Meeting Jon Shaw at the East Van Culture Crawl

Last weekend, I had the pleasure of briefly attending the East Van Culture Crawl. This annual event spans many venues in East Vancouver to showcase hundreds of local artists. I attended the culture crawl at the Mergatroid Building and nearby Parker Street Studios. Here, I got to meet my new favorite artist: Jon Shaw. His work takes my breath away, and I just discovered him a week ago. Using ink and acrylic he creates beautiful pieces so smooth and intricate, it is hard to believe they are all handmade.

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Photo Credit: Jon Shaw: Assemblage

First, let me gush over the subject matter. We have very similar sources for inspiration. I have always thought that shipping containers, those red towering cranes, and alleyways make fantastic subjects, and apparently so does Jon. Below is a watercolour painting I did on August 20th 2014, and some alleyway photos I’d been collecting to turn into future works.

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These industrial, urban structures provide so much detail and present chaotic environments that are simultaneously structured by design. When I first saw his work I was excited, admiring, and envious all at the same time. It was like being a songwriter and having a rough tune in mind, and then discovering that a musician has already recorded pretty much the same song you wanted to record, and it is better than you ever imagined possible.

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Photo Credit: Jon Shaw: No Love

His art reminded me a lot of my own watercolour art – or rather what I want my art to be and beyond. (Over the summer I tackled my fear of watercolours, completing a small watercolour notebook during my co-op travels.) In his art he tackles and captures things I beyond what I’ve ever dreamed of being able to implement in my art, and he executes it so well. I’ve never had much professional art theory training, but here is what I love about his art:

  1. First, the sharp ink and the bright colours are a combination I am very drawn to. Ink outlining allows for incredible detail, and lends a crisp feeling to the artwork. It also provides a good structure to balance the sprawling lines, complex angles, and colour that bursts outside the lines.
  2. What an amazing balance of geometric shapes. There is allowed to be blank space, but it never feels completely empty. It provides a good balance to the busy and detailed surroundings.
  3. Look at that excellent use of line. Those power lines? Amazing. Structured yet chaotic, neat yet slightly askew.

The only thing I don’t like about his work is that he uses dot-patterns a bit too liberally for my taste. I’m also not as inspired by stickers or dumpsters as he is, but it is interesting to notice what other people see beauty in.

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Photo Credit: Jon Shaw: Powell and Dunlevy

Though I don’t usually like to have art by other artists, I was very glad to walk away with one of the mini magnets he was handing out.

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