“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. In January 2023, they became associate editor, predominantly working on partnership projects and contributing long-form pieces to It’s Nice That. Contact them about potential partnerships or story leads.

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