Letting himself be guided by the rhythm of the brush or the scraping of the palette knife on the canvas, painter Shawn Skeir designs paintings like pieces of music, subtly blending the best of both arts to create unique works.
“I have been drawing and painting since I was six years old,” explains Shawn Skeir. A Nova Scotian native who loved sketching his brothers and sisters as a child, Skeir wound up attending the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in Halifax where he also studied graphic design. “I started selling my work in exhibitions when I was still in my twenties, slowly building my career.” Like many East Coast artists, he moved to Toronto where he worked a number of jobs, from bartender to singer. In fact, for many years he hesitated between a career in music and one in painting. “Music still helps me. I used to randomly change up my vocal performances, which is why I often let my brushes, the charcoal, or the acrylic impose a sometimes surprising form or harmony. I enter a sort of trance, letting gesture and rhythm take over. I very rarely listen to music while I’m painting; I hear only the sound of the tools against the canvas.”
Intimidated by the very idea of asking a gallery to sell his work, Shawn Skeir initially counted on the support of a circle of admirers who followed his shows. Then gallery owners like Vincent Beauchamp of Beauchamp Art Galleries became interested in his work. Though the painter’s style has evolved over the years, he has always remained true to his roots. “In the beginning, I was inspired by the coastal landscapes of Nova Scotia, which I tried to capture using colour harmonies. Then, I started looking at my life and my origins, integrating my feelings into the DNA Landscapes series.” This process has become so complex that, on some wooden panels, each sequence has its own microcosm. Like any talented artist, he continues to evolve. Today, the painter follows a more intuitive impulse. “The African scenes and faces I am drawing now take me back to my childhood and more primal emotions.”
Whether it is in his more linear paintings, like his landscapes and DNA series, or in his more recent very fluid canvases, Shawn Skeir has acquired a maturity and self-confidence with time and experience that enables him to distance himself from his initial training and better understand how buyers react to his paintings. “I sell my work across Canada, but also in New York and California. I know the people who buy my work are comforted by my colour harmonies.”