Austin Shaw

fine art & illustration

All images are copyrighted and strictly for educational and viewing purposes.


May/June 2007

Tell us a little bit about your background? Where are you from originally?

I am originally from Piermont, New York. I received a Bachelor’s Degree of Science in Art from NYU and a Master’s Degree of Science in Communication Design from Pratt Institute. I have been working in the Motion Graphics Industry for the last five years. I have worked on a few Broadcast Design award-winning projects, as well as one Emmy-nominated project.

Who or what has influenced your work? Which designers do you admire?

I grew up in an artistic family. My father is a photographer and my mother is a sculptor who also taught art. I also had a grandfather who was a photographer and a film producer. So, I was always encouraged to pursue art. I greatly admire the Post-Impressionists. My favorite artist is Vincent Van Gogh.

I have also been influenced by my studies with personality theorist Steven Paglierani. One aspect of his work, Emergence Personality Theory, deals with people’s ability to see beauty, as well as their blocks in and around seeing beauty. We are exploring how art and personality connect and are working to develop a school of art tentatively titled “Conscious Creativity”. I would like to share the link to Mr. Paglierani’s Web site as I think his work has much to offer artists:

How do you think your fine art and illustration style developed?

In my undergraduate studies, I worked mainly with analogue techniques – drawing, printmaking, and painting. I really liked Renaissance art, Post-Impressionists, and Modern Art. When I went back to school for my Master’s, I began to learn to work digitally, learning software such as Photoshop, Illustrator, and After Effects. I was attracted to the work of Milton Glaser because he seemed to synthesize art and design. When I started to combine traditional art with digital techniques I began to develop the style I work in now. I began to photograph and scan textures, using everything from concrete to tree bark. People began to ask me how I made my work. They couldn’t tell if it was a painting or a photograph or an illustration.

What materials do you use to produce your work?

I use a variety of analogue and digital materials to produce my work. I go out and gather all kinds of stuff, then make collages. I like to use natural textures that I either photograph or scan. I also make watercolor washes and ink splatters and strokes that I then scan. I take photographs wherever I travel using a Nikon D200, and creative libraries of subjects and places. I do drawings with pencil, pen, and charcoal that I scan and use in pieces. Sometimes I make clay models that I shoot and collage with. I also use Photoshop and Illustrator extensively to create. I use a lot of gradients and transfer modes in Photoshop.

Take us through the design process of a favorite piece.

One of my favorites is a recent jazz piece titled “Primal Wind”. The source image for this one was a photograph my grandfather took of jazz musician Benny Goodman. I began by cutting the image away from the background as well as the features of his face. I re-composed the figure in a new canvas and began to collage. It is a pretty intuitive process for me as I go about building a strong composition. I experiment with adding different ink and paint spatters, photos I’ve taken of architecture while in France, and Photoshop gradients. I use a lot of transfer modes in Photoshop. I add natural textures to give the image a real tactile quality. I want more movement in the piece so I did some gesture drawings of the musician and mixed those in as well. Once things start looking really balanced I feel the need to bring some tension back. I do my best to surprise myself and do something unexpected. Fortunately, Photoshop is quite forgiving with the being able to save and undo. When I am surprised with what I see, I am finished.

What’s the most rewarding project you have designed? Why?

During my second year working professionally, I was working on a pitch with a design studio called Loyalkaspar to brand a new HD Network called Equator HD. During the design phase of this project, it emerged in me that art and design/analogue and digital did not have to be separate. This was a major breakthrough for me as an artist. I saw that art and design could feed off of each other. This experience has been extremely rewarding and continues to affect the work I do today. We went on to win the pitch and produce a series of 10-second Network Identities for the client.

Is there any advice you’d give to those trying to break into the industry?

I had great experiences interning at studios. I would suggest searching for the companies within your industry of interest that really speak to the kind of work that you want to do. In other words, find the companies whose work you like, then pound on their doors for a shot to work with them. I interned for a record label, a music video production company, and an animation studio. Each of these experiences opened up doors for me…

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