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Interview with Jon Shaw

Interview with Jon Shaw
10 min

Tell us about yourself - who you are and how long have you been painting in your career?

My name is Jon Shaw, and I am a visual artist who combines traditional drawing and painting techniques with aspects of illustration, graphic design, and digital imaging. My career has moved me around Canada several times. I currently work in Niagara by way of Vancouver and New Brunswick. My professional career began in 2010 after completing art school. I moved to Vancouver from the Maritimes and set up my initial studio practice there.

What inspires your artwork and how do you get started from sketching to painting a piece?
My work is a response to the environments I explore, live in, work in, or adventure to. Urban landscapes of gritty industrial environments or busy, cluttered street scenes influence the majority of my work. In recent years I have documented other aspects of the environments I travel to, documenting nature, small towns, and decrepit structures. I spent a year documenting the demolition of a major hospital removal project in my hometown of St. Catharines, Ontario. In all cases, these pieces are a combination of Staedtler Lumocolor markers and acrylic paint. When I travel, I prefer to work on smaller-scale pieces that combine fine ink pens and watercolor.  Check out some of my work on my website on or my Instagram - @jonnieredbeard

How do you start? Which STAEDTLER pens are you using and why do you like them?
Typically I’m working from photographs I take on-location. I generally sketch out the rough image with illustration markers first, then fill in all the tight, detailed lines afterward with black Lumocolor markers.

Tell us about your experience working with a Wacom Display and how it relates to your typical workflow. 

Which software are you using?
I'm working with Autodesk Sketchbook, which is free software for digital drawing and painting. – Check it out here.

How did you like using the STAEDTLER Noris digital pencil (standard and Jumbo)?
I enjoyed them –  I found having both options served me best since my practice is made of smaller drawing markers and larger paintbrushes. When I worked with the Wacom One and Sketchbook, I actually used the smaller standard Noris digital pencil for the drawing layers and the larger Jumbo one for the painted/colored layers in my piece.

​​​How did the muscle memory from STAEDTLER graphite pencils relate to working with their digital versions?
Working with them felt good, the shape and weight of the standard Noris were comparable to a regular pencil, which was quite nice.

What did you like about the experience?
Since I don’t have a ton of experience drawing and painting digitally, I appreciated the ability to undo marks, work with layers, and the ability to quickly change colors, brush sizes and options, and apply experimental blending techniques without concern over whether or not it would look good or not (i.e., freedom of experimentation - if something didn’t look good I could simply undo it).

Did this experience mirror an analog experience?
I approached this project just like I would with my usual analog pieces, mimicking the same order of line drawing and painting. I opened up my exploration of mark-making a bit more in the color/paint layers after I had established the basic linework just like on my physical paintings.

Tell us more about your experience using digital tools.

What was your impression of using Autodesk SketchBook? 
It took a bit of adjusting at first since I’m so used to working on paper or primed wood panels. But I quickly came to appreciate the advantages that come with digital painting.

As a first-time digital artist, what aspects were intuitive? What did you like and not like about it?
The interface of Sketchbook was useful for quickly flipping between colors and brush selections. The Wacom itself was great when mirroring my computer’s display, so I got to draw on a real-time representation of my work. The responsiveness to pressure with various brushes was very good and probably one of my favorite aspects. If I had to choose one thing that I did not like, it would be how my brain could not wrap around the fact that I was drawing on glass and not a pebbly surface. But to be fair, going from a decade of traditional/analog practice into a digital project is surely to be an abrupt change.

What things came naturally, what did you have to relearn?
Picking up a digital stylus and making marks immediately came naturally and was certainly fun. I had to relearn/train myself to work from a digital library of brushes and colors, as opposed to reaching for physical tubes of paint, different ink markers, etc.

Compared to sketching with the digital tools, how do you experience painting and using layers? Which brushes did you use?
Working with layers was certainly advantageous, as I could apply some color/marks with different brushes. If they weren’t working out for me, I could simply delete the layer and try again. The pressure-response of the brushes I used was very good and quite essential, so I’m glad it worked out the way I was hoping it would. I used a lot of brushes! Felt Tip Pen/Chisel Tip Pen/Synthetic Flat Brush/Smudge Soft Flat Brush/Glaze/Blending

What advice do you have for beginners that want to jump into digital painting?
The ability to undo/start over/experiment endlessly is probably the most beneficial aspect, in my opinion. If something isn’t working out you can start a new one or start over, without the worry of using up materials (paper, ink, paint, etc.). So it’s a great way to play around and build towards some impressive results without needing to get too precious about anything at the beginning.