Shannon Valentine does some of the most beautiful fantasy art I’ve ever seen. If you have one of my bookmarks, you’ll recognize the style; she designed and created them for me. She also did some drawings “from the notebooks of David Evans,” my artist character from Finding Zach, which I was able to give out at GayRomLit last October. I have hopes of maybe getting a cover from her one of these old days…!!
Please welcome Shannon Valentine…
Okay, since I’m a writer and I get this question all the time, I get to ask you: Where do you get your ideas?
Ideas are all around me. I find them in books, movies, magazines and art. I sometimes actively search for ideas by looking around me and seeing something that interests me. Most of the time the ideas just come me. It can be very random – ranging from a tree’s silhouette to cracks in the sidewalk to people interacting with each other. I’ve had very casual doodles turn into finished pieces by just letting my hand keep moving and building up a drawing. As the drawing builds, so do the ideas. Those are the most fun.
What draws you to specific themes and ideas? How do they reflect your dreams and personality? What inspires you?
I’m hugely inspired by nature and fantasy. I’m both a dreamer and idealist. The ideal world exists in fantasy. Science fiction, fairy tales and mythology helped me become the well-rounded geek I am today.
I love watching things grow. It’s both fascinating and beautiful. Nature as a theme can be so broad so I search for meanings in things like flowers and animals to focus more on an idea. For instance, butterflies have been associated with the human soul and are featured in many of my works.
The human figure is also a central theme in my art. Since the figure is usually central in my work, the natural world around them have to relate to them somehow. Since this world is usually some fanciful, ideal world, I include elements that would be construed as ‘fantasy’. Color is very important for establishing the mood. Don’t ask me why, but I’ve always associated blue with ‘fantasy’.
How old were you when you decided to be an artist? What made you think that this was what you wanted to do?
I honestly cannot recall a time when I didn’t consider myself an artist. As a kid, I would tell people that I would grow up to be a children’s book illustrator or Disney animator. I still have the spiral notebooks that I would fill with my fantasy drawings. I took art classes on the weekends. I doodled constantly.
I eventually earned my BFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. And through the years, my career has led me down many diverse paths but I’ve always turned to art. It’s just in me.
Your art is so airy and delicate. What kinds of materials do you work in? What makes you pick one method or another? What is your creative process?
My current tools of the trade are watercolor and colored pencil. I love the soft, translucent quality of watercolor and the textual qualities of pencil. Both mediums allow me to layer color upon color and build up the surface. I enjoy the somewhat meditative process of building up these layers.
I’ve been focusing more on watercolor this past year due to the very unforgiving nature of the paint and my need to master this medium. On the other hand, I find pencil work to be very easy to control and less stressful.
For all of its airiness, some of your pieces have a darker esthetic. What are you trying to say with these darker, edgier pieces? Are you planning more in this style, or are these inspired by something particular that speaks to you at the moment?
I’ve always been attracted to dark art. I remember as a kid standing in the horror section of our local video store just so I could look at all the gruesome cover art. I have a somewhat morbid sense of curiosity. Horror fits perfectly in my fantasy world. The ending to any horror story is always happy. I like this. It’s both thrilling and romantic.
The first artist to really influence me as a child was Eyvind Earle and his stylization of Disney’s Sleeping Beauty. The film’s look was must darker than any cartoon I saw at the time – very gothic. I never outgrew my love and attraction to that very graphic, angular, gothic, dark look.
And some questions about you. What kinds of hobbies do you have, and do they contribute to your art? How?
I’m an active member of the SCA, a medieval recreational group. I’ve adopted the persona of a 14th century scribe. The scribal arts allows me to continue to create decorative, detailed work and learn a bit of history, too. I’ve met so many wonderful and creative people in the SCA (including my husband, Jay)!
I also love working in my gardens. I’ve been building up my flower beds with each passing year. I can’t stand being inside the house between the months of March and October. In the summer, I’m constantly out around the house checking up on my ‘babies’ and keeping their beds free of grass and weeks.
What is your favorite TV show or movie? Why?
I can’t really say I have a favorite TV show or movie. I’m currently enjoying the constant running of NCIS on TV. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed seasonal runs of the following shows: The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Star Trek Next Generation, Frasier, X-Files, and Miami Ink.
Favorite movies are Disney’ Sleeping Beauty, The Last Unicorn, Poltergeist, Ghostbusters, Lord of the Rings trilogy, all the Harry Potter Movies, Star Wars episodes 4-6 (to name just a few)
What kind of books do you like to read? Do you think they influence you as well? If so, how?
I love a good mystery! Historical fiction and manga also take up a good portion of my shelf space. The very visual qualities of manga definitely provides inspiration. When I’m reading, I’m in the author’s world. I get drawn into the story they are telling and I carry away from it a different viewpoint and a myriad of feelings. When I’m working on my art, I’m then in my world, which has been shaped by these experiences and stories. Did I also mention how much I love a good, happy ending? J
Can people buy your stuff? Where?
Yes! You can find me on Etsy: www.ShannonValentine.etsy.com
My professional website: www.ShannonValentineArt.com
I can also be found at art shows throughout the year. I announce upcoming shows on my Facebook Page: www.facebook.com/ShannonValentineArt
Thanks so much, Shannon! And best of luck with your shop and shows!