Throughout Dr. Martens history our boots and shoes have been worn by an eclectic mix of people, who have fought for and celebrated their individuality. #WORNDIFFERENT NYC is a project bringing together NYC-based artists and makers from a variety of backgrounds and disciplines to celebrate self-expression with a clash of art and music.
Meet Brooklyn-based artist, Shawna X. Her work crosses multiple mediums from digital illustration to paintings to motion and environmental design. Shawna’s art is filled with vibrant colors and exuberant shapes, creating a one-of-a-kind body of work. We spoke to her about moving to New York City, her favorite neighborhoods to explore, and the inspiration behind her art.
Introduce yourself. What do you do?
I am a visual artist and illustrator. I work with various mediums from editorial illustration to music videos to designing volleyball courts. I am very lucky to have clients of all sizes. I got into illustration because drawing was a stress reliever. I began to draw every single day, and then started sharing it online, with friends, or in cafes It was all very humble, low-key stuff that I didn’t think anything of. After a while, I was doing more shows and selling prints, so I kept busy and made illustration my main focus.
It felt like my switch to full-time artist happened very swiftly, but it actually took years of work, self-analyzing, perseverance, and support. I’m still trying to challenge myself, whether it’s painting a mural or learning fabrication. My motto is to do my best and always challenge myself with my past self.
What brought you to NYC?
I grew up in-between Portland, Oregon, and Xiamen, China. I came to New York on a whim. I thought I’d be here for a month maximum, then go back to Chicago where I was living. That month became four months and then became half a year and now it’s three years. I never even had a proper goodbye. Insane how life works when you just let it flow.
What advice do you have for artists looking to move to New York?
NYC is the kind of place that if you want to try it, you just have to do it. If it doesn’t work, it’s fine. Honestly, it’s not for everyone. Having some sort of financial stability helped me a lot (I was very good at saving in my 20s). I came here without friends, a job, or a place to live. Any stability really helps in a city like this.
Any memorable New York moments?
When I first moved to NYC, I lived in Chinatown. Since I was new and didn’t know anyone, I spent a lot of time just wandering around and people watching. One October night, the streets were dark and empty, and everyone was at home or eating dinner. I walked by this tiny shop below the Manhattan bridge and the door was open to reveal a noodle-making shop. Men in white suits were working in a room full of white clouds of flour and powder, lit by a fluorescent light. The powder poured out into the streets like fog; it was a magical little moment and I thought; ok, I think this is the place for me.
Where’s your favorite place to grab a slice of pizza?
I love Paulie Gees, hands down!
How would you describe your personal style?
I’d say my style is pretty carefree and eclectic. I draw a lot of confidence from what I wear, what I draw, what I listen to, or who I connect with.
My motto is to do my best and always challenge myself with my past self.
How does New York influence you and your work?
NYC is a dirty, concrete city full of people, loud sirens, rats, and humidity. That sounds unappetizing for most but I really enjoy these harsh elements and it actually inspires me to make work that can tackle darker, deeper psyches.
Tell us about your first pair of Doc’s.
I bought them when I moved to Chicago because everyone needs a pair in the winter. I wore them into the ground. I don’t have them anymore, but I’m pretty sure they are still 100% wearable and in great condition.
Without giving too much away, what are you working on for Worn Different NYC?
I will be creating some scenes that remind me of NYC, and focusing on memories from when I first moved and was vulnerable, wide-eyed, and alone.