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Shane Page: The Life & Times of a Midwest Artist
By EA Poorman
Fort Wayne Reader
The urge to create is a disease. It's a sickness that permeates every pore in an artist's body. It's an addiction. I don't care if your means to feed the addiction is a guitar, a paintbrush, pencils, or Photoshop. For some, if they're not creating, they're dying inside. These talented souls have no choice but to create. They smear their essence onto canvases; bleed every last drop of blood onto the tape in the hopes of success…
Right? Partly. The real goal is to keep the demons at bay by offering their version of artistic integrity to them. Hold them off until it's time to go and meet the maker… or the man who holds the contract they signed all those years ago.
Sometimes though, artists create because it makes the feel good. There's a guy that lives in the Midwest (at the moment, anyways) that used to create to keep those demons at bay, but nowadays he creates because he loves to create. Demons be damned. Shane Page is a web designer and freelance artist living in Warsaw, IN and on a chilly December evening I stopped by his place to drink a few beers and talk about his life and his art.
"My mother has a drawing of race cars going around a race track that I did with a blue crayon back when I was three," says Page as I ask him where his love of art came from over a couple Newcastle ales at his downtown loft in Warsaw, IN. "
“I don't recall drawing those race cars but I can say that I have been interested in art for as far back as I can remember. I've always gained the most satisfaction out of painting or drawing than I have with any other interest. The attention I get and the awards I win have always been a nice bonus."
It's always a tricky question to answer — and even a more bland question to ask — and yet I still ask: what or who influences Shane Page to make the art he makes? "I wish I could say there was one definitive influence that gives me inspiration and fuels my creativity, but I cannot,” he answers. “My influences change with whatever mood I'm in or whatever I'm experiencing in life at the time. I've really never been influenced by an artist's art or a designer’s designs per se... it's more so a lifestyle, personality, technique, and career choice that has always me intrigued. I guess that I'm inspired by those who have gone against the grain, chose their own path, carved their own niche, persevered, and eventually succeeded (pauses)... even when others would try to discourage, break, and stop them. Andy Warhol's story is a great example. I'm not so much into his art but I'm certainly intrigued by his life and his success. Renowned artists at the time rejected him, people tried to murder him, people tried to censor him, etc, but he could never be stopped. He went on to be the most renowned artist of our time and he did so by doing it his own way."
We finish off a 12 pack of Newcastle and move onto the Sierra Nevada pale ale. It's a crisp Friday evening in December and Shane and his wife Shanna are still putting the finishing touches on their downtown loft in Warsaw. From the oversized windows you can see the Christmas lights glowing through the Midwest haven. I look at various watercolors Shane has done of his wife (who seems to be a constant subject of his work) and of folks like Hillary Clinton, Zooey Deschanel, and Barack Obama. He also lets me leaf through his portfolio, filled with concert posters he drew and designed for various bands in Portland, Minneapolis, and Brooklyn over the last 15 years. I ask him how he'd describe his 'style,' if you will, of art. "I suppose I would describe my style as 'pop art,' if only because the imagery I use is usually what's going on in the news or blogs at the time,” he says. “The two primary mediums I work with are watercolor and digital. My short attention will not allow me to favor just one medium, so I'm usually working on both a watercolor and a digital image at the same time. The results are drastically different in approach, technique, and execution; yet are both the same extensions of my personality."
Now I have to admit, I met Shane Page at one of the local watering holes in Warsaw around 6 years ago. He'd recently returned from a stint in Minneapolis doing freelance work and decided he needed to distance himself from certain 'elements'. Occasionally he'd come into the dive bar I'd venture out to whenever I couldn't write and needed to clean my head out with a couple pints. We got to talking about music; in particular Miles Davis. After while I got to hear about his many adventures in the world of stoner rock, graphic design, hanging out with Josh Homme, High On Fire and Motorhead, recording an album at Jackpot Studios (studio Elliot Smith helped build), band breaking up, renting an office in downtown Portland to do art, getting addicted to heroin, being homeless, getting help at a Portland shelter and kicking heroin cold turkey, then finally moving back to the Midwest to get away from the trouble that found him in the Pacific Northwest. Is it ironic that an ex-addict finds a friend whilst pounding pints in a dive bar? Maybe, but that's how life works.
One of the many artistic endeavors Shane Page is involved in is B. munn. I first found out about B. munn a couple years ago when at the dive bar we often visit (well, not so much anymore) about 15 people donned some of the freakiest masks I've ever seen. Demonic-looking bunny faces, that's the best way I can describe them. Anyways, Shane can explain it better than I can. "Back in 1999 I painted a silly little bunny-demon character that I put on a flyer for my band. I brought that same character back in 2010 when I was commissioned to come up with a computer virus looking critter for a billboard advertisement. That evening my friend Travis Mullins and I were standing around the fire drinking beer and he asked for some ideas for a new sculpture. I instantly thought of the bunny-demon character. I sketched it out for him but was a bit drunk so the sketch didn't turn out right.”
His second attempt was more successful and B.munn was instantly a go. “We did paintings and sculptures of the character and eventually decided to give it the name B.munn... which is short for bunny demon. Later that year Travis made a pretty crude B.munn costume for Halloween and it ended up being a hit. Soon requests for the B.munn to appear at rock shows, art galleries, and mud wrestling competitions began to increase. We then made masks to give away at all these events so that others could be involved. To date we've given away well over 1,000 one-of-a-kind hand painted masks... totally free. We then got into the t-shirt business. We had no idea what would come of it but we were very pleased when our first pressing of shirts sold out in less than 3 hours. Since then B.munn has been going strong; we've got plenty of exposure on the internet, plenty of shirts are being sold, and plenty of people are still excited to participate in the various B.munn shenanigans."
The beer is gone and the Christmas lights have faded. Before I slithered down to my car and cautiously make my way home, I ask Shane where he sees himself in ten years. "I see myself being more involved in the art and design community in general. I would like to attend and participate in more galleries and other artistic and design events. I'm a bit of a recluse right now, and have been for quite some time and I need to change that. I've kept my life and my surrounding pretty simple and minimal lately and I believe I have taken that mentality as far as it will go. It's time to really get myself, my voice and my art out there. With any luck, in 10 years I will be much more established as a recognized and respected artist and designer. In 10 years I will probably be a little more stubborn and a little more picky, though. I do like me some controversy, and a good fight."
Check out Shane Page's work at http://shanedarinpage.tumblr.com/. And check out the twisted world of B.munn at https://www.facebook.com/b.munnart.