Artisan Highlight: Acrylic Painter Shawna Gilmore

Viewing Shawna’s paintings is like participating in an experience, taking you to another dimension and invoking a sense of wonder.  Her surrealistic style pulls you from the mundane and envelopes you in a world where the abstract layers of reality make sense, invoking meaning in a fantastical and whimsical way.  The interpretation of her pieces are an invitation to each individual, which is part of the captivating magic.

Shawna grew up enjoying art throughout her childhood, and her raw talent was evident to those around her, as her art work in school would win ribbons at the state fair.  In her first high school art class, her teacher immediately recognized Shawna’s potential, and encouraged her to pursue art more seriously.  It was during this time that she realized she could embrace art as something more.

Shawna’s highschool art teacher made a huge impact in her life, fostering her skills and encouraging her to take advanced placement courses, as well as apply for other opportunities.  She was accepted into a prestigious program that flew her to Colorado to train with professional artists from New York, opening up opportunities that she hadn’t otherwise had.  This experience made her realize her desire to pursue art in college, which led Shawna to study art education at the University of Minnesota in Duluth.  She soon realized, however, that teaching art and creating curriculum was not something that she would enjoy or thrive in.  Though it didn’t feel practical, she decided to follow her heart and pursue a degree in studio art, with an emphasis in drawing and printmaking.

As with so many of us, life happens.  And though much of it is great, it can lead us away from pursuing our passions.  Shawna’s hiatus from art took place after college, working as a secretary while her husband continued his masters degree program.  She was also blessed with motherhood and twins!  Needless to say, her priorities shifted.  Yet, as an artist, she felt the tug to carve out a space for herself in their basement as a deep need to be creative, beyond gardening and cooking.

Though Shawna’s emphasis was in drawing and printmaking, she found herself wanting to paint.  Painting was intimidating in college, and so she gravitated towards her favorite instructor in her discipline.  Yet, she still experimented with incorporating painting into her drawings at times.  Looking back at some of those pieces, she realizes that there was a strong connection of style that she explored then,  relating to what she creates now.

Though, by the end of the day she was exhausted, she would go down to her studio after the kids were in bed and paint for a couple hours.  She started with water based oils, eventually moving to acrylic paint, which she discovered she loved for its fast dry time and ability to edit quickly.

There was always a hope that her art would bring in an income, but it wasn’t until her kids started kindergarten that she pursued it full time, with the encouragement and support of her husband, Eddy.  She tried for quite awhile to make things that she thought people would buy, with her account on Etsy, but nothing would sell.  It took a really long time for her to dial it back and tap into the style that truly interested her, instead of what she assumed would make money.  As she honed in on her technique with acrylic paint, she stopped being afraid and started telling a story through her work, heavily influenced and inspired by her story-like adventure with her children.  Her curiosity and observation of the world around her was reignited and set her down the path that she works and thrives in now.  A great confirmation for her was when her neighbor, who happens to be an avid art collector, came to see her work and bought 3 pieces on the spot.  His support and encouragement fueled her to continue pressing into her style and vision for her work.  She went from hustling to create what she thought the market wanted, to hustling to sell what she enjoys creating, and shifting that priority is what made all the difference.

Shawna describes her work as narrative and surrealistic, with unexpected things in common places.  She loves to insert nature into her pieces because of its restorative and healing qualities to the human mind, which is something that we all need.  Some of the ideas for her collections are fully formed in her mind.  Others are inspired by phrases or funny titles she thinks of,  or images that inspire her to explore deeper.  Her current inspiration is exploring the landscape paintings of classic, master artists, and using a moody black and white palette as her base.  She also loves to create scenes based on a curious thought, such as a space hole in her living room, telling stories through the characters in her paintings.  Her painting process starts as a brainstorming session in adobe photoshop, as a place to organize her thoughts and image placement, guiding the layout of her painting, while limiting trial and error as she paints.

Shawna considers painting as one the restorative practices in her life.  She keeps her balance by setting limits for herself so that it doesn’t overtake her central restorative practice, which is spending time with her family.  She manages this through her commitment to painting while her children are at school, clocking out by five o’clock, and not working on the weekends.  Knowing that multitasking is hard, this allows her to be fully present with her family.

Shawna’s favorite work that she has done are the collections that encompass their own world, such as her “Land of Wonder” and “Mulberry Street” series.  And though she keeps her commissions to a minimum, she enjoyed the entire wall mural that she created for “Love Creamery,” a local, handcrafted ice cream shop in the Lincoln Park District of Duluth.  We are so honored to be able to showcase many of her prints, as well as several original acrylic paintings at our Bailey Builds and Friends Storefront.  She also has a gallery of original paintings at “Amity Coffee” in East Duluth.  Make sure to check out her work the next time you stop by our store, as well as on her website www.shawnagilmore.com  and on facebook, instagram, and pinterest.