THE MIND is a beautiful thing, especially when creativity and vulnerability become part of the equation. Artist Shane Young, better known by his pseudonym FITZ, sets no emotions aside when sharing his stories with us through art. From the time he could pick up a pen and paper, the visionary had found his outlet. We caught up with FITZ to chat about the inspiration behind the evocative cartoon properties of his work, the cultural shift happening in the local arts community, and what comes next.
I get a strong sense of nostalgia when I look at your illustrations. What were you like as a child?
Reckless and always loud. My mind was always racing. But I found ways to quiet down through drawing or watching cartoons. Nostalgia has always been an important part of me.
Chic creatives tend to gravitate toward each other here in the city and your presence is noticed at pop-ups and parties supporting other local creators. Have you toyed around with the idea of extending your talents into apparel or accessories?
Yes! I plan on producing more merch and creating a PJ set and slippers resembling the pink bunny suit from one of my characters. Then everyone can go to bed in a comfortable pink bunny suit!
Let’s talk about FITZ’s ’fits. Your sense of style is as unforgettable as your art. How would you describe your aesthetic and where you draw inspiration from?
I believe I grew up in the wrong time period. I’m a ’90s kid at heart. I am inspired by hip-hop and the culture flourishing at that time. I’m always paying attention to pop culture or what is going on in the world today.
On your website, you said “losing complete control of your mental” is what pushed you to pursue your love of art. Did art serve as a form of therapy in some way?
Absolutely, and I have tried actual therapy before. Being able to take all those feelings that I had and put them into my work and to tell a story that I think other people could relate to helps guide me. One of my pieces at BUTTER 2, ANXIETY Jail, is about my anxiety and communicates that for me. Anxiety is in all of us. Everyone is always worried about something and it’s important to let that out of your mind somehow.
How do you feel Indy is evolving culturally, and do you feel like the city is truly becoming more equitable?
I’ve always compared Indianapolis to cities like Chicago and never understood why they are years ahead of us as far as art and fashion. We are right next door and have talents that are somehow slower getting recognized. But now we have events like BUTTER and First Fridays. You can finally see the equity with more people getting involved in sharing how important art is.
I wish I would’ve known in high school or even before I pursued college that my talent could be profitable. I had no idea you could actually make money off of art, or that there are actually people out there that have a career doing what I do. People will show you that they appreciate what you do and they will also buy your art.
What’s some of the best advice that you could give someone?
Don’t be so hard on yourself, and practice patience.
Are the characters you create ever based on people you know?
They are more based off of things that I wish I could do myself. Like one of my characters loves swimming; I can’t swim. One of my characters is super-big and super-strong like a superhero. I put my inhibitions and fears into my characters as their super strengths.
At last year’s BUTTER, you had some great success. Would you say that’s when your career really popped off?
I would say BUTTER has definitely catapulted me into a different field. I had been getting a lot of recognition from the city but not everyone has access to these type of events that they want to be at, or the know-how to get there. People like [BUTTER cofounders] Mali Jeffers and Alan Bacon, who are genuinely helping artists succeed like this, have definitely moved my career forward.
Who were your idols growing up? Did they in any way have anything to do with your creative inspiration?
My idol growing up was my mom, of course! She’s inspired me in so many ways. She’s always supported me whether it was basketball or now art. If it wasn’t for her investing in me, none of this would be possible. I thank God for such a wonderful person every day.
When did you realize you found your aesthetic?
I think the problem is I’m still trying to figure out my voice in art. I don’t believe I have an aesthetic. I thank everybody for seeing something I don’t. I may just be harder on myself, which is highly likely. I’ve been trying to find ways to put more of myself into my work and tell deeper stories.
How do you get in your element to start creating?
I watch a lot of sitcoms while I work. That is usually what keeps me focused. Music usually helps inspire me, too. However, the further I get in my career, I’ve learned the best way to get in your element is to just start working.
How did you get to where you are today as an artist?
It is extremely difficult to sum that up. The best way to answer in-short is an extreme amount of consistency and the right people believing in me. None of that would be possible without God.
What’s your favorite piece you have created to date?
I think my favorite painting would be Paint Palette. I debuted it last year at BUTTER. I believe it is the best example of where I see my work going in the future. The colors, my characters, and the concept are all my voice. Also, it is probably my most time-consuming piece.
Is there a medium you want to pursue in the future? Some craft you’ve always wanted to try but just haven’t?
I want to do more with oils. The time I did use them, I didn’t know how to take care of my supplies. However, I do love the finished look of oil paintings and want to see how I can make the medium my own. I also want to see what charcoal does when I use it, but it’s just messy.
You can view one of FITZ’s pieces in “We. The Culture: Works by the Eighteen Art Collective,” an exhibit of about 20 of the Eighteen Art Collective’s artworks, at Newfields through September 24, 2023.