Shawn Michael Warren visits Biola

The artist behind “Troubled Waters” explains influences, passions and motivations.

Emily Coffey and Kate Bomar

On Feb. 15 the Caf Banquet Hall was packed with students, professors and friends waiting to hear from artist Shawn Michael Warren on his career. His piece “Troubled Waters” serves as a centerpiece for the current showing in the Earl and Virginia Green Art Gallery.  


Warren was deeply influenced by his mother—who was an interior designer with a passion for art. She taught him how to draw and encouraged his artistic inclinations. The movie, “Beauty and the Beast” further inspired Warren. He admired the vibrance, animation and movement. Warren started to sketch things he observed in real life. He started as an illustrator from a young age, and began to incorporate different art techniques into his life as he got older. He now remains as a painter. 

Later on in his life, he attended and graduated from the American Academy of Art with a Bachelor’s degree in oil painting, before obtaining his Master’s degree from Laguna College of Art and Design in 2018.

Russell Harris, a professor at the American Academy of Art and one of Warren’s mentors, introduced him to painting in 2006. The day before Warren was supposed to declare his major, Harris told him “I don’t take you seriously as an illustrator, I see you as a fine artist.”

Alongside personal influences in his life, Warren also talked about artists such as Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema and William Adolphe Bouguereau. Their use of color, movement, rhythm and story-telling has helped inspire his own work. 


Warren’s projects often take a long time to complete due to the complex thought and handcrafted work he adds to each piece. Much of Warren’s work is based on history, and he works hard to ensure their historical accuracy. He spends months reading articles and books and talking to multiple historians. Oftentimes, the process of researching takes longer than the actual painting process. 

Other pieces of Warren’s work can be found on murals across the nation. His piece in the Green Art Gallery is the first image you see when you walk into the building. 


After an 18-month journey, the exhibition is now open at the Green Art Gallery. This 8 ft. x 18 ft. charcoal and graphite on paper piece consists of portraits of close members in his life including his sister and nieces wading through an endless sea with buckets in their hands. Many figures are embracing one another with forlorn expressions.

The famous Biola “Jesus Mural” that stands right outside the Caf was painted by one of Warren’s mentors, Kent Twitchell. Through this connection, the Department of Art reached out to Warren in 2020 to display his work in an exhibition.

When asked about those who do not like his work Warren replied, “Everyone is not going to like what you do. You have to leave the floor open for people to disagree. I welcome the conflict.” 

“The Sea We Must Wade” exhibit will be open for viewing until Feb. 25.


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