Rolling Out

Artist Shawn Mitchell Perkins talks Basquiat, Bart Simpson and Magic Markers

Shawn Perkins (8875) © Jason Miccolo Johnson
Shawn Perkins (8875) © Jason Miccolo Johnson

Shawn Mitchell Perkins discovered he was an artist with the strangest tool and his palette, grandma’s leather couch. Here, he shares his best piece to date and where he sees himself in five years.

How old were you when you fell in love with painting? And, what was your first painting of?
I was always in love with drawing since I was 3-years-old. The first thing I ever drew was Bart Simpson in Magic Marker on my Grandma’s leather couch.

What inspired you to express yourself through painting?
I was inspired to begin painting after I left my graphic design job. I majored in graphic design in school, and always thought of it to be a pretty safe career for somebody like me. But honestly, it’s boring to me, so after a few months I quit. I would paint for fun sometimes after that, but everything changed when I watched “A Radiant Child” which is the Basquiat documentary. When I saw him, I seen [sic] myself. And I knew at that very moment, that is what I was here for. And I began painting like a madman.

To date, what do you feel is your most impressive work? Describe the artwork.
To date, my favorite work is a piece I did in memory of Robin Williams after he passed. This piece is a combination of two different styles, realism and abstract. The contrast of both styles paired with the expression of Robin’s face, to me, makes the piece really stand out. He touched a lot of people through his comedy, and his image strikes reaction in almost anybody.

What rituals do you have before you begin painting?
Before each painting, I like to say a prayer just to ask God to help me be as focused as possible and to help guide me as I’m painting. Also, most times I put on my red Chuck Taylor shoes to paint in, as they’ve already caught their fair share of acrylic and oil. Definitely listen to music. I flip-flop between hip-hop and classical stations on Pandora.

Shawn Perkins (8950) © Jason Miccolo Johnson (1)
Shawn Perkins (8950) © Jason Miccolo Johnson (1)

What has been the most difficult thing you had to face in pursuing being an artist as your career?
The most difficult thing I’ve had to face during my career so far has been the space I work out of, which is my apartment. Painting can get messy. It’s always a nonstop cleaning process and I being careful as I work, versus the freedom of an art studio where I could really bang out some work.

What does success look like for you?
Success for me feels like a place where I can look back at the work that I’ve done and the things I’ve accomplished and be proud. I want the world to see my work, and if that happens, then I can say I succeeded.

What is your next big subject to paint?
My next big subject is going to be a grand scale portrait of a woman’s face, with her eyes closed almost as if she’s dreaming. Behind her I will illustrate her thoughts uncensored.

How would you describe your style of painting?
I have several styles of painting, but I would say my base is in realism. I like to incorporate abstract and graffiti in some pieces, and work with mostly oil and some acrylic.

Where would you like to see yourself in five years?
In five years. I see myself showing my most recent work all over the world. It has always been my dream to exhibit in France.

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