Interview on “303 Signatures” Painting and Charter 08


Why did you paint this massive piece?

I was attracted to the story of Liu Xiabo and the creation of Charter 08.  This goes back to the terrible tradegy of 1989 and how the Communist Chinese government decided to literally run over the unarmed civilian protesters with tanks rather than reform.  At the same time I had seen the peaceful transition of Poland from communism in 1989.

victims 1989solidarnosc

Why was Charter 08 written?

In the events of the 2008 Earthquakes and the scandals of collapsed children’s schools, people started to investigate the scandals of corrupt politicians and builders colluding for profit at the expanse of children’s death.  Ai Weiwei was one of the principal independent investigators into this tragedy.


He created a massive display of backpacks construed into a mural.  The backpacks represented the 5000 children that perished in the earthquakes and shoddy schools. The mandarin in the work talks about the feelings of the mother of a victim.


“She lived happily for seven years in this world”

How did the government react to Ai Weiwei’s investigation and show?


Well, typical of the single-minded task of the CCP, they bull-dozed his $1 million studio in Beijing. They claimed he didn’t have a permit to the building code.  Its ironic that the CCP chose to actively destroy his studio while covering up their complicity in shoddy building destruction leading up to children’s deaths by mother nature.

How did other intellectuals respond to the Earthquake disaster?

charter08 charter081

Several writers gathered and produced the document called Charter 08.  This document was based on similar historical documents like the Bill of Rights and Charter 77.  Charter 77 was written by reformists in Communist Czechoslovakia that led eventually to the regime’s collapse in 1989. The Bill of Rights in the US was to balance the powers of the state, federal power and the individual.


Liu Xiabo was one of the principal writers and signers of the document.  Originally signed by 303 people and then presented to the CCP ruling party.  The document asked for the following reforms:

Amending the Constitution

Separation of Powers

Legislative democracy

Independent Judiciary

Public control of public servants

Guarantee of  Human Rights

Election of public officials

Abolition of Hukou System

Freedom of Association

Freedom of Assembly

Freedom of Expression

Freedom of Religion

Civic Education

Free Markets and Private Property Protection

Financial and tax reform

Social Security

Protection of the envronment

A federated republic

Truth in reconciliation

Each of these 19 main points of the document are in the painting.  There are a total of 76 characters, which symbolically refers to the US liberation of 1776 as well.


How did the Communist party respond?

They immediately rounded up Liu Xiabo and several signers.  Liu Xiabo was eventually sent to prison for “inciting subversion of state power” for 11 years.  So fearful are the authorities of these 19 points of written reform.

How did the world respond?

Liu Xiabo was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010.  All representatives of Liu were blocked from attending and accepting the award on his behalf.  Over 10,000 people have signed online the Charter 08 since the original 303 signed.


Have other winners been blocked by their governments from accepting the Nobel Peace Prize?

Yes in 1935 Hitler kept Carl von Ossietzky in prison. In 1991, Aung San Suu Kyi was kept away by Burmese military government.  This gives you an idea of the type of government Chinese people live under.


How long did it take to paint this work?

Yes, it took up to 6 weeks.  My wife almost had a heart attack saying, “it’s blocking all the light!” continually.  I started with the red layer representing the strong red of traditional Chinese painting and pot paintings.  Then I painted a gigantic 303 in gold.  Then I painted the whole thing in black and eventually formed abstract shaped over the painting.  My next stage was to cut out each of the red characters.  My final stage was to paint most of the 303 signatures, over 900 characters, around the entire frame of the painting.

Are there other symbols in the painting?

Yes, the characters line up into 8 rows and 10 columns. In China, the year 08 for the Olympics came to represent the pinacle of luck as known in chinese numerology.  The tragedy of the 08 Earthquakes wiped out the good PR from the Olympics to expose the political corruption under the surface.  This painting hopes to capture the meaning of Charter 08 and the hope of Chinese people to reform their government into a modern democracy with respect for human and individual rights.

Is this work available?

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Yes. I send about every 4-6 weeks at

Interview of ShawNshawN


Originally published on


Daraa Drought Drowned by a Bloody Bath © ShawN shawN

I got started painting back in the 90s during my BA at Indiana University. I studied abroad in various countries picking up styles and influences from each. In Poland I learned about surrealist theatre painting. In Spain I learned about Islamic art, Picasso and Flemish court painting. After living in Europe over 6 years, I returned to the US to see the high-tech world of San Francisco and have been living here ever since.

When was the first time you thought of yourself as an artist?

When I was younger I would doodle all the names of bands and video games on my folders, but I thought this was just normal. As I got older, I always returned to the creative process in my spare time. In college as I took art classes I started to realize I was an artist. After I branched into my own proper style in the 2000s, I then really saw myself as an artist.

Please tell us what your art is about.

My art is two-fold. One style is purely abstract that I developed first from my art professor using tape and exploring how the mediums interact layer by layer. My second style is political conceptual. I plan out each layer of the painting and then execute to that plan. As I have progressed, I have learned to pull in paper, foil and other objects in acrylic painting.


303 Signatures © ShawNshawN

What music inspires you when creating art?

Almost always I prefer hard rock or metal. I think the violence in the songs play well against the style I am striving for. I believe strongly the art must be punchy, grab the audience and shake them up. So I like bands like Smashing Pumpkins, Rage Against the Machine and Nine Inch Nails. I also grew up on hip-hop and rap, but have not really painted against that musical background.

How do you find inspiration?

I gather my inspiration from other artists. Usually, I peruse 100s of photos on Flickr, especially graffiti. I really wish I had tried that as I was younger, but now I’m deep on the blue pill, so no turning back now Mr. Anderson.

Another source of inspiration is to read great books of come backs “Huckleberry Finn”, “Source of Happyness”, “Soldier Svek”, “Maus”, etc. I additionally like to read up on famous artists like Banksy, Saber and Shephard Fairey, who put together great art books without all the museum kiss ass mushiness.


Anonymous © ShawNshawN

Do you have spare time activities besides art?

Read, read, read. I usually read at least 1 hour a day on almost any topic: art history, history, novels, biographies or finance. I love learning about the markets and making more money via trading – its free money for nothing in my mind. Another passion is to travel. I enjoy seeing other countries and learning their art and architecture on the ground.

Can you tell us about a recently finished artwork?

One of my more important works I recently finished was “Daraa Drought Drowned by a Bloody Bath”. This entailed the revolution that arose up in Syria after the president refused to step down. It captures the long historical elements of the country for 1000s of years as well as a famous poet by Adonis – the premier poet in Arabic. He basically rewrote the rules of Arabic poetry writing.

Do you have a best or most successful painting?

I would say “303 Signatures”. It wasn’t the most technically challenging, but almost the hardest. It has multiple layers and my first attempt at Mandarin (which I don’t speak) writing over 80 characters in Mandarin and over 800 characters along the frame. It captures the Jasmine Spring with the Charter 08 summation. This document is asking for political freedom and rewrite of the Chinese constitution. I got immediate feedback by the Chinese party, who staged a propaganda art show in the yacht club next to my house.


Bling Bling Kid and Safety Stalker Slayer © ShawNshawN

What is the artist’s role in the world?

The artist is either a celebratory support of a regime as classically defined: court painter, art patrons, etc. Another definition, which I think is more in the modern definition is to redefine art in its time and reaction to the current technology. The impressionists came out as a reaction to photographic realism for example. Graffiti is on the cutting edge of many art styles as it is officially rejected. All cutting edge art is usually outright rejected at first, so that’s the first rule to create “art”.

How have you been selling your paintings?

I got my start selling artwork on eBay at low prices. On eBay you can sell quite a lot of art by selling commercially viable work and starting at a low price. After many sales you can move up. I then went to gallery sales as you can sell for $1000s the same painting that sold for $200-300 on eBay. I would have liked to continue on eBay if I could move up faster the price levels.

How do you market your art online?

My only real success online sales has been eBay. I did sign up on Etsy and other art sites online, but no sales have resulted. I think Etsy is more of a crafts style store and the other websites I don’t think generate sales or at least that was my impression.

Who has influenced you?

My influences primarily are current graffiti artists. I learn so much from the new color combinations , constantly changing style and immunity to the constant destruction of their work.

I think Banksy and Shephard Fairey have shown the light as far as you can go with political artwork, which I believe is sorely under painted. The majority of political art is terrible, which makes sense as most galleries want to stock nice landscapes, portraits , still life’s and abstracts that sell well.

Banksy has the uniqueness of trying anything once and gathering unusual attention to his art in original presentation, which drives him as an artist.

Fairey is very subversive and political in his work as well as prolific to the extreme. He literally has bombed the world in his posters.

Can you recommend another contemporary artist?

The one I would recommend the highest is Banksy. He makes a point with each painting about the irony of life. This is so on the money its amazing. He shows the inconsistencies in public policy, policing, protection and societal rules that make a viewer instantly realize the truth of his image. A good example is hanging fake art in a museum to make fun of clients thinking only “this” is art when its really a lot of stuff rich people fight over in many cases vs. the real art value.


What a Jasmine! © ShawNshawN

Please let us know something interesting in your life.

I remember the day the Berlin Wall fell I was in Poland behind the Iron Curtain and saw old men crying over the end of the Cold War and beginning of freedom for Eastern Europe and his country Poland. After living a year during the transition, I understood the importance of democratic freedom and the wisdom of small government in check. Most people in the West take this for granted, but even in the West we can fall into a dictatorship. Germany voted for Hitler and was in dictatorship in a few years. Always vote for freedom and be active politically.

What is your outlook in 10 years?

In ten years, I want to be able to sell art professionally and not have a day job. As an artist I want to have changed the direction of art with a newly defined art style, which is my definition of an important artist. Additionally, I would like to start to become wealthy from my art sales.

Advice for Aspiring and Emerging Artists

First thing, is check that you have artistic talent. Second, determine how you are going to move the needle in the art world, you can’t just copy Mona Lisa and Marilyn Monroe endlessly. Third, you need to understand how to market online and offline, which should be about 80% of yourart time.  Fourth, get a great paying day job, which will cover you until you go full-time painting. You don’t want to be stuck in a boring, low-paying job because you studied art only.

ShawN shawN – Art of the Real or Unreal? – Artist Spotlight

California, USA



Do you have a monthly newsletter?

Yes. I send about every 4-6 weeks at

Interview on “What a Jasmine!” painting


So what is this painting about?

This painting was done in response to Ai Weiwei getting arrested by the Chinese police over one tweet! He was sent to jail for several months for tax evasion right after this tweet.

What did he actually tweet?

“I didn’t care about jasmine at first, but people who are scared by jasmine sent out information about how harmful jasmine is often, which makes me realize that jasmine is what scares them the most. What a jasmine!”

Why do you think the CCP authorities responded so harshly?

This was only the cherry on the sundae so to say. As the Arab Spring started to awaken across the whole Middle East, China was blocking any news from the entire area to avoid a rise up in China. There were a few risings in China, which was called the Jasmine Revolution after the tea. The CCP censor then blocked any reference to tea, Jasmine, Arab Spring, revolution on any social media.

Is this the first time they used such drastic censorship?

They lightened up a bit during the 2008 Olympics, but got the feeling they got their fingers burned opening up, since all the protests about Tibet poured in globally as they toured the Olympic torch under guard– the only tour under guard ever. Not even Hitler was that paranoid in the 1936 Olympics! Hitler tried to prove race superiority, but was thrown astray by US runner Jesse Owens.

nazi olympicsphelps

After US swimmer Michael Phelps crushed the Chinese 2008 Olympics with 8 Gold medals, China said he was a “fish” and tried to accuse him of doping after having entered several underage kids in gymnastics. You see the parallels?

You can see earlier versions of Chinese news censorship during various US elections, they only put up the likely winner candidate and no other photo to minimize the feel of freedom in democracy. Chinese citizens never got to even see any face but Obama as if he was appointed as in China.

What does the lettering in the painting say?

ShawNshawN says…
Ai Weiwei says…
Confuscious says…
Chiang Chai-shek says…
Mao says…
Dalai lama says…
Drink Tea!

What are the various elements in the painting?

The main letting “Drink Tea!” had a background of a popular Jasmine tea in Hong Kong on the left. On the right the background is an image of Mao as the Cool-Aid man saying “Drink!” in a funny commercialization. It is a way of toning down the crimes against humanity under Mao with his image used in pop art.

Putin has done the same recently in Russia with his ridiculous poses in every possible Russian sport to hide his blunt use of power.

putin astronaut putin 007 putin swim putin judo putin ski putin beer putin glide

In the white lettering is the outline of the Bird’s Nest stadium that Ai Weiwei helped consult on. At that time, Ai Weiwei was a celebrated artist by the regime as the modern face of China. Ai Weiwei later distanced himself from this project.

birds nest

Why did you get interested in the Ai Weiwei?


Well, I had been interested in Ai Weiwei since his infamous backpack art display. He had investigated the deaths of child students in the Sichuan earthquake, who died due to shoddy construction techniques in their school buildings. The CCP tried to block the investigation, but Ai Weiwei gathered all the names of the victims to list in his studio in Beijing. Later the CCP bull dozed his studio for being illegal.


Do you have a monthly newsletter?

Yes. I send about every 4-6 weeks at