Chris Shehan, 26, is a new tenant of the Roderick Artspace Lofts located in the Las Plazas Arts District of Downtown El Paso (601 N. Oregon St.). The housing development was built primarily to foster the local art scene by giving talent the opportunity to live with likeminded creatives.
Carving a rare path for local artists, Shehan chose the comic book field. More than just a pin-up artist, Shehan has chosen to focus his skills on his sequential storytelling in the independent comic book market.
Born in Las Cruces, but graduating from El Paso High School after moving to El Paso, Shehan’s family moved several times in his youth, following his father’s work. Never having read comic books in his early years nor having taken any art classes, Shehan’s focus was always on storytelling, in any form. Shehan explored script writing, and video production as well.
Eventually finding his way to New Mexico State University (NMSU) after not being able to afford art school at the San Francisco school of Art, Shehan subsequently told his Father, “I’m not going to art school – can I go to ComiCon?” For those not in the know, “the” ComiCon, held in San Diego, California is arguably the biggest pop culture convention in the world. “So, yeah, he sent me to ComiCon,” said Shehan.
After a grueling wake-up call with brutal critiques of his portfolio by artists, and editors at the convention, Shehan paid attention to the constructive criticism he received on the trip instead, and used it to work harder on his craft.
Fellow artist and El Pasoan Ricky Martinez recommended Shehan to another El Paso local, Jimmy Portillo, writer and publisher of Hell Paso, a historical comic book based on Dallas Stoudenmire, a lawman famous for the “Four Dead in Five Seconds Gunfight”. Portillo was looking for a reliable artist to help complete the book. “We made an agreement on pay, and I got my first actual, paid comic book job,” recalled Shehan.
After applying for housing at the Roderick Artspace Lofts, Shehan and girlfriend, Karla V. Gonzalez moved to downtown El Paso, in a rough apartment near the development in hopes he would be accepted. He was.
Now, overlooking the downtown skyline from his fourth floor loft as he toils away on comic book pages the young talent looks ahead with more than hope. With experience as an entrepreneur learned from his Father’s cache of business lessons, Shehan treats his career as a business. Earned jobs are mapped out on a calendar, with care not to overbook himself. Shehan is after more than fleeting moments of public adulation.
Most amateur comic book talent in the scene today live off of the attention they receive at public appearances, such as conventions. However; for Shehan, the many hours of time spent hunched over his desk is invested in honing the one element that made all comic book properties successful in the first place: storytelling.
Shehan is doing comics for a living, not as a weekend hobby. So, with his cards on the table, he’s all in, betting on his work ethic, talent, and leveraging the housing opportunity to live and work in the nucleus of creativity in the city to take the path less taken.
“I started putting a few pages online, and then I started to get contacted about other projects, as I was improving, I was getting bigger and bigger projects,” said Shehan.
Currently balancing a few contracts, Shehan is focused and enjoying the downtown lifestyle.