Over the last 20 years, Shamus Alley — artist, advertising specialist, veteran web designer — has created a colorful collage of experiences, reflective of every place he’s been.
Leaving his childhood home in Manchester, Maine, Alley’s adventurous spirit and gut instincts led him first to downtown Portland, then to New York City (twice), then Los Angeles and Santa Fe. He eventually found his way back to the Pine Tree State to become the art director and marketing guru at Trueline in November 2019.
Through it all, Alley’s passion for art never wavered—a love that began in the early 1990s, in the art room of Marancook Community High School, where alley would listen to the latest Pixies album and dream of bigger things.
“I knew more than anything I wanted to go to art school,” Alley says, noting he aspired to become a sculptor. “I spent all my time thinking about it and knew that it was where I needed to be.”
After graduating, Alley landed at the Maine College of Art in Portland, earning a fine arts degree in graphic design and sculpture in 1997.
The following year, encouraged by his former MECA roommate, Alley hopped on a bus to New York City. Arriving on the Lower East Side, he spent his first two monthsin the city sleeping on an acquaintance’s floor. Within days, he’d landed a job at Draw the Line, a startup advertising agency, and quickly immersed himself in the still-nascent world of web design.
“We rode a wild dot.com wave and grew to 120 employees until the bubble burst,” Alley recalls. “It was fascinating to see what happens when you start out small—experience the growing pains— and implode.”
Having grown sick of the city, Alley returned to Portland in 2001. He launched his own design agency, Kerplunk, which specialized in creating logos and websites for local business, artists and musicians. After three years, he collaborated with others to create a lifestyle magazine in the vein of Real Simple.
“We learned how to hustle,” Alley recalls. “The magazine industry taught me to leave my ego at the door and do whatever needed doing. Ultimately though, it led me to realize that my true strength lies in design and marketing strategy.”
Here, There, Everywhere
Over the next five years, Alley pushed the boundaries within his field, experimenting with different design trends to see what would excite clients and help land new accounts.
Emboldened by his prior experiences (website production, design, copy writing, coding and project management were all in his wheelhouse), he and a friend launched the Drawing Space in New York.
After two years of surviving on ramen and happy hour pizza, Alley was ultimately hired by a large advertising and PR firm that serviced many large accounts, including FedEx, Monster Inc., Mattel and Clorox. In 2006, the company relocated Alley to Los Angeles to help spearhead the West Coast division, handling logo design, editing and drafting promotional materials, and developing websites and blogs.
After three-and-a-half more years of the urban grind, a burnt-out Alley decided to come home, stopping to visit a cousin in New Mexico. There, he encountered a curious and crazy cross-dressing parade, filled with freewheeling people with creative ideas who also knew how to have a lot of fun.
A two-week vacation turned into a two-year stay. He worked odd jobs to keep Shamus Alley Design—a side project started back in 2005—afloat, focusing on everything from logos and web design to branding, SEO and coding.
“Time got away from me,” Alley recalls. “When I caught the site of myself in a car window—with my crazy hair and a big beard, this hippy decided it was time to head back to Maine.”
Arriving in Portland on Halloween 2011, Alley tapped into work on his home turf. He soon became a designer and developer for a local web design agency, where he honed his WordPress skills. In 2015, he headed to Maine’s largest newspaper to serve as the director of digital design. Intrigued by the prospect of making a return to marketing, an advertisement for an art director at Trueline caught his eye.
His first interview with President and CEO Haj Carr was successful and Alley soon met the rest of the management team—and was equally impressed.
“They all were gushing about everyone that worked there,” Alley recalls. “It was clear to me that they were passionate about people, and not just the marketing and publication side of things.”
Since joining the team in 2019, his initial observations held true.
“This is a group of people who are open to trying new things,” Alley says. “There is always a ’yes’ to support a good idea—something that I never experienced before.”
Alley’s most recent projects include embedding video into digital stories, to maximize interest for readers and SEO for clients. Interestingly, he says his experience with deafness as a child has proven to be an asset.
“When I was learning to speak and people didn’t understand me, I had to learn to say the same thing in different ways,” Alley reflects. “It forced me to slow down and think differently. In the process I learned empathy, understood frustration and now see the value in looking at life from another perspective in an effort to communicate with others.”
But Alley hardly needs language at all when he arrives home at the end of a long day. After seven years, his long-term girlfriend, Naomi, knows him only too well—as does their beloved Mutt, Oona. After dinner, he often escapes into a world of music, spinning vinyl, or songwriting on his guitar—another language in which Alley has become fluent.
There’s a rhythm to life here, a lifestyle he’s found—and he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“Maine is the best place on earth,” Alley says with certainty. “But like many Mainers before me, you have to see what’s out there to appreciate what you’ve got.”
Famous Shamus Alley:
Who knew?: Alley was born deaf, and started reacting to sounds as a toddler. Years of speech therapy got him to where he is today
Viva la Vinyl: Alley has hoisted a hefty record collection—from Abba to Zappa—to every apartment and third-story walkup.
A Cabin in the Woods: Alley and his girlfriend purchased a dilapidated camp on Sabattus Pond and were featured on season 3 of the make-over tv show, Maine Cabin Masters.
Fifteen minutes of fame: Alley once opened for Regina Spektor at the Sidewalk Café in NYC and for Billy Idol at the House of Blues in Hollywood.