Interview on “Bling Bling Kid and Safety Stalker Slayer” painting

IMG_1563Bling Bling Kid and Safety Stalker Slayer

Why did you paint on the Trayvon Martin case?

This case hit pretty close to home.  When I was a youth, I had friends on both sides of a brutal rape and murder of a 13 year old girl.  It was a shock to the system that someone you knew could be involved in such a horrible crime and the victim be a classmate of my brother’s at the same time.  The police detectives harassed me for confession letters and forced me to search my house without a warrant by saying they would subpoena me in the case at court to testify against my friend.  My mom had already found the letters and threw them out although he didn’t confess to anything in those letters. Years later it turned out that Chicago police had staged several crime scenes to be able to pin an unsolved case on someone to be able to serve “justice”, which makes you wonder was he really guilty?  In this case, it was black on black crime, which the media quickly forgot after catching the perpetrators.  The really sad part of the case was the mother moved out of the hood in Chicago to the suburbs to raise her daughter outside of that environment.  I suppose by selling drugs in her home she exposed her daughter to some shady elements as well in the process despite being out of the hood.

projectsChicago Projects

Why do you think the jury found George Zimmerman not guilty?

Unfortunately, the way the “stand your ground” law was written in Florida, you can basically follow someone around in your neighborhood and have a stand off right in the middle of the street with little repercussion.  I think the intention of the law was to cut down on drive by shootings of gang bangers, but they have definitely gone too far in the definition of self-defense and in particular this case, since it obviously allows stalking a suspect as allowable.  The interesting point that social media sleuths pointed out was the case of Marissa Alexander, a mother who gave a warning shot to an abusive husband in the name of “stand your ground” yet was sent to prison 20 years. It definitely looks to be like Jim Crow never left the Deep South if you look at just these two cases.  Of course, you need to look at many cases to get the full picture of overall justice being applied in those courts.

fla justice

Why was there such an outcry?

Well, the country has various race history in the Deep South that has been white washed or forgotten over time yet takes a long time to transition out of.  With the election of Obama, some people living on well integrated coasts of the country thought we were living in a post-racial America.  This case showed drastically how powerless Obama was in the face of the existing Florida justice system, which is how it is structured, since he was elected to the Executive not Judicial system. Other elements on the case were his young age and type casting as a thug vigilante despite having no weapon vs. a stalking adult.


What elements do you have of the case in your painting?


Of course, you have to include the Skittles in Trayvon Martin’s pockets, which really captures the fact that this was a youth killed without a weapon.  In the painting, I have 5 rows of 10 columns of circles representing the candy in this kid’s pocket.  The 10 and 5 also represent the bail set for George Zimmerman of $150,000.  Inside the circles I have various photos from the plot leading up to this tragedy.

I included elements representing the “Stand your ground” law and aspirations of George Zimmerman, studying to be a police officer.  He was influenced by the idea of being a neighborhood watch guardian that citizens put together to reduce communal crime. In the case of Sanford, there had been numrerous burglaries in the neighborhood, reported to be by black youth.  So when Trayvon’s family stayed the summer in Sanford, they had no idea the dangerous tempest brewing in Sanford for their son to walk through.

take a bite outneighborhood watch

What were some of the artistic interpretations of the case?

Most of the artists focused on either Trayvon Martin or George Zimmerman.  Below are some of the art pieces made from the case besides mine.  The most disturbing trend was George Zimmerman capitalizing on the case by making a flag and court paintings copied direct from photos, altering them in photoshop and then selling them on eBay for $100,000.

trayvon art 5 trayvon art1 trayvon art3 trayvon art4 trayvon art6 zimmerman art

What do you think the selling price of $100,000 says about art collectors?

I would say some collectors look for notoriety and a story in a painting.  This had both as the guy killed a youth and got away with the crime.  I do find it disturbing that eBay and Zimmerman would make money off a terrible event.

slave ship

Are there other paintings of tragedy that are worth so much?  

Turner painted the famous story of a slave ship captain that dumped 133 slaves overboard to be able to make more on the insurance payment for “lost cargo”.  Turner was criticizing the slave trade in this painting, but considering the market value over $32 million, it makes you wonder a bit on the values of the art market itself.


Are any works available? 

Check my shop at


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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