“No thought, just draw”: Trevor Shin on filling sketchbooks with spontaneous observations

Trevor has a way of turning observational drawings into something cinematic, without getting too tied up in the finer points.

19 January 2023

In illustration, there is a tendency to hide preliminary drawings in digitalisation, or see a sketch as the first stop along a longer road of ‘figuring out’ an artwork. With LA-based artist and illustrator Trevor Shin, we get to relish in the charm of lines made quickly and spontaneously. The tools the artist works in – ink, pen and watercolour, which tend to be unforgiving to anyone who hovers – help with this immediacy. But it’s Trevor’s process of mark-making without preparation that seals the deal: “I try to stay out of the drawing’s way and let the image materialise on its own. Most of the time this all happens very quickly. I’m always trying to achieve a state of flow where there is no time to think. No thought, just draw.”

Drawing from life is hugely important to Trevor’s practice, contributing to a portfolio concerned with capturing people – how they slouch, the creases in their clothes and lines in their forehead. Then there’s Trevor’s sketchbooks, which the artist makes by hand. “While at university for printmaking, I took several courses on bookmaking and began making my own sketchbooks further developing a strong observational drawing practice.” The two lines of interest are clearly linked with Trevor’s sketchbooks, often taking on a personality of their own through their creation. Binding them with a wax linen thread, the artist gives each cover a face before filling them with engrossing observations.


Trevor Shin: Outfield (Copyright © Trevor Shin, 2022)


Trevor Shin: Laundromat (Copyright © Trevor Shin, 2019)


Trevor Shin: Toyota (Copyright © Trevor Shin, 2022)


Trevor Shin: The Director (Copyright © Trevor Shin, 2022)


Trevor Shin: Sirens (Copyright © Trevor Shin, 2019)


Trevor Shin: Quarantine in the West (Copyright © Trevor Shin, 2021)


Trevor Shin: Happy Sad (Copyright © Trevor Shin, 2022)


Trevor Shin: Scully (Copyright © Trevor Shin, 2022)


Trevor Shin: Drugs (Copyright © Trevor Shin, 2022)

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Trevor Shin: Kitchen (Copyright © Trevor Shin, 2022)

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About the Author

Liz Gorny

Liz (she/they) joined It’s Nice That as news writer in December 2021. After graduating in Film from The University of Bristol, they worked freelance, writing for independent publications such as Little White Lies, INDIE magazine and design studio Evermade.

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