Cat Sparks, Nick Stathopoulos and Shaun Tan spoke to an enthusiastic audience at one WorldCon 2010 panel, with Kyla Ward acting as moderator.
Shaun explained a key feature of art, for him, is that it must be interesting, which doesn’t mean overloaded. His own work is often edited and pruned back to the essence of what he wants to express. Shaun also said he prefers indirect rather than literal. All the panel used examples of their own work to explain their approach, with commentary by each other on particular works.
Cat said she is a graphic designer and not an artist and so was embarrassed to be on panel with “real artists” as she mainly works in collage. Cat has an artist father and she learned from a young age the mechanics of collage. Nick and Shaun believed Cat was being too modest and said many great artists used the collage medium, and that they did also when it suited a project.
Nick works primarily as an artist although added that for his book cover commissions he will sometimes use digital constructions in PhotoShop. The projects can start as paintings and he may use tools and effects to create a particular result. He doesn’t see this as an issue, merely a new approach for an artist to use when it suits.
A key part of the discussion centred on the way a phrase can be a starting point, yet the result can be extraordinary. The example of how an opening line like “there was a knock at the door” could lead to many interpretations of what type of door, so a starting point of “the knock” being from the inside of a microwave door can lead to interesting and captivating art.