Thursday, September 17, 2015

Artist Interview: Another Conversation with John W. Shanabrook

Almost two years ago now, I got the wonderful opportunity to interview an artist whose paintings often make my heart catch in my chest. Quite a bit has changed in his world since that time, and he's graciously agreed to let me interview him once again with a whole fresh batch of questions. So without further introduction by me, here is a second interview with John W. Shanabrook, complete with some of his more recent work to illustrate the post: 

1. I write "Once Upon a Time" type stories about the dream life I long for. What would your "Once Upon a Time" consist of?

A small, bright, and quiet house on the shortgrass prairie of Eastern New Mexico.

"A Grocer's, a dark day, a song"

2. Can you give me some insight into where your wonderful titles come from?

That’s a good question, Julia, especially because I don’t really know. It’s a little mysterious, a little ghostly. I think of my mind as wandering through an attic of association and implication and feeling, picking up and discarding odd objects and remembrances and quotations and words until what it holds in its mental hands are, suddenly, resonant and poetry.

"Comes a Dark Hero with a Dire Taste for Gunpowder Dramatics

3. The places you paint, are they memories, places you've read about, or just from your imagination (or a combination of all three)?

These landscapes are essentially what my heart makes of what I’ve known, of what I might long for, and of what sometimes happens unexpectedly at three in the morning.

"Hidden Winter"

4. What do you think people would be surprised to learn about you?

Five years ago, a medical school in Ohio offered me a place in their class of 2010.

"Milkmaid's Moon"

5. Do you have any artists you're currently admiring?

I don’t know why it is, but admiration’s something I’ve never been very good at.

"Night Softly"

6. Where do you spend time online? What sites do you gawk at or read, if any?

I try to stay away from the Internet for entertainment, using it only for my painting and for buying things I need. I’m not always successful, but it terrifies me how much time I can spend online to no real purpose otherwise.

"Night to the Plateau"

7. What's your favorite season and why?

Summer, to be sure, because summer is warmth and warmth is freedom. There’s certainly more poetry in fall, winter, and spring, but there’s not as much life.

"Plains Morning, Christmas"

8. What is your favorite book?

This is a question I could never answer. If you were to ask me to name the one book I’d take with me to a desert island, I’d probably just ask for paper and pencil so I could write my own.

"The Spinney"

9. Do you work in any mediums besides oil? Is there any medium you've wanted to try?

Just oil. Oil paint and words. I don’t know which I’m better at. 

"Shotgun Storm"

10. You said you didn't start out being an artist, tell me about what made you try painting. What made you stick with it?

I tried painting because one Christmas a very good friend of mine named Margaret surprised me with a packet of panels and a clever little painting box of Winsor & Newton paints and brushes. I stuck with painting because I’m a terribly sedulous and persevering and stubborn soul.


11. It's hard to find much about you out there—is the mystery purposeful or just coincidence?

It’s pretty simple, really. All my life I’ve stayed out of the world.

"The Pumpkin Field"

12. What else should people know about you or your work?

My landscapes often surprise me into liking them. They sometimes seem to know far more about the world than I do.

"To Go a Silver Journey"

Find more of John's Work here:

Seminary Road on Etsy:
Wordpress Blog:

Previous Interview Here.

And a huge thanks to John for being kind enough to take the time to answer my questions.


Kathy Gallo said...

A superb interview with a fascinating and incredibly talented artist. I have seen and followed John Shanabrook's work and have wondered many of the questions you asked in this interview. Thank you for asking them. John's artistry comes out through his painting and his writing -- all beautiful and sound.

Julia Wright said...


I'm so glad you found and enjoyed the interview. He is very talented to be sure, and I was thrilled he agreed to answer my questions because I was very curious myself.