The Poor Patron - KIPvasion by Sunny Shah

The Poor Patron - KIPvasion by Sunny Shah


The Poor Patron is a project meant to loosen the everyday strictures of the client/artist relationship. The artist is welcomed to create work based on any MarninSaylor themes or imagery with no creative input, due within a "when it's done" deadline.

We are pleased to offer prints of our Poor Patron collaborations. This is the first in the series, titled KIPvasion by Vancouver-based artist Sunny Shah. KIPvasion depicts the hostile takeover of Seattle by the evil KIP, and the valiant efforts of Super Donut Cat and Maple Bear Boy to save the city!

This art is printed on high-quality, heavyweight, matte, archival paper, and measures 8.5"x11". Sold unframed, shipped rolled. Half the proceeds from the sale of these prints go directly to the artist.

Be sure to read our interview with Sunny below.


I accumulate many business cards during my business life. Some are quietly thrown away at the end of the day, some are re-pulverized in my back pocket when I carelessly (but dutifully) do laundry, a few are gently placed in a desk drawer, where they will sit, holding the dream of future collaborations and friendship. There they wait like resting eggs, waiting to hatch.

One such card belongs to Sunny Shah, an illustrator extraordinaire, whom I met while slinging donuts in our northerly sister city, Vancouver, BC. He and his lady approached our booth, interested in our tasty goods. We talked for a bit about cute fluffy things and, as these sorts of things go, the conversation became about our lives. Sunny was a soon-to-graduate illustrator. I shared with him the plan for the Poor Patron and he was all ears. So he handed me a card and I promised to get in touch.

I had to check his chops before any promises could be made about the huge amounts of money and exposure the Poor Patron would heap upon him. His chops checked out as I scanned through his website. He was the kind of illustrator I had once wished I could be! His work was gestural and dynamic, grounded in solid representational theory. He created interesting stories for his worlds and characters to live and breathe in. Each piece contained tension and detail. And he was so young! Oh, the jealousy I felt. I had to follow up. I had to try.

Sunny was happy to be part of the project and jumped in with both feet. I was beside myself and couldn’t wait to see what he had in store for us. As you can see, it was worth the wait.

Without further ado, I proudly present the first Poor Patron, featuring Sunny Shah.

Many of your pieces take the viewer to another world. What can you tell us about the places and stories you create? Where is your mind before you start sketching?

Well, whenever I sit down and start drawing I try to open myself up and let all ideas, good or bad, flow through me. I tell my mind to stop resisting and just 'go with it'.

About a year ago I was unintentionally limiting myself by trying to get everything to look "perfect". I have since realized that making something look “perfect” takes a really long time! I want to come up with cool unique ideas. Focusing on rendering limits the number of ideas I can conjure. However, I still love to create a nice juicy finished painting, but that usually only comes after hours and hours of sketching very crude stick figures and dancing up and down.

As for the places and stories I create, I usually start with the characters and build stories around them. It's daunting to start developing a world without character designs in front of me to look at and reference. It's like starting a painting on a blank canvas. It's scary. And it makes you a little nervous staring at it. To get over the 'blank canvas syndrome' painters usually put down a tone of color or random marks to cover up the white. This helps ease the mind into the painting. I'm essentially doing the same thing by creating the characters before the setting.

How has your relationship with the process changed as you've become a professional?

It has changed quite dramatically. Before, I was super structured and focused on creating a streamlined workflow so I could be more efficient and have a cohesive, recognizable style. I was also copying a lot of other artists’ processes. I thought that might help me land a job. Oh, how naive I was.

But, let's back up a little bit.

I was (and always have been) interested in many different art styles and was never comfortable doing just one forever. It was too limiting! I wanted to change my style for each project I did.

I am fascinated by different mediums, animation, video games, film, painting, sculpture, and many more. I like the unique qualities of each. There are so many possibilities. For example, in the video game category, you can find both Little Big Planet and Gears of War. In animation, you can have Wreck-it-Ralph with Akira. There is so much variety and room for experimenting!

Working as a professional has taught me that having only one style and one process can limit your opportunities A LOT! I now work in games which, as an industry, is constantly morphing. I have to be adaptive to keep up, like a chameleon or cuttlefish, changing my skin with every project. One day I might be working in a super cartoony style and the next be doing a project that demands super hyper-realistic matte painting.

I really like this. I like changing my style and exploring new ways of creating. It makes every day challenging and interesting.

You did a long series of daily anatomical studies a while back. How do you motivate yourself to maintain a project like that?

Ahh yes, the anatomy summer. Basically, I was super jealous of my friends from school. They were so good! And their anatomy knowledge was right up there with the pros. I felt like I was being left behind and decided I should suck it up and get practicing. So I did.

It was the end of my 3rd year at Emily Carr. They weren't teaching anatomical drawing so during summer I challenged myself to do one anatomical study/drawing/painting every day. I also made a habit of posting what I had done on my blog so others could also see my progress. I thought showing the work would motivate me to keep doing it daily.

I did studies from anatomy books and from photos from the web. I went life drawing and drawing in public. I made still lifes with action figures. It was actually quite fun and I started improving. One mistake I made during my studies was blaming myself if I missed a day. Sometimes I would be hanging out with my girlfriend all day and forget to do my study. I would think I had failed and that I was a lazy artist. I would try making up by doing twice as many studies the next day. Since then, I've learnt to give myself a break and remember art doesn't have to be so precious. It’s about having fun and letting mistakes take over. Overall, it was a great experience and I improved a ton!

What I mean by 'letting mistakes take over' is letting myself be open to making mistakes and learning from them. I tell myself I am quite fortunate to make so many mistakes! If I didn't, then I would not get any better. I think it is like dreaming. My dreaming mind is unconsciously bashing different ideas together and creating new and unique ideas. My mind is making mistakes in the sense that the ideas it's bashing together were not meant to be bashed together. This is pretty much what I am trying to replicate in the conscious world. I'm trying to loosen up and make as many mistakes as possible to come up with something new and interesting.

Your girlfriend, Cheryl, is a graphic designer. Can you tell us what effect her designerly aesthetics have had on your work?

I have learned A LOT from Cheryl. Before I met her, I was making poorly designed illustrations. They were lacking in composition and didn’t have a 'professional' look. She has taught me about typography and design fundamentals, which I think every visual artist should learn. I wouldn’t paint the way I do now without her. She is also an amazingly talented and hard working designer, which inspires me to do better with my own craft.

Thanks, Cheryl!

Super Donut Cat or Maple Bear Boy?

Hmmmm, I would have to go with Maple Bear Boy. They're both pretty cool though. Honestly, it’s Maple Bear Boy’s facial expression. It's priceless. Also, I like that fact that he's a bear. On some of my blogs I go by the name 'themightygrizzlyfrog'. It's supposed to be part grizzly bear and part frog. The bear inside of me speaks to Maple Bear Boy. We share a special bond. A bear bond.

You can find more of Sunny's work on his website and his blog.

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