Interview on Online Art

OA: What is your favourite film of all time?


SS: One of my favorite films of all time is The Shining by Stanley Kubrick. The original novel was written by Stephen King. What stands out in my mind is the play of isolation, increasing madness and supernatural possession. The little boy, Danny, in the movie has an imaginary friend who acts out the fear of this massive hotel that is possessed and has many mysterious murders over its long history.

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The hotel was built on Indian burial grounds and has the motives throughout the hotel in the carpeting and decor. The scale of the hotel and living there alone is well captured by the scenes of Danny riding his Big Wheel through the corridors of the hotel and the scene of Jack, the husband, throwing a ball against the walls of a massive room as he stirs in boredom and writer’s block.


Besides the slow build-up in terror, mystery and later horror, Kubrick was able to take a popular novel based on a possessed hotel to a blend of natural break-down of human nature in isolation with the illusion of a possessed hotel, which drives a fine line begging the question: was Jack delusional or possessed by the Shining? Of course, I have painted a work dedicated to The Shining, “Overlook Hotel, Maui”.


OA: What music are you currently listening to and why?

SS: Right now I generally listen to electronic music streamed on My brother introduced me to the station and I actively use it to paint my work with. I originally got into House dance music in Chicago and later Trance as a bartender in Germany. Another genre of music to paint by is very aggressive rock or death metal even to stir the rawest emotions into the passion of the painting.

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Just the other day I was painting to Tool, which I hadn’t really heard before while painting. In my youth and even now, one of my favorite bands is Nine Inch Nails. I grew up with my mother always crying over lost jobs with her flawed personality driving her failure, so this type of depressing, suicidal music really pierces my soul and allows me to purge those memories. The weird thing is after listening to NIN, I feel happy inside from releasing the inner demons to rage awhile. I think I’ll play some today while I paint.

OA: Which living artists do you most admire and why?


SS: I would say Shephard Fairey. He took his art to the streets to get the visual feedback of what worked and didn’t in his work. At the same time, he strove to address the littered landscape of advertising: bill boards, subway ads and bus stop ads to subvert them to his OBEY campaign, which exposes the hypocrisy of police chasing down graffiti artists while protecting advertisers to shout their message to the masses endless with corporate money. Another interesting angle was how he repackaged various politicians into new ways to expose or even make fun of the propaganda, which is basically repeated, unchallenged art with message. I do have mixed emotions of using dictators such as Saddam Hussein, Stalin or Lenin in posters with a neutral message. I lived in Communist Poland a year and saw how an autocratic regime tarnishes the masses, belittles opponents and smashes political opposition with jail, prison or even death. I don’t believe these types of leaders should be positioned neutrally. In my work, I actively pursue revolution against these types of regimes like in China and Russia currently.


OA: Which deceased artist do you most admire and why?

SS: This is a tough choice. So much great art and artists. One that sticks in my mind was Picasso. He evolved over several painting styles: blue period, pink period, cubism and later social realism. This is the essence of an artist, to continually explore and push the limits of art. He even painted a massive painting dedicated to the fascist bombing of Guernica during Spain’s Civil War, which precluded the coming atrocities in WWII. He kept this painting out of Spain until Franco, the dictator, died, which was a very, very long time. In essence, he outlived Franco barely to keep this treasure out of Spain until democracy returned. Of course the reality is Franco would likely have destroyed the work, since he used Nazi airpower to win the Civil War. Like any artist, he was flawed in his relationships and I believe he went astray painting the socialist realism after cubism. This paralleled the art world in closed Communist countries, which I find disturbing with the tinge of the gulag attached to this propaganda style. Another reason to respect Picasso and why he was so famous, he lived in the great art capitals of his day: Paris and later New York City. One of the reasons artists become famous is simply by being where the action is. He showed complete devotion to his talent with all else secondary, he lived for the art world. People reward this.


OA: Which exhibition that you have visited made the greatest impact on you and why?

SS: Easy. The Guernica. Picasso painted this right after the bombing of civilians in Guernica, the first civilian air raid, capturing the cruelty of modern air warfare in a massive scene all in black and white. It was kept out of Spain until the fall of Franco, which gets to the heart of being Spanish — respect and honor to the end. The painting was right in his maximum successful period of cubism, so is beautiful in this light as well and capturing the horror of war. I have seen it several times while studying art as a student living in Spain. This is the essence of painting, to capture the audience, expose injustice, have an amazing story and even outside story of keeping it out of the country until Franco’s death.


You can literally feel the arch of the Civil War in this painting and the paintings life outside of Spain as an emigre as well. Art should change the world and in many cases does not, this work did.

OA: What is the question you get asked most frequently about your work and how do you answer it?

SS: Usually it is about the process as I work in three different styles: Free Form Abstract, Architectural Abstraction and Political Pop. One version of my abstract I use pure metal tools on wood panels similar to how Gehard Richter paints his massive abstracts.


I have a passion of finding where the paint will take me and combine. The second style is Architectural Abstraction. This style developed from my more angular style I first used into a highly structured 30 degree, 60 degree and 90 degree style with various planes of color fighting for dominion in the work.


My third style is Political Pop, currently my favorite to explain, since each work has a distinct message and story. These works deal with political injustice, crimes against humanity and an artist’s struggle to change the world through art.


One of my largest works “303 Signatures” deals with the rise of Charter 08 in China and the imprisonment of Liu Xiaobo for merely crafting this declaration of rights. It has all the 17 points of the petition to the government covering political freedom, freedom of expression, religion, etc. all in 76 hanzi, which alludes to 1776, the year of US declaration of independence. Along the frame I have most of the 303 signatures, about 900 hanzi characters. Keep in mind I speak no Mandarin, so this was really challenging work. Now over 13,000 people have signed it and the writer won the Nobel Peace Prize and was rewarded with 11 years in prison. I plan to keep this work out of China until the fall of Communism there.

OA: What / who inspired you to be an artist?

SS: There are many people. My mother took me to several art classes in my youth and was an excellent musician in her own right. In college, I was inspired to be taught under the late Tom Thomas. He would paint his own contemporary art right in class, so we could immediately leap frog to the latest style, which I later did. He organized great art competitions for the students with outside competition, so we learned the world of art very intimately. Additionally, his model would paint in class as well, so we saw her erotic paintings, which was one of the best learning experiences.


Another inspiration would be Van Gough, since he persevered despite his mental lunacy that drove away his own customers, artist friends and gallerists. This is amazing to have lived so passionately in your art despite really gaining nothing materially. It is also very foolish not to learn how to communicate, but all artists have some flaws, some larger than others.

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OA: Can you tell us about where you make your art and what if any the significance of this location is?

SS: Currently, I paint at 4th Street Fine Art in Berkeley. It is an artist studio/gallery, which is kind of unique as most places are either studios or galleries. The advantage here is the ability to learn other artist styles as well as how to market better as a group. Working in a group is crucial for any artist to be able to stay on top of his field, constantly learning and debating the finer points of art making, selling and marketing. The physical space is pretty amazing with windows on 3 sides, so the natural light really pours in, which is very important to understand the richness of the colors and subtlety between shades. Close by is an Indian burial ground under a parking lot. The original building was occupied by Brennans, a tavern that was started back in 1958. They got moved down the block. So we likely have some ghosts like in the Shining.

OA: What do you like most about being an artist?

SS: One of the great pleasures of being an artist is exploring the world of art, painting and meeting people. In my current location, we regularly get to meet people browsing and explain how a work is developing. It is very exciting to get behind the scenes with clients on the process. Another great characteristic, is you are leaving a legacy. If you get to a certain level of fame in your lifetime, your work will literally live for centuries as your work is talked about and discussed. I believe this is very important to impact your world for as long as possible. What better way to live than enrich your descendants long after you have lived your own life?

OA: What is your greatest achievement as an artist to date?

SS: I believe being part of the Peace Project is my highest achievement for an artist show. This project was based on the wish raise awareness of the ravages of war on civilians and try to make a difference via art charity. One project helped distribute 10,000 crutches to victims of Sierra Leone’s war. As an art event, my work travelled to 8 major US cities: Oakland, Culver City, Chelsea, Dallas, Beverly Hills, Malibu, Santa Ana and Long Beach. Another great project I worked on was Adult Day Services twice for art donations. They serve the Oakland community of elders in their final years. Another great achievement was my invitation to go to the Art Dubai festival, which unfortunately I turned down due to the expense of flying. My first far show was in Miami, which was the most exciting to see my work up in a gallery so far away in Nina Torres Fine Art.

OA: What are your plans for the coming year?

SS: I likely will continue working with the Peace Project, Adult Day Services and other art charities to expand my reach to the community. So far as an artist, I have done a show in LA, which was my first physical onsite tour of my work. That was fairly exciting meeting new clientele in a completely different art market. It definitely opened my eyes up to the possibility. My goal this year is to be in several galleries outside of the San Francisco area. I also want to have some major art sales as well and gain income from it.

Original Article:


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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

How do you view art?

ShawN shawN • Great question Jenny. I think I have two approaches. If the collection is superb, I tend to give a good look over a piece and read a bio if I find the artist interesting. In general though I do my 2nd approach. Then I just scan the whole gallery and go to key pieces to really gaze, study how they made it and check it from afar as well. I find this approach mostly as most collections, exhibits and contests have a range of quality and I have particular styles that grab me while others do not. I find many lesser quality works slip in because they are an art patron, amateur artist-big time client, museum patron, etc. It is extremely difficult to vet this out.

As I paint myself, I am very biased to paintings as well. So if an artist is showing both studies and the final painting, I tend to breeze past the drawings and focus on the final piece. I find the studies interesting, but don’t really think they hold much value outside of the final work. I strongly believe artists should destroy most of this preliminary sketches to retain the mystery of how did the artist create it. Many artists rose through the world by destroying their work: Jasper Johns, any graffiti artist, Gehardt Richter, etc. This increases the scarcity and value of the remaining work later.

Another factor in viewing art is if the artist is living or long-time dead and the art has been sold and resold. I had the chance to see Shephard Fairey’s exhibitions twice and they had a majority of the work and progression as well. Generally, its more natural to see some of the best work of an artist before they hit it big and have sold off most work. If you see a Picasso collection, it is always incomplete as they only collected a few or a few years. I always find this a bit annoying as it has sections of the work, but not per say the best pieces of a period. What is an art lover to do?