Once upon a time, there was boy named Shawn, who was given a plastic and awe-inspiring magic kit when he was very young.
He grew up in the generation of David Bowie's "The Labyrinth", Jim Henson's "The Dark Crystal", and Wolfgang Petersen's "The NeverEnding Story".
He loved to draw and write, and chronically skipped out on any and all gym classes or anything sports-related in favour of fairytales and Choose-Your-Own-Adventure books.
I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up.
It's true. And I hope I never really do, because when I do, it'll sort of take the fun out of figuring it all out. I live in a tiny quiet village in Southwestern Ontario, Canada.
First, the typical "about me" facts: I was born & raised in Wallaceburg, Ontario, Canada by the two most amazing parents anyone could ask for. I studied Drawing & Painting for 1.5 years at OCAD in Toronto, Graphic Design for 1 year at Fanshawe College in London, Ontario, and kicked-ass at waiting tables and managing restaurants all over the place while I fumbled around trying to figure out what the hell I was going to do with my life. I'm a self-taught photographer, and everything I know of Photoshop I learned through trial and error. I am music junkie, and it's often the inspiration behind my work.
Now, for the real "about me" facts. I remember being in high school (ya, it was a long time ago, but I do actually remember it...or parts of it) and imagining this artsy life full of galleries and music, gin & tonics and dancing, travelling and creating masterpieces from doodles on cocktail napkins. Funny how life doesn't always end up looking how you imagined it would. I got sidetracked, distracted, busy, and 'responsible' – bills, a business (weddings) – and the mainstream idea that I had to work 9-5 to be respectable and put my real passions on the back-burner in the meantime.
I lost my art. I lost the creativity that fed my soul. I lost that child inside of me that was and always will be an artist.
England, Hope & Death.
I took a trip to London, England, where I met (and we had a photo shoot with) the wonderfully sweet and super-talented Rosie Hardy. She inspired me to take my photography in a new direction, which I promptly did on the first day back from our vacation. I ate up the idea of the 365 Days Project, and started banging out photo-manipulated self portraits like it was my job. This was the most satisfied I'd ever been with my art and creative outlet to prevent my head and soul from bursting.
This in turn led to The Drawing Hope Project, literally the most fulfilling project I have ever done, taking drawings by children with health conditions, and turning them into real-life, magical photos starring themselves. It touched and changed my life in a way I can't put into words.
Then, my Dad died. This knocked me down, and while he was my biggest fan, his absence somehow drew a direct line to all the creativity inside me and froze it up inside me. I didn't want to think about the Drawing Hope Project that he loved so much. I didn't want to 'un-busy' myself enough to do something creative that could inadvertently cause me to deal with my feelings. I just shut it all up and walked away.
I met two strangers.
It was on a recent trip to New Orleans, Louisiana that I re-discovered the that lost inner-child-artist that wandered off into a crowd of busy adults a couple years ago. Sometimes it takes someone outside of your circle to be able to reach you. For me, it took two strangers. And, as cliché as it sounds, one was a tarot card reader, and the other, a palm reader. Honestly, they each took my hand and I swear I could feel all the frozen energy and creativity inside me start to melt. Their words crawled inside me and started picking away at the walls I had unknowingly (well, sort of knowingly) built the last two years. It seems since then (which as I write this, was only a few days ago) their words have multiplied and grown and things are starting to warm up there...it's sort of like Spring has arrived inside me after a long, long winter.
So, here I am.
I don't think it matters where you studied. Or where you did or didn't graduate. It's all those stumbles and falls and pick-yourself-ups that add up to a real education you can do something with. It's the listening to the strangers you meet, and to the people who love you...and listening to yourself, even if what you hear isn't what you want or know what to do with.
Everything you just read above (and if you were patient enough to read through it all, you win an award) is what makes up that twisted and odd approach to art that makes it my own. I'm looking forward to a renewed sense of creativity, drowned in all that ice that has melted away, saturated in the experiences that have led me to this place, typing this right now, and full of all the soul and spirit of the places I've travelled and come to love. The places and cultures that my soul has soaked up as though they always belonged together.
New Orleans. England. The mountains. The ocean. Home.