Having trained and qualified as a graphic designer, John Shakespeare became an art teacher, and subsequently a local education authority adviser. He followed that with consulting work as an examiner and moderator for Art and Design, in both traditional and vocational qualifications. He re-invented himself as a painter, and was elected as an Associate, and subsequently a Member of the RBSA.
His principal artistic influences, and loves are the painters of 17th-century Holland, and the European art of the first part of the 20th-century, particularly the Newlyn School, the Glasgow Boys, Stanhope Forbes, Henry La Thangue, and their friends and associates. He has no time for any form of Modernism, which he regards as the Emperor’s New Clothes, so discounts the mainstream of post-impressionist art and its modern manifestations.