Shawn “Dink” Densmore didn’t have any expectations when he sat down last spring and started fiddling with a drawing program on his iPad.
But something about the process caught his attention. He decided to buy some pencils and a sketch pad and see what he could do.
One month later, Densmore had completed his first street scene, based on a photo he took on the sidewalk outside downtown’s Tir Na nOg Irish Pub.
Eighteen months later, he’s found steady work as an artist. Last week, Cimos bookstore hosted an opening for Densmore, its new artist-in-residence. The store, located at 111 E. Hargett St., will feature everything from his acrylics and pastels to T-shirts and greeting cards that incorporate historic Raleigh street scenes.
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It’s a whirlwind journey that Densmore, 43, says has him feeling like he’s finally found the right path, but he’s still getting used to all of the changes.
“This whole year and a half has been bizarre,” he said. Densmore, who moved to Raleigh as a teenager and graduated from Millbrook High School and N.C. State, never had taken an art class and didn’t expect art to ever be a major part of his life.
But once he completed his first sketch, he found he couldn’t stop drawing. After a lifetime of being easily distracted, he could sit for hours to complete a piece.
“I just literally couldn’t stop. It was the craziest thing,” he said.
He started experimenting with other mediums as his friends dropped off boxes of old art supplies. When he ended up with a copy of the photograph editing program Photoshop, he taught himself that, too.
As word spread among his friends about his artistic endeavors, he started to sell his work, even opening up a firm, Blunt Street, for his graphic and digital art. He also recently launched a video production company, Just Jack Media, with his girlfriend.
Along the way, he came to a simple realization – “I’m going to make this happen” – though he’s quick to credit the friends and businesses who’ve helped him along the way with everything from a word of encouragement to hiring him for commercial jobs.
Densmore doesn’t know why art clicked for him, but he knows it’s working – not just because he’s selling his pieces but because he feels more content than he ever did working in sales or real estate.
“Until you’re doing something that makes you happy, you’re not going to love yourself,” he said.