In my painting I'm trying to get to the heart of things, the way children do, the way primitive artists do - by simplifying, and leaving out everything that isn't important.
From artist statement in Shawn Steffler: Without Shadows exhibition publication, organized by the Memorial University Art Gallery, 1984.
Shawn O'Hagan was born in Toronto, Ontario, in 1950. In 1975, she graduated from a teaching program at the University of Toronto and moved with her husband John Steffler and their family to Pasadena, Newfoundland.
By this time, her paintings had developed a distinctive style that combined the ancient characteristics of South American art with the colours reminiscence of Greece, while reflecting the landscape of Newfoundland. O'Hagan's images stem from experiences, like travel, that were imaginatively arresting for her. They are considered emotive records which are to be understood intuitively by the viewer. By outlining everything in black and refraining to use shading, O'Hagan has tried to imitate her own children's examples of intuitively deciding line placement and colour choice in their art making.
In 1979 she began to illustrate a number of children's books including One Wonderful Fine Day for a Sculpin Named Sam, written by Al Pittman, and Flights of Magic, written by John Steffler, which was nominated for the Governor General's award for book illustration in 1987.
O'Hagan has received many commissions including the large mural (8' x 30') she painted in 1984 for the Children's Mental Health Clinic in Corner Brook, Newfoundland.
O'Hagan returned to Ontario to earn a fine arts degree in 1990 from the University of Guelph and received her masters of fine arts at the University of Waterloo, Ontario in 1995. She then moved back to Corner Brook.
In addition to being part of the Art Gallery of Newfoundland and Labrador's Permanent Collection, O' Hagan's artwork is included in the collections of The Canada Council Art Bank; the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador and Sir Wilfred Grenfell College, Memorial University of Newfoundland as well as in private collections.