A self-described workaholic, Shawn Barber seems hell bent on making up for time lost during his late teens and early twenties — a restless period in which he neglected his penchant for art while switching between a handful of  mundane odd day jobs. Approaching the pursuit of his art career with fiery determination, Barber relocated from his native Cortland, New York to attend the Ringling School of Art & Design in Florida. Now, fully invested in the concept of developing his raw artistic talent, Barber fully embraced the experience. Shawn Barber’s paintings juxtapose reality with that of sublime imagination. Executed with the same intensity and meticulous detail, it is a distinct contrast from that of his dark and cerebral personal pieces. Commissioned by a diverse roster of clients, ranging from illustrations for magazines like The Progressive and Complex to paintings for Elektra Records and even site specific pieces for the Grammy Awards, the scope of Barber’s work is striking and stylistically rich.Though Barber leaves the audience to deduce its own conclusions, his vivid brush strokes, whether drenched in crimson hues or stark monochromatic tones, evoke a strong emotional response. Barber chooses to use baby dolls to populate the visual landscape of each piece — effectively capturing distinct and haunting portraits of American society. And while Barber himself manifests these visual concepts, he is aware of his responsibility to a wide audience. These possibilities are still what fuel Barber’s ambition. Shawn took some time out to talk to The405 about his work. Check it out! Why do you think you became an artist? Do you recall any specific events that triggered you? I couldn't imagine wasting anymore time doing someone else's chores. Your illustration style and your regular painting style to be quite different, what changes do you have to make in your style in order to paint a successful illustration (as opposed to the more "fine art" style, so to speak)? My paintings are completely different than what I do commercially. The paintings are much larger- avg 5 ft.- and they become finished works through the process. They are much more ABOUT process and the experience of painting, where as the illustrations are direct, interpretations of my sketches. It's a different mindset for me. I have no time restrictions or obligations to anyone but myself and my own aesthetic when I paint these large works. I don't show them in galleries and i basically make them because I want to, and i have to. It's a way for me to release myself, my stress, my thoughts, my past, my fears - everything is dealt with when I paint. Time does not matter and has no bearing on these works. I make them for me and others seem to enjoy them- but i make them because I want to express myself through this medium. If I was a singer or songwriter I would be in a band, but I'm not. I'm a painter. The illustrations are a lot of fun for me and they offer different challenges. They are fairly quick and because of that I don't get too emotionally attached to them. They allow me the opportunity to paint every day and I have the freedom of time when I don't have an assignment. I have seen several of your paintings with baby doll heads, care to elaborate? The dolls- I've had fun with them as icons for content- teaching younger people and high school kids has influenced much of that work. Being an American in a country full of clueless droids has also influenced this work tremendously. Much of the work I do is reactionary, visual commentary. When did you start getting tattooed, and what does it mean to you to be inked up? I got my first tattoo when I was 16, a horrible image of spiderman on my upper thigh, and a couple of others in my early twenties... I became seriously interested in the art form in my late twenties, after I started learning about art history and art in general- that's when I went to a half sleeve and then a couple of years ago we started a full sleeve on the other arm that is about 60% complete... with these, as stated before- I gave Bryan the opportunity to go off- and his excitement through this process has produced some of his best works... I'm a fairly sarcastic guy, once you get to know me- I'm like a little kid- I like that fact that what I have in my skin might be offensive to someone who doesn't appreciate art, and it's also interesting to see how people assume you are something other than who you really are- based off first appearances. What did you learn in the business that you couldn't have learned at school? Dealing with a variety of personalities. Understanding the trust that an art director is placing in your hands by commissioning you to create something for a specific purpose. dealing with paperwork, fedex, faxes, keeping records and receipts for EVERYTHING, taxes and saving money for taxes. understanding and committing to promotion and obsessing over getting your work exposed in as many venues as possible, regardless the size and interest of the audience. deadlines are much tighter in reality. for me the average has been a sketch in two days, a final three days after that- scanned and ready to deliver with invoice and other appropriate materials (such as post cards, leave behinds, thank you letters, etc.) it truly is a "learn as you go" kind of business. Was there anything that wasn't covered in school that you wish had been? They should emphasize more of the business aspect of the arts. We aren't fully prepared as businessmen/women. U would also state to emphasize the value of one's art and to not GIVE your work away. art is business, whether you like it or not- you have to deal with it and accept it as a reality- unless you're a sunday painter/dabbler that never shows anyone your work. Also to reinforce the reality that you are in control of your future. The teachers and schools are only guides to assist you in the progress of your work, the student has to take control of their own situation and WORK to get exactly what they want. There are no excuses, the harder you work the further you will get. Sincerity and integrity are essential qualities for any student who wishes to truly control their future... mommy and daddy can only hold your hand for so long. What is the average amount of time that you spend on a piece? Anywhere from 3 hours to a few months.For commercial work, I don’t have the luxury of overanalyzing and nit-picking a piece to death. For the acrylic paintings that I do- I’ll spend a few hours searching, gathering, shooting reference; 1-2 hours downloading, scanning, composing and creating a rough sketch: then anywhere from 2 – 40 hours painting the thing. The time spent depends on the number of figures, the complexity of the composition and the amount of detail involved. On average, about 6/8 hours. For my personal paintings, the process is always changing/evolving and it really depends on my intent and HOW excited I am about making the work. I usually start a painting, and attack it for maybe 2 or 3 hours, then I’ll spend a few weeks slowing down, picking at it- an hour here, two hours there, five another day- it really depends on how busy I am with commercial works and teaching takes up some time and energy, as well. What kind of music inspires you while you work? fast, heavy, a driving beat with grundgy chords- shellac, fugazi, slayer, death from above 1979, prong, pigface, refused, acldc, shank 456, exodus, helmet, rye coalition... Is there any kind of underlying theme to your art, or a message you’re trying to convey? I work in series'... It depends on what my obsession is at that time in my life... I am always responding and documenting that obsession How have you seen the art industry change during the time you’ve been involved with it? Oh yes. everybody wants you to work faster- art directors have given the editors and higher ups more content control and the people who know aesthetics are left recycling the same ideas and simplifying their creative efforts into products that lose any form of integrity or uniqueness. it's very frustrating and actually quite sad and unfortunately, expected. Be sure to check out more of Shawn's work by visiting his Official Website here - Aaron Hunt