My name is Erin Shaw, and I have been painting for a couple of years now. I didn’t really take it too seriously at first. It was kind of just an escape from life. It started that way and then I developed a love for it. It’s now my therapy and where I go to really release and decompress.
My style of painting is more visual than anything. I haven’t been trained professionally. I did not go to school or anything like that, but my whole family is artistic and I’ve always liked painting furniture, building things, and creating things. I guess it never really manifested as painting necessarily, but also I don’t think I was really into it at the time. I just got a paint set from Michaels and I was like, I’m just going to get me some canvases and go home and paint. Honestly, that was the beginning. I still have some of those earlier paintings, too, where I was just having a good time and there was not really any purpose to it other than just to do something fun. Now, I can look back and see the growth in my paintings and I think about how life just goes and you grow overtime and continue to get better.
As far as being self-taught, it took me a while to get over some insecurities. You get insecure when you think about how other people have gone to school for years and years to do what you are doing. To be honest, I’m still in that phase a little bit, just always being aware that I haven’t been formally trained. I have been taking different classes to learn new things and develop the fundamentals, but for the most part, I just find things that I like and then try to recreate them. I may take a picture and print it out and recreate it while adding my own twists and turns to things.
I’ve always been good with measurements or eyeballing stuff. For instance, when I draw people, lines, or anything like that, the portions have always come easy to me because I think I just have an eye for things like that. Otherwise, I’m just shooting in the dark. I’m growing as I’m going and the more I paint, the more I learn about what works and what doesn’t work. I’m analyzing and reflecting as I am painting. Being able to do that helps me alot, especially now with COVID and everything being online. I much prefer to be in an actual classroom, but until I’m able to do that, I will continue to do what I have been doing and continue to have a good time.
My work is inspired by love. It’s a love for myself and a love for others. I think our capacity to grow and expand throughout life is based on love. I love myself, so I want to continue to grow and expand as much as I can. Even when you think about being in love with someone else. You love your partner, so you want to grow and be better for them. This applies to families and so my other scenarios. Everything that I paint, whether it’s pain, happiness or joy, it all stems from some form of love.
The thing I want people to take away from my work is that I want them to see it and remember that life goes on. It is so easy to get bogged down with everything that has been happening, and painting, for me, was a way to release. Not to say that I had to be in a bad place or anything, but I just wanted to do something that feels good and feels progressive. Life is just life. It goes on. It gets better. It can get worse. Life just does what it does and there are so many different ways to interpret that. With art, one piece can be translated in a thousand different ways, so I want people to look at my art and remember life goes on.
I do both abstract art and portraits, but I think I have more fun doing abstract art — linework specifically. I like linework because I like to create things that have an optical illusion component to them. I Like to create stuff that feels like it moves with you and moves with the eye.
Black art, or just blackness is general, is not promoted or appreciated as much as it should be. Black people have created so many things and so many ways of life. We as a people are just creators naturally and our work really does make the world better, especially when we are able to reach a broader audience. When we are able and allowed to let our work expand to more places, the world benefits. To me, there is definitely a need for more Black art to be more mainstream. I also think more people need to ask more questions about our work and hear the stories behind the motivation for creating certain pieces or hear the messages we want to convey through our work. We have a lot to say and it is very necessary for us to say it. We are Black year round, not just one month per year, so it is important that we get opportunities to express ourselves and showcase our work year round.
I just want everybody to continue being creative and continue to do what makes them happy. I don’t think anyone should settle. Don’t settle for things that don’t make you happy because you weren’t put here for nothing. You weren’t given your brain, your thoughts and your way of life for no reason. Be yourself and be okay with that. Love yourself for who you are right now. Then, maybe you’ll get somebody else to love you for it, too, but that’s really not even the goal. The goal is to be self-sufficient. The goal is to be happy within yourself. So, I think that everybody should be striving towards that goal.
Erin Shaw, Painter
The Black Artists Series highlights local Black artists and their journeys. Due to COVID-19, we’ve turned our original video series into a blog-style series. The blog is fully in the artist’s own words.