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The formative force of Shawn Morris

Nelson native Shawn Morris and his prolific and creative spirit is turning more than a few heads with his art. — Jeff Sawyer, The Daily Dose

Style is the answer to everything, a fresh way to approach a dull or dangerous thing. To do a dull thing with style is preferable to doing a dangerous thing without it. To do a dangerous thing with style is what I call art” — Charles Bukowski

The poetry of everyday life takes on many forms and manifests in many different ways, and certainly brings an array of styles with it.  It’s this credo to life that turns thoughts into things, things into objects, and objects into art. This iterative development can be applied to the guiding principle that making even the tiniest of choices can create huge impacts that reverberate through the entire collective psyche.

So, it’s rather fitting that the inaugural story for The Daily Dose has a lens and focus on Shawn Morris and his prolific and creative spirit. He truly is one of those humans that lives for the moment, a metaphor with hidden comparisons, and witnessing his day to day struggles and triumphs as an artist is a reflection on how to undoubtedly define, there’s never a dull moment.

Interestingly enough, Shawn’s family and my family have a long, winding intertwined history with each other. Shawn’s grandfather, Rev. R.J.D. Morris married my parents, Gary and Kathy (Shrieves) Sawyer in 1972, before the two of us were even born into this brave world.

Both our fathers were life-long friends, and they shared many laughs and storied tales together, while frequenting the various lakes and mountains around the Kootenay’s, and tragically they both had their animated lives cut short a few years ago.

And just like Shawn and I, they were different in their own unique way, but shared a very similar bond. You could say it’s like boarding your own personal train that forever ascends into the infinite beyond. Nobody gets on the train at the same place, but everyone is headed to the same place. There is no one way to the “light”.

Most people know Shawn for his artwork, but some may not know, he is an exceptionally gifted photographer, and it’s this timed honoured craft of his, that is the catalyst of his iterative approach to making his art.

I can attest that listening to him speak about his endeavours and experiences are sometimes incomprehensible, but they also reveal deep, rich layers, just like the inky blue hues of the sea.

In this wide-ranging conversation, we go deep into that sea of creative processes and creative struggles, both inside and outside his artistry.

I want you to take me deeper, I want the audience to discover the layers behind you as an artist and your creative sphere, what defines this?

In this day and age seeking to do something you love for a living outside the context of the confines of the 9-5, in my opinion, can be quantified as a dangerous undertaking. Dangerous in different ways than what we normally think of when we think of or hear the word danger. When stepping outside of our comfort zones and throwing our security blankets to the proverbial wind, there are very real fears that come to the surface. These may include not finding success, not being at all good (everybody has to start somewhere right!?), not feeling like you fit in, and on and on…I have seen these things lead to anxiety in people that are trying to follow their dreams and suddenly find they are not able to pay the bills or are fearful of being judged and as a result never realize their potential, or never really jump in all the way. And if they do, they find themselves pigeon-holed and risk being judged by their peers or society in general as being outcasts or wannabe’s. In this context my style can be a personal weapon in countering the mundane. I feel as though it has to be very personal, and if understood and initiated as such, then via subjective subconscious reality, everyone can engage with the art of living in a way that may lead to being creative in ways never before thought. A big societal faux pas is defining people as what they do, rather than who they are, and this is very evident in the art world.

Definitions by nature are secular and somewhat limiting. Art in any form, even the processes, should be celebrated as ever expansive and open to interpretation.  From my point of view, I prefer to look at creators, creative types, or artists per say, in a light that predicates asking the question what are the defining characteristics that make an artist a professional rather than why is someone who makes art labelled an artist.

So, tell me, why do you make art, how did this evolve?

I make art because I can. It’s as simple as that. I crave the process. Everything else is a bonus. That bonus, making money at art also comes at a price. The price is, being all consumed by the professional aspect that takes away from the simple joy of making art. I know first world problems. I have yet to find a balance and feel a big component to the success I have had, are directly related to being back in my home town of Nelson, and having community, and friends and connections who encourage and support this art bender I have been on, and I am forever thankful. Which incidentally started as a result of following my partner, Emma Haley back east 6 years ago while she took her Masters at Queens U. She is my biggest fan and my sounding board and supported my direction of reinvention. The reality is I was compelled to keep busy while she was schooling, and I got rather obsessed with making art you could say. To add to the madness, we endured back to back minus 40-degree winters which created the perfect environment to spend days creating inside. Flash forward to now, and I will say that navigating the complex business aspect of art is tricky and is a fulltime endeavour in itself.  As someone who never set out to achieve success in the art realm so to speak, and even though I define success different than most, I have learned an immensity about grit and determination, diligence and public and client's relations, and of course through it all, I have become a much better and more refined at making art. I feel beyond blessed to have the time to create. I have learned that you need to treat yourself as a professional, to be accepted as one. Learning how to navigate through all aspects of the art world can be tricky and certainly is at the opposite end of the spectrum for me than making the art itself. I love getting lost in the undertaking and this is the reason I continue to make art. I think there is a fine line, one that I see often get crossed, perhaps based on necessity, and that is engaging to making art for yourself in contrast to making art as a result of seeing some successes.

When did you realize you could dive deeper, and explore your art as an avenue to make a living?

I never intended to be an artist, and in fact I don’t think of myself as an artist per say. I know its semantics, but I prefer to think of myself as someone who makes art. When I was spry and full of piss and vinegar, I wanted to be a photographer. I chased it, I lived it, I was obsessed with taking photos. I went to school for it, I couldn’t learn enough about it. There was a cognitive aspect that was intriguing yet complex. It was almost defeating for me off the hop and it took years, and a pile of money to boot (Slide film was running about 30$ plus a roll for 36 frames)

What impressions do you draw from to help your creative process?

Photography, the idea of making a photograph or photographs with the intent of making art is exhilarating. Refining a process that lets me include certain components of photography and photographs into my art is an incredible foresight and something that has engaged the way that I see the world. When painting, the painter is always adding information. I make photos with the intent of capturing something specific and then deleting information in order to use only what I need or what I see will work.

Lots will work, and even more doesn’t. Layering the information/visuals I choose to work in each photo, playing with opacities and then trying different arrangements is a fun road to jaunt down. I usually find what works isn’t always what I had envisioned, and it’s a cool starting point that transitions from the initial idea, to making photos, to seeing how the artwork takes its own shape. Then I print off small renditions when what’s remaining seems to work and sketch in details, and then I will use acrylic or resin, or both, on the negative spaces, and finally I digitize so I have an entire piece of art to start working on, with paint options on the computer. The process was developed through much trial and error and experimentation as a result of having learned photography before going digital, and I have an arsenal of slides that never made it to magazines what seems like a lifetime ago. All of a sudden, I saw a use for certain features in so many of the images and through years of experimentation while in Kingston, Ontario. My style you could say, was developed and continues to be tweaked. Though, like Bruce Lee, I prefer to think of my style as no style.

Do you perceive your art as more visceral in nature or more informative, or a combination of both?

If anything, I think my instinct to want to create and be creative, whatever the outcome, is personally very informative. Even being in nature or seeking to make photos with the intent of making art, in conjunction of course with the final process of the art piece itself, gives me a chance to absorb and internalize and be in the moment wholeheartedly. Paying attention to the value of what’s right for me, instead of fretting about what I am missing out on, or what we want rather than appreciating what we already have. Art provides an opportunity for me to be engulfed by the present while needing nothing else. So in short I think the visceral component takes shape more so after I engage with the process and it becomes equally or even more so informative, in ways that don’t necessarily have to do with the how it all unfolds.

You include and adapt a lot of imagery in your pieces, there is subtleness within the details, it evokes some thought to what the images might mean. What is the intention, how does this tell a purer story for you?

Gord Downy is one of my hero’s. A lyrical wizard, a sage, a raging Canadian, with boot tapping heart strung intentions that united a country. I see shapes that are often transcendent for/to me in reference to animals, and other subject matter, that continue to reveal themselves as the art matures. I used to be more abrupt with adding so called imagery within the imagery that wasn’t quite as subtle and left less interpretation for the viewer. I learned to pull back on the obvious, and as you mention, create more subtleness within the details, which in the end, like so many of the hips lyrics, evoke thought that becomes instantly personal and different in the same for each listener or viewer in regards to what they may interpret the meaning to be, and with my art in conjunction with what people see. It’s such a treat, and an overwhelming pleasure to have people point out images I hadn’t purposely included or seen myself in my creations. It’s an amazing gift to be able to see aspects and qualities of my art through the eyes of others in a way that is, every time, mind-blowing, and it without fail helps me to see things in a different light, so to speak.  That’s the beauty with certain music and certain art.

With regards to the use of very vibrant colours in your image landscapes, how does colour influence the final outcome, what do you want to achieve with colour?

I enjoy using really punchy colours. It’s a challenge to make a scene that is indented to represent or mimic nature in a way that shows every nuance of vibrancy all at once. There are subtle aspects of quiet in a sunrise or a sunset that can only be felt or seen during that one hour or so a day. Creating landscapes with purple or pink trees has to have some context or integration in a way that is still soothing to the eye, or the vibrancies will overshadow what I hope will be interpreted in a familiar way in its entirety, and there for creates a strange juxtaposition not so much with content, yet with feeling.

What other creative endeavours do you want to fulfil moving forward?

I think life, if lived as a creative endeavour is much more fulfilling. How we engage with others, with the world around us, with political issues, with love, with nature, with anything and everything we encounter with, or seek to experience with, it’s all in the approach, and if we are creative in our approach, it’s beyond fulfilling.

"Reality is one of the possibilities I cannot afford to ignore" — Leonard Cohen

Shawn’s artwork has showed at one of the biggest invite-only shows in North America, the Whistler Ski and Snowboard Festival, and he recently won 1st place in the artist category at the Vancouver International Film Fest competition.

If you are interested in exploring or purchasing any of Shawn’s original artwork, his work is currently on display at Whitewater Glory Lodge; Station Gallery Nelson and Area Visitor centre in the Chamber of Commerce Building; Ainsworth; Touchstones Museum; Blue Bell Café in Kaslo and Gateway Gallery in Rossland.

Or getting in touch with Shawn at https://www.shawnmorriscreative.ca or https://www.facebook.com/shawnmorriscreative/

Happy Friday the 13th everyone