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From Formation to Murmuration

Shawn Beasley

I’m a 1990 graduate of Mohawk high school. I served 6 years in the Marine Corps and decided to use my GI Bill to study electronics which is what I had done in the military. Art has always been important to me but I guess I didn’t have the courage to go to art school – I wanted to be able to eat! Fast forward all these years and I now realize that creating art is more and more important to me as time goes by. It’s taken awhile but I guess we don’t all know what we want to be when we are 10. Over the last several years I have been focusing more of my free time on painting, mosaics and beadwork on deer skulls. This year I have finally published my website, made business cards and gotten some gallery exposure.

In the summer of 2016 our family vacation stumbled upon the Door County Plein Air Festival in Wisconsin. That experience was a pivotal event in my life. As I get older, I realize that nearly everything I do has some creative element to it. I don’t just fix things around the house, I customize them. I often get inspired while on vacation, visiting some place of natural or historical man-made beauty. Throw in a few galleries full of artwork and I’m ready to go home and get started. Then somehow it always fizzles with the bustle of work and life. This time was different.

Watching others paint outdoors was like a magnet for me. I enjoyed walking around, watching multiple paintings progress as the hours went by. I had often done artwork of some variety; the concept of plein air painting really got my attention.

I have actually followed through since that vacation. I began by reading. I knew that if I took the time to go over some of the fundamentals it would save me time, money, frustration and a stack of wasted canvases in the long run. A year later I finally put brush to canvas – my wife thought it was never going to happen!

I set up the easel in our front yard every afternoon in August and began a painting of our house. It took me 25 hours over 3 weeks to finish the job. The season was progressing and though similar, the shadows weren’t the same as they had been when I started. I was very pleased with the result – a great “first” painting; the time invested seemed awfully long though. Although technically not my first painting, it was my first plein air painting; my first painting after stumbling across the festival.

I still haven’t finished the second one I started. I ran into an issue with the trees in the background and it stalled. 4 ½ years later I feel that I can go back and resuscitate this painting with all that I have learned – I just haven’t made it happen yet. There are other stalled paintings. There’s also a growing stack of decent ones that I have finished. Some have been signed; an acknowledgement that I can live with this. Others are still unsigned; some I feel are done – others definitely not. I doubt that I’m alone with this uncertainty. I’ve read that Van Gogh signed some paintings and many he did not. I share Vincent’s birthday which seems extra special because my wife Liesbeth is from The Netherlands. I tell myself it must have some hidden meaning; this is all preordained. Likely not. I’m sure I’ll have to earn every penny that my paintings fetch.

I have attended two workshops with “professional” artists. It’s inspiring to be around other artists and to learn from those with advanced skills and experience. I have watched my paintings progress. Overall, I’m pleased with the results. I’ve heard that every artist has a couple hundred bad paintings in them; you just have to get them out of your system. At this point I’ve finished about 60; another several are in a holding pattern. If I get more time in the future, I’d like to network more with local painters, to learn from them and possibly paint outdoors with regularity. I’m in this for the long haul.