Up Close & Personal with Shannon Gurley O’Donnell

Shannon Gurley O’Donnell opens her second solo show at ART123 Gallery on June 8. For her first solo show last year, Shannon presented “Cosmos,” a series of large-scale, space-themed, totally mesmerizing paintings. This year, she is going small with “Little Treasures: A Collection of Small Paintings.” Curious about what downsizing is like for an artist, we sat down with Shannon to ask a few questions: 

1. What is the inspiration behind your upcoming show, “Little Treasures”?

Such a Handsome Fellow by Shannon Gurley O’Donnell

I love nature, so this show is a collection of small (2”x2” to 8”x10”) watercolors that showcase what’s around us in nature.  Many of the paintings in this show highlight details of birds, plants, and more in a way that we often don’t truly see – the details that get lost in our hurried glances as we bustle through hurried days.

2. Do you find it more challenging to paint large scale or small scale? 

When I do realistic watercolors (versus abstracts), I enjoy working on smaller pieces because I enjoy showing more detail when it’s on a small scale rather than a large scale.  I think that overall I don’t always have the inherent patience to create such detail on a large scale. With that said, I also love working on very large paintings but tend to paint more loosely when doing so.

Up Close and Personal by Shannon Gurley O’Donnell

3. In what ways has this show helped you grow as an artist? 

This show has given me opportunities to truly look at and notice the amazing details because I had to really see them in order to paint them.  For example, the cactus spines on the saguaro – I never looked at the base of the spines . . . never truly noticed how they come out of a whitish, raised base, and they all come out like spikes protruding from a ball or something. Also, the spikes are different lengths, and often, some are broken or missing.

If you have never heard about the Fibonacci sequence in nature, I highly recommend you look into it – it’s FASCINATING!  As I was sketching the saguaro spines, I realized that they follow the Fibonacci sequence.  I didn’t have to paint the spines perfectly, but I did have to honor the sequence in order for the painting to “read” correctly (the Fibonacci spiral can be seen on pinecones, pineapples, artichokes, dandelions, sunflowers, and more).

4. What do you hope people take away from this show (besides purchasing a piece!)? 

Always, always, always, my hope when people see my paintings is that they have a sense of love and wonder. A sense of joy and delight.  I know how I feel when I see different works of art, whether natural or man-made: My soul is touched in a way that brings me back to my rightful place in this great big, amazing, wondrous universe!  I feel the same when I hear music – I am transported to a magical space.

I paint from photos and truly appreciate the generosity of local (and other) photographers who so generously allow me to paint the beauty they capture. I always say, “Your eyes, my hands.”  It’s collaborative teamwork…together we touch others by bringing the beauty that already exists to the attention of those who may not see or notice it otherwise.  I believe that seeing and experiencing beauty is a deep, deep soul need. That longing is placed there by our Creator to surprise and delight us, nourish and nurture us, give us hope and peace to sustain and energize us. I accept my gift humbly and gratefully share it with others.  Everyone has gifts.  Mine is painting and sharing my art with others.  I love this and get soooo much joy out of doing so.

So Many Choices by Shannon Gurley O’Donnell

5. Do you have a favorite artwork in this show? 

Well, I always love hummingbirds (and have three new ones in this show), but the close-up painting of the cactus spines (“Up Close and Personal”) is one of my favorites.  I love the depth and variation of the color I achieved with watercolors (getting this depth is easier for me to achieve when painting in oils).  I also love the simple composition of a small section of the cactus at an angle.

Meet Shannon and be the first to see “Little Treasures” at an Artist Reception on Friday, June 8 from 6 – 9pm at ART123 Gallery (123 W. Coal Ave. in downtown Gallup).