and my friend Warren Greenwood, a writer and Hollywood/TV storyboard artist, have been there as well. As have I.

Are you a side, back, or stomach sleeper?

That’s a pretty personal question. Next you’ll be asking what my nightie is made out of.

Tell us something about Shamus?

Shamus is my evil twin, the part of my personality that laughs mockingly at me, as I sit on the sidelines moping. Shamus doesn’t sit in his living room by himself drawing for 8 hours, because Shamus keeps getting interrupted by the ladies, who stop by ceaselessly. Shamus has scars and a black eye but he doesn’t lose fights. Shamus won’t do interviews unless he gets the cover. Shamus is Johnny Cash to my Englebert Humperdinck. Shamus runs up my phone bill and infects my computer with porn viruses.  Shamus steals my muffins and throws them at the cops. I wish he wouldn’t do that. Shamus is also a lot easier to write on a painting, instead of “Jim Garmhausen.”

Sandwich or Burrito?

You’re speaking, of course, of the 1950’s comic book heros, Burrito Sanchez and Sandwich Jones. Burrito’s drunken antics were endlessly funny, but it was Sandwich’s staunch American values that cracked each case. And let’s not forget Burrito’s singing donkey sidekick, Jose, who was the model for Davey of “Davey and Goliath.”

Click on the bottles to see more

Intreview by Adam