How Shag has Developed a Distinctive Aesthetic

Second guest post from Lisa Roberts

Josh Agle, a.k.a. Shag, is the creator of countless iconic works. The art scene of Southern California wouldn’t be what it is today without this legendary artist. But what is the key ingredient that brought him global success? What is the secret formula that helped him stand out in the world of art? His distinctive aesthetic, of course. Let’s dig deeper and explore how Shag has developed a distinctive aesthetic that’s given him an admirable career and a worldwide fan base.

The artist’s early life

To understand how Shag has developed a distinctive aesthetic, we need to start from the very beginning, going all the way back to his childhood. He was born in Southern California. He gets his talent from his grandfather who was a successful commercial artist in the 1930s and 40s. His parents would later decide to move to Hawaii where he spent his early childhood. He fell in love with drawing at a very young age. After Hawaii, his family moved to Los Angeles, California, and then Utah. Agle returned to California in the 1980s to study accounting and architecture, following in his father’s footsteps. He later changed his major to graphic design turning his hobby into a job.

How his career took off

While working as a graphic designer and illustrator, he used many different styles to meet the clients’ needs, occasionally using something similar to what we now call the Shag style. He worked for magazines such as Entertainment Weekly, Time, and Forbes and designed record covers for California bands (including his own band) while still in college.

The pivotal moment that jumpstarted his career came in 1995 when Otto von Stroheim asked him to contribute a painting to a group show. After his painting quickly sold for $200 and caught the attention of gallery owner Billy Shire, Agle got the chance to exhibit a series of works in a tiki-themed art show in Hollywood. The paintings sold quickly, which lead to a successful exhibition of Agle’s works and his big break.

Agle has been unstoppable ever since. Over the years, he’s had exhibitions in some of the finest US, European, South American, Australian and Japanese galleries. The projects he has worked on as a commercial illustrator include collaborations with Disney (his favorite collaboration), the Georgia Aquarium, and the Venetian Casino.

The Hollywood sign

Many Hollywood A-listers, such as Whoopi Goldberg and Ben Stiller, collect Shag’s work.

Where he is today

Today, Agle is a family man living in Orange County with his wife and children. The family lives in a 1960 Modernist ranch whose interior matches the era. He now lives in a house that looks just like the ones he’s painted his whole life.

He is still very passionate about his work and grateful for his loyal fan base. He usually paints in the mornings and evenings. The artist who once thought no one would want to buy his paintings now has collectors and gallery owners waiting in line for a Shag original.

He owns two galleries he decided to call ‘’stores’’ because he thought people would be put off by the word ‘’gallery’’.  The first Shag store opened a decade ago in Palm Springs. A second location opened in Hollywood in 2015. Both stores are popular among locals as well as tourists. There is also an online Shag store that sells Shag-branded merchandise.

About his art

Agle depicts a mid-century modern fantasy like no other artist, letting us see the world through his colorful prism. He employs retro illustration art forms and aesthetics to convey contemporary messages. His work shows a society that celebrates consumerism and consumption in an ironic, often humorous way. His cartoon-style paintings are characterized by vivid colors and sharp lines. They are two-dimensional, clean and modern. They are also narrative – each painting tells a story. His themes include architecture, womanizers, seductive women, drinks, and tikis. The people he paints live glamorous lives. We often see them enjoying a pool party with a cocktail in their hand. Back in the 80s and early 90s, when he was a young artist, no one else was doing anything similar. That is when Shag developed a distinctive aesthetic he still remains loyal to. Shire even calls him the inventor of a new genre – ‘’twenty-first century hipster cool’’.

Colorful prism.

Shag has developed a distinctive aesthetic drawing inspiration from both the past and present.

Where he gets his inspiration

The Shag style is based on magazine illustrations, jazz album covers, and experimental animation from the 1950s/60s. He started collecting vintage magazines, records and furniture long before becoming an artist. David Bailey’s photographs, early James Bond movies, Lowbrow artist Robert Williams, visual artist Keith Haring, pop-surrealist Mark Ryden, and animator David Weidman, have also inspired his distinctive style.

Furthermore, Shag draws inspiration from real-life situations. His first works represent the places he wanted to visit, things he wanted to own, and people he wanted to meet. His subject matter is under the strong influence of his Southern California roots and his daily life. The scenes he witnesses in Palm Springs and Los Angeles often end up on his paintings. He takes notes about the people and places he sees and later uses them as material for his work.

Illustration of a pin-up girl, representing how Shag has developed a distinctive aesthetic inspired by vintage illustration.

Mid-century commercial illustrations are the main source of Shag’s aesthetic and artistic inspiration.

How he defines his signature aesthetic

According to Shag himself, the retro style is just the surface of the painting. Although they capture the spirit of the mid-century decades, his narratives speak about modern-day society. His personal aesthetic is spiced up by dark humor and macabre details – something the 50s and 60s didn’t have. His recurring themes include the good and bad sides of consumerism, the importance of relationships and friendships in the material world, as well as the importance of play in an adult person’s life. These are the messages he would like to spread through his work.


Lisa Roberts has been engaged in writing blog articles for the last 7 years. She started off her career in the moving industry and today, her range of topics spans from moving across the globe to everyday lifestyle tips, traveling, marketing and software-related news, etc. In her spare time, Lisa enjoys running, reading books and spending time with her dogs Lue and Sill. As a great lover of life, she finds something practical and useful in every experience, which contributes to her portfolio as well.

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