10 Questions for William Skaar
William Skaar makes comics and illustrations for magazines and film projects including Heavy Metal Magazine and Fantagraphics. His main comic series, Deanna of the Dead, has been published by NBM, Bloody Gore Comix, and also in the French language by Tabou Editions (Deanna et les Zombis).
What is your earliest memory of art?
My first memory is copying Peanuts cartoons from the newspaper. I loved drawing Snoopy and Charlie Brown. The next big event for me was the Rankin/ Bass The Hobbit movie, which came out on TV in 1977. I was obsessed with that and copied all of the artwork from the art book that came out. Then in 1978, I discovered Richard Corben and that had a seismic effect on me.
What inspired you to be an artist?
I think finding Corben’s Neverwhere in a bookstore was the moment I knew I needed to be an artist. I had never seen anything as cool as that before – (and still haven’t) It just seemed to be the culmination of everything I loved- the colors. the girls, the violence. It was everything I wanted on stereo turned up to eleven.
Do you listen to music while you work and what/or who do you listen to?
I don’t listen to music when I work. Music tends to have an emotional element and I find that distracting and exhausting. I will usually have a TV on in the background and ill play old horror movies that I’ve seen a million times- I don’t watch them, I just listen to them like a radio show. Its just something that keeps me company over long hours.
Do you think your environment, where you live, has an effect on the type of art you produce?
In my case, I don’t think so. What I do is so solitary. I don’t socialize very much and I’m completely removed from any “art scene” or “urban culture”. I think more than ever now we are all starting to be isolated. Our connection to culture comes through the internet or television. A guy living in Sheridan Wyoming is now just as connected to news and art culture as someone living in New York City. It’s important for me to have a place to work without distractions, but that’s about it.
You have many styles and genres of art. Which one do you like best?
I’m pretty consistent and focused in my style and genre. I was looking back at some of my high school art artwork the other day and I swear it looks like I had done it yesterday! I’ve been doing the same shit for 40 years! Of course, I worked professionally in animation and computer games for a long time so I would have to adapt my style to the needs of the production in those cases. But as far as my personal work its has remained fairly consistent. Mostly horror and fantasy. And Girls!
Is it easier for you to create if given an assignment or does it get in the way of your creativity?
I’ve spent the bulk of my career taking assignments, as a concept artist or illustrator, for other people’s ideas… It’s interesting though because even if I’m working “for myself” I still feel like I’m giving myself assignments. I’ve gotten to the point in my career that I don’t take on work I know I’m going to hate.
What was the strangest commission you took on? Or the oddest thing you’ve ever been asked to create?
As a concept artist working in computer games it ALL seemed odd to me. I’m, not a gamer so some of that work felt alien. I remember always trying to put myself in the shoes of someone who played games. Would THEY think this was cool? I just had no idea. Since I’ve moved on from that I’ve tried to take on work that I have a feeling for. I think asking myself to create something that felt too strange or odd would probably not turn out very well.
What projects are working on now?
I took a break from Deanna of the Dead to work with Edward Lee on a graphic novel. It’s an adaptation of Lovecraft’s The Hound. It’s been taking a while though because I have to squeeze it in between paying illustration jobs. If you are familiar with Edward Lee you know what to expect. Lots of gore and sex! You definitely won’t find it at the comic shop!