Shawn Carlan was born to draw, but only finds time in jail. The former tattoo artist started drawing as a child, but his focus and natural ability have admittedly been marred by bad choices. On Thursday, Carlan won first place in the Alexandria Detention Center’s second annual art competition.
“All of my feelings are put into my drawing,” Carlan said, after receiving his award from Alexandria Sheriff Dana Lawhorne. “Every time I’m in jail I draw. When I hit the street’s I don’t, but if I did, I’d be in a better place.”
Nearly 70 inmates who participated in the jail’s art program voted on 12 entrees in the competition. First prize was $20; second was $15 and third place was $10.
“One of the things we truly believe is that whatever we can add to your life, we want to sow the seeds for when you reenter society,” said Alexandria Sheriff’s Deputy and Chaplain Todd Stubblefield.
Carlan’s piece could be on a book jacket. It looks like a tattoo – black lines of varying thickness depict skulls, snakes, fire and fire-like hair. An Arlington resident, Carlan, 44, was charged with unlawful wounding and has been in the detention center since last August. He will be released next week.
“I just don’t have time to draw. A lot of times it’s because I have to get up for work at 4:30 in the morning and I drift away from it. With me, I get bored when drawing is a job and it’s not a hobby. It stops being fun,” Carlan said.
Second place was awarded to Melissa Silvia for her drawing of a lighthouse. “I feel as if I’m repositioning myself here,” she said. “I love drawing and when I look at that picture it takes me to a different place.”
Third place was awarded to inmate Kevin Wilkins for his drawing of Captain America. “This is the first time doing anything like this,” he said.
Lawhorne congratulated the inmates. “You should be pretty proud of yourselves for what you’ve accomplished,” he told them. “You certainly do have talent and it shows.”
Pat Miller is the chair of the Alexandria Commission for the Arts. "Next year I want to see five times the number of pictures," she told inmates. "I want to have these framed and put in City Hall."