When Shawn Palek moved to Iowa in 1986, he brought more with him than just his household belongings. He brought his love and talent for producing magnificent artwork as well.
Palek, who now lives and Slater, came to Iowa from Ohio. He lived in Des Moines and then moved to Slater in 1993. He and his wife Misty are both well known in the art world.
Palek said that in his case, his talent wasn’t something that was natural to him.
“I took art classes in school and I felt that I was just OK at it, not a natural like many people are,” he said. “I went off to college and studied criminal justice. I decided to take a fundamental art course and learned how to use an airbrush to paint with. It was then that I learned how to do what I do best.”
He admits that he loved the art classes more than the criminal justice classes, even though the art was a bit of a struggle for him. And looking at his art, it’s hard to believe that at first it was difficult.
“My instructors even told me that I wasn’t great at what I did in class, but thought that I had potential if I kept working hard,” Palek said. “I guess my hard work paid off; I now teach at Des Moines Area Community College. Even though artist who create their art with an airbrush are looked down upon, 23 years later I am still teaching.”
Taking things outside the box is what Palek likes to do best. In his illustrations, it is easy to see how he takes a shape and makes it into a picture. Among many of his creations, a favorite one is the “Authors on Literature Series,” where he has painted the author’s portraits on the cover of books.
“I first did this series to be displayed in our public libraries,” he tells. “I now have 50 that can go on a tour and be displayed in libraries. Some of my favorites are Mark Twain, Ernest Hemingway and Edgar Allan Poe. They have been on display at the Slater Public Library and the State Library in Des Moines.”
Palek paints on just about anything imaginable.
“I found some really neat old film canisters and have begun a series of painting on them,” he tells. “I will call them ‘Reel Portraits.’ I really like the way they are turning out — I hope that they will be popular.”
The art market, be it good or not so good, depends on what the economy is doing.
“Artwork is the first thing to go when the economy isn’t doing well,” he explains. “I have experienced two bad times, the first was after 911 and the second was after Donald Trump was elected president. Consumer confidence went through the basement after both events.”
Palek has a lot of artwork for sale. He had a store front in the East Village, but eventually closed up and moved his work to his home in Slater. He plans to have his work at several events coming up.
“I will be at the Midwest Art Festival, which will be at the Iowa State Fairgrounds at the same time as the Des Moines Art Show,” said Palek. “I will also be participating in the Ames Art Walk on June 1 this year.”
Selling art is all about finding the right person for the right piece, according to Palek.
“I do have a lot of art for sale right now,” Palek admits. “It’s a wonderful life style and I may be considered socially unacceptable, but not knowing exactly what I will be doing from day to day works for me. I work very good on the fly and I can work really well under stress. I was a single dad for four years. I worked seven different jobs to raise two children.”
Palek feels that anyone can do what he does if they practice enough.
“I am very passionate about my artwork,” he said. “It is hard work, and I look forward to a challenge. I am a commercial artist and I can paint just about anything on anything.”
Always willing to help someone out is something that Palek does as well.
“I have painted wall murals. I have painted on motorcycles, on cars, on helmets,” he explains. “I have done several projects for children, like the Spiderman helmet for a sick child. I try to encourage others to be charitable. The reward is compounded with the feelings of doing the right thing.”
If you are interested in seeing the “Authors on Literature Series” in your public library on display or if you have a special request for a piece of artwork, you can reach Palek through his website at www.shawnpalek.com or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.