Finding your creative process can be a unique experience for each of us. When we are drawn to create there are so many sources for inspiration. My friend Shannon is an amazing artist. Not only is she an award winning fine artist who specialize in oil paintings but she’s fantastically creative. She specializes in Contemporary Coastal Vignettes and is currently working on a series of beautiful abstracts. I asked Shannon to share her thoughts on creativity, what inspires her and how she finds her creative process.
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My friend Naomi asked me recently how I get my creative juices flowing and it was a joy to think about this and share my process.
A perfectly inspired day for me begins with being outside in the morning enjoying God’s awesome canvas. Especially here in California where I have lived for more than half my life. I love a long beach walk, bike ride or a Yoga by the Sea class in Oxnard. Even a simple walk around the block with my puppy gets me feeling creative. Hanging out at local harbors watching commercial fishing boats come and go while giant sea lions bark and frolic in the water is the best. Another of my favorite things to do is go whale watching. It feels so primal and calming to see them move through the water alongside dolphins and sea birds. When I’m in the Conejo Valley in Southern California, where I’ve lived the longest, a hike through a local canyon or oak tree forest with a deer sighting is another favorite way to find inspiration. All those interesting shadows and plays of light through craggy trees and hills gets my mind racing on the next best way to capture them on canvas.
Finding your creative process:
Why do you love creativity?
I don’t remember ever NOT being creative, it’s just a part of who I am. Even as a little girl I was always making something. I remember asking for gifts at Christmas that I could use to create something new. At eight years old I begged my mother for a used guitar. As soon as I taught myself to play it I began writing my own songs rather than play ones I heard on the radio. I also remember asking for and receiving a sewing machine, a pot holder weaving kit and a leather tool making kit soon after. I didn’t seem to have a knack for sewing but I loved writing poetry and making music. Finally in college I found oil painting to be my favorite way to express myself.
What inspires you?
I am most inspired by water of any kind. I love the ocean, lakes, waterfalls and even vernal pools. I love seeing the reflections and hearing the sounds of water and thinking about ways to create something that can translate that feeling of hope I feel around water. Growing up I always wanted to visit my grandmother near the beach. As soon as we got there I’d beg anyone to take me down to the water. There are long rock walls surrounding that area in New York and I loved walking up on them all the way to the sea. There used to be fireworks every summer weekend. Watching the reflections of all those colors made me feel like all I wanted to do was shout with joy and create something! I promised myself as soon as I graduated high school I would live near the ocean and that’s exactly what I did.
What are your sources of inspiration?
I am truly never, ever NOT inspired! I think this is because I’m fascinated by many things. I marvel over colorful tree bark, college seed pods, shells and abandoned bird nests and love gardening in my yard. Tending to the garden is also a wonderful stress reliever and serving things I’ve grown makes me smile. I’m always wondering what’s underneath all water sources, how things work, how other creative people make what they do, and what their life stories are. I even wonder what animals could be thinking when they look at you. I even wonder about the creatures who’ve inhabited empty shells I’ve found over the years. I am astonished by the variety in nature. I am compelled to create things that celebrate this. I get cranky if I’m traveling and forget my sketchbook or something to write ideas down on. I enjoy my iphone because it’s a great way to record things I see and experience.
How do you come up with ideas?
I love listening to classical music or Italian opera alone in my car when I’m running errands or going to art functions. This relaxes and inspires me, especially since traffic in Southern California is a consistent nuisance. Driving along a country road during a New England fall is pretty close to perfection. Most ideas I’ve had over the years feel divinely inspired and I thank my creator daily. I create best when I am alone in a quiet environment and pray often before I begin creative work. I’ve also had a lot of inspiration from traveling in my youth and encourage other young people to travel. These days a simple day trip to wine country or a boat trip to local islands is enough to inspire me for months at a time. But I often get my best ideas while I’m cooking a nice meal or late at night as I’m falling asleep. Also, in the middle of the night if I wake up in that sort of twilight state, I seem to think more clearly about brand new ideas. I have always kept paper or a writing pad on my nightstand and often scribble words down so I don’t forget them. I used to write songs for years like this and sing a melodies into a little tape machine so they wouldn’t evaporate from my brain by morning. Now that I’ve been expressing myself as a fine artist for many years, I seem to think in terms of a series of work I want to focus on for a few months or even a year at a time. I have always created in batches. Often I’ll need to paint wildly prolific for months and then I’ll need to have to have a month of quiet rest to tend to my home and family. I am most definitely a homebody and I’m happiest in my very own nest.
I think creativity can take so many forms and one thing can inspire another. I’ve always done silly little things like name my car over the years. My daughter named her Honda “ Rhonda!” I also think everyone should have a theme song or a fight song to lift them up when they’re low. Mine is “Brown-eyed Girl” by Van Morrison. I believe in doing hard things outside one’s comfort box and I think when you do, it makes you braver to try other new things. I’ve played several instruments over the years and yet when I think about learning to play the cello one day I get goose bumps. I’ve never been bored a day in my life. I love the Italian language and took two years of it in college, but now that I don’t remember as much, I look forward to immersing myself in that again one day too. I really also want to learn to captain a boat and it’s this kind of thing that informs my art process and keeps me excited to wake up and create every day possible!
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Shannon is an award winning fine artist Living in Southern California. She paints “Contemporary Coastal Vignettes,” seascapes, landscapes & still life in oil using palette knives & brushes & sometimes watercolor.
She’s been painting away on her new series ODYSSEY THROUGH OXNARD which explores the paradox of old and new alongside Oxnard’s unique history and complex culture. She’s completed more than 10 paintings in this series already. Her series was on display in October at the Channel Islands Maritime Museum where she was their first Artist in Residence! Find out more about Shannon and see her beautiful artwork at www.shannonceliafineart.com and on Instagram: @shannoncelia.