Allen Shaw's 'Hobo's Lullaby' Pulls You Into A Life Lived & Sketched Across 20 Countries

A picture of Allen Shaw with his book 'Hobo's Lullaby'.
Allen Shaw's 'Hobo's Lullaby' is a 25-year journey whispered on paper.Allen Shaw

In 1996, a young design student named Allen Shaw began on a journey not of miles, but of moments. He stitched together a simple sketchbook, its blank pages for the yet-to-be-told stories of his life. What began as a practical tool for a budding artist soon blossomed into an obsession. Sketching became Shaw's constant companion, a silent witness to his creative evolution; from the fantastical worlds of animation to the whimsical illustrations that danced across children's books. Over two decades, 300 sketchbooks filled his shelves, each a chapter in a narrative whispered in ink and watercolours. Years turned into pages, and 'Hobo's Lullaby' came to be.

"In today's world where everything happens instantly I thought it was very important for me to share this life which is not about rushing up. It's about spending time, it's about soaking in the experiences, it's about having conversations with people while sketching and it's about collecting stories."
Allen Shaw

An odyssey of an artist across continents and decades, Allen Shaw's Hobo's Lullaby is a 25-year journey whispered on paper. It's a repository of experiences; a collection of watercolours that capture not just 20 countries but the essence of fatherhood and stolen moments of inspiration.

Shaw's decision to share his life's work wasn't simply a nostalgic indulgence. It was a deliberate act of promoting the value of sketching and illustration in a world obsessed with instant gratification. His month-long road trip retracing his artistic path, from a small town in India to bustling metropolises, served as a reminder of the importance of savoring the journey.

Allen Shaw
"My travelogues are stories of distant places I've been to and called them home, of strangers I've met and called my own. When I am travelling I am looking for home; looking for love. I have been drifting from one place to the next and I have lost the concept of home so I do take refuge in the comfort of my sketchbooks."
Allen Shaw

The true magic of Shaw's work lies in its ability to capture the soul of a place. His watercolors are infused with a sense of personal connection; a reflection of the conversations Shaw has with the people and places he encounters. He doesn't shy away from the emotional undercurrents of his travels. His sketchbooks become a refuge; a space where he grapples with the concept of home, one that has become fluid and transient. "I am the sketchbook and you're my song," he says, highlighting the deeply personal nature of his artistic process.

"If you see the intimacy or the essence of places in my sketches it's simply because I share a very intimate relationship with my sketchbooks. It's like I have been working on my autobiography since 1996."

Allen Shaw

Watercolors are Shaw's medium of choice, and for good reason. He is drawn to their inherent magic and their ability to surprise and delight like a mischievous child. Their portability and adaptability make them ideal companions for his travels. He readily admits to using unconventional techniques, even substituting beer for water at his favourite pub. 

"Watercolour is magical, it's like a naughty child which doesn't listen to you but the thing with children being naughty is that you love every bit of it."
Allen Shaw
Allen Shaw

The personal narratives woven into Shaw's sketches add another layer of depth to his work.  Shaw embraces the power of storytelling, believing that every artist is a storyteller at heart.  His sketches become raw, authentic snapshots of moments, infused with a vulnerability that instantly resonates with his audiences.

"I like having a conversation with the medium and I think it understands my mood swings well."

Allen Shaw

From the streets of Berlin to the landscapes of India, Shaw's travels have exposed him to a myriad of cultures and landscapes. These diverse experiences leave their mark on his work, influencing both his subject matter and his artistic approach. 

"I sometimes feel like a cuttlefish because I start mapping the spaces visually and then it's there in my sketchbook. The colour palette changes with the changing landscape and the subject changes."
Allen Shaw

A trip to Japan resulted in a sketchbook filled with rubber stamp impressions, reflecting the ubiquitous presence of these objects in the country.  Or being reminded of Bihar while looking at books published by MIR publication; inspiring sketches reminiscent of Soviet-era children's illustrations. Shaw's artistic journey is a metaphor for life itself — a patchwork quilt woven from experiences, with each piece unique yet still contributing to the larger narrative tapestry that he's weaved.

Hobo's Lullaby speaks to the power of slowing down and truly experiencing the world around us. Shaw's work is a reminder that the journey itself is the reward, and that 25 years of dedication and passion can culminate in something truly beautiful.

You can buy Hobo's Lullaby here.