Hello everyone, my name is Evan Sheehan. I’m a content creator at Low-Res studio here in Chicago. I was born and raised in Ohio, moved to Chicago 2.5 years ago and I’ve been loving it ever since.
How was life growing up?
Growing up in Ohio, you’re kind of at a loss for creative outlets or like-minded creatives. My family sent me to a school that had a little bit more creative opportunity. In middle school, creativity was something that was always on my mind. I was into all aspects of digital art, whether that be graphic design, photography, or videography. I tried it all out and my parents were very supportive of me.
When did you begin to witness you had creative talents?
When I was really little, before I could read, I would talk with my family members about certain logos and the emotions they represented. Specifically, I remember looking at logos like Loews and McDonalds.
When I got to elementary school I really enjoyed taking art classes. There were awards that they would give to artists and I remember earning one. I got super hyped on that and from that moment I realized I had an eye for something.
I’ve been told you were first into video and that’s how you transitioned into photography.
I took video media courses in high school. In this class, we did a lot of basic video work like interviews and short films. Our school had Canon T3i’s and I would check them out to use for my assignments. I never really thought of them as photo-cameras, because I never had gotten into photography. I started to get more in tune with the camera and wanted to start getting involved with photography.
I got onto Instagram in 2011 and was seeing that some photographers were using their phones to take some amazing photos. That fascinated me. I begged my parents for an iPhone 4 and that’s how I started taking photos, posting to Instagram and now I’m still here doing that six years later. (Haha)
What ended up causing you to move to Chicago?
I moved to Chicago to study film at Columbia. Photography wasn’t my main medium when I graduated high school. It was more so a side project. While I was at Columbia, I realized people weren’t really thinking along the lines of short films or advertising, which is what I was into for film. They were more into big budget Hollywood productions. That wasn’t feasible in my mind. I started looking at other options at Columbia. I didn’t want to switch to photography, because I thought photography wasn’t something I needed classes for, it was something I could just do on my own. I ended up switching to Advertising Art Direction. That major was heavy design oriented and taught me a lot about consumers and marketing.
Have you seen your creativity change with your move to Chicago?
I think the main things that have changed for me have been diversity in environment and people. In Ohio, I was stuck with my friend group and our more rural/suburban community. Chicago has so much to offer, you have a lake, downtown, and all of the diverse neighborhoods. Although my style is pretty cohesive, I’ve learned how to specifically make photos for the neighborhoods I’m working with, whether that be Wicker Park, Humboldt Park, or Lincoln Park.
On top of that, I’ve just met so many like-minded creatives. Being around these people pushed me to better myself, which I’m very thankful for.
Now you have developed a nice following via your Instagram. When did you begin to take Social Media more seriously?
Before I moved to Chicago, I think I had 600 followers. Most of those followers were the people in my hometown or people I went to high school with. With the move to Chicago, I started to realize that social media was popular when I saw Popular Pays. I was able to take a photo at a local business and receive something physical in return, like a barter system, and that was amazing to me. That really put a value to the work I was creating and made me realize that people wanted the content I was making and my perspective. Popular Pays really put me on a personal mission to explore the city and share what I was doing with my friends. Through constantly putting out work through Popular Pays I started to develop a following here in Chicago and now my following has continued to grow and grow.
When did you first meet Nathan Michael?
I met Nathan at an Instagram meet-up at Willis Tower for Popular Pays. The reason I talked to Nathan was because he knew one of my best friends Richard. Richard was the middleman to what started Nathan and I’s relationship. We talked for a bit at the meet-up, and later that night I added him on Facebook. Nathan messaged me and asked if I wanted to grab dinner and talk about what I was doing with Instagram. We got dinner and I was so impressed because he was getting dinner for free because he was shooting for the restaurant. I thought to myself, man, Nathan knows what he’s doing. He has it figured out. That night, the reality of the importance of social media started to really settle in. I remember telling him, I learned more through experience rather than classes, because I was still attending Columbia at the time. He told me what he was doing with Beef Bureau, and that I could intern with him over the summer. I ended up getting an apartment and not going back to Ohio. I interned that entire summer and eventually got offered a full-time position.
How has it been working with Nathan and Low-res for two years?
I’ve now been at Low Res for a year and a half. It’s amazing. I get to work with very creative people, people that I love, and big brands that I would never have the opportunity to work with if I was just freelancing. The “creative hub” aspect of Low Res is very cool. It’s something that Chicago needs.
Working with Nathan has been an awesome learning experience. He has a lot of wisdom to offer in terms of social media. Nathan has a lot of projects under his belt and is really well versed in his creative skills. Anything aesthetic wise, he nails every time. I’ve really enjoyed growing under him and learning from his eye and perspective.
What’s your position at Low-Res?
For me, my job as an Art Director is to work with brands and figure out their voice on social media. I figure out what the best platforms are for the brand and how to create the best visuals for those platforms to produce the most engagement. I also take existing visual cues from the brand and implement them in a way that is cohesive with social and doesn’t interrupt their feed. I also create concept decks for photos. In these decks are photo mock-ups, the props, the people in the photo, the location, and after the decks are approved I’ll either take the photo or have another photographer on set take that photo.
When working with brands, are you coming up with the brand identity or are you trying to articulate an existing identity?
It can be both. Sometimes brands have a really good idea on who they are and know exactly what they want on their social. Other times, brands are new to marketing, social, and come to us for advice and guidance. I enjoy working with those brands more because I have more creative freedom. Working with bigger brands is fun though because I like working under constraints. I also like working with what has been done before me and making something new out of it and selling it.
I’ve you seen you said, you love shooting Millennium Park. Why is that?
Millennium Park is incredibly versatile. You have a lot there within only a couple hundred feet from each other. I love the architecture on the Jay Pritzker pavilion because it can be so many different things. You can photograph it from so many different angles and show it in a totally different way. Depending on how you take the photo, due to its abstraction, you can’t really tell what’s going on. It’s a creative wonderland for working with architecture and people. Not only do you have the architecture, but you also have the park itself that consists of the gardens, trees, and constant changing sculptures. Millennium Park is always fresh for me. I can go there in the summer and it’s completely different in the winter. Every time I go there I feel like I can get something out of it.
You’ve stated how your style has changed over the years. As an artist, do you think you ever find your style? Or are you always evolving?
I think as an artist you’re always changing what you’re doing and you’re never satisfied with what you’re creating at the time. We are always trying to push to the next level and hone in on a skill that we want to get better at. For me personally, I’ve moved away from lifestyle and presenting things as they are and into presenting them as I wish they would be, which could be more unrealistic. I think creatives can be unhappy people because it’s hard to satisfy them and it’s hard for them to be at a place where they’re content with their work. Acknowledging the fact that styles change, tastes change, and trends change, is just as important as well. Evolve with the times, don’t get too stuck in your own ways.
Earlier this year, you wrote an articled titled “If you’re making art alone, you’re doing it wrong”
One of the biggest things I’ve learned from moving to Chicago is how collaborative art is. You have to come to the acceptance that you can’t do it alone. I think it’s important to find out what it is you’re good at and focus and dedicate all of your time to that. From that, you then come together to work with other creatives on bigger projects. You start to find out people’s strengths and your weaknesses. Your projects start to become more impressive when it’s not just solely you. When you team up with other people you can do bigger and better things.
Scrolling through your feed, I tend to see a lot of vibrant colors. Was that something you were always attracted to as a kid or picked up more when you got into photography?
I think I was always into vibrant colors. The first filters I was putting on my photos on Instagram were cross-processed and really exaggerated everything. At a point in my photography career, I wanted to buy into what I knew was popular. That was lifestyle and very monochromatic photos. I came to a realization that I didn’t want to keep trying to fit into what a lifestyle photographer was. I wanted to start creating something that was beautiful out of nothing. Taking a photo that is cool, but not amazing, and then use my editing process to make it into something really unique is exciting for me.
As an art director, who are 3 brands you would love to work with?
Target would be my number one. I’ve always loved their art direction. Their studio stuff is amazing and how they integrate it with design and branding is awesome.
It’s sad that American Apparel is dying because I thought they would be someone who would be cool to work with. I like how simple their clothes were and their nod to vintage style. If they were still around, I would love to work with them.
Not necessarily a brand, but I think it would be awesome to do art direction on a film. Going back to my roots with film, even if I’m not doing the photography aspect, I’m contributing to design and art direction, I think that would be very satisfying.
When it’s all said and done how would you like to be remembered?
This is something I’ve been thinking about recently. I want to inspire people younger than me and encourage them to go out and create. That’s coming from me who came from a place that could be considered creatively hopeless. I want those kids from the Midwest suburbs to see that they can make cool stuff out of what they have. Whether I’m a teacher or just putting out work to encourage kids on social media, I just want artists that are just starting out to just be encouraged by what I’m doing and to go out and do even better and cooler things than I did.
Written by: Nico Rud