Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Shawn Barber

Shawn Barber is a SF based artist and illustrator who has worked for a number of clients such as Target, Subway, Rolling Stone, The Wall Street Journal, to name a few.
He recently painted a portrait of Barack Obama for inauguration day.

Having significantly worked as an illustrator and teacher, Shawn Barber has turned to more personal work such as “the doll series”, and his giant undertaking “Tattooed portraits”.

Tattoos serve as the perfect medium for expression on a body besides evident expression and pose, they are a reflection of the person and evidently contribute to a more complete portrait. The sitters are revealing not only their figures when they unclothe themselves, but their personal markings and symbols.

In some instances the tattoos overwhelm the figure continuing onto the picture plain, having more significant than the face and body.

Shawn Barber manages a blend between the realism of tone and colour of the figure, and the design of the tattoos. Often the intensity of the tattoo seems to overwhelm the canvas and take a life of its own.
the following Q&A is from the FAQ section of his website sdbarber.com

"I noticed your illustration style and your regular painting style to be quite different, what changes do you have to make in your style in order to paint a successful illustration (as opposed to the more "fine art" style, so to speak)?"
"my paintings are completely different than what i do commercially. the paintings are much larger- avg 5 ft.- and they become finished works through the process. they are much more ABOUT process and the experience of painting, where as the illustrations are direct, interpretations of my sketches. it's a different mindset for me. i have no time restrictions or obligations to anyone but myself and my own aesthetic when i paint these large works. i don't show them in galleries and i basically make them because i want to, and i have to. it's a way for me to release myself, my stress, my thoughts, my past, my fears - everything is dealt with when i paint. time does not matter and has no bearing on these works. i make them for me and others seem to enjoy them- but i make them because i want to express myself through this medium. if i was a singer or songwriter i would be in a band, but i'm not. i'm a painter. the illustrations are a lot of fun for me and they offer different challenges. they are fairly quick and because of that i don't get too emotionally attached to them. they allow me the opportunity to paint every day and i have the freedom of time when i don't have an assignment."

What advice would you give a new illustrator / artist in general? (style, the business itself, etc . . . )
• #1- "be true to yourself and your art. i see too many carbon copy cats out there that are denying there own work. influence is one thing, but stealing is not only unethical, it's disgusting and totally disrespectful. • get the gag book (for any and all questions regarding the business side)- * be patient. be persistent. draw, draw, draw, draw, draw. draw from life- draw from memory, try to stay away from drawing strictly from photos. paint, paint, paint, paint, paint. look at old masters and copy their works. read, read, read, read. read everything- i would suggest reading a few specific books... ben shahn's 'the shape of content' ; robert henri's 'the art spirit' ; jospeph campbell's 'the power of myth' ; krishnamurti's 'the first and last freedom' ; carl jung's 'psychological reflections' ; and laurence g. boldt's 'zen and the art of making a living'... put together a strong body of work (minimum of 10 pieces) and send out portfolios to the specific people that YOU want to work with / for. ( i call them my "hit list"- i keep sending them books until they hire me...) print out postcards and send them to who YOU want to work for / with. you can get names and addresses from the graphic artist's market book, going to the bookstore and looking at EVERYTHING that uses illustration and send your work to them. target a market. i've targeted doing graphic portraits as a starting point for a career in this field.... then expand on that and branch out. only make images that YOU want to make- if you make what you THINK people want and you hate doing it, they will probably hire you to do what you DON'T want to do- so do what makes you happy...put your work on the internet-"

Shawn makes some interesting points about being an artist.
“Being a Professional Artist"
"Be Prepared to Struggle The life of a freelance / self employed / gallery artist is not an easy one. It definitely has it's ups and downs. The pros- you can be creative everyday, you can set your own schedule, you can travel whenever you like, you are in control of your day to day, including your future... The cons- inconsistent cash flow, stress of not knowing when work will come, sometimes you have to do work that is less than exciting, no health insurance, bills sometimes get paid late... Be Down for the Long Haul It's not going to happen overnight. If you're lucky- in 5 years you maintain some sort of consistent work flow, sales and success. For most, it takes 7-10 years. The first 3 years are the hardest. With a lot of people, these are the 'make-or-break' years.

Frustration, lack of motivation, laziness, insecurity and lack of drive will overwhelm most people who even think about being an 'artist'. You can't claim to be something if you make no effort
or have no aspirations. Wanting to be and being are two completely different people. Make a list of goals, no matter how lofty, outrageous or small they may be. Work diligently and daily until you achieve these goals. Appreciate and celebrate the small successes, but stay hungry and keep your focus on the future and the unaccomplished goals. Put yourself around successful, healthy and creative people. If your friends are excited about life and what they do and who they are, that energy is contagious. People that have no drive, no direction or aspirations are dead weight- they are going nowhere, talk about the same things and, typically, their depression and negative energy will affect you and take you away from your own goals.

Sometimes it's difficult, but if someone truly cares about you, they should be happy for your success and dedication, not jealous, bitter or resentful. Life is way too short. Be honest with your work and your weaknesses. You HAVE to be your own worst critic. Do not settle for where you are. You should constantly strive to get better and learn something new. Complacency turns into laziness, which falls into boredom and mediocrity. Why do something if you don't care about it? No one is 'making you' do it. If art is a hobby, that's all well and good- but don't fool yourself and think you're something that you're not. Be humble. Realize that you're not that good. There are 10,000 artists living that are better than you. There are 100,000,000 in art history that are even better. Feel good about what you do but don't lose sight of this reality. Challenge yourself to do things you don't think you can do, either out of fear or lack of knowledge. Expose yourself to ALL kinds of art- painting, sculpture, film, furniture design, illustration, architecture, animation, etc. Ask yourself WHAT and WHY you like certain aspects of your favorite art pieces and allow that to nurture, inspire and motivate your own work. More than anything stated, the most important ideal is to HAVE INTEGRITY.
Stand behind what you do, have your own voice, your own aesthetic and your own opinions. Don't try and be the 'Flavor of the Month'. Please, Please, Please- whatever you do, don't be a jackoff. The art world is very small. Don't let yourself get labeled as a clone, a copycat, a spineless, unoriginal bastard. No one will respect you or your work. It's lazy and unethical, disrespectful and disgusting.
Don't turn work or commissions down. No job is too small. Sometimes, you even have to do work for free.... ALWAYS be professional. Try to challenge yourself and take on more than you can handle. You will be surprised, when it comes down to crunch time, if you focus and make deliberate decisions and actions- you will accomplish much more than you thought you were capable of.”

Shawn Barber is a contemporary artist and illustrator whose work ethic and artistic practice has had a strong impact on my own art. He is tirelessly dedicated to his craft, prolific and brilliant. I hope you enjoy his work.

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