A City’s Canvas, Profiles of the Artists of Downtown Winston-Salem: Shawn Beard

By David Willard

Art can be defined as something that is created with imagination and skill, and is beautiful or expresses important ideas or feelings. Ironically, or maybe not, life can be looked at in the same way. It is a landscape painted by choices, people, and events that make up a dramatic whole. This month’s artist believes that life and art can be mirror images of themselves, and that belief is reflected in his work.

Shawn Beard is a downtown artist who makes his studio home at Studios at 625 on Trade Street. However, he spends his daytime hours as a teacher in the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County school system. “I teach advanced placement art at the Career Center and have been there for about 15 years now. It is a nice job for an artsy person like myself because it challenges my creativity on a daily basis, and it allows me the opportunity to continually think about my own art through what assignments I introduce to my students. I was born and partially raised in Wilmington, NC, but have called Winston-Salem/Clemmons home for the past 30+ years. I really enjoy this area. Despite the size of the city, there is still a small-town vibe and growing art community,” says Beard.

Beard’s art is, like that of most artists, a testament to his experiences and surroundings. In fact, Beard is very forthcoming when asked what art to him is. “It is pretty much my life. Every way, in some way or another, links back to the art world. I paint at home and teach art at the high school level and look at the world through an artist’s eye, which makes everything very beautiful. I have a tendency to see things very differently because I’m looking at things in a different way,” he adds.

Beard always knew he wanted to pursue an artist’s life, but the path to that life wasn’t always so clear. “I always kind of knew that I wanted to do something creative with my ‘grown up’ life but I really never knew what it would be. I spent several years touring the UNC university system trying my hand at several different possibilities. Starting with architecture at UNC-Charlotte, then graphic design at ECU, and finally completing a degree in painting at UNC-Greensboro. I loved all three schools but felt very confined by the straight lines and structure of the first two attempts. I felt very comfortable and at home in the painting studio. No one really ever told me at the time that the job market for a painter didn’t necessarily open many possibilities after getting through the Bohemian college experience,” he continues.

As an artist at Studios at 625, Beard has built quite a collection of work that he displays and is quite proud of. However, there is one piece that holds a special place with him. “I love a lot of the pieces I have done, but there is one in particular that I like the most. Before my wife and I were married, I had opportunities to spend time with her kids. A lot of the time was filled with art and crafts because they share that interest. One time when they were in town in 2012, we thought it would be fun to create a large painting where all of us painted one piece at the same time. It was a really nice way for me to continue to get to know them and to show a little bit of who I was with them. Also, it gave us another connection through our shared interest in art. The piece hangs proudly in our living room and is the focal point of our home. That is my proudest accomplishment,” he adds.

Beard has certainly made his place in downtown Winston as an artist who puts his life and passion on display in his work. This is a trait that is necessary to garner the viewers and the attention of his peers in what has become a talent-laden area that demands attention. He has done this by making his life and his art something he is proud for others to see. Pablo Picasso once said, “The purpose of life is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.” Shawn Beard is putting this theory to work every time he picks up a paintbrush, and the results are a life celebrated and enjoyed in every piece he paints.

94-Working in the Studio 1 94-The pups 94-portraits 94-My students