Artist Shawn Belanger is a visual artist from Calgary who specializes in artist inks. Shawn lives with Autism and is largely a self-taught artist with no formal training. Though Shawn has very limited speech, his art speaks volumes about the way in which he sees the world. Shawn's drawings are full of life. His use of organic, free-flowing line shows a strong connection to the natural world, his energetic and vivacious choice of colour brings his works to life and reflects all of the detail and beauty that Shawn perceives in the world around him.
Family Shawn Belanger was born in Calgary, Alberta in 1985. He resides there with his parents, Greg and Nancy, and his brother, Kevin. His brother Michael, his sister-in-law Tanya, niece Brooklyn and nephew Colton live nearby. Shawn's outlook on life and infectious smile have been an inspiration to many others.
A Mind for Detail Nancy Belanger had no idea that her son Shawn, diagnosed with Autism at age 5, had a talent for art when he first began to draw. As a 6 year old, Shawn's artwork was unremarkable and did not display any unusual talent. Still, Nancy knew how much he loved to draw, and she was committed to encouraging him in every possible way while she had no idea that it would later become his career. By the time he was 7 or 8, Shawn would find a picture book and put it beside him on the table to look at as he drew. At first he did not like the images he created; he was having trouble holding the pencil and decided that he and his mother should draw hand-over-hand, with her holding the pencil, and he controlling the actions. Eventually he began to draw on his own. Shawn especially loved Disney books. He would sit and draw pictures for hours on end. He became very good at drawing every detail. Eventually he started to design his own characters made up of parts of the characters from the Disney books. He named them letters of the alphabet. Each character was a slight variation of the other.
Discouragement Therapist reports from elementary school stated "Shawn would never have functional use of a pencil." As Shawn entered junior high, his mother started to notice his drawings were becoming much more complex and detailed, and he seemed to take solace in his drawing, spending hours each day at his desk. His parents tried unsuccessfully to have Shawn integrated into art classes in junior high but the teacher refused to allow it, stating she felt Shawn couldn't follow the curriculum and she couldn't modify it to meet his needs. Shawn's family then asked that she just allow Shawn to sit in on the class and see what he could do but it was a no go. She felt Shawn might be disruptive and it would cause trouble in the classroom. It wasn't until senior high that Shawn first attended an art class. His art teacher showed him books of famous artists, and Shawn began to draw with pencil and color with pencil crayons. He did the Mona Lisa, the Pieta, a nude, Van Gogh's The Bedroom, and several other pictures. They were amazing. For the first time Shawn became willing to share his artwork with others and accept the praise that was directed his way.
An Artist Emerges After High School, he began attending an adult day program for people with disabilities. There was an artist on staff. His mentor artist introduced him to the sharpie pen and artist inks, and Shawn's art really started to come alive. A year after beginning his adult day program, Shawn was asked to display his art in a local art show. His parents were not too sure how Shawn would handle it, but he surprised everyone. Shawn has very little speech, and usually does not like to draw attention to himself. At the show, it was very obvious that Shawn was listening to people's comments about his work, and he was clearly proud.
International Accolades Since that time Shawn's art has been displayed in art shows all over the world. He has been the feature artist in two books, "Drawing Autism" by Jill Mullin, and "Artism - The Art of Autism" by Debbie Hosseini. Shawn's art is sought by collectors far and wide, and he now produces commissioned works of art full-time. Not bad for someone who was deemed "incapable of handling the tools of an art student".
Shawn was one of the featured artists in the C-NA Gallery in Beijing for The Autism Awareness Festival In April/May 2012. Curriculum Vitae
Awards 2011 Calgary Autism Community Award, Outstanding Achievement in the Arts, September 2009 Best of Show Award, Traditional Art Category, Balancing Acts 9 Disability Arts Festival
2015 Spark Disability Festival, Visual Arts Exhibition(s) Calgary AB 2014 Gallery Representation (18 months) Agora Contemporary Art Gallery Chelsea, New York 2014 Figurative Realms Exhibit, Agora Gallery Chelsea, New York 2014 Spark Disability Festival, Visual Arts Exhibition(s) Calgary AB 2013 Artember, City wide celebration of the Arts two-day Trade show - Airdrie AB 2013 Spark Disability Festival, Visual Arts Exhibition(s) Calgary AB 2013 Artist on Display at City Hall in Airdrie for 3 months, 15 prints on Display 2012 Autism Awareness Exhibit - April 2 - May 2, C-NA Gallery Beijing China 2012 Spark Disability Festival, Visual Arts Exhibition(s) 2012 Balancing Acts 10, Calgary's Annual Disability Arts Festival, Visual Arts Exhibitions(s) 2011 Glenwood Arts, New York - April 2 - " The Awe in Autism- a spectrum of creativity" 2011 The Great Neck Arts Centre, Long Island, New York - April 10 - " The Awe in Autism - a spectrum of creativity" 2011 CORE 7 Defining Ourselves, Nov 19, Santa Monica Art Studios, Santa Monica CA 2011 Spark! 2011 Disability Art Festival, Nov 28- Dec 3, Indefinite Arts Studio C Gallery 2011 Emerging Artism VI - Dec 8, The Plaza Theatre Calgary 2010 Spark Disability Art Festival, Visual Art Exhibition(s) - " The Nature of Things" in the In-Definite Arts Gallery - " The Mind's Eye" at Studio C 2009 Balancing Acts 9, Calgary's Annual Disability Arts Festival, Visual Arts Exhibitions(s): - " Passions" at Art Central - "Community" At the Art Gallery of Calgary 2008 Balancing Acts 8, Calgary's Annual Disability Arts Festival, Visual Arts Exhibition(s): - "Distinct Impression" at the Art Gallery of Calgary 2007 Balancing Acts 7, Calgary's Annual Disability Arts Festival, Visual Arts Exhibition(s): - "Silence & Noise" at Art Central - " Being Scene" at the Epcor Centre for the Performing Arts (Big Secret Theatre) - "Creative Alliances" at Calgary City Hall 2006 "At First Glance", Southwest Communities Resource Centre, Calgary AB 2006 Balancing Acts 6, Visual Arts Exhibition: "Emerging Autism" at the Autism Asperger's Friendship Society's Fine Arts Gallery, Calgary AB 2005 St. Francis High School, Calgary AB
2016 42 Maple Contemporary Art Center, "Unspoken Words", April 1 - May 2, Bethlehem, New Hampshire 2016 "International Fine Art Cannes Biennale" May 18-20, (during the cannes film festival) Cannes, France 2015 PAKS Gallery, "International modern artists today" Exhibition, March 27- April 17, Mauerkirchen, Austria 2015 Contemporary Art Fair "Art Shopping" June 13-14, Carrousel du Louvre, Paris 2015 "Modern Art Masters- Art visions of the 21st Century" Montreux 2015 November 4-8 Montreux, Switzerland 2014 Figurative Realms Exhibit - June 10 - July 1, Agora Gallery Chelsea, New York 2012 Autism Awareness Exhibit - April 2-May 2, C-NA Gallery Beijing China
2011 Shawn Belanger "The Way I See It" Indefinite Arts Gallery, Feb 7-12, Calgary AB
Telus Optiks "People we Love" December 2014 (See Links Page)
Hosseini, Debbie. "Artism - The Art of Autism - Shattering Myths about people living on the spectrum" Seattle Washington, Autism Today Publisher 2011.
Mullin, Jill. " Drawing Autism". New York, NY: Mark Batty Publisher, 2009.