By Cynthia Reeser with Shawn Huckins
Cynthia Reeser (TRON): What inspires your artwork?
Shawn Huckins: My work has always been inspired by mundane environments—environments everyday people may overlook and not see the potential beauty in, within the given surroundings. Especially with my early work, I found beauty in old rusted-down gas pumps, old ice cream shops, or even a used can of Turkey SPAM. My current paintings involve replicating 18th and 19th Century paintings and superimposing everyday, mundane text messages from people’s everyday lives. This early work is also inspired various artists that I adore, such as Edward Hopper, Ralph Goings, Robert Bechlte, and David Hockey to name a few.
CR: Please talk about your development as an artist.
SH: There has been lots of trial and error (more error, most likely) throughout my art practice, which is healthy in any artist’s development. My thought process has always been very technical and meticulous. My college teachers tried to get me to loosen up, but in the end, I would gravitate back toward my detailed process. I believe this to be okay, as artists tend to think in different manners. An abstract artist may have a difficult time thinking meticulously in the execution of a painting, just as I can’t think abstractly in my process. As a young boy, I was inspired by an older kid’s sketch book that he showed me on the bus, and since then, I’ve been drawing in sketch books. I would copy my favorite Disney characters, sports stars, and video game characters. I even designed golf courses in those books. I didn’t really paint extensively until I entered college. My first painting was when I was nine, using my late grandmother’s oil painting set. I remember having a very difficult time as I had no idea how to use the medium and got frustrated with it all. I returned to mainly drawing until college. When I knew how to and practiced with paints, it became less of a chore and more enjoyable. I’ve been painting exclusively ever since.
CR: Many of your pieces are very detailed. Could you talk about your process a bit?
SH: My paintings are based off photographs I take myself, taking several angles of the desired subject and even coming back at different times of the day to get different lighting effects. From there, I sketch several compositions onto tracing paper, swapping things out from one photo to another. For example, in “Sawyer’s Dairy Bar,” the entire composition is relatively on the same vertical plane. However, to give the painting a little depth, I composed the rotating sign in mid-rotation to have it protrude forward rather than be on the same plane as the rest of the building. In my early work, I used the grid system to lay out the painting onto large-scale canvases. But investing into a projector, the drawing process has been exceedingly faster, although projecting the smaller details of the paintings is still difficult. Those areas are still hand-drawn, which is great because it keeps my drawing skills up to par. Once the drawing is complete, I do a warm underpainting to establish shapes and shadows. And finally, the painting process. Like I mentioned before, I work in a meticulous manner, so I tend to work in small areas until completion and then move to another area. Finally, glazing or washes and then a coat of polymer UV varnish to protect and bring the colors to their fullest vibrancy.
CR: What do you strive for in your work?
SH: Quality. My pet peeve is sloppy work and I have a high standard for work. If your collectors are buying work in the several thousands, they deserve a high-quality piece of work. And uniqueness. There are thousands of very talented artists, but their work gets lost among the other artists doing the same exact thing, such as landscapes, still-lifes of flowers, etc. Although it works for a few artists, in the end, an admirer will forget the work amongst the masses. I want someone to come along and say, “Wow, look at that Huckins painting,” just as they would be able pick out a Warhol, a Van Gogh, a Ruscha . . . My early work isn’t as unique as I’d like it to be, but I had lots of growing, learning, and experimentation, and currently, I believe my work is very distinguishable.
What’s next for Shawn Huckins…
New Paint Chip Paintings by Shawn Huckins, Opening March 20th, 2014 located at Art & Soul Gallery, Boulder Colorado. (Solo Exhibition)
Shawn Huckins New Paintings (In the American __tier series), September 2014, located at Design Matters LA, Los Angeles, California. (Solo Exhibition)
Visit Shawn Huckins on the web at: shawnhuckins.com
Cynthia Reeser is the Founder and Publisher of Aqueous Books, and Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Prick of the Spindle literary journal. She has published more than 100 reviews in print and online, as well as poetry and fiction in print and online journals. Her short stories are anthologized in the Daughters of Icarus Anthology (Pink Narcissus Press, 2013), and in Follow the Blood: Tales Inspired by The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew (Sundog Lit, 2013). Cynthia is currently working on a literary short story collection inspired by fairy tale lore. Also a senior editor for two association management companies, she lives and works in the Birmingham area and attends the University of Tampa in pursuit of her MFA in Creative Writing (fiction). Visit her on the web at www.cynthiareeser.com.