Local artist’s paintings show unique ‘vintage swagger’ style

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A collection of artist Ian Schultz’s paintings can be seen at the Wally Workman Gallery located on West Sixth Street. (Photo courtesy of Ian Shults)

Ian Shults has always been interested in art. As a child, his mother helped him make his own toys out of clay. As a teenager, he started creating graffiti characters under bridges after he was kicked out of his high school art class. From then on, he started to become aware of art everywhere he went.

Then, fate intervened. Stults stumbled upon a group of artists building a giant genie sculpture. He stopped in to see what was going on, showed the men some pictures of his graffiti art and eventually was given a job at Skagen Art, which later became Blue Genie Art Industries, a company known for its giant sculptures and murals found around Austin.

After eight years as lead illustrator and head sculptor at Blue Genie, Shults is now creating his own artwork and showing in galleries nationally. The series he is currently working on, “The Social Contract,” is done almost entirely in black and white with angular brush strokes, giving the pieces an eerily mysterious effect. Shults’ creative process starts with the search for new inspiration.

“Normally, I spend hours and hours online and in magazines looking through photos basically trying to find stuff that I dig and then repurposing them in Photoshop and drawing things out,” Shults said.

The characteristic style of Shults’ work can be attributed to the inspiration he finds from old magazines he purchases on eBay. The figures in his pieces look as if they were taken directly from the pages of an aged issue of Life magazine but are given the distinct flair that Shults is known for.

“There’s definitely a vintage swagger going on there,” Shults said.

Fabian Puente, an assistant to Shults who describes his job as making sure Shults does not put his paintbrush down, praises Shults’ artwork.

“His artwork, to me, is attractive and exciting,” Puente said. “The images he uses mixed with his unique style not only move you emotionally but also keep you engaged long enough that you create a story of your own for the painting.”

An assortment of Shults’ paintings can be found at the Wally Workman Gallery located on West Sixth Street. Each painting takes anywhere between a day to three weeks for Shults to complete.

“Several times, it happens that I spend a week on something and end up painting over it,” Shults said.

Shults has been successful as an artist. He has consistently sold his artwork and is getting ready for an upcoming show in San Francisco. But he notes that it is hard for artists to prosper in Austin. Though his ultimate goal is to one day become a full-time artist, Shults has to work a second job bartending at Billy’s on Burnet to get by.

“There are a ton of artists in Austin, a ton of great artists,” Shults said. “But this town is one that hasn’t been renowned for how much people buy.”

But Shults is not in a hurry to leave Austin for a more art-centric town anytime soon. He grew up in Austin and has been here his entire life. After touring the country with a band he was once a part of, Shults realized he was not interested in living anywhere else.

“I looked around for other places I could live in, but I’ve only liked other places because they reminded me of Austin,” Shults said.

It is Shults’ passion about art that shines through as he speaks, and Puente believes passion is the key to success in the world of art.

“The way I see it is if you’re passionate about something and you’re persistent, you can achieve just about anything,” Puente said.

Printed on Wednesday, September 28, 2011 as: Local artist showcases mysterious eerie pieces