As you would expect Shaun was born in 1961 in Te Kinga, New Zealand. He was drawn to art, design, calligraphy, printmaking, music and sports as a kid. The American Field Service programme, the underlying principles of cultural exchange and study abroad seized him as a teenager, which eventually saw him an AFS scholar graduating with honours from a high school in Dallas Texas in 1978.
After a couple of years of graft in Penrose as a skilled factory labourer and attending night classes to get his entry portfolio up to scratch, he went on to the Graphic Design course at Auckland Technical Institute for 3 years full time study.
After graduating he was drawn to the Advertising business working in Auckland, Christchurch, Hong Kong and Reykjavik as an art director, typographer and studio production artist. A fantastic career grounding with people with brains enough to create great ads that sell, who don’t diminish them with poor layout, typography or pictures.
Professionals from whom he learned design can look great but still not sell anything. In advertising he learned what you say is as important as how you say it, and that the message must sell or all creativity is wasted,
A point of view
Shaun saw that in screenprinting, the medium of the workingmans’ artist, was a platform from which a designer can become successful without the need for a big budget, a corporate job, or the backing of business clientele as a freelancer.
Among the many passions in his professional life, the predominant one is telling stories. As a consequence, he became an enthusiastic narrative designer. He finds stories everywhere waiting to be told, and, fortunately, he has been able to do that through design. What story means is communicating a sense of the subject, albeit a client’s business and philosophy or an event, graphically through print, the web, environmental signage or Surface Active art-to-wear T-shirts.
In 1986, with his wife, design pARTner Chrissie Terpstra, they set about screenprinting T-shirts on the kitchen table in their flat, then selling them direct from a stall on summer weekends at the Christchurch Arts Centre Market.
Screenprinting had been a passion since he had taken it up as a hobby as a teen. The response to their Surface Active designs at the market affirmed that screenprinting is the people’s art, and they saw that in an era of mass production and consumption, the handmade and precious are symbols of rebellion.
Returning to Christchurch after their O.E. in the spring of ‘88 he and Chrissie launched their graphic design and screenprinting firm called Surface Active. Summer weekends were retailing at the Market and winters were for designing new T-shirts and touring countrywide to sell at The Great New Zealand Craft Shows.
Shaun enjoyed collaboration with design pARTner Chrissie, and drawing wildlife art in various natural media; charcoal pencil, pen and ink, cut and paste collage, woodcuts… progressively, beginning in 1990, he developed a bespoke workflow mixing drawing board manual separation illustrative methods with digital design.