1 – Most of your fans know you for your work on Thor, Fantastic Four, X-Factor, Batman, Orion and Manhunter among many other titles. But only the good fans know about your passion for dinosaurs. Could you explain a little bit about why you chose to do an illustration of a Tyrannosaurus rex?
There are a lot of really cool-looking dinosaurs out there, herbivores as well as carnivores, but I thought for that for my first t-shirt, I’d go with something iconic. And no dinosaur is more iconic than a T.rex. Setting aside the debate about whether or not a T.rex could actually run at a fast pace, they just look great when you draw them that way!
2 – Also, this illustration style looks a little different than the way you handle your normal comic work. How did you approach this piece and how did you know when it was “done”?
The original ‘drawing’ for the T.rex image is in fact a collage. Initially I was working through a series of pencil drawings on layout bond, searching for the right angle of view and composition and pose and all that stuff. Several of the drawings weren’t worth developing further, but parts of some of them I liked a lot. Just not as a whole. So I began cutting out the bits I liked, a head here, a torso there, and taping them together. Occasionally, I would xerox the assemblage and then add more drawing onto it. Eventually, I had a running T.rex I really liked. He was missing his feet. Since I wasn’t composing for the page, and the page itself was made up of bits and pieces, I wasn’t concerned about the complete creature in these early stages.
The collage was intended to be the ‘rough’ to show Jerry the direction I meant to go with the finished drawing. However, both he and Weezie liked the drawing so much as it stood that we decided just to go with the rough as the finish. Easier for me! I added some more paper to the bottom of the sheet, drew in the feet, scanned it all, cleaned it up just a little, and we had a finished T.rex.
That was easy.
3 – Could you explain a little about how your signature came to be the silhouette of a dinosaur?
Every kid who aspires to be an artist knows that artists have to have cool signatures. When I was in high school, I was already drawing and had been for years. But I didn’t have a cool signature. During the summer between my junior and senior years, I began fiddling around with the idea of reconstructing my last name in the form of an animal of some sort. It was a place to start. I believe my Mom suggested that perhaps I should try fitting ‘Simonson’ into a dinosaur. And that was that.
4 – Do you find doing an illustration for a t-shirt any different than doing an illustration for print?
The considerations are a little different. For a t-shirt, I’m looking for a design that functions as a vignette rather than as, for example, a completely composed panel. Basically, I want a drawing that will stand by itself without borders to frame it.
You originally went to school to study Geology. At what point did you realize you wanted to draw pictures for a living and what lead you to that path?
Walter – It took me awhile. It wasn’t until the very end of my senior year in college as a Geology major that I decided not to go on to grad school. After that, I spent a year working in a bookstore and by the fall after graduation, I decided to give art school a shot. My only other real interest besides dinosaurs was drawing. I’d just never thought of drawing in any form as a career direction. I applied and was accepted at the Rhode Island School of Design where I majored in Illustration. I was already reading a lot of comics, mostly mainstream as that was about all there was at the time. It was while I was at RISD that I became more and more interested in trying to enter the comics field professionally.
Have there ever been any regrets for not pursuing a career in geology?
Walter – Nope.
7 – So I know and you know that you are going to HAVE to do another t-shirt illustration for me. Care to shed a little light on what this design could possibly be of?
Feh. That would be telling. But I plan to do my own version of a character I’m well known for. The Simonson edition.
8 – And finally what is the best way for everyone to find out what you’re working on whether it’s art or writing?
I never have managed to establish a website. However, I do have a FaceBook fan page where everyone is welcome. ‘The Official Walter Simonson Page’. I have a series of Galleries posted there that include a whole host of drawings I’ve done over the years going back to about 3rd grade. Pencils, inks, complete pages, individual panels, finished drawings done for charity auctions that have never seen print. And I try to field questions from fans. That’s probably the best place to find me on the web.
You can get the shirt HERE.
Thanks to Walter for taking the time to answer these questions.