Getting to Know: Shane Swann Illustration

We are pleased to bring you our latest feature – Shane Swann Illustration, a Cambridge-based artist who has developed a highly intricate drawing style. His current focus is on highlighting the importance of environmental issues through his illustrative works. Read our Q&A with Shane below to find out about his artistic approach, ‘The UK Extinction Series’ project and his involvement with Cambridge Open Studios, Cottenham Arts group and the Cambridge Drawing Society.

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(Image by Shane Swann – Work In Progress: Matriarch and Baby)

(Image by Shane Swann – The Last Wolf of Scotland)

Tell me a little about yourself and how you became an artist.

I have always had an overwhelming desire to draw for as long as I can remember. As a child its all I did, I would always be creating imaginary worlds or creatures. At school, I was much more interested in art than any other subject. Therefore art became my focus and this lead me to progress onto art college, then university to study fine art. Since then, I have tried many different and quite diverse styles, but currently I have become settled with wildlife illustration.

Describe your style in 5 words.

Illustrative, intricate, painstaking, environmental, informative.

(Image by Shane Swann – The Last Great Auks)

(Image by Shane Swann – The Last Bear of Britain)

Where do you draw your inspiration from?

At the moment, the natural world and environmental issues. My current work is also visually inspired by very technical, victorian illustrations and engravings, but I’ve always had an interest in artwork that is more than just aesthetic. I find art most interesting when craftsmanship and concept are used together to make a statement. Because of this, I feel that I’m inspired by a whole array of different art forms and artists… from William Hogarth to Shepard Fairey.

Could you tell me a little more about one of your pieces?

I am currently working on a series of drawings depicting endangered animals, but before this I had been working on an illustration project that I call ‘The UK Extinction Series’. The concept was British wildlife that has been eradicated from the UK due to human activity. My aim for this series was to remind people of our impact on the natural world, and how careful we need to be in the future. A drawing called ‘The Eighteen Extinct Bees of England’ was my favourite from this series.

(Image by Shane Swann – The Eighteen Extinct Bees of England)

For this piece I drew all eighteen bees individually as a tribute. By creating this piece I hoped to not only promote awareness of the declining bee population, but to also inform people of how many species we have already lost. Underneath each bee I wrote its specie name and the year it became extinct. People viewing this piece, at first glance often tend to think its just a pleasing collection of bee images. The idea is that once the viewer looks a bit closer and realises these images are a tribute to the extinct, and we largely contributed to their end, the viewer is emotionally affected. An artist that I admire:

Psychology tells us that we as human beings take action and make decisions based on our emotions more than anything else.

Zaria Forman

How do keep yourself informed about what is going on within the art / design world, in Cambridgeshire and further afield?

I try interact as much as I can with other local artists, at exhibitions and other art related gatherings. It seems the more artists I meet, the more information I can acquire about the art world. It’s quite difficult to research and discover everything by yourself. It also helps that I am a picture framer, as I meet new artists all the time.

Social media also helps a great deal, its so easy now to connect with other artists all over the world, the amount of influence and information you can acquire from this is incredible.

(Image by Shane Swann – The Last Lynx of Britain)

(Image by Shane Swann – Highland Tiger)

Are you a member of any local art groups?

I attend an art group in my village – Cottenham Arts – where we meet in a pub and discuss ideas, show the progressions of our work, and organise art events together. The group has changed and evolved over the years, but it has helped me a great deal in many ways.

Where can people find your work?

I always do the Cambridge Open Studios, this year I’ve joined a group called TRIA. I am also a member of the Cambridge Drawing Society and exhibit with them twice a year for the Spring and Autumn shows. I have a website – here, where all my work is present and explained.

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Thank you to Shane for taking part in our Q&A! We are just over a week away from this year’s Cambridge Open Studios – have you started to plan your visits yet? Shane will be exhibiting with two other local artists, Hannah McGonigle and Sarah McGonigle in Oakington, just outside of Cambridge; find out more details and RSVP to the event here. We are planning to visit on Saturday 1st July and are excited to see Shane’s work up close!

Join us and share your local art discoveres with #CambsCreativesTreasures over on Instagram. We would also love to hear from you in the comments below if you are exhibiting this year!

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