I was introduced to Shaine Schroeder’s work several years before I met him. I had been invited over to a friend’s apartment that I had not been to before, and about two steps into the place, three words slipped out of my mouth. What-the-fuck. Every plausible space on the wall was covered in art, no more than an inch or two between each piece. Upon closer inspection, I soon realized it was all the same artist. Every single last piece held together by the same stylistic semblance. Although this was the largest Schroeder collection I have encountered in a private collection, it is certainly not the last time I would be surprised, and a little bit startled, by the loyalty of his patrons. You rarely see just one Shaine Schroeder piece in a house, there are always at least two, and sometimes more than 20 in one location. After meeting Shaine last summer, I soon understood the appeal.
It’s hard not to like Shaine. He seems to have a perpetual secret, a slew of wonder deeply compacted into his constant half-cocked smile. He is quick-witted with a colorful tongue, and always seems happy to share a story or two. His bold personality is directly reflected in his work. His paintings are impossible not to look at, bright colors and varied mark making pull the eyes around the canvas, the subject matter revealing itself even more after you learn the title of the piece. He is prolific in production, and grounded in his business savvy. He has made large efforts to help those less fortunate than himself, donating proceeds from art sales to a variety of organizations around the Sioux Falls area over the years. Shaine has a love for this town, good and bad, and I think it’s safe to say Sioux Falls could say the same. ~Amy
What is the path that has led you to where you are today?
I think most of it started for me when I was young. I got incredibly bored with all the babysitters that my parents would leave me at, and I started doodling. Eventually, that turned into watching a lot of television and seeing cartoons like Ninja Turtles and Ghost Busters. I was so into all that stuff that; if there was a single moment of boredom I just started scratching away on paper. That was kind of the catalyst for the heavy interest in it. The older I got, the more it fizzled out for a while, just because I became more of an outdoorsy kid and was always outside playing. Then, my parents got a divorce and shit got crazy. My dad would get custody of us, and then go off on his own and leave us with his parents. And so, again, the boredom started. I started scribbling away. That’s where it became like a full-time thing.
Did you ever have any formal education?
Yeah, I did. I went to the Art Institute in Minneapolis, but I was only there for three months because I had a mishap with the housing department up there. I went to USD for a little while too, and ultimately ended up getting my degree in Visual Communications from a school in Phoenix, Arizona. It was basically just graphic design and web design. I wanted to get a degree like that so I could be self-sufficient as far as making my own website, not having to depend on anybody to do that, learn the marketing aspect. So, that was nice, because my portfolio professor is the art director at Fender Guitars. I mean, I could have skipped the entire degree, you know? Just taken that one class. I learned more in that class than I’ve ever learned in my entire life. So, in that sense, it was definitely worth the price tag on the education.
Did you have any other mentors along the way?
Here and there. A lot of it wasn’t like an interactive mentorship, where I would seek somebody out and have them show me the ropes. It was like, ingest everything that came to me, soak it up like a sponge. If I saw a cartoon that I liked, or an illustration, like Highlights magazine as a kid, I would immediately try to re-create it. That’s kind of a double-edged sword because when you’re doing that, when you’re basically being self-taught like that, you start to imitate your heroes, and like, strictly copy them. Which is good for learning technique, but then when you get older and you have that style down, you have to make it your own, otherwise you’re going to be looked at as a copycat. Which is not something you want in the art world, because nobody likes that. So, it’s hard, as an artist, not to like something that much and not regurgitate it. You have so much coming in. It’s like when comedians get pissed at each other for stealing jokes. A lot of times, you don’t even know you’re doing it, because it’s in the back of your mind at all times how much you dig that style, and so you’ve kind of incorporated it into your own. One day you sit down to a painting and you’re like, “Fuck, this shit ain’t cool. I’m totally ripping this guy off.” So there comes a day when you distance yourself and try not to take in quite as much and start to find your own way.
Do you feel as though you’ve acted as a mentor to any of your peers or helped guide anyone?
Yeah, I think a little bit. I mean, not to the extent that I could, because it’s going to make for a bad artist if you give them all the tools they need immediately. If you just lay it out in front of them, basically summarize how to build a career in this field in paragraph form, that’s just too easy. You have to make mistakes yourself. You have to find out what print shop is the best. Unless you do that on your own, you’re never going to appreciate it, because it was just given to you. So, yeah to an extent I like to help people out, and I never turn them away or anything like that. I also elbow them from time to time and will be like, “Ok man. This is your tenth question today, via email. Take it easy. Google exists for a reason, do some poking around.”
That’s how it was laid out for me. I’ve never been a 9-5 guy; I’ve had like 40 jobs in my life. I’m like a spoiled child when it comes to that. I get so bored so easily, it just ends because I’m like, “Ok. I’m done with this.” I’m just so impatient. After my last 9-5, I took a little time to get my shit together and realized that if I want to make this a full-time thing, I have to actually treat this like a job. You know, get up every day at seven in the morning, work until 5, or longer. Unless you tell yourself you’re punching a clock, you’re never going to take it seriously. You’re going to go out and drink every night and you’re going to watch Netflix til 5 in the morning.
In a 2013 interview, you are quoted as describing your work as “a veritable shit show of mixed media.” Can you elaborate for someone who is unfamiliar with your work?
I go through phases. That’s another hard thing about establishing your own style, because once people recognize a certain style that you do and then you switch it up for the next show, a lot of times they get confused. Like, “Oh, this is you? This is your stuff?”
As far as the mixed media goes, I prefer acrylic. It’s like painting with butter. Especially if you get the right kind, it’s just so easy and it dries so quickly. I work fast, so it’s nice, but I also have a hairdryer in my hand the entire time because I want to go so fast that I just can’t keep up with myself. So, that’s the medium of choice. Mixed media is fun too, with incorporating pastels and house paint and chalk and basically everything you can, into a single painting. Or, you know, like two or three mediums. Whatever happens to be lying around.
I guess that kind of comes from when I was a kid, too. You know, going to my grandparents house on my dad’s side when my dad would bail. He would leave us to our own devices with them, and the only thing they had lying around was 8.5″ x 11″ copy paper, pencils, and highlighters. You make anything that’s laying around work for you. Do something off the wall that nobody’s done before.
Where is your subject matter coming from? What is inspiring you for your pieces?
A lot of my heroes do preliminary sketches. They’ll sit down and really make something that’s tight and crisp and nice. Which is great in theory. But, again, I’m so fucking impatient that I just can’t; if I get an idea, it needs to get out immediately. If I were to do the sketch, then that would be the piece. I can’t replicate that again. I mean, I could if I really wanted to, but it’s just not fun for me the second time around. It’s not really as pure and vicious.
That piece behind you guys for example. The brushstrokes on that, probably an hour and a half. It was so fast and so violent. I don’t know if I was just having a bad day, but I finished and I was like, holy shit that’s the quickest thing I’ve ever done. It’s big too, and I think a lot of people have the preconceived notion that working big is horrible and harder. For me, it’s easier. Being as tall as I am, you have so much more room to fuck around.
How are you choosing your canvas size? Just what you have, or are there sizes that the dimensions are intentional?
It depends on the situation. I prefer to work big, but being in a one-bedroom apartment like we are right now, it’s kind of hard, in case you have a lot of inventory and it doesn’t move that quickly and it piles up. So, in the last couple years while I’ve been in this place, my work is generally a lot smaller. If people do want a big piece, I can just blow the original up into an extra-large print or something like that. I do have a roll of canvas, and I stretch my own canvas and everything like that. I guess it’s just the mood. The subject matter itself. If I’m doing a commission for somebody and they want a grapefruit next to a bottle of juice or something, that’s probably going to be a lot smaller and not eight feet tall by three feet.
Do you paint a lot of bottles of juice?
No. But I aspire to.
You do paint a lot of women, though.
A lot of times, maybe it’s just me, but I feel like it’s the same woman. Is this coming from an actual person?
A lot of them do. A lot of them are models I’ve used or just, you know, random faces on a Google search or my girlfriend. Some of them are off the top of my head. I do a lot of females because when I was growing up I couldn’t do them for shit. It was the hardest thing in the world to get the female anatomy correct. Once you do, the proportions are so awesome. I don’t think that there’s any denying that the female form is fucking beautiful. It doesn’t matter what height, size, shape, or whatever you are, there’s something to behold there. To put it on canvas is paying tribute to that. The biggest thing for me is, it was so hard to do for so long, that now that I’ve kind of got a handle on it, that’s me saying to myself, ok, you can do this now. Maybe milk it for a while, get this out of your system, and move onto something else.
In several of your pieces you have crows featured, and crows are kind of representative of a mysterious character. Is there anything behind that? Or rather, do you have a connection to any of the animals in your pieces, or is that just another figure that’s fun to draw?
Yeah it’s fun to draw. I mean, I love the wings. That was another hurdle for me was wings and birds, feathers and stuff like that, making them look somewhat realistic. I suppose, given the fact that I have a gigantic nose, I probably relate well with the crows, you know? A lot of my friends joke that I’m Jewish-I don’t know if I am, because my grandmother was adopted, but that’s a whole different interview.
When did you decide to make prints of your pieces?
When the market called for it, is the shortest answer I can give. There was a time when I started out that I couldn’t give my stuff away. As far as originals go, I’ve gotten to a place where I can charge a little bit more for the originals than I honestly ever thought I would. The art market in the Midwest is not anything like it is on either coast or overseas where they fully embrace a lot of different styles of art.
People up here will shuck out anywhere between $100 for a print to $30,000 for an original Terry Redlin. Unless you’re doing the pheasants and buffalo thing, nobody feels that. It’s a hard job to convince people of how long you’ve been doing this and how much time you dedicated to it and why it’s getting these prices, and why, at the end of the day, you don’t have to pay them if you don’t want to. It’s hard to expose people who have been in a bubble for so long to something new. I’m not saying that to be mean, it’s just kind of the way that people around here grew up. You go to the museums, you even go to the Pavilion. Actually, they’re [the Pavilion] doing a lot better job of being more progressive than they have been in a long time, which I have to give them kudos. It has been a long time coming.
It’s a struggle, and that’s where the prints came from. That’s the dream, is to have one piece in everybody’s house. As many houses as possible. It’s a conversation starter, it’s like, ‘Oh that’s cool, where’d you get that?’
I’ve been to houses where it’s literally an art gallery of your work.
It’s creepy, isn’t it? It’s creepy in the best way possible. I have three collectors here in town now, one of them has like 80 pieces? The second place has 70 some, and the third place has 30?
It makes me think that people should have pop up gallery shows in their houses.
That’s kind of what I want to do. When I was in Los Angeles, I had a friend of mine that I collaborated with, and he had a studio downtown. He would have an open house type thing every couple of months and just invite people in. It wasn’t really even to sell anything; he’d have stuff for sale, like prints and small originals, but basically he just wanted to meet his clientele in a lot less formal setting, you know? Just shake hands and bullshit. I’ve been wanting to do it for a while but I want the right venue. You know, some place that doesn’t have a tiny fucking kitchen.
How do you go about setting up shows for yourself? Are you approached, do you seek them out, or both?
A little bit of both. I mean, there have been a few where I was paid to do a show, like up front, without selling anything. Which was great, I never thought that would happen. But most of them is me. A lot of times my shows will come about by being out and about with the owner of the gallery or the bar or the restaurant and just bullshitting and having a beer. It’s me being like, “Hey, we should do a show at your place sometime,” and kind of touching the subject and feeling it out. Nine times out of 10 they’ll be like, “Absolutely. Why not? We’ll put something in the books and you’ll get down here next month or whenever you want and we’ll have the space for you.” It’s been a little bit of both.
Do people approach you for commission works?
I had a young lady over here the other day who had gotten my name through somebody I had done a really big commission for. It was a 16’x 8’ mural on cement board, so it was four panels. They were each 8’ tall and he put it inside his house, which is crazy ‘cuz that stuff is so fucking heavy. But, she got my name through him and contacted me out of the blue. So, some of it’s acquaintances, some of it’s strangers, most of its friends. They’ll have some crazy idea; right away they’ll say ‘”I think you’re the only person I could approach about this, could you paint me like a giant bear breathing fire and holding a beer can?” And I’m like, “Fuck yeah, why not? Absolutely.”
Are there any artists in Sioux Falls that you think people should keep an eye out for?
I’d say keep an eye peeled for Terry Redlin. She’s really exploring some stuff that’s never been touched before. (Laughing) No, I’d say there’s a lot of good artists in Sioux Falls; a lot of them have a lot of potential. [Jeremy] Frislie’s a pretty obvious choice. He’s very good at what he does and I’ve always been interested in that because I don’t know a goddamn thing about carving. When you’re around him, his energy is pretty infectious, and although he’s a bold personality, to put it lightly, he’s very willing to just sit down and educate you about the entire process. You’ll learn more in ten minutes with him than you ever would going to school for it. He makes it easy and enjoyable to learn about it.
Another artist that I’ve really kind of had my eye on for the last couple of months is Brendan Parks. He’s really got an eye for subject matter and he reminds me of one of my favorite artists, Michael Hussar. He does very macabre, dark, circus freak type stuff; it’s so elegant that the subject matter is second to the technique. It’s so fucking beautiful the way that it’s painted. I think with Brendan, I don’t know for sure, but I think that he’s just kind of started taking it more seriously, so you can tell just based on his subject matter that once he nails technique he’s going to be really fucking good at what he does. I think that he’s so new to it that he’s got everything where he wants it, he just needs to flesh it out more. Once he does that he’s going to be amazing.
Let’s talk about the book. Was this something that was floating around in your head for a while, that you knew you wanted to do it? When did you take the plunge?
I’d been talking to my sister about it for like the last ten years. We just grew up in such a crazy family that some of the shit, you can’t even make up. It was more like therapy, like therapeutic for me. If you read it, you’ll be like, ‘Wow this family’s fucked up. I can’t even believe that.’ The stuff that’s in the book, that made the cut, that’s the PG stuff. I can’t even, for fear of legal ramifications, I can’t even get into some of the stuff that actually happened.
But yeah, it’s been on the back burner for a while. I was on vacation in Arizona awhile back, and I was just going through my laptop, cleaning stuff out, and I was like, holy shit, I can’t believe how much I’ve put out in the last decade. There’s a lot of people who can’t afford original paintings, some of them can’t even afford prints. I understand. I go to a lot of art shows, leaving sad because I want something on the wall. So I figured, you know, it’s a little expensive, it’s $60, but at the same time, it’s a coffee table book. You’re basically getting everything that I’ve done within the last five to 10 years, for the price of a print. It was fun, and a learning experience. I thought it would be easy as hell going into it, turned out to be the hardest fucking thing I’ve done in so long.
How long did the process take you once you were all in?
The timeline is skewed in my favor because all the artwork was done already. All I had to do is drag and drop that stuff. The writing is what took the longest. I’d say, all in all, the book took four-maybe five months to put together. But that’s months of me being at my computer every day polishing everything.
How did you approach the editorial aspect? Were you working with a publishing house?
No, it’s all self-published, it’s all completely independent of any other entity. It was pre-order only because the books are so expensive to get made that, even if you order in bulk, the overhead is still crazy. So, when all is said and done, this was a passion project. I really didn’t walk away with all that much profit. I know that a few people think I did but it’s just not the case because shipping costs are so high and production costs are so high. At the end of the day I maybe made $5 on each book. It’s just one of those things that I really am proud of. I don’t say that about a lot of stuff. I mean, I make a lot of artwork and shit like that but this was like, something that I’m incredibly proud of.
You’re kind of known for your community involvement as well, with like helping out with the Banquet, and your community murals?
Yeah, Edison and Patrick Henry. When I went to the Banquet, it was right around the holidays, and that’s their busiest time of course, and they’re like, swamped. They have to turn away volunteers from the Soup Kitchen because they have too much help. Which is a good problem to have. I went down there and met the person in charge, and she’s a total sweetheart. The second I shook her hand I could tell that I wanted to work with her. You can tell right away that this is a genuine person that you’re dealing with and they’re not just putting on appearances; she lives and breathes that place. She consumes it. And it consumes her. You can tell, just by talking to her that she cares about every single person that comes in there. No one’s turned away. She was telling me that even if someone’s inebriated, they have a separate room because they don’t want them to interact too much with the children. They don’t want them to get the wrong idea and have the children be like, well we don’t want to come back here. They take everybody in; they don’t refuse anyone. And they’re strictly donations. So, for me it seemed like a no-brainer to do something with that cause. It’s one of those things-if you’ve been fortunate enough to do what you love and get paid for it, why not give something back.
Ever since doing that, I’ve been approached by a few charitable things, or fundraisers for this and that. I’ve had to say no to a couple of them. It’s not for lack of wanting to participate with them, or donate to the cause. It’s just that, some of them are so new to this burgeoning art scene, and working with artists, that they don’t really grasp the concept of being a professional and working with them.
One of the organizations that approached me, I actually approached them to begin with. I was like, “Hey I want to donate to this, give me the details.” They sent me a letter. I was like, “Ok, that’s fine, I’ll have something ready in 30 or 60 days.” My questions is always, “What happens if it doesn’t sell?” Because, if it’s an original work of art, it could be a lot of money potentially and it could be a lot of time that I’d be out. I mean, this one was looking at about thirty hours of my time that I’d be out. She responded and said that, “If it doesn’t sell, I’ll be honest with you, it’s probably going to end up in my office.” That’s not the right answer, that’s not the answer you’re supposed to give at all.
I just wanted to mention that because artists get super excited when someone approaches them and likes their work and wants to feature it for a good cause. They get overly anxious and they don’t read the fine print. I’ve made that mistake so many times in the past that now everything’s gone over with a fine toothed comb. I guess my message is, be wary. A lot of these people are just looking for free art. The cause that they’re supporting is great, but at the end of the day, you may be getting fucked. There’s no easy way to put it.
What would you like see happen for the Sioux Falls arts community in the future?
It’s getting better, but you still have to remember that this is the city that fought for months and months about which way to face the statue of David. So, at the end of the day, old people in their apartments still don’t want to see butts. It’s still that kind of a place. But it’s getting better. I think the biggest thing is people who get together and start organizations like you guys, and the Pavilion, and local media. They just need to get the word out better-I’m talking about local media, I’m not talking about you guys. Local media does a good job of covering events, but they’ve just scratched the surface. They don’t really get into it.
The thing about it is…just for an example… they did a story in the Argus Leader about when I was doing those prints for the Banquet. I was like, this is fucking great. We’re going to get so much exposure, these guys are going to love it. This is going to cover thousands of meals over the holidays, awesome. I looked at the paper, and the print version was fine. I looked online, to where 90% of my clientele is, and they didn’t even provide the link for the website, they didn’t write anything. It was so easy, and they just miffed it. They only fixed it like 10 days after the story ran. C’mon you guys, this is 101. This is very easy. We probably just missed out on, potentially, thousands of sales. It’s still a big circulation.
The Pavilion has gotten better, but I remember when I participated in their Arts Night a while back, and they sent out in the invitations to everybody to come to the auction. The invitations had the wrong date on it. This shit is so simple you guys. Who the heck is the head of marketing? You can put this all in the interview, because I want this to be common knowledge.
Here’s the thing that really gets me: you guys [The Pavilion] are approaching artists, who don’t make shit in the first place, some of us do, but even that ebbs and flows. Artists can have a good month and then the next five will be fucking terrible. Everybody’s been there. The Pavilion is asking us to basically donate our time and the money, for nothing, and you can’t even get the date right? It’s so ridiculous to me. They offer like 25% if it sells, or would you like a ticket to come and cry and watch your stuff sell? It’s painful. I’ve done it three times now, and this was the last one. It will be the last one forever. The two before, I was pumped. I got the People’s Choice award two years in a row, and I was like, fuck yeah this is cool. That was when you didn’t have any option to get a commission, you just got a ticket. I had to fight tooth and nail for a second ticket, which I never even ended up getting.
I was surprised because I thought maybe that [piece] would bring a little bit higher bid, since I had won that award, and I was like, ok this’ll be cool. It was something that normally I would’ve sold for, I think $2,000 and they started the bid-this was back when they didn’t have reserves-they started the bid out at $100. I think it ended up selling for like $250. Then they had the gall to come over and get me from the table and be like, “Shaine, this is so-and-so, they just bought your piece, would you like to meet them and shake their hand?” Fucking hardest handshake of my life.
Find Shaine’s work here: