Q+A with Artist Shadé Bell

Photography by Jeanie Stehr

We sat down with Shadé Bell and chatted about her life as an artist in Indianapolis, how she has grown, and the significance of art in society. In recent years, she has started to gain a lot of recognition in the community. Shadé’s work consists mostly of painting on canvas, but lately she’s been trying out more experimental work like painting on tables and coasters. Recently, she contributed to the Murals for Social Justice project which commissioned black artists to create murals on boards that were put up on buildings around downtown Indianapolis in the wake of the George Floyd protests.

Have you always wanted to be an artist?
It’s something I’ve always been able to do naturally. It became more than a hobby when I decided to start selling my art in 2015.

When do you feel you first started to get recognition for your work?
More recently I feel like it’s been recognized, but I didn’t see it myself. I’ve been painting since 2015 and I started getting recognized in the midst of 2016 by a few people, but recently it’s been really big, like a mass kind of feeling.

What inspires you to paint?
A little bit of everything I experience. If a customer or commission has a really good idea and it aligns with my morals, that’s what I go off of. I also go off of lucid dreams I notice that I have, and if I have the dream again I’ll paint that.

Is there any weird or quirky thing you have to do when you paint?
I’m really a neat freak, so I have to make sure all my brushes are clean and lined up. I organize them by size. I have to have a speaker for a podcast, an audiobook, or music. One of those three things has to be playing while I’m painting. For audiobooks I like self healing, creative mind or self help books. For podcasts, I’m really into The Joe Budden podcast and there’s this podcast about music called Dissect. Basically, I need background noise and things to be neat. I also like to paint on the ground.

Who do you look up to in the Indianapolis art community?
Honestly a little bit of everyone. I’ve come across so many dope individuals over the past few years, from the clothing brands, event curators and visual artists to the photographers, models, DJ’s and more. I could name 20 plus people at the moment.

What sort of advantages or challenges have you had to face as an artist?
Financially it took me a long time to get into the place I’m in now. Clocking in for a nine to five job, sometimes it takes away from the creating time. I wish I had more time to create, more time to put into the website, actually selling the prints and being an entrepreneur. My advantage is that I can make anything my heart and soul desires with my hands.

What role do you think being an artist plays in society?
Artists can be very impactful on how people think. A piece can open someone up to a new thought or idea. Times are kinda dark right now and I believe that my role as an artist is to express myself and shed light. I want to bring a little sunshine and show the brighter side of things.

How has your practice changed over time?
In the last six months I’ve become more comfortable with trying things and not having my mind set on it to look a certain way and giving my inner child permission. I’m enjoying that. I’m painting on wood. I’m painting on coasters. Traditionally, I would just do canvas painting. Now I’m painting on tables, just trying stuff, doing whatever pleases my mind at that time.

What advice would you give to young people who may want to pursue art as a career, but are a little scared?
Be mindful of your influence and set clear intentions. Also, keep in mind the influence that you’ll gain from the art, and how you’re influencing other minds as well. Be smart about how you’re presenting what you’re sharing to the world. It’s really important. I’m conscious about it, but you just gotta let things happen naturally. Make sure your intentions are right when you’re presenting it, and with that you can never lose. Sometimes it’s not always about creating for yourself, it’s about creating for the bigger picture.

Follow her on Instagram to check out her work and stay updated on commissions and other happenings in her world.

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