Jack Shure – The Tale of a Highway Boy

by Rubén Palma
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Jack Shure (b. 1988), is an artist living and working in Boulder, Colorado.

He has been featured in exhibitions internationally with solo exhibitions at Marian Cramer in Amsterdam and group shows from coast to coast such as GR Gallery New York City and Thinkspace Los Angeles. He received his training from The Visionary Academy of Art in Europe and volunteered to teach painting to the youth in New Mexico at the Taos County Jail.

‘‘My work is a distilled reflection of the of the significant moments, lessons and inspirations of my life. Pulling imagery from both my childhood, currently and perhaps the future simultaneously. I want my pictures to tell a story that is not an obvious one, but one that takes a moment of contemplation and discovery while pushing boundaries of ugliness and beauty. It invites the observer to recognize that one cannot exist without the other. To me beauty is a choice by way of transmutation thus, only existing through perception. Because of this my work is organic in a way that it is constantly evolving and transforming itself.’’

– Jack Shure

Hi Jack. Thank you for sitting down with me. First question! How does a regular day in Boulder, Colorado look like for you?

Of course, thank you for having me.I wake up, immediately pick up a pen, and start writing in my journal. I write down ten things I’m grateful for and what my intention is for the day.I have found that this practice is really important to me. Then I usually cook my wife and daughter breakfast and hang out with them for a while before I go down in the studio. I usually try to paint for at least six hours at minimum. If it’s nice outside we will go out as a family and ride bikes, hike or go to the skate park for a few hours at some point in the day. We live in the mountains outside of Boulder, CO and I would definitely call ourselves recluses. But we have close friends who like to stop in, hang and soak up the serenity before going back to town. We all go to bed pretty early, my 1.5 year old daughter likes to wake up at the ass crack of dawn.

I know you grew up in Colorado. I’m curious, what kind of kid were you? What did you enjoy doing and how did you spend your time?

I would describe my kid self as a misfit of sorts, wasn’t really into anything that most kids were into. We lived fairly deep in the mountains and I spent a lot of time being in nature alone. I would ride my bike a few miles down my dirt road and cut off into the woods and spend the entire day playing in the trees, climbing rocks, throwing rocks, and swimming in random swim holes. My dad is really into building bikes and motorcycles as a hobby so naturally, I picked that up. I had a fuck ton of energy and luckily my dad saw that I could put that energy into racing BMX. That probably kept me out of a lot of shit. When I got a little older I wrote graffiti, skateboarded, and caused trouble. I was blessed to stumble upon my own group od  misfits as a teen called Dead Heads and without their support, I would not be where I am today. These no-rules-free spirits gave me fuel to make art and travel the USA. I will forever be grateful for them.

I’m going to ask you like I asked Drew Englander this same question. He was also heavily into skating. The question goes: I recently interviewed Erik Foss, Fred Smith, Chris Regner as well as another gentleman to which I can’t reveal yet. Who also mention that they were heavy into skateboarding. I think that’s pretty crazy and it makes me curious. What do you think it is about skater kids that makes them turn into incredible artists?

Maybe because it primes us to be outsiders. When I was a kid it was not a popular thing to do and maybe it makes us more comfortable being different. Also there is a creative component, it’s almost like art the way you express yourself and pick tricks and your style.

So you received your training at the Academy Of Visionary Art in Torri Superiore in Italy. Talk to me a little bit about that experience.

It was amazing, and really open my eyes to what living in a creative community could be like. I made some really cool connections and a lot of them I maintain to this day. What I learned i carried me for many years. I think I am about due for another full submerge again.  

While we’re on the subject. How did you end up studying abroad? And how is Torri Superiore, Italy compared to Boulder, Colorado. Any noticeable differences?

A painter friend of mine shared the program on his Facebook and I immediately signed up. This was my first time doing anything like that but I just felt very called to the experience. There were students from all over the globe and as much as I was seeking a worldly painting experience in Boulder Co I was not getting it. So, for me at the time it was everything. It was mind-opening and as an artist, I crave that.

I read somewhere that you started drawing as a young child and that you started oil painting about 11 years ago, correct? But when did start thinking you wanted to become an artist, and when did you start taking painting seriously?

Yeah I’ve been painting for about 11 years, I remember wanting to be an artist for as long as I can remember. I think it’s always been in the back of my mind. Before I was a painter I was still an artist for a career, doing illustration and drawing.  I recognized myself as creative so young and loudly because of my Waldorf schooling. Waldorf education focused greatly on incorporating art into daily note-taking, so I am a school-age kid getting to draw my notes out for class instead of writing them. That probably helped me stay in school as long as I did. Things got serious though about 11 years ago. Literally, I  knew after that first painting  I was put on earth to tell my truth through oil paints. There was no other path. I’ve been serious this whole entire time. I have devoted my entire life to oil painting. I just spent all of my money building a gigantic art studio in my backyard to make badass paintings next to my wife and daughter. We are going to be painting until we die.  

Quick question. What or who, were your early influences?

Frank Zappa, skate culture, psychedelics, punk rock, and as far as visual artists Matty Klarwien Rick Griffin and maybe Mobius. Going on tour with Grateful Dead.

Going on tour with Grateful Dead. You gotta tell me more about that. How did that happen?

I grew up in a town where a lot of people were into the dead. Jerry died when I was young and I remember the day, I remember people crying in the streets. In high school, some friends took me on a road trip to a show in Golden Gate Park. I really had no idea what I was in for. Once I arrived I was imminently hooked. it’s funny to think how long The Grateful Dead community has been a part of my life. It’s how I have met most of my closest friends through being there and hustling my art. 

Ok let’s talk about your paintings now. Your surreal collage-style paintings, laced with nostalgic imagery. How did you come up with that style, and how long has it taken you to perfect it? 

I think I just stumbled upon it by chance. I’m not sure if I can say I’ve perfected anything about it. My style changes often and that is one thing I have been trying to hone in on. Saying one thing at a time rather than all at once.  I think I wanted to say so much at once and that’s what the work turned out like. The images had a mind of their own.  But now I am on to the next thing and those previous paintings are merely remnants of the next story I’m telling. I just get bored so easily, I have to see growth in my strokes or it’s not worth it to me. I am about to take a massive leap and dive right into my largest and most complex paintings yet. ( a series of 20) I will be starting those in a few weeks when my new studio is ready. 

Can you tell me a little bit about that series of 20 paintings. What’s the story there and what’s your vision?

This new series is more about myth and building a story rather than being about MY story. Something that could be universally understood rather than so specific to me.  I was discouraged by certain areas/people of the art world in the last year and this is me returning to the love that brought me to art in the first place. For a second I forgot I was fucking punk rock.

Lobsters are a recurring thing in your paintings. What’s the story there?

As humans we worship idols either pop or religious. Orient ourselves, live around their doctrines, and praise the sacrifices we are told were made for us. Yet we do not know them personally. In some cases, there is no way to even see them. All the while we eat enormous portions of animal products missing the fact that each one of these animals had a soul. A soul that was sacrificed to feed us. So for me, the lobster is a symbolic representation of the animals dying daily to feed us. Giving them some honor for their sacrifices and maybe even holding them in religious regard, for simply keeping us alive.

So when you’re starring at a brand new blanc canvas. Do you already have a vision of what you’re going to paint? Or do you simply start painting and go with the flow

Currently, It really depends on my mood I would say it’s probably a mix of both. Even if I have a plan these days things are always subject to change. 

While we’re on the subject. You’ve previously said that “my work is a distilled reflection of the of the significant moments, lessons and inspirations of my life. Pulling imagery from both my childhood, currently and perhaps the future simultaneously.” Why is it important for you to document those topics? 

Because I feel that it is important to pay homage to the things that have shaped me. 

Continuing on the subject. You’ve previously stated that you want your paintings to push the boundaries between ugliness and beauty. What do you mean by that exactly?

It means I am looking to express the truth that I believe they are the same, but different degrees on the spectrum. Culture and society are so focused on things that are beautiful by program rather than God’s design. 

Cartoons are a recurring thing in your paintings. What is it about cartoons that resonates so well with you?

Something about the hard lines and solid spot colors gives an interesting juxtaposition against my soft painterly strokes. Like most young children comics were my first exposure to art, and I resonated with it. It was easy for me to draw up cartoon characters and get lost in drawings. which gave me an escape from my sometimes traumatic childhood.

In what way was it sometimes traumatic?

I was abused by a “family friend” as a young child. I didn’t have the support or tools I needed. Art became my outlet. It usually weirds people out when I am so honest about this but I feel like it needs to be spoken. I would tell a stranger if I thought it would help them.

I appreciate and respect your honesty bro… Ok moving on to some more lighthearted questions. Talk to me a little bit about your creative process, from start to end result, and what you hope to convey.

I start with a feeling or an idea. I build off of that using drawings, collage compositions, and photo references. The simplest way to put it is, I hope to convey something that makes you question the line between spirit and matter and our connection to the unseen world.  

You’ve got a sick color-palette. Can you talk about your approach to color?  

Most of it is intuitive. I am inspired by the fantastic realism movement and artists like Ernst Fuchs. These guys were really pushing the boundaries of color in my opinion. Something about the electric tones left a significant impact on the way I see colors and how they interact with each other. 

You became a father about a year ago. Has that affected your creativity in any way?

It makes my time in the studio much more valuable. I am not going to lie its really hard to get a full day of painting in. I have to provide for my family so in some ways painting has become more important than it ever was. We can tell Edah, my daughter is really into art all ready. She loves being in the studio with us. When she’s old enough she will be painting with us, if she wants of course.

How would you describe a perfect day?

High vibes people around, healthy organic food on the table, and a painting I’m excited about on the easel. Im a simple guy when it comes down to it. oh and some grateful dead music playing. 

What song are you listening to the most right now?

Frank Zappa black napkins and Rattlesnake Milk- Only A Child. Im the type that will play a song 27,000 times in a row if I like it. Luckily so is my wife.What”s your favorite movie(s) and why?Probably The Holy Mountain, it’s a  surrealistic masterpiece and its surprisingly funny. I enjoy harmony korine and Safdie brothers films too. 

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