Born and raised in picturesque northern Michigan, Shawn Kawa’s artistic talent and creativity emerged when he was just a young boy of six. Encouraged by his teachers to continue drawing and painting throughout his childhood and teenage years, Shawn spent the better part of his youth creating fantasy and scifi artworks with aspirations to be a book illustrator. Having mastered oils, pencils, pastels, and clay sculpture by age 16, he then began learning how to use computers to produce artwork while he also began the study and practice of several martial arts.
Shawn spent his early college years studying art, refining his drawing and painting technique while working in Detroit’s auto factories. After earning his black belt in Hapkido, Shawn began attending fine art and computer art classes at Detroit’s Center of Creative Studies. During these years, Shawn found himself drawn to the industrial-influenced pulse of Detroit techno. Melding his musical interests with his connection to the art scene, Shawn then began acting as an art curator for his own techno and house music afterparties, which drew hundreds of people. Around this time, Shawn began studying the aboriginal cultures of Australia, which would forever influence the direction of his fine artworks.
Shawn left school to pursue his first jobs creating effects art for video games in Los Angeles and San Francisco. Working for major game companies like Electronic Arts and Activision, and later Warner Brothers when he moved to Chicago, Shawn’s effects artwork appears in such notable games series as Lord of the Rings, Xmen, Shrek, and Mortal Kombat. While developing his career as a game artist, Shawn took an inspiring trip to Hawaii that led him to begin a series of butterfly artworks using colored pencils. With the natural beauty of the island on Shawn’s mind, his continued fascination with Australia’s Barramundi tribal culture led to the start of an ongoing series of butterfly portraits that have become his trademark.
While living on the West coast, Shawn began DJing, producing electronic dance music, and throwing techno and house events in San Francisco. He also spent a year in Berlin, working as a video game artist and immersing himself in the vibrant dance music culture and art scene. His next move took him to Chicago, where he continued growing his career as a game effects artist and fine artist. While producing techno and house events, Shawn continued DJing and incorporating his graphic art into live video installations.
Now a full-time fine artist, Shawn currently resides in San Francisco. He continues to practice martial arts, DJ, and produce electronic music, constantly striving for new ways to merge all of his creative energies.
My compositions to date are the culmination of years of giving form and life to envisioned worlds and ideas that extend beyond our common existence. These creative sensibilities began in early childhood with a fascination with fantasy and science fiction. My aesthetic is also very much influenced by video game technology, as advancements in the art form gave way to more three-dimensional and lifelike animation in the mid-nineties. As with science fiction, my interest in virtual gaming united my love for fantasy with visual graphics that matched my artistic vision.
I studied Computer Art and Illustration at the College for Creative Studies (CCS) in Detroit, Michigan, hoping to better understand and perhaps artistically fuse my two passions. It was during this time that I developed a particular style, as well as the concept for what is now my current series. Following graduation I began my career in the computer graphics industry by moving to Los Angeles for my first gaming position. A year later, I found myself in San Francisco working on EA's Lord of the Rings game, one of industry's leading video game developers.
For the past three years I have devoted much time and effort on my current series, which focuses on the Barramundi concepts of life and spirituality. The Barramundi, native to Australia, is believed to be one of the last practicing aboriginal tribes to have resisted total conformation to the modern world. Central to their spirituality is the belief that every living thing has an afterlife and will continue onward in a postmortem dream world. To the Barramundi, the act of hunting is only for necessity, and every animal killed is ushered into the spirit world with the assistance of aboriginal artisans. These artists draw basic geometric outlines of the particular animal species, and fill them with line markings to represent each creature slain, so as to ensure their passage into the afterlife.
The first phase of my series began with focus on the butterfly image, as the Barramundi regard them to be the most sacred of all creatures, the vehicle that carries the soul to the dream world. After having explored the various facets of the insect's form, I then moved onto refining my technique, the fruits of which appear on my website to date.
Combining my love for creative expression and fantasy, my works strive to convey both the realistic and unworldly into single, harmonious arrangements. By doing so, I hope to engage my viewers in captivating images that speak to the beauty that surrounds us and the possibilities that may exist beyond our tangible realities.
My method of execution is one I have worked to refine for years and is quite similar to that of classical oil painting, as it demands multiple applications of color. Though my passion for color and light shines through every composition, color pencil is my preferred medium at present, due in part to its fine, chalky appearance. Light layering with the pencil is what gives the illusion of depth and life to the drawing.
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