Shane Keeling

Shane Keeling is an artist from London who is part of the group Boys Don't Cry. He uses humour and takes risks to make process-driven art and encourage conversations about men's mental health in the creative industry.

Shane Keeling is an artist from Wexford, specialising in ceramics, sculpture and illustration. He holds a BA in Applied Materials from NCAD and is currently working in London as a resident artist, technician and educator at the The Kiln Rooms.

Shane is a member of the international collective Boys Don’t Cry, who aim to bring the issues of men’s mental health into discussion within the creative industry and show how having a creative outlet can help.

He is a process driven artist that uses humour to make his work more palatable. He intentionally pursues chance and risk while creating art.

What is your job?

I’m a professional visual artist and educator that specialises in ceramic.

When did you know you wanted art to be your 'job'?

When I was growing up I was a big GAA head. I had always dreamed of playing in Croker but I had a couple of serious knee injuries which threw a spanner in the works. I was about 17 when I decided I had to find new ways of expressing myself beyond the pitch and art felt like a natural way to do that. Having to hang up my boots was devastating at the time but looking back I’m quite grateful. I have the best job in the world because of it.

Did you attend art college?

Yes, I studied ceramics at the National College of Art and Design. It was a life-changing experience and I loved every second of it. I’ve never been part of a kinder community of people and the tutors worked hard to change how I viewed the world around me. I had always struggled with school. I was made to feel incapable by my teachers so I was worried college would be too difficult for me. I soon realised that I had the tools to succeed in a college environment which has been great for my confidence.

What is the job of art (or of artists)?

That’s a difficult question to give a straight answer to. There’s no one job of art or artists. There’s so many different directions that you can take. Some artists work with communities and use their skills to help people, some design products that we use every day, some make animations for the TV or design the magazines we read. Others are educators. The list goes on and on and on.

I suppose in a nutshell the job of art or artists is to leave the world a better place than how we found it.

What is art to you?

Art for me is a lifestyle. It’s walking through the world with my eyes wide open and taking in everything like a sponge, looking for inspiration from the everyday. Art is having an idea at 2 in the morning and having to get up and put it on paper or else I’ll lose hours of sleep thinking about the weirdest, funniest possible outcomes. Art is about inclusion and having fun.

Why is art important?

I think art is important because it teaches us how to be ourselves.

Do you have a favourite type of art?

I love art made by untrained artists. It’s referred to as Art Brut but I think that’s a little bit silly to be honest. I love how the art isn’t over thought. The line making is confident and bold which gets me excited. I also love interactive sculpture and contemporary pottery.

What artists inspire you?

I love Nek Chand, August Walla, Marcus Nelson and Chris Burden. They’re fantastic international artists that have made excellent work through the years. I’m also blown away by the work of some Irish artists - Blindboy, Kevin Judge, Shane Berkery and John Kindness.

But I think most importantly I’m inspired by the artists that I’m closest too- Lauren Shannon O’Brien, Lockie Brady-Smith and Lorcan Rush. They’re the people that I chat to most about art so they have the most direct impact on my artwork.

How do you know if you are a good artist?

You are a good artist if making art makes you happy. It’s as simple as that.

Do you have a creative philosophy?

Yeah, trust your gut and your work will always be honest. Be excited by every step in the making process and take risks whenever you can. Don’t be afraid to try something new and failure is your new best friend.

What advice do you have for young artists?

Find a material and medium that suits you and practice everyday, even if it’s just for a little while. Make sure you’re making work that is true to you. If you find yourself in art college then be the hardest worker in every room you enter. If it scares you then you’re going in the right direction.

The rest will look after itself.

Shane Keeling, This Is Art