Alum’s Art Brings Fictional Characters to Life


Nichole Mayer/San Jacinto Times

‘Puzzle Works’ was a featured piece in Shawn Swanner’s Fan Art exhibition on display in the Central Campus art gallery until Nov. 2.

Superheroes and other fictional characters from video games and comics made their way to the San Jacinto College Central Campus art gallery for a drawing exhibition titled Fan Art that closed Nov. 2. Former San Jac student and featured artist, Shawn Swanner, made an appearance at the closing reception where the public had the opportunity to meet him and ask questions.

Swanner said he favored superheroes and fantasy for as long as he can remember.

“I have grown up loving both Marvel and DC comics and everything in between,” he said. “There is something about science fiction that resonates deep within my consciousness and sub-consciousness.” 

The colorful works largely stem from Swanner’s creativity, even the character art specifically requested by his customers, that the artist aims to develop into pieces that “stand independently from tradition.”

“Although a few of the ideas, like the G.I. Joe action figure piece, came from the client, my inspiration to create these particular pieces came from my overactive imagination and vast, but varying, knowledge of comics and film,” he said.

Although a seasoned artist, Swanner said he still finds the work challenging at times.

He mentioned a problem he encountered with a piece featuring actor Christopher Walken. The piece, titled “The Walken Dead,” is based on the television show and graphic comic series The Walking Dead. Ripped holes appear in the art that seem to tie in effortlessly with the theme of tattered zombies. But the artist tells a different story.

“A drop of water landed on the paper unnoticed, and later on, while erasing that area, the top layer of paper came off and left a very noticeable crater. As I attempted to hide it, it worsened and became a hole,” Swanner said.

However, he stated, this was a mishap he used to his advantage that enhanced the resulting art piece.  

“I came upon the idea to utilize the hole. And if I hadn’t said it, no one would ever know in the final product,” Swanner said. “I find my imagination is my most powerful weapon against adversity.”

While drawing, Shawn has experimented with all types of styles to get the most out of his creations, including using wax and a Sharpie. He also experimented with the absence of space. The exhibition’s featured piece, “Puzzle Works,” illustrates a cluster of video game characters including Pac Man and Donkey Kong placed together without regard to boundaries. The title is a nod to his signature style. 

“’Puzzlework’ is a concept I created that is a process of depicting multiple images of a specific theme or property connected with no space in between them,” Swanner said. “This idea is influenced by the reality that there is no actual empty space in physical reality.”

Meanwhile, Gallery Assistant Yazmin Zuniga said she observed several aspiring artists visiting the exhibition during its run.

“I notice that students find it interesting and even encounter the artwork as a challenge; which encourages them to take an art class here in the community college,” Zuniga said.

Although seeing other artists’ work may leave novices discouraged, Swanner encourages them to shake off any doubt they have about their own work.

“I get discouraged too,” he said. “Ultimately, you’re not doing it for someone else, or to be as good as someone else; you’re expressing yourself. Their work won’t ever look like yours, and nothing can be as unique as yours.”