Artists Work :: Ernest Shaw

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The Magic that is Indigo

An Interview with Ernest Shaw by Rebecca Juliette

Artists Work is a BmoreArt interview series that explores the work that artists do to make a living while they work on their ‘real work’ – their art.

Artist Ernest Shaw, Jr. was born and has lived most of his life in Baltimore, Maryland. Shaw comes from a family of visual and performing artists. As a youngster growing up in West Baltimore, there was never an absence of influence or inspiration. Mr. Shaw appreciates the support and encouragement of his parents, especially recognizing the fact that it is not easy to raise a child artist. Shaw’s work defines the duality of the African American experience. The artwork exhibits this dichotomy through an array of media and concepts. The most prevalent aspect in the artist’s work is his use and understanding of color and the figure. The figure in his work is a continuation of a rich history of African and African American figurative art. His use of color demonstrates a deep understanding of rhythm taught to him by several West African drum instructors.

Ernest is a product of Baltimore City Schools. He is a graduate of the Baltimore School for the Arts. He obtained his Bachelors Degree in Art from Morgan State University and his graduate degree from Howard University in Washington, DC. Shaw is now a teacher in Baltimore City and an adjunct professor at Coppin State University.


Name: Ernest Shaw
Age: 46

Description of Art You Make:
Much of my work is figurative. I tend to combine different media to achieve a desired affect/effect. Some consider me a portrait artist. My portraits are meant to convey the soul, as much as one’s likeness.

© David Muse – Mural Penn & North Ave

Day Job: Artist Educator with Baltimore City Public Schools

Hours per week at work: 37 hours per week.

Hours per week in studio: 20 hours per week in the studio

Duties or tasks performed at day job:
Assisting students in navigating this thing we call life. I am an Artist Educator.

Best thing about your day job:
Interacting with the human element. Assisting and watching young people grow and discover themselves.

How does your day job enhance or detract from your studio practice?
Day job is time consuming however, the daily interactions/experiences feed my creative process as well as pay the rent. LOL! When the bills are paid, it is easier to focus on matters related to painting/creating.


Favorite job ever:
Being a parent. Very blessed to have had the opportunity to get to know two wonderful spirits, Asya Melan Shaw and Taj Amir Shaw.

Job you couldn’t wait to leave:
Honestly, I am grateful for all the employment opportunities I’ve had and have currently. Having said that, a job that doesn’t honor everyone’s humanity is not a job for me. When working in spaces that are not respectful of all, I tend to find the exit after a short period of time.

Is it your goal to become a full-time artist? Why or why not?
I am already a full time artist. The creative process is always active. Even during the sleep state the creative process is at work. In addition to that, I would be dishonest if I didn’t say I would enjoy basking in the glory of a full time studio life.

What advice do you have for young artists just out of school, in terms of balancing your work and studio practice?
Never compromise your integrity for a dollar, be it on your day job or in the studio.

What’s coming up next for you as an artist? What projects are you working on or looking forward to?
Art@Work this summer with Jubilee and BOPA. There are tentative plans in the works to paint a mural in Newark, NJ. I’ve been methodically working on a series of pieces that deal with, predominantly, women of color, and trauma.

Nana copy Nana

JH copyHaze (2012)

JimmiBJimmi B

JB (2015)

Artist Statement:

Being a native of West Baltimore, Edmondson Village to be exact, I can say that my experiences have fueled my passion and creative process for image making. The images I’ve created are a reflection of my upbringing and education. I attempt to create work that combats negative, degrading, denigrating, and stereotypical images that falsely depict African people throughout the diaspora. My mission and purpose is to illustrate the beauty of being an African in America while maintaining truthfulness and authenticity in the process. I wish to raise the level of consciousness of peoples of color, while providing others with a more full scope of the Black experience.

I’ve painted several murals mostly throughout the city of Baltimore. My subject matter is a reflection of the members of those communities. I strive to produce culturally relevant and culturally responsive art. Art is for the people. Art is not art, until it is viewed and deemed so by an audience. My desire is to continue to create meaningful art that can leave a lasting impact on Baltimore’s community and the world.

BmoreArt is Rebecca Juliette’s day job.  She facilitiates the Artists Work Interview Series and acts as Assistant Editor and Events Manager.  Email her your events and calls for entry at events [at]

Biography, statement, and all images courtesy of the artist.

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