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From The Front Porch of Shannon Smith

From The Front Porch of Shannon Smith

Join me as I sit down with local artist Shannon Smith and have a lil' chat...

So how did you get started painting? I was born and raised into a family of artists. My Mom, my twin sister, and I are all oil painters and my triplet brother is a photographer.

How has growing up in a family of artists shaped you as an artist? Life as a triplet and an artist have made to be a fun and interesting one! How unique to be able to share a close sibling bond as well as all sharing the same artistic talents. My Mom was a full time mother of three, but she started painting once we got out of the house and started going to school. I was exposed to art at a young age through her works, attending art shows, and our family travels almost always included visits to art museums. I have fond memories of dabbling in watercolors in Mom's studio.
1979, Age 7

So did you always know that you wanted to be an artist? Wanted to be an artist, yes. I always had a love of drawing and painting and grew up wishing to be an artist like my mom but didn't believe I could do it professionally. So I did not become serious about painting until college. I earned my Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Clemson University with my focus on oil painting. After graduating I was unsure about being able to support myself and making a career out of my art. While at Clemson, I broke my leg skiing and had to undergo knee surgery and months of physical therapy. That unfortunate experience sparked my interest in the field of health therapies, mostly physical and occupational therapy. I moved back to Charleston and went back to school for a year to fulfill the health and science prerequisites needed to apply to MUSC's graduate program of Occupational Therapy. However, I was not accepted and although disappointed at the time, I quickly realized it was a blessing in disguise!

Had you ever shown your work before? I had exhibited in Spoleto's outdoor art show in the past with my college art and decided to paint for that year's upcoming festival in May. I painted 25 oils for the show and sold over half! I was thrilled beyond words at my success. It was the boost of confidence that I needed to follow my passion as an artist! I also give tremendous credit to my mom and her artist friends, watching them achieve established roles in the art community, both locally and nationally, truly gave me the courage to follow my passion and follow in their footsteps! I am now a full time professional artist of 15 years, showing in galleries and museums, and have not looked back since that May of 1996!

Where do you show your work? This year we celebrate the 10 year Anniversary of the opening of our family gallery, Smith Killian Fine Art on 9 Queen St downtown Charleston. [Shannon also show's her work at the following galleries: The Well's Gallery at Kiawah Island, South Carolina; Anne Irwin Fine Art in Atlanta, Georgia; Parker Gallery in St. Simons Island, Georgia and the City Art Gallery in Greenville, North Carolina.

Where do you paint? My painting studio is in the upstairs of my home in Mount Pleasant, but I also take my "studio" outside and paint en plein-air when nice weather and great travel opportunities permit.

Shannon in her home studio.

Shannon plein-air painting in the misty rain on Shem Creek.

Also she is a Signature Member of the Plein-Air Painters of the Southeast.

How would you describe your paintings? My subject matter varies between landscape, still life, and figures while all sharing the common theme of dramatic use of light. I consider my style to be somewhat impressionistic and representational, with strong emphasis on color and light.

Here are some examples of her latest work.

"Cortona Light"
40x30 Oil on Linen

"Lowcountry Roots"
36x60 Oil on Linen

"Summer House II"
30x30 Oil on Linen

"The Waiter"
30x40 Oil on Linen

"Pink and Pewter"
16x20 Oil on Linen

Shannon has a wall in her studio she calls her "Travel Wall" where she creates paintings from all the places she travels. In the photo, you can see one of her two Himalayan cats, Ollie (other is Rufus). Ollie likes to sit on the sofa and watch Shannon paint. In fact, sometimes Ollie gets a little too close as he had green paint all over his beautiful white fur! Just one of the hazards of being the cat of an artist I suppose.

Shannon will be teaching a painting workshop along with fellow artist Laurie Meyer in Italy in April of 2012.

Since I am an interior designer, you know I am going to ask you about your home!

Your house is adorable! How long have you lived here? It will be 6 years this Thanksgiving. I bought it during the construction phase so I was able to customize some of the elements to my particular taste. What really drew me to it was the Nantucket cottage feel it had.

What is your favorite spot in your home and why? My back screened in porch without a doubt! I grew up always having a porch where our family shared meals and time together. It is my "happy place" where I unwind and truly relax, whether it be with my morning coffee or evening glass of wine. I just love being outside close to nature... watching the birds at my bird feeders and enjoying the critters that frequent the pond behind my backyard, ie. ducks, herons, egrets, turtles, snakes, and the occasional visiting gator! All while listening to water trickle from my fountain, I also take in the fast changing colors and clouds of evening light which soon become a beautiful night sky of moon and stars. I am also fortunate to have a front porch...now that is where I go to rock in my rockers and be more social with the close-by neighbors!

Name one item in your home that you are most proud of? I am most proud of my art collection...mostly oils and a few etchings and photographs. Of course they are all original pieces! While some are my own works, several pieces were traded with my family and artist friends, and some I have purchased through art galleries. I treasure each and every one for their meaning and inspiration to me and my life as an artist. I am out of wall space...time for a bigger house to continue my art collection!!

What is the first item you bought for your home? Afghan and Turkish hand made rugs from Zinn Rug Gallery. Most of my wall colors and furniture are shades of white and neutrals, therefore the rugs and artwork are a chance for a pop of color.

If you could update one aspect of your home what would it be and why? My light fixtures. When completing this house, I chose things that fit in with the traditional coastal cottage style. I now wish I had meshed more contemporary modern with the current cottage theme. I like the idea of new and modern mixed with antique and cottage...keeps it interesting! I am not at all a fan of "matching" decorating, color wise or furniture wise! I think changing out light fixtures, ie. my pendants over the kitchen bar and chandelier over the breakfast table, would be an easy way to update my home, giving it more of a modern twist without a lot of fuss.

It has been great getting to know you better, thanks for taking the time to sit with me Shannon!

[From The Front Porch Of ___ will become a regular post I will be doing for all of us to get to know local artists, business owners and craftsman in the Charleston area that are in some way "home" related. I hope you enjoy getting to know these folks as much I do!]

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