Interview with pop surreal artist Steve Shanks

To discover more about the living life behind the Art Wonderland I started interview series featuring artists all over the world. Today I’d like to introduce you to Steve Shanks, a talented pop surrealist.
 
 

 
Tell us a little about you and how did you find the artist inside you. How long have you been doing art?
 
I have been drawing all of my life, but was discouraged from the beginning by my father who urged me to get into the business world. I used to watch my wife Ann Harper paint, and one time in 1999 I said, I would like to try that.  I sold my first painting in 2000.
 
What was / is your major influences? Other artists, books, movies, music or any other media....What inspires you to create your artworks?
 
My wife Ann taught me how to paint and is my major influence.  I also love the work of William-Adolphe Bouguereau.  I am of course inspired by Mark Ryden and Marion Peck, as well as many of the pop surreal artists. As to my inspiration, my paintings are about relationships and contrast.  I seek to communicate how things affect each other; how childhood experiences continue to affect our view of the world today. So much of what we adults see as part of our landscape, troubled us as children.  We learn to ignore and accept what is all around us. But children see everything as new and without labels.  Children are often fearless when it comes to experiences that adults build walls around and they are sometimes afraid of seemingly innocuous events that we take for granted.  Everything has meaning and the smallest thing has great significance to a child. Often the subjects of my work are waiting.  We spend our lives waiting … and thinking.  Their eyes are large, innocent and pure.  They take in everything around them without filters.  Their faces suggest trust and hope for the future. They are often contemplative, introspective and maybe even a little melancholy as they contemplate their experiences. I try to capture a moment in a time past.  A moment filled with possibilities and promise.  We the viewer, are voyeurs but we bring with us all of our memories and all of our own lost dreams. I want those who view my work, to be caught up in it.  To stop and listen to what the painting says to them.  I want them to remember what it was like to be a child.  To see the world with fresh eyes and to hope.
 
 
 
 
How does "a normal day of artist" in your life look like?
 
I get up, take the dog for a walk, then start to paint, or work on an idea for the next painting.  I often have 3 or 4 paintings going at the same time, since I am using oils I can only do a layer at a time, and then have to set it aside for a week or so, so I move on to the next one.
 
What medium do you most often use and why?
 
I use oil paint and stretched Canvas.
 
 

 
How would you describe your pop surreal style? What themes do you pursue?

My style is magical realism.  As to themes I generally try to juxtapoz subjects, contrasting the scary with the innocent, (often children).  I also illustrate idioms and sayings, or slang. 
 
What fascinates you the most about pop surrealism? What "pop surreal art"  means to you as an artist?
 
Pop surrealism fascinates me because I love the storytelling many of the artists are able to do.  Pop surrealism is very current... I used to be interested in art as a child, but if there had been pop surrealism I would have started making art much sooner in my life.
 
 

 
What do you love most about creating? What does “being creative” mean to you?

Creating is agravating and frustrating, but when an idea works, there is no other feeling like it.
 
Can you describe your typical workflow / artistic process when you’re working on your art?
 
I tend to sketch a concept, and then set it aside and look at it weeks later.  Sometimes I come up with an idea and cant figure out how to illustrate it.  Other times I will see a picture, or a person on television or movie and it will trigger an idea, and then I will try to put it on paper, and then on the canvas.
 
What is your personal favorite artwork from your portfolio and why?
 
My favorite artwork is my next one.
( I wish I had thought of that quote, but I stole it from Frank Lloyd Wright. )
 
Where do you see yourself in the future? Professionally, what’s your goal?
 
I will keep painting and creating, my goal is to keep working.
 
What toughest challenges have you faced as an artist during your art career?
 
My wife Ann was ill for a while, she is much better now but that was a very trying time and I had dificulty creating.
 
What’s your background? Are you self-taught artist or did you study art?
 
I never took a formal art class, but Ann taught me everything she knows and I am grateful.  She taught me not only technique, but use of materials and choosing subjects.  Due to Ann’s influence, some of our fans think our work is similar, but I think we have drifted off into diferent directions. 
 
What are some of the advantages and disadvantages that you have encountered throughout your career without the formal training of the Art Academy?
 
It is hard to be respected in the art world without academic credentials, but at some point the work speaks for itself.  If it is a good painting then it doesn’t matter what someones‘ background is.
 
What’s the best and worst advice you ever received in your art career?
 
Worst:  (My Dad) Don’t even think about being an artist, there isn’t any money in it.
Best: (Ann – my wife) Follow your passions.
 
 
 
 
What do you dislike about the art world? What is the hardest thing on being an artist? Is the artistic life lonely? What do you do to counteract it?
 
I am not a fan of the gallery system, I think it can be allot of politics and it is hard to get seen by the right people. 
 
Find yourself a creative partner, you can encourage each other.
 
Which creative medium would you love to pursue but haven’t yet?
 
I am interested in sculpture, I may persue it in the future.
 
Do you have any tips or inspiring words for others? Maybe advice for beginning artists out there?
 
Paint Paint Paint!  Don’t let anyone, especially yourself discourage you.  If you have a gift use it.  If you don’t like your own work, keep trying!  Study the masters, find some you like and look at them in person if you can.  Keep at it, as much as you can, and you will get better.
 
Your favorite quote is ...
 
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams. 
W.B. Yeats

What are you doing when you’re not creating? What (other) hobbies do you have?
 
I love to be with family and my airedale Zoe.

Do you have an online portfolio or a blog where we can view your work?
 
My website is www.harpershanks.com
 
Is there anything else you’d like to say? Is there any project you are working on right now or any ongoing event or exhibition you would like to share with our readers?
 
Thank you for the opportunity to share my thoughts. 
 
Thank you dear Steve, it was a honor to interview you, I wish you only the best for you and your art and already looking forward to see your new visions and works :) Cheers.