Though unfortunately I’ve not had the opportunity, I imagine looking at Ferrari Sheppard’s art in person is a fantastical, layered experience. His canvases, often taller than the spectator itself, present an amalgamation of acrylic color, charcoal, and enamel. Up close, one would be able to see the purposefully imperfect details of paint stacked upon itself, and each stroke of the brush and mark from the charcoal. Witnessing his work from a distance, it transforms into a life-sized depiction of life itself—the lived experience of Sheppard and the nuances that come with it.
Sheppard’s work is familiar, often depicting nostalgic scenes of children playing, parents or adults washing hair and shaving stubble, eating, working, and so on. The portrayal of these seemingly simple tasks takes on an air of complexity through Sheppard’s abstract lens, exposing social and political misapprehension and the response of modern activism that showcase snapshots of life, creating a more holistic commentary of survival.
A Chicago native and an LA inhabitant, Sheppard discusses his endless journey through art, the things that have inspired him along the way, and his ambitions for the future as he keeps moving forward.
AMFM: How did you discover your calling for art? How has it progressed as you have?
SHEPPARD: I don’t recall discovering my calling for art. I’ve been an artist as long as I can remember. I do, however, recall the first time I began observing composition, scale, and perspective. I must have been three years old. My grandmother had these Christmas lights hanging on the walls of her home. I recall staring at them, trying to figure out how large they were in relation to everything else. My art has progressed in many ways, but one is how I’ve pivoted career wise. I’ve gone from being known publicly as writer/journalist to music producer, and now back to my roots as visual artist. All moods of expression feel similar to me. As a painter, my progression is that I’ve found my ‘voice.’ I began painting figurative realism, but I was always passionate about abstraction, which is why my current output is blend of the two.
AMFM: How do moments of past and present intersect in your work?
SHEPPARD: My current work tends to have a nostalgic feel to it, I suppose because I’m tapping into a sort of timelessness. Abstraction should be somewhat ambiguous, in my opinion. I never want to be too literal with my expression because I believe the lasting life of a work lies in a sense of familiarity and mystery.
AMFM: You often paint on giant canvases—some nearly nine feet tall. What sort of power do you think the magnitude of these canvases gives to the art itself? Moreover, how do you think that influences spectators’ experiences of your art?
SHEPPARD: It’s long been believed that large scale works present a level of ambition and dedication that is difficult to achieve with smaller works. Of course, this isn’t always true; but for me, I love working with monumental canvases—if for no other reason than to stretch my arms out and get into the work.
AMFM: How do the materials you work with help portray the themes and feelings you set out to examine? How do you feel like these themes change as you alternate between painting, photography, music, and writing?
SHEPPARD: It depends on what I’m inspired by. In the last few years I have focused primarily on painting because I’ve found it’s my most elevated mode of expression. I haven’t found the link between my music and visual art, and to be frank, I don’t think one needs to exist. They are individual parts of a whole, they may not relate in any other way. I make music, I make paintings. Human beings are complex and the departments of one’s mind don’t necessarily need to work in conjunction. I am making, that is the constant.
AMFM: How different is your work as an artist in LA versus in Chicago?
SHEPPARD: I’ve lives so many places: New York, Chicago, Cape Town, Johannesburg, Zanzibar, Addis Ababa, New Orleans, and now Los Angeles. I gather from places I live, but I also leave pieces of myself. I take experiences from those places and tuck them in my sock for safe keeping because I know I must keep moving forward.
AMFM: What do you foresee for your art in the future? Is there anyone you’d like to work with or anywhere you’d like to show?
SHEPPARD: Currently, I have a growing waitlist for my work. I’m grateful for that alone. I work with a couple prestigious art dealers on consignment and participate in a few group shows abroad. I’m planning my first solo exhibit in Los Angeles for later this year. I’d like to continue making meaningful work. Success isn’t a destination, it’s a moment, so I keep my eyes on the prize.