Shawna Gilmore has had a busy year, with four shows in eight months, so chances are you’ve seen her sometimes surreal combinations of nature, kids and animals around town. This week in Selective Focus, she talks about her work and what she’ll do with a little bit of down time.
S.G.: I am a visual artist painting primarily in acrylics on wood panels. I occasionally use graphite and paper, my first artistic love. My style is ever-evolving. . . but my current illustrative style came about from a piece I did 3 or so years ago called “Beneath Her Feet” Everything about that piece made sense to me, from the starry sky and trees/roots, to the vintage woman and her farmhouse. It was really a lightbulb piece for me. I had been experimenting with people in my work, women’s faces mostly, but only the vintage characters rang true for me. Somehow their timelessness and history add the genuineness I need for my more narrative images to transcend current times. I also realized I was most interested in telling stories through surrealistic scenarios in my paintings.
My children were just starting to read which renewed my love of literature. Many of my paintings have been spurred on by this awakening. Since then I have taken my characters on all sorts of adventures through Land of Wonder, and Mischief and Other Tales, Nocturne, and A Curious World. I love that through paint I can explore what I’m interested in and take the viewer on a journey.
I’ve been painting since college, but really began using acrylics earnestly about 5 years ago. I realized working from my home studio with children running around didn’t afford me the drying times required for oils. Actually, acrylics are a perfect match for my impatience and ridiculous need to edit. I love painting on the hard stable surface of wood. Even though I paint over the grain, I still appreciate the history and life lived beneath the paint.
Painting is the best form of mental, emotional and spiritual release for me. It is how I process and understand the world around me. It gives me a reflective space to comment, observe, laugh at or ponder this crazy life we live. Painting is much like cracking a code and I’m always up for a good mystery. As a full time artist, there are businessy parts and other annoying organizational things that threaten to take me away, but that’s why it’s a job and not a hobby, so I try not to complain too much. The biggest challenge I face besides my own doubts and fears is balancing work and life. Because I work out of my home studio, it’s hard not to become distracted by the family or house responsibilities. Fortunately, I have been doing this for a number of years, enough to have established some self-discipline in this area, but summertime is a real stretcher for me with kids running in and out and all over and always, always talking. I need a lot of mental space when creating, which summer doesn’t allow. But having kids also feeds my work, giving me endless perspective-shifting moments to reflect on in my paintings. Writing proposals and filling out grants is another area I don’t come by naturally, but let’s not talk about that 😉
After 4 exhibits in 8 months, I’m taking a little bit of time to recalibrate this fall. I have one exhibit scheduled in 2017 at a gallery in zumbrota and a few other things in the works, but I’m looking forward to a small breather to catch up on some projects and work on a series I’ve been mulling over for a while. Creativity can easily be stunted if you don’t take time to nourish and stretch yourself outside of the public eye. I, of course, still have my work available at Lakeside Gallery here in Duluth and various online places.
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