Monday, September 9, 2013

Artist Interview: John W. Shanabrook

**A more recent interview with John W. Shanabrook can be found here.**

It has been a little while since I have interviewed anyone for the blog, and so I'm remedying that right now.  Here is an interview with a very fascinating painter named John W. Shanabrook.  He has a shop on Etsy called ArtistiicAbandon filled with eye-catching oils.  So, without further delay let's get to the questions.

Green Roof Farm.

1. Were you always an art kid, or did you stumble upon it later in life?

When I was a kid I read a lot. Or I made little scrap-wood boats to float in a creek that crossed the grounds of convent not far from my house. Art was never anything I thought about or knew. The closest I came to art was buying (many years later) a handful of Conté Criterium 550 pencils in Haarlem, just west of Amsterdam, from an art store that was going out of business. I can’t even tell you why I bought those pencils—if it wasn’t for their beautiful, bright, new-grass colors—but I still have them.

Oak Day.

2. What style of art is your favorite and why?

I much love the Hudson River School of painting, and among its artists, George Inness especially. Inness has a darkness and a spirituality that thrill me. How shall I put it? His paintings are perfectly present, but they have an atmospheric imperfection that I find immensely attractive.

Pop Creek Dusk.

3. What do you use for inspiration, or how do you generate ideas?

I let the painting, what’s happening in the painting, inspire me. What happens, happens at the easel. Only rarely do I come to my canvas with an idea of what I want to put down. And more often than not, even if I come to the easel with something in mind, half an hour later I’m painting something wholly different.

Spring Traverse.

4. Walk us through your creative process from idea to finished project.

This is directly related, for me, to your question on inspiration. And at the risk of sounding facetious, I’ll say my creative process is the act of painting itself. My paintings are, therefore, largely process-directed. In this sense, I tend to discover my works rather than paint them. Or perhaps I capitalize on emerging possibilities. Very often I'll overpaint old paintings and canvases, though in the finished work very little might remain visible of what's underneath. You could say I make the past my partner. Which means that the fortuitous is also often a factor in my process. Very few of us can be as subtle and perfect as the aleatory and the evanescent are.

Storm's Light.

5. What is a typical day in your life?

Typically I wake early, sometimes at 4 a.m., have coffee or breakfast, and start painting. This is partly because I like to have something accomplished early in the day and partly because I just can’t sleep! After painting, I’ll take my mom to the gym so she can walk around the track there while I either row or swim. Then in the afternoon it’s freelance editing or more painting, perhaps a long run on the trail not far from my house, something to eat, general work around the studio, more painting if the morning wasn’t particularly successful, and then sleep. My life’s a very quiet one.

Ten Sleep Dusk Wyoming.

6. What do you think draws you to other people's work?

The great thing that draws me to another artist’s work is the suggested, the implied, the shadowing forth of possibility. What I truly love is art that tiptoes up to its revelation but then stops and says to the viewer, in effect, “You go first.”

The 6 a.m. Harlot.

7. What are your interests/hobbies?

Though I read and run, painting tends to be all-consuming. If I’m not painting, I’m often simply compelling myself to get going and start painting.

8. Is this your full-time job, or do you have a job out-of-the-studio?

When I’m not painting, I work as a freelance copyeditor. There’s an enormous difference between these two jobs. The latter, editing, requires consistency and vastly aggressive attention to detail, while the former, painting, usually works best for me when I abandon detail and strive for the immediate. If someone’s in the studio with me, conversation is one way of achieving this, though when I get deep into a work and am bringing it to some point of finish, I generally fall silent.


9. What is your favorite piece you've ever made and why?

Undoubtedly I prefer some paintings to others, but I’d find it almost impossible to say that one painting alone stands out from all the others. Often though, I’m very much in love with paintings I’ve finished recently—for example, Bringing Us (The Hilltop), and The Wet Day. This is what I mean by coming to the brink of revelation. Knowing when to stop (and make it, in my opinion, sooner rather than later) is invaluable.

Painting and some tools of the trade.

10. What advice would you give to an artist just starting out in the business world?

I confess to knowing very little of the business world. My only advice to any artist just starting out in the business world would be that he never let business get in the way of art, and that he work at his art every day, every single day, without fail. This may be naive. I hope it isn’t.

Bring Us (The Hilltop).

11. Describe your work space.

I work in an altogether bright and high-ceilinged room with floor to ceiling (almost) French windows and a white wainscot, the wainscot proving super handy for propping up drying paintings.

Color Up.

12. Did you face any setbacks on your path to being an artist?

Having never seen myself as on a path toward where I am now, I’d have to admit that I never met any setbacks in getting here. Or if setbacks there were, I never saw them as such at the time. Perhaps I’ve been fortunate in that I became a painter before I very much knew I wanted to be one.

Far Meadow.

13. What milestones, goals, or achievements are you striving for right now?

My only goal right now is, quite honestly, a daily goal: paint, and paint well. I don’t always achieve this goal, as far as painting well goes, but even failure has its heroism (or I’d like to think it does).

The Wet Day.
Thank you so much, John, for taking the time to answer my questions!


Anonymous said...

Delighted to come across this interview with John Shanabrook. I didn't know much abut him except that I like his art.

Julia Wright said...

I'm glad you enjoyed the interview. I also enjoy his work, but I just had to know more about him. Take Care.