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 you can follow him on twitter at http://twitter.com/jshawback
GOOD LUCK! 🙂
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From Mayne Island, British Columbia, Canada