Altering familiar local places is a fundamental motivation for prolific local landscape and cityscape artist Jon Shaw.
“I find myself working with the back alley side of urban landscapes, but not in the pristine sense—with the gritty bits,” he says, from his new studio in the Mergatroid Building, just off of Clark Drive.
Working with ink, German-made permanent markers, and acrylic paint, Shaw blends his abstract perceptions of “Gastown meets Chinatown meets downtown's” gritty realities with an elegance that alters, to many downtown residents, places we know well.
He sees himself as capturing a “frozen piece in time” in Vancouver due to the on-going development in real estate, and the sense of loss some of these communities are experiencing.
The Artistic Process
Shaw believes that his work is a reflection of himself documenting his daily existence in Vancouver, sharing what his interests and observations are with his audience.
“I look at my immediate surroundings and put my personal spin on it—how I want to see the world,” he says of what inspires him to create.
Shaw notes that his style has developed through experimentation in layering over the last three years, as he's painted over top of multiple coats for “no good reason”, which eventually led to what he calls his “accidental style”.
When Shaw isn't preparing for an exhibition, he can often be found with his camera somewhere around Greater Vancouver. He seeks to capture intricate subject matter through less-than-stereotypical shots that he can dissect back at his studio.
Shaw describes his production process as “working with shadows first, building up the darker colours of the piece, and then focusing on the highlights, which creates volume.”
However, dark doesn’t always mean black to Shaw, and he works with deep hues of cyan to create rich tones that develop substance for a piece.
Shaw often documents his process, creating Vimeo videos for his online audience.
His early bird series, particularly the dense line-work on his birds' feathers, highlights his unique layering technique. This early experimentation has become a by-product to his secondary body of works—the back alley side of Vancouver, which he is most well known for today.
That Zen Moment
Shaw has two or three pieces always on the go at various stages, so he can choose which one to work on based on his mood. His most creative moments though are usually when having a glass of scotch, making art, and “finding that Zen moment”.
Currently, he is doubling his art production at his new studio, working on a personal series and commissioned works.
His upcoming show, Urbanity, can be seen at the CityScape Community Art Space, organized by the North Vancouver Community Arts Council, from August 1 to September 6.
Shaw’s most recent works can also be viewed on his website.