Hillsdale Welcomes Professor Brian Shaw to the Art Department

Written by Lauren Hearne

This past autumn, the Hillsdale College Art Department welcomed Brian Shaw as the new professor of art and design. Shaw graduated from Spring Arbor University in Spring Arbor, Michigan, in 1990 with a B.A. in graphic design and illustration, and obtained an M.F.A. from Goddard College in 2005, with a focus on graphic design and painting.

Before coming to Hillsdale, Shaw spent 20 years teaching graphic design at his alma mater, Spring Arbor University. Through the years, Shaw developed professional friendships with faculty in the Hillsdale College Art Department and jumped at the opportunity to join a great team of artists and professors when the position became available.

“One of the reasons that the Hillsdale art program is so strong is because it pursues a traditional arts curriculum, which is fueled by our robust core curriculum,” Shaw says. “That is the philosophy that I have pursued in my teaching for the past 20 years, and I will continue to cultivate it here with my students.”

For Shaw, artistic inspiration comes in many forms, and it usually takes several years for his ideas to come to fruition. In his twenties and thirties, Shaw enjoyed exploring nature as a way to connect to his local landscapes. “That led me toward a period of time where I looked at my small town as a source of artistic inspiration,” he says. “Lately, I’ve come back to a pure vision of graphic design and typography, relating it to the thoughts and ideas that swirl around in my imagination.”

Shaw notices how these design trends have shifted throughout his lifetime, and inspires students through his story. When he began his graphic design career in 1990, the industry was in the process of transitioning to computers. “The old way of doing graphic design required ‘keylining,’ where everything was pasted to a board and photographed to be made into plates for the press,” he says. 

His first job in graphic design was at an advertising agency where he took the drawings from his senior graphic designers and converted them into a digital format. During this time, Shaw also witnessed the boom of graphic art on the web, and trained himself in web design, which allowed him to find many new professional opportunities. “The elements and principles of design don’t change, but the fast-paced environment of graphic design and web design requires an understanding of art history, the ability to think conceptually, and the flexibility to adapt to new modes of visual communication,” Shaw says.

While Shaw loves creative graphic design projects, he finds himself revisiting traditional mediums, all of which are taught at Hillsdale. He says, “I prefer acrylic paint over oils because it is easier to clean up. I also love pen and ink, sometimes adding light watercolor or colored pencil. And at certain times in my life, I’ve explored photography as an artistic medium.” 

According to Shaw, persistence is the key to a successful career. “In the fine arts, it is immensely challenging to build a sustainable career,” he says. “But the opportunities that are available now through the internet are incredible and can help a student build a career if they are persistent!” 

For aspiring art students, Shaw recommends the book Artist’s Market. “The book is published periodically and lists hundreds of publishers, galleries, and other avenues for artists and designers to find commissions, freelance projects, and many other sales opportunities,” he says. 

Like any motivated scholar, Professor Shaw began his artistic career as a student, filled with curiosity, passion, and hard work, and he continues to inspire the same in his students at Hillsdale College. Shaw will be exhibiting new works in the fall of 2022 in the Daughtrey Gallery in the Fine Arts Building, and he looks forward to more exhibits during his time here at Hillsdale College.

Professor Shaw








Lauren Hearne, ‘22, studies history and business. She is from St. Louis, Missouri, and is the biggest fan of Midwestern thunderstorms. If she’s not up the quad chatting with friends or cheering for Chi Omega, you can find her in the art studio painting, or running along the back roads of Hillsdale county.

Published in January 2022