a)Shawn William Creeden
q)Where do you live and work?
a)In my apartment in the crown heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, NY.
q)What is your creative process like?
a)Think of an animal, draw animal from memory. Draw again. look at a picture or video or actual animal to see specific details and draw again. Color in with watercolor. Eat some food.
I've always looked at a lot of books and watched a lot of nature programs so I have this mental bank of animals and behavior (these are two of the only things I have a memory for. Names, no, conversations, barely, appointments, birthdays, holidays, ha! No way. animals, yes.). I'm not really that good at planning things out or pre-visualizing. I usually just put the pen to the paper and let go.
q)What is your favorite medium?
a)For my drawings I use an extra fine nib dip pen and india ink, then watercolors, which might be my favorite part of that process. I also do embroidery by hand, which I like a lot and is pretty much the only thing I can do for more than 6-8 hours at a time and not go crazy. My favorite medium in other people's work is interactive installations. I like things I can walk around and take part in, with lots of little details.
q)What is your current favorite subject?
a)I'm working on some pieces about the wildlife that is native to the small town in New Hampshire where I was raised. There's going to be my version of the classic amateur naturalist's travel journal called Fauna Hudsonica. Every time I go back home to visit recently I see some wild stuff. Beavers, deer, foxes, coyotes, and tons of birds.
Curiosity Shoppe in San Francisco. It was the first time I'd attempted a large scale environmental installation in addition to drawings and embroideries. I made 30 stuffed fruit bat sculptures and hung them from branches around the gallery. It was meant to reference a malaysian forest. I felt good about the work, lots of people came to the opening, feedback was good, sold some things, and the next day we had a live bat presentation by two women from the California Bat Conservation Fund. That was amazing. an important part of what I am trying to do is show people some of the amazing things that inhabit this planet with us in a way where they will want to learn more and develop an interest and care about preservation. So this was a great opportunity to expose people to animals they would hardly ever be aware of, let alone look in the face. I was also able to make a print edition and donate a portion of the proceeds from their sale to the fund. see some pictures here and here.
q)How long does it take for you to finish a piece?
a)A drawing can take up to 8 hours depending on how much little detail there is to color in. That's pretty rare, though. I like my drawings to be kind of quick and surprising. But then the embroideries can take days of constant work. some of the larger wall hanging embroideries I've done have taken up to two weeks, which is a very long time for me, I have severe adhd and get bored easily and distracted even easier. By things like food.
q)What has been your biggest accomplishment so far?
a)Probably my show, Hollow Face, Hand Wing, at the
q)Are there any contemporary artists that you love?
a)Yes. Misaki Kawai (paintings, drawings, books, sculptures), Jessica Polka (embroidery, crochet), Ty Ennis (drawings), Jasper Sebastian Stürup (drawings, books), Corey Archangel (hacked nintendo games), Banks Violette (black metal /doom themed installations), Walton Ford (paintings), and Shawn Reed (music, drawings, prints) are some people I really like. And I have a lot of friends who make great stuff as well.
q)Can we buy your art anywhere?
a)Yes, one could buy things from me through my website or if one were ever lucky enough to come across me on the street in NYC or at my little table in union square. I also bring lots of stuff with me when I go on tour with my bands (White Hinterland US tour coming up this june). I also sell things through this online shop called The Shiny Squirrel, and at some stores including the curiosity shoppe in SF and the Together Gallery in Portland.
q)Anything that people should know about that we don’t??
a)Drilling for oil in Alaska is such a stupid idea.
q)What is your best piece of advice for those who would like to rise in their level of artistry?
a)Figure out what it is you need to do so that making things is how you spend most of your time. Make sacrifices and learn about your thresholds and what is essential and get rid of the rest for a little while.
q)What inspires you to keep going when the work gets frustrating or tough?
a)Stubbornness. And what could be considered a “bad” attitude towards traditional employment structures. I am also no stranger to the all-nighter when it gets down to deadline time.
q)How do you describe your work to those who are unfamiliar with it?
a)This is how the exchange always goes:
“and what do you do?”
“I make drawings (hand motion of drawing) and embroideries (sewing motion) of animals doing animal things. Usually killing and/or eating each other.”
I don't anthropomorphize the animals I depict. I think the things that animals do are interesting and I don't need to project a fantasy situation onto them, or make them do human things like talk. I think it's amazing that they don't communicate like we do, but they still communicate.
q)What kind of training did you have which helped you achieve your current level of artistry?
a)I studied photography, printmaking, art history and philosophy in college. Lots of information imparted there. And I get my excellent eyesight and spotting skills from my mom. She's an avid birdwatcher. A lot of things I do are self taught.
q)Is there a tool or material that you can’t imagine living without?
q)Who are your influences?
a)Cy Twombly, Pablo Picasso, John James Audobon, Mercer Meyer, Alexander Calder, Sir David Attenborough, I don't know lots of people. These are people who have had long term or historical influence on me.
q)What inspires you to create?
a)Going to the zoo, looking through national geographic magazines, sitting outside, walking in the woods, going to Chelsea and seeing art I don't like, hanging with friends and talking about ideas and getting all worked up.