Portrait Of An Artist, As A Businessman
Shawn Paul Thompson has worked on the business side of the film industry for more than two decades. But he wanted an outlet to appease his insatiable appetite for creativity. Five years ago, Thompson took an art course.
“I took a painting course and things just took off – I found a great artist and mentor who offered all the tools to create,” Thompson says. He notes that many professional artists are stifled by the pressure to create work that caters to specific sensibilities, or art that harkens back to a specific school or artistic movement. Thompson was free from that pressure. “I had no fear, no agenda. I had no pressure so I started creating some really interesting pieces,” he says.
Thompson first painted using encaustics, which utilizes beeswax melted at hot temperatures diluted with pigments. Fast forward to today, with two sold-out shows, and a growing fan base, Thompson is still painting. Thanks to Digital Main Street's ShopHERE Powered By Google Program, he is now selling his paintings through his new eCommerce platform powered by Shopify.
“As an artist, my focus, and my expertise is creative. ShopHERE took the IT and development anxiety away, but allowed me to have creative control over my brand, my art and my virtual store”
ShopHERE is a government-funded program that helps small Canadian business owners develop an online presence amid the COVID–19 pandemic and beyond. And it’s free. Thompson recommends the program to other creatives looking to harness the power of an eCommerce platform.
“Question is why wouldn't other businesses use ShopHERE? If qualified, there is nothing but positive results in my experience as a small business owner who wants to focus on the creative, not the business” he says.
He also offers valuable advice to other artists looking to grow. “Go virtual and use [search engine optimization] tools. I have had great reach with Facebook, Instagram, and other social media marketing initiatives. COVID-19 has impacted my physical shows but in small business, we need to be creative and adapt, and my suggestion is do the work and work with ShopHERE” Thompson says.
With the pandemic forcing in-person art exhibitions to pivot online, Thompson says it was important for him to have an online presence – a virtual home to catalog his many mix-medium and acrylic paintings.
Thompson has sold four paintings two-and-a-half weeks into the launch of his store. He adds that the online store offers him access to an unlimited audience and market – bigger than ever before. “Business is all about being seen, and ShopHERE has but the eyes of the world on my personal and creative brand,” he says.
As an abstract contemporary painter, Thompson’s method entails creating a layered application of acrylics or mixed-medium paints on wood panels. These layers are “peeled back to reveal an abstract story, feeling or world. My palette knife and brush are my preferred tools, which allow me to construct, deconstruct, and reveal a hidden narrative” Thompson says.
Thompson, 53, also wants to change how the public views art, especially the younger demographic. “I feel a lot of younger people are intimidated by gallery shows, they think it’s a snobby thing and they feel they won’t have money to purchase an original work,” he says.
“I want to show that art is affordable, art is approachable, art is fun. Changing how art is viewed is important”
As Thompson begins to think about retirement, he sees his online store as a part of that chapter of life. “I work in the business facet of entertainment, but I want to use my e-commerce store into retirement,” he says, adding that his goal is to focus entirely on painting in his golden years. To view Thompson’s online store, click here. For more information on the ShopHERE program click here.
Digital Main Street was created by the Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas (TABIA) with direct support from the City of Toronto. DMS is also supported by a group of strategic business partners, including Google, Mastercard, Shopify, Meta, Intuit QuickBooks, Square, Lightspeed, Ebay and Canada Post.
A $42.5-million investment from FedDev Ontario brought together the Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas, Communitech, Invest Ottawa and the Ontario Business Improvement Area Association to expand the Digital Main Street Platform in order to support more businesses going digital as a response to the impacts of COVID-19 in Southern Ontario.