Improvising with Pen and Ink: Albert Shivers

Grit, pulp, realism and jazz all come together with graphic artist Albert Shivers. He’s rendered Miles Davis, stride pianist Dorothy Donegan and many others in a style that pays attention to line, form, movement and attitude. His work will be exhibited on August 22 and 23, 2020 at the Create and Be Art Studio in Stroudsburg, PA at

Why are you most comfortable in pen and ink and secondarily collages? 

My comfort with pen and ink came from long repetition. I always admired and gravitated to artists that worked with pen and ink, as well as having an affinity for working in black and white. Drawing with only ink is a bit of a high-wire act, because there is rarely going back once you put a line down. Comfort came through all the initial mistakes.

Collage on the other hand feels far more open to me. The blank page with endless roads to go down is a lot of fun. Although I hold myself to an overall plan; collage leaves a lot of room for spontaneity while working on the piece. I feel the two styles balance each other out well for me.

Albert Shivers other pieces

Why did you begin drawing jazz artists and how do you translate the vibe of the music or the spirit of the artist into an illustrated form? 

I began drawing jazz artists because most of my visual art inspiration came from jazz being my favorite genre, very specifically twenties and thirties.

I’d listen while working and the feeling of the music would contribute to the outcome of the particular piece. Often I’ll listen to the same artists while drawing them.

How did you come to the idea of your upcoming show “Jazz Ain’t Dead”? 

I had been doing jazz-related artwork for a long while, and fellow artist and gallery curator Courtney Lauren Natt approached me about a jazz art show at her space in order to share my work, and also help to educate people about the music. I had been using that title as a tagline for my artwork, and it seemed to fit the idea of the show very well.

Talk about the music scene in the Pocono region and why you decided to hold the event at this venue?

The music scene in the Poconos [Pocono Mountains, northeast Pennsylvania] has a solid history, particularly in jazz. The area was a prime vacation spot for people during a time when jazz was the popular music. I was approached to hold the event at the Create & Be Art Studio in Stroudsburg, and am thrilled to be showing there to help try to breathe a little life back into jazz.

Why did you choose these individual musicians to showcase? 

I choose pieces that I felt would best complement the show, and also display the side array of styles and characters that the genre created.

Which drawing was the most challenging – or the most fun – to create? 

Many times the most challenging drawings turn out to be the most fun. For me that piece would be my ink drawing of jazz piano player Dorothy Donegan, simply titled “Donegan.” I didn’t realize it at the time, but that piece turned out to be a major turning point for me in finding my style of ink drawings from then on.

What do you hope the audience derives from this show?

That they walk away from this show with a larger understanding of the vastness of the genre, and the fact that it spans wider than they may realize. It’s much more than what they might hear on radio stations.

Jazz musicians you want to draw in the future? 

There are plenty of them, like Duke Ellington and Jelly Roll Morton. But as far as artists who I haven’t gotten to yet, it’s two trumpeters that first come to mind, Wingy Manone and Valaida Snow.

Future projects? 

I tend to let the ideas come organically from day to day and will continue to portray my interpretation of jazz and other music in drawings as well as collages. I have been walking the line between realism and abstract work, and would like to continue down that path.

 For more information on the artist visit and

Photos courtesy of and with permission of Albert Shivers.
(c) Debbie Burke 2020

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