Like many of us, artist Shane Pierce has spent years working a plethora of jobs, tirelessly committing to a number of different lives in one lifetime, constantly pushing forward—on to the next great thing; living fully, in every way this giant world has to offer him. Over the years, Pierce has found a way to use his inherent gift for creating art to pave his own path through his lifelong journey in this world. Bound by nothing but his own expression, Pierce has found professional recognition in illustration, concept design, animation and digital work, but his soul speaks in oil paint.
Traveling all over the United States, carrying with him his own personal baggage of memories and experiences, he paints a different world into existence. Dark and ominous creatures, emotional weight, honesty and experience ring loudly throughout his paintings. Dark traveling characters bombard his imagination and his artwork, angels and grim reapers haunt his creations in subtle ways, while the rough and raw American landscape keep his nomads company on their seemingly lonesome and aimless journeys.
Constantly driven to create something, his artwork is as unique and haunting as he is. A storyteller at his core, his creations are hypnotic, drawing the viewer in and plaguing them with interest and intrigue. A cloaked man, with determination and fury across his brow, often paired with a suitcase and a pipe, ventures to the dark and unknown places of his imagination. Constantly followed by the shadows, Pierce’s nomads travel with fervor, unafraid of what lies ahead, or behind them.
“The over-20-years I’ve been working as an artist has been very ‘nomadic’ for me,” he explains. “From graphic design to architectural illustrator to animator to concept art for video games and so on . . . all the while, oil painting has been my passion.”
Inspired by his artistic obsession with nomadic experiences, Pierce is currently self-publishing a book documenting his intriguing and fantastical journey through art. The book, NOMADS, is full of drifter-centered artwork and has been brewing in his riverside North Carolina studio for years. A collection of character-based paintings with dark occult undertones, Pierce’s unlikely heroes are placed in haunting settings, primed for action and adventure. The NOMADS book is currently being funded via a kickstarter campaign, and will be a 7×7″ hardcover book, published in a limited run. With just two weeks left on his kickstarter campaign, NOMADS has nearly reached its goal.
NOMADS will be collecting funds until Thursday, Aug 13 2015
Where are you from? Where do you hail from now?
Born in St. Louis, Missouri—but I have lived all over the United States. Now currently living in North Carolina.
Why do you say that the last 20 years as an artist has been “nomadic” for you?
I have done a lot of different artistic jobs. I started out doing graphic design work for Harley Davidson (t-shirt design). Working for an architectural firm as an illustrator, did big airbrush illustrations; went into video game art and worked as an animator, then interface designer, then concept artist, art director and back to concept artist. The whole time I was honing my traditional oil painting skills. Now oil painting is my main passion.
What’s your background in art? (Degrees, education, interests, materials, themes, etc.)
I’m self taught. I love oil painting. I have tried almost every media out there, but I always came back to oils. I had a great high school art teacher that pushed me. I used to study from the “old masters” art books as well as American illustrators. Harvey Dunn is probably my biggest influence.
Was your family creative? Did you grow up in a creative environment?
My grandfather was a good oil painter. He always got those Saturday Evening Post magazines—that had those amazing illustrations on the covers.
I read that you live in a train car by a river in North Carolina. Are you a part of a creative community in NC, or abroad?
I do live right next to the river. I am a very private artist . . . So, I’m not part of any community. My obsession with the solitude of just painting . . . it basically consumes me and I really don’t want to do anything else. I have lived all over the United States, and I am obsessed with riding on trains.
Why a book? What is it about a physical book that you are attracted to? Why not an exhibition?
I really just love art books. When I was a kid it was the first art that gave me inspiration was a book. The art book was a small book of sketches by Frank Frazetta—and again, seeing the Saturday Evening Post.
Are all the paintings in your Nomads collection based around travelers or wanderers?
Yeah the nomadic human being set in a noir setting with hints of Americana and dark human baggage, if that makes sense. Always moving, going somewhere or just coming from some place. It’s a way of creating a narrative without over emphasizing it for me.
Are they all men?
Mostly, but I do have a few paintings with females. I have a lot more planned with my female characters.
Many of them feature a cloaked man with a hat and a pipe, often also with a tie . . . who is this man?
They have become known to me as my “nomads.” The dark traveler. “A stranger comes to town,” type of theme. But, honestly, also just the darkness, regrets, fears and all the other garbage that we carry around—hence the luggage. Again, suggesting dark narratives. It’s probably my own darkness that I carry around which is why the male is painted more than the female.
A few of the images you sent me include skulls, and other inferred imagery of death—what is the significance of that imagery for you in this series? Why include death in depictions of nomadic travelers?
Skulls are that timeless symbol of life and death. I thrive on being ambiguous with my paintings as much as possible. I used to just put skulls in the shadows of my work. Then they became faces as well. I think a skull is just a massive powerful element.
The compositions are gorgeous. They feel balanced and inviting, in a dark and scary kind of attraction. But many of these puzzle pieces are curious to me—they seem personal or symbolic, but I don’t quite know the key, to decipher these symbols . . . Can you shed some light on the repetitive imagery you use in many of these compositions?
That is basically my intent—to make you question what this is all about. I’m so glad you pointed that out. I work really hard on the compositions and making sure to not tire out the eye. Paintings that are also -, very cool and amazing technique. All the elements, figures, fence posts, skulls, trench coat, luggage—it’s like arranging the same room with the same furniture and making it fresh and new each time.
What is it about oil painting that fulfills something inside of you that wasn’t filled by your illustrations, animation, concept art, etc?
I really love making brush marks. After working in the digital world, oil painting is a very “deceptively simplified” process. It’s very straightforward; but, also can betray you at one false flick of the brush. I love having a finished painting in my hands as well. The other work—illustrations, concept art, etc.— is for other companies. This is work is mine. My voice. When I’m dead, I want my friends and family to remember these works, not my commercial art.
Is this theme a constant theme in your work? Or is this just an important, separate project for you?
These “nomads” will always be with me, I am sure I will paint other subjects in the future, but I will probably always paint these off and on.
How did this project come about for you—how did you get the idea to do this whole NOMADS book?
It started out as just oil painting; and I painted over and over. Watercolor, gouache, on and on. Then, I settled on oils. I did the generic plein air pieces, portraits, still lifes. I started sketching this traveler at first, and it just stuck with me. I kept sketching it every day for years. Eventually, I decided to really push myself and create some bigger works; ones that really meant something to me. I left everything ambiguous with these paintings—even to me. So, that a narrative could start to kind of tell me where they were going.
What drives you to create artwork in general?
I just know I can’t stop. I feel a need to create something, and be proud of it.