What Inspires An Independent? - An Interview With Sean Tiffany (DINK 2018)

Written by Mary Andreski

Sean Tiffany at DINK 2018.

Sean Tiffany at DINK 2018.

Sean Tiffany is the head of Plastic Spoon Press and has been a freelance illustrator for the last twenty five years. He has worked for clients such as Marvel Comics, Stone Arch Books, and Sports Illustrated for Kids. In 1998 he self published his first work, EXIT 6 - which has now been collected into a 390 page book that mixes the collected comic, an art book, and an autobiography all inside of one cover. Sean also writes and draws the futuristic rock and roll comic OilCan Drive, which mixes video, music, and traditional comic art.

At the 2018 Denver Independent Comic & Art Expo, we found Mr. Tiffany behind his table and took the opportunity to ask him a few questions about where he has been in the industry, what inspires him, and what keeps him going.

OilCan Drive Trading Cards from Sean Tiffany.

Mary Andreski:  I am sitting here at DINK! 2018 with Sean Tiffany. Can you start us out by telling us a little bit about yourself and your latest book?

Sean Tiffany:  Okay. I am an artist who lives in Boulder, Colorado. I am a freelance artist, this is what I do for a job. I have worked on things like Sports Illustrated for Kids. The personal project I'm working on is called OilCan Drive. It is a comic book and a multimedia project. It is about a man in a post-apocalyptic future - and it is sort of a mix of Josie and the Pussycats & Firefly. So it's got rock'n roll, science fiction, hockey, big gorillas who play bass guitar. Everything I love in one book.

OilCan Drive Vol. 1: Into The Outer Zone by Sean Tiffany.

Mary:  What do you mean by multimedia in relation to this project?

Sean:  It means that it's not just a comic book. It started as a comic book project and it slowly turned into something bigger, where I wanted to do music for it I want to do videos for it. I didn't want to just confine it to being a book format. I really enjoyed doing the music for it, I enjoyed giving the characters a voice that they would not have in a traditional comic book.

Mary:  You were saying earlier that you do all of the art as well as the writing?

Sean:  Yes. This is my personal project, so I do all of the art all of the writing and all of the production. I also did all of the music. I am someone who does not want to pawn this work off on somebody else, because then it may or may not get done. I want to learn how to do it myself. Which made the music interesting, because I had no knowledge of making music before I started the project. I slowly started playing guitar, then bass, then drums. I started using Pro Tools and engineering and production. It's kind of neat that I can build it up all that way instead of just doing it as a comic book.

Mary:  It seems like you were a person that is very interested in learning and doing things your own way. When did you start drawing and creating comics?

Sean:  Well for comics I went to the Joe Kubert School in the early 90's. I had always loved drawing, and I was one of those people who went to the school and there were so many better people around me - no way I was going to make it in the big time. So I just wanted to do my own thing. I got really into the self-publishing movement of the early 90's with Bone, Strangers in Paradise, and Dave Sim's Cerebus. It was funny - I painted so well at the time that I was able to get a job as an assistant to a guy who worked in comics. So I ended up working for Marvel as a colorist back before I knew what else I knew. Which is weird.

The Collected EXIT 6 by Sean Tiffany.

Mary:  What sort of stuff did you work on when you were working with Marvel?

Sean:  At Marvel I was airbrushing before they went digital. So I did a lot of merchandising, a lot of covers, and I worked on just about every character you could think of. The X-Men, Spider-Man, the Punisher. Big comic crossover events like the Age of Apocalypse, some of the Maximum Carnage stuff, the Clone Saga, a lot of weird stuff. I worked with them until '96.

Mary:  What inspired you originally to get into comics? Was there anyone in particular?

Sean:  My love of art started with cartoons. I didn't really get into comic books until I was maybe 13, which was a bit later then some of my friends. But I liked the idea. I always liked drawing. I liked animation, but with comics I saw that you could do your own story yourself. You did not require a whole production team to do it. I liked the idea that I could take my stories and build them into something in the real world instead of having unfulfilled ideas that NEED to be made as a movie - which is something I could not do myself. I just sort of gravitated towards comics. I really love the medium.

Mary:  It takes a lot to be an independent artist and comic creator. Is there someone who has inspired you to keep at it or who has helped you to keep going?

Sean:  There are always people that I look up to, but it's weird now with the internet. You can find out so much about someone - which is both great and bad. The pedestal that you put them on is not as high as it might be, or when you find out about them you see that they are not doing as well as you thought they were. Like Drew Struzan, the famous movie poster painter. He did posters for Star Wars and Indiana Jones. I thought this guy had it made, but I recently watched a documentary about him and it turns out that someone was ripping him off throughout the 80's and took all his money. So I guess it wasn't actually going very well for him. But for artists that inspire, Drew Struzan is one I really love and Jeff Smith with Bone. For music, one guy who really inspires me is Tom DeLonge from Blink 182 - who recently went out and did his own thing. He's been doing new stuff, not only with music but with books, with film, with animation. He's a guy who does everything he can to bring people in (because of his stardom) and then has them work with different writers and artists - and he has the money to back these projects, too. I went to his shop in California recently and it was neat to see. He had his office in the back but in the front was this little retail space where he was displaying all his stuff. So he has a set up where you can constantly buy his things at this office/store, and I was really inspired by that. I thought that was cool.

OilCan Drive: Through the Goggles Sketchbook by Sean Tiffany.

Mary:  Have you ever had anyone say something after reading the book that inspired you to keep going with it?

Sean:  Oh, just saying that they like it. It is huge, if you are a small person doing your own project, just to hear that somebody likes it. Because you are not making a lot of money. It would be much easier to say, "Well I'm just going to draw Spider-Man or Batman. I'm just going to draw something that's popular to make money in the moment." But when you are doing your own stuff, just anyone recognizing that you are doing it and doing it well is enough to keep you going. Like last year at this show I had a guy come up and he was actually angry that I did not have a new issue. Which is weird, because he understood that we are not making any money at this. So now I'm working on a new issue, almost just to make that guy happy. (laughs) You need to have someone that you are making happy, even if it's the guy that is mad at you. At least he cares enough to be mad about it.

Mary:  What do you do outside of your art that keeps you connected to the world?

Sean:  Well, I do have a wife and a son. My son is 10 months old now, which limits my social interaction. I do enjoy coming out to the conventions and I do Free Comic Book Day. I love FCBD because I will just sit there and do sketches all day. I'll normally do sketches for an 8 hour period. I think I did 40 or 50 this year, so they are really quick in terms of getting them out. It's funny because for artists... It is not as easy financially as people would think. Even though I am doing well freelance wise, the stuff you don't think about is like - health insurance. That might be nice to have when I've got a family. (laughs) So one day a week I go work at FedEx, just helping people out. I love that I get a paycheck from them I love that I get health insurance but I also love that I get to be there talking to people, helping them. It gets me out of my own head for a while and I really enjoy that.

Mary:  Outside of your appearances at conventions, how can people see more of your work?

Sean:  They can go to my websites. SeanTiffany.com is my main illustration site and OilCanDrive.com is probably the best place to see all the new stuff I am working on for myself.

Mary:  That about wraps it up for us. Thank you so much for your time!

Sean:  You are welcome! I appreciate it.

OilCan Drive single issues from Sean Tiffany.

Sean Tiffany at DINK 2018. (2)

OilCan Drive and Exit 6 tpbs from Sean Tiffany.