Shawn McNulty Art Artist

mental contagion visual arts

Non-Objective in Texture - SHAWN McNULTY

Working with color, form and texture is the name of the game in non-objective painting.  Abstract painters who work in a non-objective style must be expert in these elements to bring in the composition.

Non-objective paintings that are strong in these elements are always fascinating to me.  One abstract painter whose non-objective paintings have excellent color and form as well as remarkable texture is Shawn McNulty.  Shawn McNulty has a website at that you should visit. 

When I asked Shawn for an interview I hoped he would share some of the techniques he uses.  He did mention that he uses pumice, a ground stone to build very interesting textures.  You can also see the abstract paintings of Shawn McNulty at the Rosalux Gallery and the Rosalux Gallery website.

How did you begin in art?  "I remember drawing instead of napping in kindergarten, so I guess I began at a young age."

Do you remember the first art works you did that you felt satisfied you?  "Learning how to technically draw very well in high school was satisfying."

Obstructed View 36 x 48" Non-Objective Art McNulty

One Horse Town 48 x 72" Non-Objective Art McNulty

How did you develop your style into its present direction?  "It’s been a long process.  There was a point I incorporated some Pop Art influence.  There was another point the colors became very saturated.  My style has developed into a more organic approach allowing more accidents and spontaneous characters to exist in the work.  I think this is one of the larger obstacles to cross as a non-objective painter.  Another aspect that has gotten a little clearer is realizing when a work is finished, which is a frequent question.  I need to see the work with fresh eyes with at least a day in between to verify it is done."

What kinds of compositional concerns do you respond to?  "I think being a good abstract artist is understanding what works, which is partly technical ideas like balance and form, and partly instinct.  A very simple way to look at it is throwing a bunch of stuff together, leaving the parts that work, and throwing more stuff on the parts that don’t until at all works.  I could dress that up in fancier words like a lot of artists do, but what’s the point?"

What will be your next project?  "My next project will be different series of square pieces.  I have been experimenting with doing work that could go together as a diptych, triptych, etc., but leaving the option up to the client to purchase them as a series or not.  For example, I just completed a series of eight small pieces measuring 18" x 18", and they all could be hung side by side and would flow into each other, but I will sell them individually.  I like the idea of someone having all of them, but I am also intrigued by the idea of eight different people owning one, knowing that the other ones are out there."

Whitecap 36 x 48" Non-Objective Art McNulty

The Second Jester 28 x 22" Non-Objective Art McNulty

Do you ever use exotic materials or techniques?  "I really enjoy the rocky surface textures from using pumice, which I put down in the early layers.  I also will collage materials including newsprint, cardboard, wood, and paper.  Sometimes this is obvious, and sometimes it’s buried beneath paint."

What kind of tools, light, studio do you prefer?  "I have a studio in the arts district of Northeast Minneapolis with large north-facing windows which provide fantastic lighting in the morning and afternoon.  I use large easels that adjust from vertical to horizontal positioning, and I usually adjust the angle of the canvas frequently.  I use my 14’ walls to display as many artworks as I can fit, which is useful for storage, as well as displaying work when clients schedule an appointment for a viewing."

What are your sources of inspiration?  "My style explores the relationship between man-made structures and the natural world; the idea of recognizable shapes and structures living within irrational thoughts and emotions.  I would say my inspiration is finding a symbiotic relationship between man and nature on a global scale, which is something we are a long way from at this point."

What other artists do you admire?  "I am most influenced by artist Hans Hofmann, as well as the rest of the New York School of Abstract Expressionists including Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, and Clyfford Still.  I am also influenced by the California School of Abstract Expressionist Richard Diebenkorn, and Neo-Expressionist Jean Michel Basquiat."

What was the most difficult project or commission you've encountered?  "I sometimes get asked to do a commission, which is very strange when you consider the organic nature of my process, so I almost always decline.  I did do a commission for a company in Canada who purchased one piece, and they wanted another that had a similar feel to it.  The main objective was creating a similar color scheme, so I did begin with specific colors that were in the other piece.  The new piece took on its own life, and they were very happy with the outcome."  

Have you gotten any interesting stories about galleries?  "I was involved with a gallery in London for awhile which was interesting.  They sold several pieces before going bankrupt, and I ended up losing a few pieces in the process.  They’re out there somewhere.  Luckily, I got paid for the work that was sold prior to the bankruptcy.  I’m also a founding member of Rosalux Gallery, which is a cooperative gallery maintained by artists from the Twin Cities.  The gallery opened in 2002, and is located in downtown Minneapolis. ."

What are your interests and dislikes in art?  "I am interested in other non-objective painters that embrace color and form. I like to see a textured surface, and I like work to be tangible.  It seems like major museums are not exhibiting new painters, only retrospectives on the masters.  The focus is more on conceptual video and photography, as well as shock art, and this does not hold my interest."   

The surface textures that Shawn creates with paint and pumice are very interesting and a trademark part of his style. Don't forget to see his Rosalux online exhibition.

CAG appreciates your viewpoints and your images Shawn McNulty, and we wish you continued inspiration.

- Tia Marks

You can view the original article on CAG's website here