Tuesday, 24 August 2010

The UNdane Interview: Sheldon K. Goodman.

Sheldon K Goodman.

Part of the point of The UNdane Interview is to showcase the talent of people who really should be famous one day. Or now. Right now. These people will take over the world, and Sheldon K. Goodman, Artist, Illustrator and Grower of Plants is a perfect example.

Sheldon is 23 and resides in Bromley, Kent. He has a keen love of graphic design, music, cooking, Marilyn Manson and gardening, and can name at least two plant species in their Latin names. He's Anglo-Indian, but nobody ever believes him on this. He has been illustrating seriously since 2008, but has been drawing since he was a toddler. Today, Sheldon tells us how people can learn to be good at something, his creative processes, and how he dislikes Dizzee Rascal.

(Iris Jones Vs The Great Mundane would like to add that all views regarding Dizzee Rascal expressed here do not reflect the views of...erm, Iris Jones Vs The Great Mundane. We think Dizzee Rascal is Quite Nice.)

Describe your style of illustration using a 2 stanza rhyming poem.

Bold black lines and sweeping strokes
Such imagery I hope evokes
An admiration of my art
And not disdain, like a rancid fart

The cheeky smiles, the surprised looks
The well thought colours that’d look good in books
Dynamic like a river ‘pon changing tide
The style always changes, not much to hide.

What inspires you to draw?

I could be really pretentious and say everything, and I’d really like to say that. But most of the time these ideas literally just flash into my head and I quickly find a notebook to write it down. It depends entirely on the situation though, sometimes I’ll see something on TV and think ‘oh, that could work’ or I’m in the pub and someone says something funny which tickles me. I also have a slight dislike of my drawing style, so that pushes me to keep going and improving. Old family photos give me a lot of ideas as well. Drawing is also a form of immortality. I hope that when I’m long dead, my etchings and doodles remain behind so people can see a little bit of me while the rest is 6 feet under being consumed by Lord knows what.

When did you first put pencil to paper and think ‘hey, I’m not bad at this?’

It’s always been other people telling me that I’ve been supposedly good. I am my harshest critic, and I honestly think the stuff I produce could be better. I enjoy doing it, but I look at peoples work in awe thinking ‘urgh I wish I could draw like that’, and that seems to be a common feeling among artists. I’ve always drawn, I inherited it from my Dad who’s penmanship is amazing. He works for Santander so that talent’s been wasted, but he drew Carlos Santana’s first album cover when he was my age and it was stunning.

I suppose I started to feel more comfortable in Secondary School when my humour and writing ability started to match the artwork, my classmates being impressed with what I drew. The teachers weren’t. I was supposed to be writing about the housing development in Cheadle Hulme, Manchester.

Fiendish Feet

What mediums do you use for your illustrations?

Nowadays, I’m all 21st Century, so draw everything on a digital tablet that feeds straight into Photoshop. Which is great, because it gives me a line quality that I struggled to get with my old Biros and rollerball pens. I’ve tried using the traditional dip pen and Indian ink method, but my patience wore out with it. I couldn’t master it. So I went into Photoshop, which initially I wore out of patience with as well, and it all kind of seemed to click.

The problem I find though is that the digital illustrations seem to be a bit lifeless and bland, and my drawing technique now is a lot smoother than it was. I’m not sure if I’m satisfied with that. During my GCSE’s I studied the works of William Hogarth, and I absolutely adored it. I replicated his business card using a pen, and it was great to be using that technique of cross hatching and immense detail to give an image so much depth. Nowadays though it’s all about simplicity and bold colours, but I’m keen to go back to that kind of drawing for a bit.

Do your illustrations have a meaning? Commentary on society or particular themes for instance?

The ones I make public are more one shot ideas or things that interest me, but usually they all have a reason for their creation. I did one about Dizzee Rascal about a year ago, when that blasted ‘Dance Wiv Me’ song was just released, that people thought was quite good, but actually, I intended the piece to be more of a ‘look, this song has rubbish lyrics, has a very basic musical arrangement, and a vocalist who sounds like his mouthwash of choice is Cilit Bang:, this is the ludicrousness of it for you, depicted HERE, in pictoral form’. He riles me, that bloke.

Dance Wiv Me

I also did a comic about Swine Flu that went down well, analysing how the media inflated it. So far we’ve had Birds, Horses and Pigs try to kill us all with their sniffles, what next, the majestic Pine Martin? Red tops should be banned. Most of the time, I draw just to relax from a world that does its best to irritate me.

Los Adveturas De Swine Flu

Share with us three of your favourite illustrations and the stories behind them.

The first one is a comic strip I did about two years ago. It featured a character whose name I shan’t repeat here, as he had the unfortunate affliction of having ladies genitalia for a face. He was devised in a pub after a night of drinking Cider, and the premise of it was that he’d turn up in all kinds of situations (most of them completely innocent), and make them worse. There was this one strip where these two fishermen are wondering why, after years of trawling the sea, fish stocks unexpectedly drop off. My character then comes bounding out of the sea on a penny farthing, pursued by King Triton, muscled and mer-man like (I coloured him the same as the Sub-Mariner’s people from Marvel comics) who was seeking vengeance on him for devouring his kingdom, stopping en route to tell the Fishermen to purchase the re-release of ‘The Little Mermaid’ on DVD because ‘he was Human coloured in that’. Artistically and in terms of writing, I don’t think I’d been on such good form. It’s a joy to behold, that strip.

The second one is a piece I call ‘The Observatory’, which I did as a piece of concept art for my webcomic. I deliberately kept a very limited colour palette for it to try and rein in my obsession for putting orange into everything. I also tried to thin my line quality and have the piece resemble and oil painting more than anything. I ended up making it this panorama of a cliff side at sunset, with the orange sky (yeah, I couldn’t resist) fading into a purple twilight, with an observatory overlooking the sea, at the top of a path flanked by flaming torches. I love pieces like that, landscapes that don’t need to say much to convey an idea. Stylistically it was influenced by Bill Tiller’s work on the third Monkey Island game, of which I’m a huge fan, and the artistic style of a web-comic artist named Sarah Ellerton, of Phoenix Requiem fame, who paints these beautiful landscapes into her comic pages. I was so, so ecstatic when I finished it, but I made the original too small. I’m doing a second larger version now which I’ll tweak and hang in my house somewhere.

The third piece is a bit of promo art I did for my web-comic. It wins this accolade of being my favourite because of how intensely personal the project is to me. The image is of one of my characters by a memorial in this harsh, almost apocalyptic landscape, holding his hat, silently crying in the torrential rain, while intense beams of energy shoot down from the sky from behind the clouds. This particular one really pushed things for me in terms of drawing and style, as it also reintroduced me to drawing in a slightly more detailed way than I’d grown accustomed to. It also means a lot to me because the pictures on the memorial are of my old characters, who’ve clearly been killed. Once the damn thing is ready, it’ll be a new chapter for me whilst looking back to my ‘old days’ of drawing and all the old characters of that era.

Tell me about some recent projects.

I’m currently working on my web-comic, which is a very cathartic process and one that’s been going on under several guises for about seven years. I’ve been a fan of web-comics for a long time and always wanted to do one of my own, it’s just a question of finding a story that captivates me and finding characters who work well together. It’s been influenced by love and loss, something I’ve had to deal with this year – my Grandmother passed away in May, so that kind of hurt and want of someone who’s passed on is a theme that’s being explored.

I’ve also tried to distil myself into it, so the main characters are parts of me given their own voices, and the product so far has been quite eye opening. Trying to curb my sense of humour’s been tricky. It’s dirty, to be brutally honest, and as a challenge to myself I’m trying to tone it down a bit. There’s also a side project from this that may serve as the prologue to it, which directly deals with death in a humorous way, and to which I’ve done a basic plot outline and character design for. Tough idea though, I’m seeing where it’ll go.

I’m also co-writing a screenplay with a friend. A modern ‘Are You Being Served?’, if you will, but with far more emphasis on the customers and the death of the high street. We may film parts of it, but failing that, I think it’d work as a comic. And I’m working on ideas for expanding a character of mine, who I’ve given a Facebook profile to, who’s been very well received.

Any tips for people thinking of learning to draw?

My cousins, who’re nine and eleven, love the Beano and Dandy, and that was all down to me insisting they got the annuals for their sixth birthdays onwards. As a result, they’ve seen what I can do, and my younger cousin particularly, has taken up an interest in drawing. He asked me for some pointers, to which I said ‘draw’. He was confused, but then I explained that there really isn’t any one way to draw. Just pick up the pen, and see what happens. I’ve told you this much, as you remember! I often quote the ten thousand hour principle, which basically says that no-one’s actually any good at anything; they only seem to be because they’ve spent ten thousand hours at it. It’s all about practice. I mean that’s all I’ve done, and it’s a continuous process. I can draw better. I mean, I don’t even hold a pen normally, but it’s never stopped me trying.

What irks me is this ‘I’m not very good’ mentality. My cousin thinks this, seemingly instilled in him from school where they’ve clearly shown these dazzling works of art and offered no encouragement to push themselves to try and have a go at the same level of magnificence themselves. And I told him that you should never compare yourself to anyone, just do what you do. Stick men can be pretty funky. Ignore what other people think. If you enjoy it, stick with it. If other people don’t like it, murder them. Well, not murder them, but tell them to shove off.

The Frustrated Artist

Describe your sense of humour and how you apply it to your work.

My humour is very off the wall. I love shows like Snuff Box, Futurama, The Inbetweeners, IT Crowd, The League of Gentlemen and the classic but often forgotten ‘Aaargh! It’s the Mr. Hell Show!’ featuring the legendary Bob Monkhouse. Unchecked, my humour is a little near the mark, but cheeky enough to make you roll your eyes laughing saying ‘oh God!’ For the longest time I held back on my humour, and what I thought was funny. As a result, the stories never really worked. I’m a bit of an eccentric, and I was always being told to try and channel that into my work, and I feel I only made progress with that after reading the ‘How to Make Web-comics’ book by Scott Kurtz, Kris Straub, Brag Guigar and Dave Kellett. I’d recommend it for any artist, it’s a very good book.

Most of my own characters are warped, perhaps lonely individuals, a telling depiction of their creator, maybe - and with that, I suppose their outlook is just as skewed, so I work my humour into them. I write for myself and that’s probably the best way to do it.

Borough Green's Most Wanted

‘UNdane’ is the concept that beauty, happiness and creativity can be found within the mundane. Using this definition, what does UNdane mean to you? What is your idea of the UNdane? Give me some examples of UNdane things that make you smile.

UNdane are the things in life that are always there that you almost always ignore, unless you close your eyes, take a deep breath, calm down and re-examine your surroundings. The churches you never look at. The alley ways you never go down. Seeing how people tick, for example. Sometimes, as people who I’m talking to are speaking to me, my mind sometimes wonders and I look at what makes them them. The hand flick every time they say ‘whatever’. The false laugh and involuntary eye wink of someone who didn’t understand the joke you just made; the licking of the lips as they’re about to insult you. I love seeing these quirks in people that only I notice because I like deconstructing people.

UNdane in nature, as well. The Robin that perches next to you as you’ve dug over a flowerbed. The annoyed Wasp that was sitting on the leaf until you came along and pulled the plant up. The Rabbit from next door wildly bounding about the garden because it’s never you’re your garden before. The seedling growing into a blooming plant, just because you gave it he attention it needed. To enjoy gardening especially if you’re in your early-twenties like me, UNdanity appreciation is VITAL.

What’s your favourite song at the moment?

‘We Tried’ by The Drums. A band I’ve warmed to after I came across them in a magazine I picked up. Very basic music without any chords, but what I like is the potential they have. Two or three albums in, they’re going to be blinding. A very pleasant song to have on in the background when drawing a cartoon character trying on a tutu.

Thanks Sheldon :)

Hey Shelly

See more from Sheldon here.


  1. awesome love it amyx