Sketching has been a part of Queensland Ambulance Service officer Shane Foley’s entire life and illustrating The Phantom Comics has definitely been a highlight.
It was a winter’s day in 2016 when Shane was given the news his artwork would appear on the cover of the Phantom magazine in its 1754th edition, and now years later Shane is still putting ink to paper with about a dozen appearances on covers of the comic book.
Shane said, as an avid Phantom reader and an overall comic fanatic, it was by chance that he was given the opportunity to draw for one of the most recognisable comics strips in the country.
“I’ve always had a love for older-style comics,” Shane said.
“Comic characters such as Batman have changed over the years, but one thing I have found with The Phantom is that he hasn’t really changed like the other superheroes, his personality remains the same.
“It was actually years ago when I noticed a cover of The Phantom was just a blown-up image, part of the strip from inside the magazine, it was enlarged with a photocopier and it was all distorted.
“’I could have done a better job myself’ I thought, and so I drew it and sent it in to the editors.”
Shane said it was a few years later, after The Phantom comics had changed hands but the same editor remained, when he received the call asking if he would illustrate for the comic.
To create the comic cover masterpieces Shane is often sent the plot to the story, which is sometimes written in another language.
“I have done about a dozen, there’s one at the newsagency right now actually with a female Phantom,” he said.
“To work on the cover image, I am sent the storyline in Swedish and I can’t read it, but I take my ideas from the illustrations inside to create the front.”
Drawing started at a young age for Shane
The father-of-two recalls one of his earliest art memories was when he was in primary school, more than 55 years ago, and he was told to take his artwork to the principal’s office.
“In Year 1, I was asked to show the headmistress my drawing of a man running from a falling haystack, not because there was anything wrong with it, but because it captured the movement,” Shane said.
“I think the teachers were surprised a young child was able to capture that in a still image.”
Shane said the skill to drawing good comics was being able to capture the moment and give a still image movement by putting action into the drawing to tell a story.
“The trick is to get a static image to move, whereas with photography you get a moving object to stop,” he said.
“My art is comic-style with heavy ink, I work mostly with pencil and ink.”
“I have two sons, Peter and Brendan, both in their 30’s, they are both happy with what I am doing now, after listening to me say a hundred times in my life how I wished I had an art career, and funny enough they both have art careers now,” Shane said, laughing.
“The Phantom is more of a comic for the older generation and comics like my Shakah-Rune are more read by the younger generation.”
The Bundaberg artist said he fell into an emergency service career, but his passion would always be on the creative side, exploring and depicting images to tell an underlying story.
“To me, it’s like breathing,” Shane said.
“I have always done art and I wanted nothing more than to make a career out of it. But there was a job advertised for the then QATB (Queensland Ambulance Transport Brigade) and I applied and got it.
“I’ll be 63 this year, and next year I would have been with the service for 30 years.
“Most ambos have a different way of unwinding and for me it was my drawing.”
After spending many years in the front-line of emergency service as a paramedic, Shane is now an ambulance patient transport officer caring for people needing to be transferred by ambulance.
He said there was a point in his career where he became depressed, and it was the help of his wife, Helen, a trip to Tasmania and a sketch book that helped him cope.
“When I was a paramedic I became quite depressed, actually my doctor pointed it out to me as I didn’t even realise at the time,” he said.
“My wife organised for us to go to Tasmania and every day I used to go walking with my little sketch book in my hand, drawing nature in black and white and this helped me.
“I stopped doing the emergency work and I now work four days a week, with Friday being my art day.”
In the last few years the illustrators work has also been commissioned by the Council including a skateboarding turtle on the side of a bus and an elderly turtle on the back of a recycling truck, along with a mural in the emergency department of the Bundaberg Hospital.
Turning 63 this year Shane said he had a few more years with the Queensland Ambulance Service before he retired, and in the meantime he had plenty of stories to keep him busy illustrating.
Article written by Emma Reid.
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