Wednesday, August 19, 2009

5 Questions: Shawn Foreman

Shawn Foreman is a proud 2009 graduate from the School of Art, having received his MFA in Painting and Drawing under Prof. Michael Crespo. He’s been hired by the Zachary Community School District to teach the gifted and talented visual arts classes for their junior high school and has also set up a studio and art school in Baton Rouge. While at LSU, Shawn took two Asian art classes, Art 4441: Chinese Painting, and Art 4442: Japanese Art. In this interview, we’ll chat with Shawn about how his interest in Asian art developed and the advice he has for LSU students who are interested in Asian art.

Q: Shawn, how did you first become interested in taking Asian art classes? How did your interest in Asia develop?
Q: Before taking these two classes, did you have any formal coursework dealing with Asia?

I am going to answer two questions at once here. In 1995, when I was in the Navy, I was stationed in Yokosuka, Japan, before then I really had zero exposure to any Asian culture. When I got to Japan the world changed and I was awestruck. What impacted me the most was the completely new way of looking at the world. I have been trying to learn more about Asia ever since.

In moving back to the US I found it difficult to study any Asian subject with great depth. So when I saw a course in Chinese painting during the spring of 2006, and me being a painting major, I jumped at the chance, but because of logistical reasons I was not able to complete it. Thankfully while in graduate school I was able to take these two Art History courses before I graduated.

Q: Were there any challenges that you faced during these two semesters, such as learning unfamiliar names and terms? If so, how did you overcome them?

Yes I struggled with the language, but I was able to cope with it. I found that for 4441 referring to the pronunciation sheet that was handed out in the class was extremely helpful, I referenced it often. While I lived in Japan I picked up a good bit of Japanese, this took care of 4442.

Q: Do you have any advice for LSU students who might be interested in learning more about Asian art, or can you recommend any study tips?

I would say absolutely study Asian art, you will be exposed to new aesthetic thoughts and processes, new purposes for creating, and a better understanding of a culture. As far as studying goes, my suggestion is to study a little every day, don't wait till a week before the exam to start, trust me this is a bad idea. In 4441 I tried to compare Chinese and European painting styles and content, which helped. During 4442 I just tried to connect the art with my memories of Japan.

Q: Has your exposure to Asian art had an impact on your paintings? If so, how? What were the positive aspects of studying Asian art?

Yes. I think about the Northern Song Dynasty's monumental landscape paintings and how I tend to bring a little bit of the idea of painting an image that alludes to something greater than humanity in my work. I also hold to the asymmetrical and imperfect aesthetics of Wabi Sabi, a Japanese aesthetic. I am drawn towards Ogata Korin's line work. I am also drawn towards Zhu Da's brushwork, which may appear to be chaotic and not controlled much, yet it has an expressive quality I can relate to. I hold fast to the idea that to truly understand something you must look at every aspect of it, as a painter I would be short-changing my knowledge of painting by not studying how non-western painters, and artists work. I also feel this relates to history, science, culture or any human endeavor. Whether you're an art student or history student or another major, taking just one of these Asian art history courses would be extremely rewarding and eye opening.

Thank you Shawn, for taking the time to answer these questions! You can view one of his paintings above, entitled "The Gift of the Imagined," and learn more about Shawn's work at his website:


  1. I am extremely proud of my husband Shawn. He has been an incredible blessing in my life.

  2. Julie, those of us at LSU are very proud of him, too!