Interview Series: Shane Small

I can’t recall when I first stumbled onto Shane Small‘s work, but I remember instantly falling in love with his clean, sexy style. I follow a lot of illustrators online: I am amazed by the raw talent constantly flooding the interwebs, but coincidentally, Shane’s graphic illustrations stuck with me. Perhaps it’s because he photographs most of his subjects himself, which I appreciate (I think it’s the photographer in me), or perhaps it’s his thought process all the way through the illustration to the end. Regardless, his work speaks for itself. Have a read of the interview:


LF: You merge bold graphics with photographs in most of your work. How long have you been building this style?

SS: I guess I’ve been building up to this style for the past year or two. But as an artist I think I’ll always be trying to evolve my work, looking for new ways to express myself.

LF: The sharp lines in a lot of the pieces add a subtle friction to the otherwise softer nature of the portraits and landscapes. Can you talk about this?

SS: This is something I’m not always conscious that I’m doing. I kinda design by the seat of my pants, but I do like juxtaposition.  I’ve always found it interesting to combine two things that contrast each other (hard lines, soft shapes), and make them work in visual harmony. I also like the idea of taking something beautiful and messing it up,  but through that process it becomes a new kind of beauty.

LF: Is all your work digital?

SS: Most of my work has some digital component to it. Even though I do create some pieces 100% digitally, what excites me more, is the combination of hand-crafted art with a digital execution. Some of my pieces I’ve illustrated by hand then scanned in and painted up digitally, or I’ve scanned in illustrative components and added to my photo edits.

LF: Any digital artists that you’re in awe of? Artists in general?

SS: I am constantly blown away by other Artists. James Jean (Painter), Paul Pope (Comic artist), Nigel Evan Dennis (Digital artist), Mark Ryden (Painter), Istvan Szugyiczky (Graphic Designer), Jeurgen Teller (Photographer), Banksy (Street artist). I could go on and on.

LF: Do you take the photographs?

SS: Yes, most of my work is shot by myself.  I’ve also been fortunate to collaborate with a  few talented artist/photographers and there are a few pieces that I’ve done using images from photographers that I admire and who inspire me – Scott Schuman (The Sartorialist) and Hedi Slimane, to name a few.

LF: When did you first pick up a camera?

SS: I fell in love with photography when my Dad gave me an old Olympus Pen camera.  I now shoot with a few different cameras – the Canon G10, iPhone 5, and others, but my favorite is still my beat-up old school Olympus Pen which shoots half-frames and goes with me everywhere. If you know anything about this analog camera, you’ll know how special it is. Unlike most cameras, the viewfinder is portrait rather than landscape. This lets you take two shots on one frame, so you end up with almost double the amount of shots, per roll of film. The photographs I’ve captured with this camera have an awesome retro quality to them with random light leaks (that digitally created filters don’t come close to), which can give some great and unexpected results. A lot of my edits were shot with this camera.

LF: What is your background as an artist?

SS: I’ve been illustrating as far back as I can remember. I went to college in South Africa where I studied Graphic Design. I started out designing T-shirt graphics for a surf company, and then stretched my design legs across many genres over the years, including Fashion, Advertising, Marketing, Trend forecasting, Gaming and more.

LF: If you could think of five adjectives to describe your style, what would they be?

SS:  Graphic, Contrasting, Sexy, Considered, A Controlled Mess. (This is a tough question for me to answer without feeling like I’m coming across like a douche.)

LF: What’s currently on your playlist?

SS:  I’m all over the map when it comes to the style of music I listen to, but this is what I’ve been listening to lately:  Joy Division, JJ Doom, STRFKR, Metz, Phoenix, Crystal Castles, FIDLAR, Twin Shadows, Talib Kwali.

LF: What inspires you these days?

SS: Music is a major component of what inspires me. Since I’ve been making music for as long as I have been making art, it is definitely a huge part of my life.  And the music I’m listening to at the time can greatly impact the work I’m doing – allowing it to drive the direction or influence the graphic feel or nature of a particular design. I view one as an extension of the other. Other inspirations are Fashion, Street art, Illustration and Photography. And I’m constantly inspired by my muse Cathy Brigg (A New York Times best seller). She is an awesome designer, has dope style and naturally, as a muse, is the subject of a lot of my work.

LF: How do you get off, literally or figuratively?

SS: It’s a complex series of pulleys and harnesses.

LF: How fast do you live?

SS: How fast was Miss Daisy going?

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