Hello, and welcome back to “Gracie Meets…”! Henri Matisse, a French painter in the late 1800’s and mid 1900’s, once said, “Creativity takes courage.” That couldn’t be any truer, so take a listen to this episode where I interview Shen, an artist! Go check out her website to see some of her art (https://shenstudio.com/commissioned-portraits/)
Cover Art: Kyleigh Kinsey. Instagram: @ato._.noodle
Gracie Solomon 00:11
Hello, and welcome back to Gracie Meets… There is a quote from Henri Matisse, which said, creativity takes courage. And that’s very true. To be creative, you have to put yourself out there in front of the world. That’s what Shen does almost every day for her career. Shen was the first female graffiti artist in the western US. So she has to have a lot of courage to do that. Well, Shen, tell the listeners a little bit about yourself.
Okay, I’m a professional artist. I show my paintings in galleries around the country. And I also do commissioned portraits and paintings for individuals and corporations, as well as murals.
Gracie Solomon 00:51
What kind of murals do you do?
My specialty really is portrait. So if you look at my website, you’ll see that most of my work are pictures of people. So, that’s typically my specialty.
Gracie Solomon 01:04
When did you start doing your art?
I’ve made marks on things just as long as I’ve been able to hold a crayon. So my mom caught me painting my first mural with Crayolas, on the back of the bedroom door. I think I was three or four, and she got pretty mad when she first saw it. But then she looked at it, she realized, well, that’s actually not too bad. And so she left it up for a little while. When I was a teenager, I was the first female graffiti artist in the western US. And my tag was ShenShen210.
Gracie Solomon 01:40
Did you always want to be an artist? Or if you didn’t, when did you know that you wanted to be an artist?
I honestly haven’t ever wanted to be anything other than an artist. It’s just always been a very obvious thing for me. The rush that I get when I’m in “The Zone”, which is when I’m in a really creative place, and things are working. It’s just what I love. Being an artist is the only job that will allow me to do that.
Gracie Solomon 02:13
It’s like the thrill of doing what you love and being able to express yourself. I feel that way with music.
Do you? Are you a musician?
Gracie Solomon 02:22
Yes, I play cello.
Awesome! I love the cello!
Gracie Solomon 02:28
I’m in the orchestra at my high school. So it’s like, I get that thrill of being able to express myself that way.
That’s great. And then you get the thrill of also collaborating with others, which is neat.
Gracie Solomon 02:43
What has been your favorite piece of art that you’ve created?
Well, I painted a mural last fall at FM 1960 and Stuebner Airline here in Houston. That videos on my website, there’s a few videos played. It’s on my Facebook page, which is ShenShen210. The mural was whitewashed before I completed it because it was protested. I poured my heart and soul into that piece more than any other painting I’ve ever done, and it was heart breaking to watch it get painted over. However, I know that this mural touched many lives on the issue of the importance of human life. And
that was what it was about. It was moms and dads with their babies and a newborn baby in a mom’s belly. And the whole mural was the word “LOVE”. So those pictures were inside the word, and I did that with spray paint, which is how I started out painting back when I was a teen. And it was really great to be able to work on such a huge scale. I think the mural was 70 feet long. 20 feet high. I’m not sure. That’s pretty huge mural.
Gracie Solomon 04:02
I can’t imagine how much it would hurt to see all of your hard work just disappear.
Well, the really crazy thing is we were about 95% done. And we did this mural as a gift to the city of Houston to bring some beauty into an area that I felt really needed it. You know, into an area where there was none before it was just a plain white wall. And there were other artists who had their murals covered over as well. It was rough, but I think some good things came out of it. And sometimes we don’t know this side of heaven, why we’re called to do things, but I knew God had put it on my heart to do that mural. So I did it, and I don’t have to be responsible for the outcome. I can just trust that God is up to something and is up to something and I can rest in that knowing I just did my part.
Gracie Solomon 05:07
You we’re talking about the good things and how that’s the good things. Why would a teenager want to think about this career for their future?
Great question. Getting to be creative, is very life giving if you’re a creative. There are so many different types of art that you can do as a career. It’s not the easiest. So I would recommend to anyone looking at becoming an artist, apprenticing with a professional or several professionals, getting some education from those who’ve been there. My education was very unconventional I was primarily self-taught. I did apprentice with artists that I really admired. And that approach worked really well for me. I started showing my art quite young. That gave me confidence and I’ve been able to just continue to build on that my whole career now, which is over 35 years.
Gracie Solomon 06:07
What do you think is the most unique part of your job, like what makes it not normal?
Well, I get to work with people often to make their ideas a visual reality. So I’m taking the unseen and making it seen, which is a very unique skill to develop. Also, I learned that as I mature, I’m finding my own voice more and more. And one of the really great things about being an artist is we get better the older you get, so I don’t have any plans of ever retiring. I love doing art just as much now, if not more, than I did when I was younger. And I love seeing just the result of discovering more and more years go by and projects come and there’s just so much inspiration all around us that we can always be giving life through art.
Gracie Solomon 07:12
I like how this is one of those jobs where you can do it for the rest of your life. Like there’s no maximum age.
Right? Are you familiar with Grandma Moses?
Gracie Solomon 07:25
Well, she is a, was a painter. She’s gone now. But she didn’t start her first painting until she was 75 years old.
Gracie Solomon 07:36
I don’t know how long she lived but she became one of the most notable painters in American art history.
Gracie Solomon 07:46
So whenever I start to get discouraged because of my age, or whenever I have a friend who says it’s too late to start something new, I love to talk about grandma Moses. And how she started her career at 75. And she killed it. She just killed it.
Gracie Solomon 08:05
I like that. What has been your biggest achievement in your art career?
Well, early on, I was asked to write magazine articles and travel around the country teaching workshops. That was wonderful. More recently, I was asked to paint a portrait for Supreme Court Justice John Divine, that was a huge honor. And one of my favorite things is that I get to have art shows in places where I want to travel where I enjoy spending time the most. And I get to have my family with me. So that is a really awesome aspect of my career that I love.
Gracie Solomon 08:47
Did you have an influence in choosing this career? Or was it always just from your young age that you wanted to do it?
Well, I’ve always had just a real desire to know God better, and before I became Christian, I had a longing for knowing the unseen and, and just an excitement for wanting to press in and find out what I could create. And so that was just, I think, what drew me into really being an artist and also the love of being creative. I met an artist by the name Sunbear, when I was in my late teens. He loved living the life of an artist and taught me many, many things about art and I learned from him for several years. He taught me how to paint better and how to sell my work and show my work. I’m very grateful for the influence he had on me and there were many others as well.
Gracie Solomon 09:50
It’s always good to have someone that can kind of guide you, you know, like, put you on the right path and give you tips. Cause the only way that you’re going to get better is to have practice and someone to help. So I think that’s, like, one of the most important things in starting a career, like, based on your hobbies.
Yeah. And you know, there are just so many opportunities now with the internet, to be online and learn how to sell art. I just would encourage young artists to really get around to professionals and build some relationships. Take some classes from some local artists, or, you know, see if you could help them that’s what I did. The way that I was able to work with my first mentor, Sunbear, which I said you know, I just love your art and I’m crazy about what you do. And can I come and sweep your floor and clean your paint brushes in order to just hang out in your studio. I just wanted to hang out in the studio and see what he did. He gave me so much more than that. And I continued doing that for many artists over the years until I start really develop my own style, my own voice. And then other jobs I took as an artist along the way. And I can see how each one of those jobs did play a small part in helping me develop a certain skill. I airbrush t-shirt at an amusement park for a long time. I worked for a silkscreen company in the design for shirts. Lots of different skills and I even worked for several seasons as a server in a restaurant and all those skills work together to help me be a better business person and a better artist.
Gracie Solomon 11:48
Well, thank you for letting me interview.
Oh, you’re welcome. Thank you so much for asking me, it’s been a real honor.
Gracie Solomon 11:57
Being artist takes a lot of courage and creativity. You have to be brave enough to put your art out into the world for billions of people to see and judge. Even if art isn’t your thing, practice goes for anything you do. The old saying is practice makes perfect and that couldn’t be truer. To help practice. Shen mentioned mentoring with a professional who can give you constructive criticism. No normal person could be brave enough to take critiques and put their work out into the world. But then again, show me a normal teenager. Thanks for listening.
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