oil narrative painting of men working
Shawn Michael Warren, "Abbott’s Waterway," 84 x 64 in., oil on canvas, 2019

There is a lot of superb contemporary realism being made these days; this article by Allison Malafronte shines light on a narrative painting by Shawn Michael Warren.

Shawn Michael Warren (b. 1987) reached a crossroads five years ago when he gave serious consideration to what he wanted to say through his paintings. A turning point came for this Chicago artist when he created In a Promised Land…, which “marked the finding of my artistic identity” after years of struggling to transcend mere skill.

Now Warren paints narrative works that retell events, stories, and perspectives from history that were either overlooked or told in a one-dimensional manner. “This is what painting is about for me,” the artist says. “It’s not only about starting a conversation but allowing viewers to connect, learn, and feel.”

Another key painting is “Abbot’s Waterway,” one of Warren’s latest. “Its story also revolves around omission,” he notes. “It pays homage to the unknown black workers who migrated to the West Coast in the early 1900s to help build Abbot Kinney’s version of Venetian canals in Los Angeles’s new neighborhood of Venice. Upon finishing their work, these men were not given the right to live in that area.”

Now that Warren has found sure footing in the contemporary realist world, he can look back and see how his various influences, training, and instincts led to where he is today. Exposed to art early on, he wanted to be a professional artist from the age of 9.

Warren earned his B.F.A. at the American Academy of Art (Chicago) and continued his studies at the Florence Academy of Art in Italy. He finds inspiration in various media, including film, narrative paintings from the past (e.g., Bouguereau, Sargent, Thayer, Alma-Tadema), novels, and nature.

Today, Warren utilizes his training in classical drawing and oil painting to depict subjects that are, at times, uncomfortable, yet shed light on the experiences of people who remain underrepresented.

See more of Shawn’s work here. 

This article was originally published in Fine Art Connoisseur magazine.