Shad Chancey has been drawing since he was old enough to hold a pencil. He began college in Dallas, Texas as a Fine Art major, but later switched to Communication Design at Southwest Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas. This was prompted after a discussion with the late Cartoonist Bill “Tex” Henson in 1993.
Tex saw something in one of Shad’s ink illustrations that made him say: “Son, I think you’d be a wonderful Graphic Designer!” Shad took his advice, and after college entered the world of Graphic Design and Photography. Shad has been working professionally as a lead Designer since 2000. He never lost his passion for fine arts. In 2007 Shad hosted several local art shows in Austin, Texas called the Aether Project. In 2017 he hosted the Oasis Project Art Show.
He is currently the Senior Graphic Designer at Applied Research Laboratories at the University of Texas in Austin. He also works as a Designer for actor Rob Lowe’s new Profile/Cobalt skincare line. When he’s not busy “Adulting,” Shad still loves breaking out the pencils, paints, and pastels and going back to his roots as a fine artist.
How long have you been creating art? Was there a defining moment that you realized a creative life was the path for you?
Shad: As an only child I started drawing at a very young age to keep myself entertained. To squeeze in a little more sleep in the mornings, my Mom would ask me to draw things such as a Zoo, or a Circus to keep me occupied longer than just say a… Goat. Well played Mom. 😉 I grew up in a creative household with my Dad always creating various woodworking projects, and elaborate stained glass pieces. I realized I wanted to pursue art as a career in High School. Originally, I didn’t know what that looked like and enrolled in Brookhaven Community College as a fine art major. The following Spring they had Cartoonist Bill “Tex” Henson come to give a lecture on the world of animation. I happened to spot Tex sitting in a classroom by himself before the lecture, and went in and struck up a conversation with him. He gladly agreed to take a look at some of my illustrations I had with me. He took notice of one particular piece I did of a futuristic golf ball and tee floating in outer space. He asked if I had ever considered graphic design which I hadn’t thought of before then. That chance encounter with Tex changed the course of my life, and I’m forever grateful. You can never predict who will become the guiding light at your fork in the road. Tex was Jim Henson’s uncle and began his career at Disney developing the chipmunk duo “Chip n’ Dale.” He later went to Famous Studios animating Casper the Friendly Ghost, Popeye, & The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show.
How would you describe your artwork?
Shad: My graphic design career is different than my personal artwork. Sometimes as a graphic designer you can feel like an “artist-in-a-box”, and are expected to come up with creative solutions to advertising on the fly. I do enjoy the challenge and have a true passion for the chaotic world of graphic design. But I find solace and refuge in the precious time I have to create my own personal artwork. It has definitely changed directions countless times throughout my life. At one point in time after an art show, I was written up in the Austin American Statesman as a “Dark Artist.” I guess my subject matter at that time was rather macabre. However, in recent years, my artwork has become more spiritual. I became sober in 2016, and the veil of darkness lifted from my life. Things became more clear when I allowed love and happiness to fill my spirit instead of alcohol. Today I’m a much happier person “High on Life” and believe that is now reflected in my current artwork.
Would life be different if you didn’t act on your creativity? How?
Shad: I can’t imagine a life without acting on creativity. As a new father to a beautiful baby girl, I have a newfound zeal for life. I see the beauty in all the things I once took for granted. My daughter motivates me to create new art, and better myself as a person in general. Today I can’t even walk past a flower without wanting to see her expression as she gazes upon it. I want to pass on my artistic knowledge and skills to her so that she can create her own world of color and beauty. I would envision a world not acting on creativity is merely a dull shade of gray.
Where do you “find” your ideas?
Shad: I think the majority of my ideas are spontaneous. Often times I get inspired by seeing what other artists are doing. I enjoy going to art museums to admire other’s work. When I can’t think of something to draw, I will just make random squiggles all over a canvas and then find the shapes and go from there. This is how I created the piece “Dream Chaser.” It’s a very fun way to create art, and it’s impossible to predict the outcome. I also enjoy developing a theme first and creating artwork based on whatever that might be.
What challenges have you faced in your creative work?
Shad: Time and motivation. As a graphic designer I spend all day working on developing solutions to convey my clients brand in a new innovative, creative light. So at the end of the day, it’s tough to gather the brain juice to create my own personal manifestations. But as stated before, sometimes it’s just spontaneous and there’s no stopping the creative flow. Often times the hardest part is just putting that first color on the canvas. Once that’s established I’m usually in the flow. The most intimidating thing is a blank canvas.
Does bad news in the outside world ever affect your creative process or output?
Shad: This really just depends on what the situation might entail. A Global pandemic can really throw a wrench in the creative process. At the same time, creativity is what makes me personally feel normal, so I find myself leaning into various creative outlets to ease anxiety.
What has been your most favorite project so far, and why?
Shad: I’d have to say drawing Alan-a-Dale (the Rooster from Disney’s Robin Hood) for my daughter this past Christmas. It’s the first piece of artwork I’ve created for her and it’s really special. I’ve been playing her the song “Oo-de-lally Golly What A Day” since she was an infant. Her face just lights up when she hears it! The piece was completed using prisma markers and rapidograph pens. It’s now framed and hanging in her room. The illustration was more challenging and rewarding than I expected. Sometimes things that look so simple to draw are way more tricky than you think! Like those old ads on matchbooks and in comic books that challenged you to draw that pirate and turtle. 🙂
What’s happening now at your studio? What new projects are on the horizon?
Shad: Right now my in-house graphic design studio is undergoing a long-overdue new Mac upgrade. The organization is VERY important for me to get the creative juices flowing. I like a tidy computer workspace when designing. My garage studio where I draw and paint is a bit more disheveled. I don’t need to be as neat and rigid in that space. To continue with my spiritual theme I am looking to create my depiction of Jesus Christ. Not a crucifixion scenario, but rather what I imagine him looking like as he traveled spreading the ministry from Galilee to Judea, Perea and Samaria. A courageous man with dirt and sweat on his brow, tattered clothes, undaunted to deliver the word of God. I envision his eyes filled with determination, compassion, and kindness. One theory is that the original portrayal of Christ was depicted as non-European, and Pope Alexander VI commissioned new paintings of Jesus using his illegitimate son Cesare Borgia as their model. So my question is what would a Palestinian man living in Galilee in the first century really look like? That’s my next piece of art.
Do you have any words of advice for new artists?
Shad: Be true to yourself and never be intimidated by other talents. You are unique and special and there is no one else who is YOU. Practice your craft. Immerse yourself in the arts. Don’t take criticism personally. I had an extremely hard Design instructor at Southwest Texas State University named David Shields. He was intense and critical. He did not sugar coat anything. He even threw student’s pieces on the floor. (including mine a couple of times) I felt like I could never please him. I would curse him under my breath at times. I didn’t understand it then, but David was preparing us for the highly opinionated, critical world of graphic design. Thick skin is important in this industry. I am very thankful for David Shields hard nose approach to teaching. He’s hands down the best Design instructor I had. Be open to constructive criticism and don’t take it personally.
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