Over the past several weeks, we have enjoyed encountering art with you in new ways while we shelter at home. We greatly appreciate the positive feedback you've shared about our bi-weekly Minute with a Muralist series. Please continue to share your comments, and feel free to reach out with other requests or ideas for content! We'd love to know what you want to see and learn from Art Encounter.

Before we introduce this week's muralist, we want to bring your attention to #GivingTuesdayNow , a global day of giving on Tuesday, May 5.
This coming week is also when Art Encounter would have held our annual Spring Gala, on Thursday May 7, which we are postponing until we can celebrate in person.

We hope you will mark your calendar to support Art Encounter next week.
Without our usual means of fundraising, we depend on you to help us continue to transform our community with murals and provide meaningful art education programming for public school students, seniors, and adults with disabilities.

And now, without further ado, we bring you artist Shawn Bullen , a Chicago native currently residing in New York, who has created murals across the globe and who painted one of our first Evanston Mural Arts Program murals in 2017.

Art Encounter: How did you get started doing murals? How long have you been painting them?

Shawn: I have always been interested in drawing and making art. When I was a teenager I got into doing graffiti with my friends. After high school I worked with City Year and had the opportunity to paint several murals, and design and lead a group of people in painting a few murals at elementary schools in Chicago. I just kept finding ways to paint walls everywhere I went, eventually people started to contact me to paint their walls. [I've been painting murals] about 15 years or so.

Interview continues below.

A four-story mural in San Francisco, 2016
Art Encounter: Can you tell us about your specific style? What influences are you pulling from, and what inspires your aesthetic?

Shawn: My style is often about blending reality with my own imaginative world. I try to tell a story with each piece and take the audience on an adventure through the painting. A lot of my work is stuffed with content because I love for people to have to spend time with the work to see everything, and to see new things every time they see the work.

My style is often influenced by nature and the colors of the surrounding area. I often use a flowing line throughout the piece, to give the paintings their structure, depth, and movement. That line usually spells out a secret message. Not many people know about it.

I’m influenced by so many things. Everywhere I go I am always taking pictures and videos and making sketches. I find inspiration in everyday life, people walking down the street or flowers or the sunset. I’m inspired by thinking about a bright future and using art to design that reality.

Some of the artists and movements that influenced me are: Renaissance Art, Impressionists, Surrealism, Pop Art, Kehinde Wiley, Chuck Close, Takashi Murakami, Damien Hirst, Jeff Koons, Kerry James Marshall, Kayla Ma, Max Sansing, Jeff Zimmermann, and Benjamin Jaffe.

Interview continues below.

An in-progress shot and the final product, a mural on Janet's Kitchen in Rensselaer, Indiana, 2019
Art Encounter: Is there a specific project in your history that has had a strong impact on you, or was particularly meaningful to you in some way?

Shawn: A mural I painted in Mexico City in 2016 (below) was supposed to be a quick fun piece that I expected would take a few days. It was a portrait of a friend from Mexico City. The painting was taking longer then expected but was also not looking the way I wanted it to. Portraits are either right or wrong and I could tell this portrait was wrong. I kept trying to fix it but it wasn’t working. After about a week of painting I decided to start over completely. I had never whitewashed my own painting and started over, usually things can be fixed and I was pretty distraught about it. I felt defeated and like I had lost the touch. But I decided that if I was going to start over I would have to make the second try amazing. I ended up working on the piece for almost a month total. The final product was better then I could have expected. The family of my friend loved it. I had planned on painting several pieces in Mexico during that trip but that ended up being the only one I had time for. A few weeks later I got a message that my painting was taking up the majority of second page of the New York Times. 

Interview continues below.

Shawn's mural in Mexico City, 2016
Art Encounter: What is something you gained from the project you did with us in downtown Evanston in 2017?

Shawn: I learned a lot about painting. That was a big project and challenged me a lot. I actually was referred to another organization in Oak Park, Illinois, that hired me to paint a 150 foot mural. I was also featured in the Chicago Tribune which was very exciting.

Art Encounter: What's next for you in your mural future?

Shawn: I am going to be finishing the mural in Oak Park this summer, then working on a project on big canvases for an exhibition in December in Miami!

Shawn's 2017 Art Encounter-EMAP mural in downtown Evanston, in partnership with Centrum Evanston
Thank you Shawn! Be sure to visit Shawn's  website  to see more of his incredible work, and check out the video below to hear Shawn explain how he evolved from a young graffiti artist into the muralist he is today.

We are grateful to Blick Art Materials for their support of our mural and outreach programs at Art Encounter.

Help support Art Encounter by joining us this Tuesday,
May 5, 2020 for a global day of giving.

Art Encounter  |  artencounter.org

At Art Encounter, we believe that art has the power to help us better understand ourselves and the world around us. Everyone should have access to art, so we take people to art and bring art to people. Our mission is to educate, empower, and connect people of all ages and backgrounds through interactive encounters with art. We take members into artists’ studios and private collections, leading conversations that connect them with the art and with one another. Our outreach programs bring enriching art experiences to ten times as many, in the public schools and in senior residences. And our murals transform the walls and the lives of the whole community.