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Q and A With Local Illustrator, Ed Shems

11 Nov Q and A With Local Illustrator, Ed Shems

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We sent some of our grittiest, most hard-hitting interview questions to Ed Shems, the Boston-based illustrator and graphic designer behind edfredned illustration & design, and co-founder of Creative Relay, a resource for other creative types like him.

Here’s what he had to say about scary work, favorite people and highly trained root vegetables.


What’s one of the scariest things you’ve ever done?

Personal projects are always pretty scary to me. You work really hard on an image you think is funny or interesting, or, at the very least, chuckle-worthy, put it out into the world and then hope that a couple of people get it. I’m getting ready to post a series of illustrations tentatively called, “How Superheroes Use Social Media” and it’s sort of a nail-biter because I think it’s really fun and I hope people appreciate the humor. If I get a couple of likes/shares then I’ll be happy (and those people will be my new best friends).


If you were going to write a book, what would you call it and what would it be about?

I think I’m like everybody else- I have a few book ideas running through my head. Neil Gaiman said it best when one of his characters in Sandman was discussing books that haven’t been written yet: “It’s called ‘The Bestselling Romantic Spy Thriller I Used to Think About on the Bus That Would Sell a Billion Copies and Mean I’d Never Have to Work Again’.” That’s about right, except mine are kid’s books.


I hope he has that thing on 'vibrate'.

Sneak peek at one of Ed’s upcoming “How Superheroes Use Social Media” images.

What do you do for fun?

I draw. And play with my kids.


Do you have a favorite joke?

I do! (Ed. note: This made me LOL for real, so it’s actually a pretty good one. -kp)


If someone were to make a movie about your life, who would you hope would play you?

A young Tom Hanks- he MIGHT be able to make my life seem exciting.


Who are your favorite people in the whole world? 

My kids and my wife are my faves. If they weren’t then I would never leave my studio. My son is almost 8 and he’s so enthusiastic about everything and he draws better than I did when I was 12. It’s so much fun to listen to him describe what he’s drawn or explain a new character he’s created (his latest is Karate Carrot). And my 2-year-old daughter is the happiest girl alive.



How would you explain your basic life philosophy?

I don’t know that I have any philosophy per se but I try to give everything my all (except cleaning the garage). I’m always trying to find ways to improve my work so I can stay excited about what I do.


I’m also a believer in helping other creatives figure stuff out. (Ed. note: This is actually a pretty excellent life philosphy. -kp) When I first graduated art school I had no idea what I was doing. Another illustrator held my hand and answered the diverse questions I had and really helped me get off the ground (thanks Lauren Scheuer!). A designer helped me make the leap to digital and answered so many questions about file types and preparing files for print (Thanks Rick Sands!). Without them I’d have been lost. That’s why I became the Boston Chapter President of the Graphic Artists Guild for three years and then I started Creative Relay with my partner, Justin Perricone. I enjoy bringing information to newbies and help furthering the knowledge of seasoned pros as well. On the Creative Relay blog I write articles about the business side of being creative and Justin and I will be doing a few webinars for RISD in 2014.


How did you get into illustration?

It was a no-brainer. It was the only thing I was passionate about.


Is there a piece of your work you’re most proud of?

I’m most proud of any of my most recent personal pieces because I know I’ve pushed them to new levels (for me). I know I’ll look back on those illustrations later and want to push them even further.


Why Ed/Fred/Ned?

I started out with a few different drawing styles and I didn’t want to give any of them up just to make me easy to understand to art directors, so I split into three personalities with each one representing a style. I’m about to relaunch my website with an update to Ed/Fred/Ned. Ed: Kid’s/tween stuff; Fred: Grown-up work; Ned: Graphic design. Coming soon!


If you could place your illustrations anywhere you wanted (billboard? Book? Flying off the Eiffel Tower?) where would it be? 

I want my art to always be in places where my parents can stumble across them. That way they can know for certain that they made the right choice letting me go to art school.


Where to find Ed, around Boston and online:

Ed Shems | edfredned illustration & design






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