If you ever feel like giving up on pursuing your creative passion during times of personal hardship, this article, that has appeared in a different version in the June-July 2015 issue of Professional Artist magazine, may turn your life around. It is about Casey Shannon, an admirable artist and woman from sunny California. She shines a beacon of hope for us with her triumphant spirit and passion to create art in spite of tremendous physical and emotional challenges.
As you are about to find out Shannon’s philosophy and life choices embody Eleanor Roosevelt’s quotation: “You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”
Award-Winning Sumi-e Artist
She is an international and award-winning contemporary Sumi-e artist who creates “The Soul of Nature” paintings using sumi ink and Japanese watercolor on Xuan, a paper that originated in ancient China. She is also the Director of The North America Branch of ICCPS – International Calligraphy and Ink Painting Society, a position she has held since 2010. Her artwork is in numerous collections throughout the world.
The artist explains, “Sumi-e expresses the character and soul of the artist. It is a meditative process that I consider spiritually personal. Understanding this concept is the center of my art.”
She creates art from a quiet centered place with the intention of capturing the object’s spirit. “I strive to ‘become one’ with the object in the painting. I continue to increase my understanding of the secret of beauty, grace and elegance with each painting.”
A Massive Brain-Stem Stroke Changed Her Life
Looking at her extraordinary artwork one would never imagine that in 1983, four days after her 36th birthday, Shannon experienced a massive brain-stem stroke. Her life changed dramatically. She was in rehabilitation for eight years. About her horrific experience she recalls, “I needed to be able to breathe on my own, and develop simple living skills such as eating and dressing. However, I also worked toward other goals even though I was told my chances of success were not good. I wanted to regain my speech, learn to walk, teach again, and be able to paint.”
To add to her devastation, her husband left her and her daughter to care for themselves. She explains, “Without money coming in, we could not pay rent or utilities and we were evicted from our home. We ended up on food stamps and welfare.”
“I Just Intuitively Knew Art Would Save My Life”
Because the stroke impaired the left hemisphere of her brain and kept her right hemisphere intact Shannon was able to tap into her creativity.
This remarkable artist, who has turned a tragedy into triumph, credits her art as being an integral part of her healing process. “As soon as I could sit up in a wheel chair, I began drawing with a vengeance. I just intuitively knew art would save my life. There is something about the creative process that is absolutely healing.”
She Created Her New Self
Having a Bachelor of Fine Art degree she decided to pursue getting her Master’s degree, then became an academic counselor and instructor at Cabrillo College in Aptos, CA, while searching for a college position. She explains, “I always created art but at times it needed to be quieter, while I focused on other things. I was very focused on getting another degree and finding work to support myself and my daughter.”
Shannon learned a valuable lesson we all need to learn when conditions in our lives change dramatically. We need to be adaptable and receptive to change and new directions. She recalls, “I did not return to my old self but created a new one.” When she did return to her artistic passion it was in a new, concentrated manner. “My new body of work actually developed from 2005. This is the time when I applied strategies that I felt would help me and learned other ways of doing things.”
That included learning to paint solely with her non-dominant left hand.
She Offers Sage Advice
Shannon credits her inner strength, positive attitude, and unwavering determination for helping her during her rehabilitation process. She has continued to receive personal fortitude from practicing visualization, meditation, the healing power of humor, and Wabi-Sabi — the Japanese art of finding beauty in imperfection.
I asked the courageous artist if she had any advice for other creative individuals or anyone who may be faced with similar challenges. She advises, “I would first recommend that they do not listen to others saying you can’t. Your thoughts create your reality, so make them good thoughts. Do what you feel is the best for you. Go with your heart, and if you are an artist, create, create, create. There will be very down days, however, get back up, dust yourself off, and plunge forward down your special path.”
Exhibitions, Honors and Awards
In addition to continuously improving her art Shannon perseveres with her growing career. She has exhibited her work locally and internationally. Her many one-person and group exhibitions include those at: Napa Valley Art Museum; CA; 303 Grand Gallery, NY; Larconia Gallery, MA; and California State University; among others. She was also included in the ART for Cancer Foundation’s exhibition at Toronto City Hall, in Canada, “that raised awareness of the power of the creative process as a healing force.”
She has won many awards including the prestigious “Sumi Art Cultural Award” from the Jade Buddha Temple, LaioNing Province in AnShan City, China.
Whenever you encounter a difficult challenge in your life remember Casey Shannon, a woman with an incredible positive attitude, courage and determination, who reminds us about the healing power of art.
View Casey Shannon’s artwork in the Healing Power of ART & ARTISTS Artists Directory.
Visit Casey Shannon’s website at www.caseyshannon.com/by