Where Line and Paint meet with Jerry Shawback

Jerry Shawback is the most dedicated artist I know. His daily practice can rack up 500 sketches a week. Add to this his paintings, and we have ourselves a full-time talented artist. His line drawings capture depth and powerful expression with the strength of their minimalism. His self-portrait paintings always leave me craving to know more. As I flip through his flickr site I often ask “who is this artist – really?”

Then sometime over the summer, I notice something different happening in Jerry’s paintings. Lines familiar to me in his drawings started to appear in his paintings. I was hooked. I kept slipping back and spying from just off the side of the screen to see what he would do next. Finally, I mustered up my courage and asked if I could interview him for a dedicated feature here on Creative Potager. To my delight he said yes. So get your favourite cup of something warm and pull up a chair….

Born in small town Streator Illinois about 80 miles outside Chicago, Jerry lived in town but there was also a family farm. After the divorce of his parents when he was eight years old until he was sixteen, South Florida was home. This was followed by some time in North San Diego country where he completed high school.

Los Angeles is the only long-term love Jerry shared with me and the city has been his adult home since college though he spends a chunk of time in Nevada where he has few distractions and gets most of his painting done these days.

Jerry Shawback’s art:

Q. What is your training and background?

A. I went to Otis Art Institute of Parsons School of Design, a division of the new school for social research and studies communication design and illustration. Otis had a great foundation year program where all the students from different disciplines all took the same classes giving everyone a solid understanding of the basics of art as well as forming relationships between the different departments.

Q. Is there any particular aspect of your formal training which is fundamental to your current creative process?

A. Only one class in art school really stands out. History of graphic design was a brutal course. In 3 hours there were 200 slides and continuous lecturing. The following class there was a test on one of the slides. We covered the entire history of design and how it related to the broader world of art. When I got out of art school is when I really started focusing on my drawing. I found some great workshops and spent most of my available time drawing.

Q. I am curious about what got your thinking about drawing with paint? Do you remember what got you thinking about this?

A. There can be a disconnect between painting and drawing. I see it in the work of artists all the time. There are some artists whose finished pieces I find lifeless and uninteresting but when I can find an oil sketch or rough drawing it is just delightfully.

I went to the national Gallery in washington DC and saw several pieces by Toulouse-Lautrec. These oil on cardboard drawings, of women in various stages of undress are, for me, one the most thrilling experience viewing art I have ever had.  The Lucian Freud show which brought me back to painting again after a long hiatus would be another. I may do up to 500 drawings in a week in many different styles. This allows for experimentation and results in some very spontaneous work.

Q. How did they end up separate in the first place?

A. Unfortunately I think they have always been separate for me and what I am working on now is trying to integrate the two.

Q. What process or guides do you use in choosing your colours when painting.

A. Painting a color and drawing the colors I see with line are very different things.

I never put a color on the canvas that I do not think is wonderful on its own. That does not guarantee that it will work with the other colors on the painting. But it is a good start. I enjoy the process of mixing colors almost as much as I like making the marks with them.

Q. What has life taught you about your creative work?

A. All of our experiences good or bad make us who we are and, if we are open to it, will come out in our work. Art, just like any other kind of work, requires effort and discipline and is not something that just happens on a whim.

Q. I often experience a sense of loss or sadness edging into your work. Can you tell us a little about this?

A. We often hold our emotions just below the surface in a very quiet way. This is revealed when we are less guarded. I try to capture this. I think every one has a certain amount of sadness and loss as well as joy and hopefulness. If you are sincere as an artist, it comes out in your work. I work with the human form so it may seem more obvious but this would show if I was painting landscapes as well.

Jerry Shawback’s plans:

Q. What is next?

A. Continuing to learn and grow as an artist.

Q. Five years from now?

A. It would be nice to be involved with a gallery who could market my work a year out and the most difficult thing would be getting the work done in time for the shows.

Q. Ten years from now?

A. It would be great to have an exhibit / workshop space so I could have an environment for developing artists to show as well access to space to work.  I have come across so many terrific artists that could benefit from somewhere to work in a group environment  with other artists on occasion as well as show their work.

Thank you Jerry. It is always a pleasure to have you here on Creative Potager.

Jerry Shawback’s Sprout question: What two things are you working to integrate in your art or life?

Pssst! dear readers, to do your own spying on Jerry Shawback in the corners of cyberspace, you can find him:

On flickr at http://www.flickr.com/photos/shawback

And at http://www.thewhole9.com/jerryshawback

And you can  follow him on twitter at http://twitter.com/jshawback


© 2010 Terrill Welch, All rights reserved.

Liberal usage granted with written permission. See “About” for details.

Purchase photography at http://www.redbubble.com/people/terrillwelch

Creative Potager – where imagination rules. Be inspired.

From Mayne Island, British Columbia, Canada

29 thoughts on “Where Line and Paint meet with Jerry Shawback

  1. Terrill – I thoroughly enjoyed learning about Jerry Shawback — the motive behind the man — in your interview. Two statements jumped off the page at me. One was yours and one was his:

    YOURS – “His line drawings capture depth and powerful expression with the strength of their minimalism.”

    HIS – “All of our experiences good or bad make us who we are and, if we are open to it, will come out in our work.”


    Jerry Shawback’s Sprout question: What two things are you working to integrate in your art or life?

    An even more effective use of TIME and SPACE.

    (Now I’m heading over to do some “spy” work) …

  2. Where line and paint meet to create depth.
    I am always moved and inspired by both the emotional and the visual depth I see and perceive in Jerry’s paintings. Even a line can turn into a sensual and breathing trait. I could pause on his looks and feel the emotional depth.
    Thanks for sharing this interview.

  3. I’vE only known Jerry’s work through Twitter , but have always been struck by the humanity in them- soft sinuous lines, beautifully painted , the capturing of expressions. Where you see sadness in the work I tend to project acceptance and openness to it….am not an artist myself and do not have the vocabulary to do the man justice, but good to read both of you here.
    as for the SPROUT…In my writing i am currently trying to integrate a synaesthetic sensibility into my words, and am forever trying to write simply but freshly

    • Brian thank you for dropping in to comment and leave a sprout. I too only knew Jerry through Twitter — which is not a small thing as he has a large caring and generous spirit which shines brightly in the arts community there. However, he has regularly dropped in to Creative Potager and left insightful sprout responses. Over time, his quiet thoughtful presence here has become like one of the lines in his drawing or paintings – saying so much by saying only what is necessary.

      Good luck with your writing Brian and we would love it if you dropped back in and let us know how it goes. Leaving links like the one to your “Big Ape Diary” poetry blog are encouraged. Creative Potager is like a community kitchen garden for creativity.

  4. Very pertinent interview..I do love Jerry’s work..his drawings are the most sensitive drawings I have come across ..they stir emotion…
    As for Toulouse Lautrec..yes where line and paint meet to create depth..
    Thank you very much for this interview an insight on a great artist.

  5. Great post and interview.
    The notion that most got me thinking was “There can be a disconnect between painting and drawing.”

    It made me think that sometimes , unconsiously, when I paint I’m trying to draw, but I have a resistance that is, at least partially, coming from the physical characteristics and feeling of the the paint and the brush. Sometimes I find myself painting with the side of the brush in sort of shaving motions as if I’m holding a pencil and and using the side of the graphite.
    I’m not sure quite what I conclude about it but it has me cogitating…
    What exactly *are* the differences between drawing and painting? What is the difference in approach and feeling that one has?
    All round a thought provoking post.

    • Peter this is exactly what happened to me when I started thinking about these two aspects of creating. I used to say that I didn’t know how to draw – that I learned to paint first. So I decided to take some charcoal drawing classes in the late 80’s. Well, I have never been happier than when I learned I could move charcoal around on the paper just like paint! I never worried about drawing again:) Glad to have you hear Peter and hope you drop in again soon.

  6. Terrill,
    thank you for doing this. can i love this space anymore?! you asked all the questions i have been meaning to. jerry is so wonderful in supporting so many artists on twitter so it is lovely to learn more about him.

    i feel very cool that without ‘knowing about art like someone who has studied it’ i intuitively have been commenting before RTing about the depth and emotion in his lines, the simple strokes. that is what i first noticed about his drawings on flickr. and i believe that is what causes the depth in his portraits eventually—it all begins with a single line of emotion. as someone who writes, this inspires me to note: emotion is everywhere.

    Jerry: “Art, just like any other kind of work, requires effort and discipline and is not something that just happens on a whim.” LOVE this.

    Terrill: Thank you.

    To answer the sprout: the two things i am working to integrate in my life, art/writing, and intense practice of yoga: energy i receive from the outerworld and the energy i give from within. it can be quite a trip but some days are better than others, some nights longer, and sometimes get a glimpse of ‘just right’ and I am reminded why I strive for integration.

    immense gratitude to you both.


  7. I, too, have known Jerry only via the medium of Twitter. Caring, generous, encouraging and inspiring. Wonderful to have the opportunity to find out more through your insightful interview. There are many things here to muse over and apply to our own lives and art, but I was particularly taken with “All of our experiences good or bad make us who we are and, if we are open to it, will come out in our work. ”
    As for the Sprout question…well my answers in the question itself…art and life

    • Thank you Vaughan and welcome to Creative Potager. I think twitter took over wordpress here today:) It is good to see so many new people dropping in.

      Jerry is a special person as well as great artist and it certainly is evident in the comments here today. Glad to have you all here – just pull in another chair, get a cup of tea off the table over there and feel free to stay awhile.

  8. Terrill, great interview and rare peek into Jerry’s art and thought process. I’ve been an admirer of Jerry’s art through twitter and have read so many nice comments about him as a person and as a friend to other artists. I particularly love his way with line. The time and dedication shows in the work.

    Two things I’m working to integrate into my work are:

    1. More symbolism
    2. More things from my immediate surroundings that are personal and yet universal.

    • Martha I couldn’t agree with you more. Jerry has been extremely supportive of my work and Creative Potager in general. I am so pleased to be able to shine this time onto his work. Thank you for your sprout response and I am looking forward to what you come up with. And I think I am due for a visit over on your fabulous An Artist’s Journal blog.

  9. Pingback: Beginnings of a Whisper | Creativepotager's Blog

  10. Terrill,

    Thank you thank you for showing and sharing Jerry’s work again! It is great to view Jerry and his work now from the perspective of knowing more about his motives, what dives his creativeness!
    I think I will use this blog and Jerry’s work as my “artist’s date” so I can leasurly wonder and wander. What came up for me while reading the interview and viewing the drawing/painting, was that I don’t see a straight line, what I see is circles, and such. I was also brought back to years ago when I visited Brandywine River Museum in Chadsford Pa where much of the Wyeth family’s art is on exhibit. What I liked about the exhibit was that they just did not have finished pieces but had notes/drawing, more drawing, and then drawing with paint or color, than the finished piece. I fell in Love with the process, the creativeness…
    Terrill, thank you so much for sharing Jerry Shawback! Thank you for being inspired by him and his art!

    I am Love, Jeff

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