My favorite artists have a clear vision of what feeds their inspiration and a desire to give back to others. Their work is steady to watch grow, yet somehow surprising with every new piece. Each work has a voice but is not afraid to wander. Above all, they are focused on the joy of the process.
Deb Shannan’s photographic work is based on the detailed, quiet, and intimate natural world. Her methods include printing her photographic work using alternative processes including Platinum Palladium and White Gold Leaf Prints. Her work is based on the entrancing world of botanical life and showcases years of work at building her craft. Her consistent style is paired with a broad range of knowledge in science and a background in watercolor painting.
What is most apparent, is her eye for organic shapes and patterns and a similar feeling of closeness with the subject. The dream-like attention to color and movement in her prints places the viewer in what feels like a made-up world. Shannan says the purpose of her work is to, “recreate that moment of joy I received from the subject when I first saw it. How can I enhance that joy, can I make it better, what other connections can I make with this?”.
One of her biggest sources of inspiration is being a part of nature and honing in on simple things. She describes moments like. “watching tadpoles swimming in a pond, buds bursting on a tree,” as being sources of joy.
Self Portrait in Platinum Palladium. Photo courtesy of the artist.
Shannan also spends her time teaching what she knows and passing on her years of knowledge. Shannon says she feels, “very fortunate that I have the time to do what I want now in the creative sense. There was a lot of time in my life when I did not have the time, money, or support to pursue a creative career the way I wanted. In the end, my science teaching career now informs my art and has given me the confidence to teach others about my process”.
Her work represents her wide and varied list of past disciplines, the patience to integrate knowledge into work, and a calm and consistent mindset seeking to move forward. In my terms, she is an artist who has “made it”. That is, her focus on collecting moments of joy and providing a path to do the same for others, reminds me of what I envision for my own creative future.
Elk weed with Geranium in Platinum Palladium. Photo courtesy of the artist.
Above all, I most appreciated hearing her describe how she wants to feel at the end of the day. She wants to feel, “Tired and ready to sleep knowing that my tiredness was a result of creative and physical exertion and rest will restore my capacity to do it again the next day”. To continue to create- with the satisfaction and excitement to continue to explore- must be one of the highest levels of achievement. As 2022 brings us new opportunities, I encourage you to stay alert to defining success and to signals of inspiration from others.
Answers from the creative:
When did you first realize you were a creative person?
By the age of 8-9, I knew that I was a creative person. It became evident in elementary school when I produced work with a lot more artistic flair. I remember the principal asking me to help design some artwork for wall displays. She wanted my input. It made me feel creatively important and valued.
What are your strengths and weaknesses as an artist?
I am a perfectionist - both a strength and a weakness. My work ethic is persistent and precise in a need to be perfect. I practice and push myself to work harder, but it is rarely good enough in my mind or could be made better.
What kind of work do you consume the most?
Photography that connects with my sense of the world. Always nature-related and often has me asking questions about the science story behind the image.
How do you approach creative projects?
Inspired by a visual stimulus, followed by research (often science-related) look for others working this genre, try an approach, get feedback, maybe try another approach, think about presentation. Make the work.
What do you do when you have a creative block?
I do find there are times when I need to step away and tell myself to focus on what is going on in the moment - which shouldn't be anything creative.