One-Line Essence: A Brief Interview with Sir Shadow

SirShadow logo

He’s known as Sir Shadow and when you see his artwork adorning doorways and construction sites in New York City, you’ll know why. All over lower Manhattan he’s painting silhouettes of jazz artists – using one continuous line. It’s his way of giving himself to the city where jazz lives.

Sir Shadow also writes poems and puts his artwork on posters, trading cards, and calendars.   

Do you have any formal art training?

No, it’s all natural.

What were your first drawings?

I used to draw airplanes when I was a little kid. 

Where do you live now?

Lower Manhattan. 

Where do you paint?

Washington Square Park and in a lot of places; on the train, on the bus, in the supermarket. Anyplace I walk. It can happen any moment. The earth is my studio. 

In a 2008 NY Times interview, you said that art is medicine. What do you mean by that?

Well, it’s my medication. Once it works on me, it works on whoever is receiving it. When they say they feel good, they filled the prescription and it brings back that same level of satisfaction, whatever they caught. 

Who are your favorite jazz artists (living or not)?

Louis Armstrong is a favorite. I also like Solomon Burke and Etta James. 

Do you play any instruments?

I bought a guitar and I’m trying to learn how to make a sound.

Have you been discovered by the art world yet?

No, I guess I’m just doing it myself. I have to stay in my lane and do my thing. I meet enough people and touch enough hearts. If it’s meant for me to make millions, then I will. 

What do you want people to know about you?

Just about my art, I rep this positive energy, with my books and my poetry. There’s no difference between writing and art – I put my energy into it.

My work is all based around that each person has to take their individual journey in life. When you are growing up, you’re in a group; but comes a time when you’ve got to go on your own. You don’t have the group to give you backup to who and what you are. So you will find that art can help you transcend through the world. Whether you dance, or create, whatever you do, that’s the fruit off your tree.

For more info, please visit

(c) Debbie Burke 2017

All images courtesy of the artist with permission.

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