Valley Face: Art Imitates Life by graphic artist Lower Burrell, who got an early push in the field from his father

New Kensington native Shane Henderson has followed his father’s example in his life as an artist.

“He taught me things before I was even in high school. I had a good starting point to go into it professionally,” Henderson said. “As a child, I always drew. He always encouraged it. It definitely had a big impact on my desire to pursue an artistic career.”

Henderson and his father, Don, both graphic designers, started their own company, Henderson Graphic Design & Illustration, in 2013.

“When we started, we did a lot of logo and website design for small businesses,” said Shane Henderson. “Now we’ve kind of gone down to just trying to sell our own artwork.”

Since 2016, Shane Henderson has digitally illustrated over 220 buildings under the Shane Buildings brand.

“I always liked architecture, I was interested in different architectural styles. Whenever I went on vacation to a new city, I spent a lot of time taking pictures of the different skyscrapers, churches or bridges in that city,” he said. “I had a large stock of photographs. I wanted to do something creative with it.

“It’s really hard to stand out as a photographer. There are many good photographers there,” he said. “I wanted to apply my graphic design skills to do something with all the photos of buildings I had taken.”

Don Henderson, 65, also a photographer and founder of the New Kensington Camera Club, is proud of his son’s work.

“He has such incredible attention to detail,” he said. “I look at things. He is accurate.”

Shane Henderson, 37, lives in Lower Burrell with his fiancee Nicole Richie. Their wedding is planned for September 3, followed by a honeymoon in Florida.

A 2003 Valley High School graduate, Shane Henderson attended art school and college, but did not earn a degree. Instead, he went to work at a graphic design studio where his father also worked.

“It was probably a stupid decision, but I dropped out and went to work full time,” he said. “I guess I hit the field early.”

It was after father and son were fired at the same time that they started their own company.

Shane’s Buildings arose out of Shane Henderson’s desire to create an artwork to commemorate the 125th anniversary of New Kensington in 2016.

“I started illustrating buildings in New Kensington that were local landmarks,” he said. “People seem to like the artwork. I kept doing it and started getting requests from people to print them and sell them.”

From New Kensington, Shane Henderson branched out to buildings in other cities, states and countries. People also commissioned him to make illustrations of their houses and other buildings.

His latest commission was the Gulf Tower in downtown Pittsburgh, lit up with colors for Pride month in June. He is donating half of the proceeds from the sale of these prints to the PGH Equality Center.

He also made a donation from the sale of his illustration of St. Volodymyr’s Ukrainian Catholic Church in Arnold to help the church in its recovery efforts after the fire in December.

“One of the things I really enjoy is when someone comes up to me and they’re so happy that I made an illustration of something that means something to them,” he said. “It’s always really cool when I can put a smile on someone’s face just with my works.”

Shane Henderson mainly pays his bills doing graphic design for Wesley Family Services.

“If you see something on them, chances are I made it,” he said.

Making a career in art is not easy.

“Sometimes it can seem overwhelming to think that this is something you can do full-time and make money,” he said. “The opportunity is there if you really believe in yourself and keep trying.”

Shane Henderson advises those who want a life in the arts to always be creative and try to learn new ways of creating.

“If you like to draw, keep drawing. If you like to draw, keep drawing. Hone your craft and be the best you can be,” he said. “Don’t take criticism to heart. You will receive criticism that will probably hurt your feelings. This is how it happens. Accept it and know that you can get better if you try.”

Like his father, Shane Henderson says he will probably never retire.

“When you’re an artist, you never get to retire. God sends you to retirement, said Don Henderson.

“Next to Shane, I’m young.”

Brian K. Rittmeier is a staff writer for the Tribune-Review. You can contact Brian via email at [email protected] or via Twitter .

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