Alistair Shaw, 17.
What is art to you?
Not only is it an escape for me, and it is a room for me; it’s a creative outlet for me. But more than that, it is a thing where I am able to build an audience-base. A foundation where I would be able to have a larger range to spread my message. So, really it’s just a platform for me.
What messages are your common themes?
My overall message is just spreading self-awareness and individualism and highlighting creativity and celebrating that. And really trying to show people that, you know, your uniqueness is important and that you are special. And that every weird shit you do is amazing and it’s great.
Do you practice any other art forms?
Yeah, I sing. I do a lot of dance. It’s nothing like professional or anything but it’s just stuff that I enjoy. I do glass art at my school.
Why do you make art?
’Cause it’s one of the only things that I’m good at [laughs]. Yeah that’s pretty legit. No, it’s a very good creative outlet for me. Because someone like me-who enjoys their individualism and originality-I feel like art is a very good way for me to get all of my thoughts in to the real world. And actually seeing it go from my brain onto the canvas, or onto the paper or whatever [does that].
Do you envision a piece before it’s made?
Yeah, like I’ll start drawing something out and I’ll have different ideas here and there. And I’ll enjoy piec[ing] them together like, “what if I did this or that?” And thinking about the placement or color that I use. I envision it completely colored before I do anything.
What career are you hoping to head towards?
My goal is to do freelance art. To be able to do whatever I want and have people buy it. But I will probably get into some kind of graphic design or animation or illustration first. Then slowly work up a client base so I can eventually do freelance art.
Where do you find most of your inspiration?
I find it in a lot of different places. I find it in nature. I look to nature for a lot of my inspiration. I look to a lot of different cultures and traditions and different kinds of mythology and folklore that I can kind of piece together and make a whole piece out of all of that. I also look to different artists. Whether they’re on Instagram or, you know. Historical artists or friends. My friends that are artists, I gain inspiration from.
Do you want people to draw inspiration from your work or do you want to have them appreciate it?
I think that the art community should be more open to people drawing inspiration from their art. I don’t mind if people draw inspiration from my art. [Art] is inspiring – it’s something that they can be like, “oh I like their color concepts.” Or, “I like the placement of how they did this.” Not “I’m going to copy it and then change the colors,” ‘cause I’m inspired. Yeah, no I don’t appreciate that. But no, I think it’s a very good thing for other artists to draw inspiration from other people because that’s how you build up your style. Of course, even me I found a multitude of different artists that I love and I pieced it all together and now I have what I do. And so I feel like it’s very normal and I would be honored if someone liked my art enough to be like, “I’m going to do something similar to this.”
I look to a lot of different cultures and traditions and different kinds of mythology and folklore that I can kind of piece together and make a whole piece out of.
So with the art show [formerly displayed at TAM] we’ve been wondering- do you feel like your art is meant for you or the public?
I do my art completely for myself. I don’t do my art to please anyone or to impress anyone or to get any kind of recognition. I do what I do because I enjoy it and I like it. And I don’t care if other people don’t. Basically.
Why do you put your art out for the public eye?
Because I know my ultimate goal is freelance art so I have to start somewhere. Because I mean up until a few months ago, I didn’t even post any of my art anywhere. I was solely doing my art and keeping it to myself. But I know I have to get more comfortable with putting my art out there and getting whatever feedback I get. Because ultimately I want to start doing commissions and stuff like that, you know, trying to bring in that money [laughs]. So, I’m doing more to build up a base. Also, putting your art out there is a very good way to gain more self-confidence in your art. Like if you are not one-hundred percent sure if you are a good artist or not, and you get accepted to something like [TAM’s teen art show]- it’s a good confidence booster. Because I don’t think that I’m the best, but I know that I’m somewhat good. I know that I’m not complete ass, and so that’s good!
Describe the process of creating a piece of work in three words.
Do I know three words? I don’t know. Um, time-consuming… hey, that’s hyphenated. So time-consuming. Here I’ll talk about the process. If I’m making a complete painted piece, I do a lot of research before hand on the topic that I’m doing, or like the pieces that I’m using so that it makes a coherent thought. So it’s not just random things pulled together. So it’s something that actually makes sense. A lot of trying and testing things: different placement, different color, trying to make things as dynamic as possible. Especially with painting, it’s very much trial and error. It’s all a learning experience, each time.
Why is it important to immerse yourself in creative things when you’re young?
At least in my perspective it’s very important for young people and teens to immerse themselves in creative activities because of our school system. It’s very restrictive and it’s not very open to the arts. And they don’t take a focus on individualism or originality or doing anything with the creative side of your brain. So if you go out of your way to help balance that, I feel like you’re going to be better off in the long run.
If you had not found art, what would you be doing?
Uh, I’d be dead. I’d be six feet under.
How would you define being a teen artist?
Shitty. You heard me. No, but being a teenage artist, I mean, it can be… for myself it’s pretty good because, well, not to toot my own horn, but I kind of know what I’m doing. And it’s nice because the teenage art community – they’re either really pretentious or they’re open and really nice. So you get a mixed bag. Like the SOTA kids and uh, then everyone else! No, being a teenage artist is good if you know you’re going to be doing art as your career. But I mean other than that, it’s like, alright. Being a teenager is shitty, but being a teenage artist is… a little better? I don’t know, because you have the people who are like, “oh my gosh that’s amazing!” And you have the people that are like, “you’re going to fail, you are terrible.” And I’m like, “okay, cool!” So-yeah.
What is a teenager’s role in society?
To be the butt of every joke, ever. That’s how we roll. Okay, it kind of sucks because we are more self-aware than the generation before us was. Because we know how our generation is working; we know everything that’s going on, we know our purpose for things. We know why our generation thinks this and this way. But everyone else is like, “you guys are stupid, you guys know nothing,” and that’s not true. I feel like our generation is full of people who have big dreams. And it shows.
There’s usually that stigma that, if you’re becoming an artist, you’re going to fail.
Yeah, I feel like with everyone, there’s a stigma that they’re going to fail. Especially with visual artists and musicians; because with people who do theatre, they’re like, “oh yeah, you can do Broadway.” And with people that do dance, they’re like, “yeah you can do music videos,” but with a visual artist: what are you going to do? It’s completely based on yourself and your talent alone. There’s nothing else that’s going to help you; a pretty face isn’t going to help you, not in the art world. It’s not going to do anything! So I feel like there is an imbalance in the arts and how people view them and their success.
How can Tacoma improve in supporting teenage artists?
I think that so far, it’s doing pretty well. All of this going on-this focusing on teenage art-is very new. So I feel like Tacoma is on the right track to being inclusive and caring about our art. It’s only going to get better from here.