Teacher Featured In Simsbury Exhibit Alongside Students - Hartford Courant by Shauna Shane

Shauna Shane has been teaching at the West Hartford Art League for 15 years now.

Currently, Shane, a Storrs resident, is featured in an art exhibit called “A Journey of Artistic Expression” at the Simsbury Public Library alongside eight of her students.

One of those students, Avon resident Meghan Shanley Waskowitz, said there’s something special about Shane as a teacher.

“As we’ve taken a class with Shauna, and then another, we realized what a good teacher she was,” Waskowitz said. “She’s able to convey techniques and why we’re doing what we’re doing, rather than just how to do it. She helps us see what you don’t normally see.

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By Michael Walsh

The Importance of Drawing – And the Joy! by Shauna Shane


When I was in school taking art every day my requirements included one drawing every day. OK, so more than a few times I ripped through five or six drawings just before deadline (you know, that A.D.D. thing). But in total, this drawing every day was a very good discipline and, in fact, necessary to developing the skills needed to become excellent. "Is drawing important?" Students actually ask that question, or worse still, "I don't want to worry about drawing, I want to paint." If I could recommend any one thing necessary to be an effective artist it would be the development of drawing skills. In my opinion, it is not just helpful, it is essential to become a competent draftsman before one advances into color. Just as arithmetic comes before algebra, drawing is the foundation for all things art.

Let me define my terms. Drawing: artwork done absent color. This includes pencil, charcoal, and ink. Notice that ink is a wet medium. Painting: Two dimensional artwork in color. Oil, watercolor, pastel, collage, egg tempera, etc. Pastel is often mistakenly grouped in the graphics section of a juried exhibit, but, comprised of pure pigment, pastel is the most direct form of painting there is. (Pigment in a stick, with just enough water to hold its shape. Pure color!)

I don't think of drawing as linear; that describes a coloring book. Outlines, even lines, are not found in nature, and a drawing can exist completely without line of any kind. The idea that drawing is outline and nothing else is one of the most pervasive beliefs my students have. Not true. Taken to photographic detail, a drawing, like a black and white photo, does not need any outline at all. Even a telephone line or a fence wire is not a line, it is a thin cylinder with light and dark shadows.

Line can be a way to place and plan your drawing, or, a descriptive lyrical element to finish an edge just so. A drawing might even be developed with line alone – a beautiful elegant contour line or an expressive, active gesture. In any case, think of line as an expressive element of the drawing. Outlines belong to the world of coloring books. (Do coloring books influence our children's understanding of what a drawing is and how it is made? Another time perhaps...)

Drawing is the description of form, defined by light and shadow. My own drawing is informed by the belief that the process is exactly like painting in its major components of design, concept, and technical application. In other words, I think of drawing in terms of seeing shapes; the shape of light, the shape of shadow, and the shape of the negative around or behind the form itself. Personally, I tend to work from the inside out, describing an entire shadow shape as a massed area just as I would block in the shadow areas first in an oil painting. This method has developed over time, with more and more of my ability to see the shape of a shadow as one continuous shape, rather than the edges of things or objects as separate entities. This is not new. If you read any good book on painting or drawing you will see the same thing, but expressed in many different ways: ”From the general to the specific,” “massing general shapes,” “first the dog, then the fleas” – all say the same thing. I remember when I first understood this concept, it was a life changing event.

One Woman's Story by Shauna Shane

Shauna Shane Self Portrait

Shauna Shane Self Portrait

This is a short description of how this journey of "Art Every Minute," this life of thinking, planning, creating, and presenting art, began and found a foothold in reality. Every person's journey will be unique, but perhaps one can glean from my story something of use. First of all, it is important that this experience is coming from a woman's point of view. In a perfect world it would not matter, but in fact, it does. Of course the woman's experience will always and forever be different than a man's, but eventually the disparity in income and career success will continue to decrease until it becomes minimal, and finally, perhaps, no disparity at all.

The seeds of my career were planted when I received praise for a drawing in second grade, and I just knew that I wanted more of that. From that time on I spent every available minute drawing, usually horses, and sometimes the people around me. I remember that my family watching TV stayed pretty still and were willing subjects, so sketchbooks were filled with them — and the cat, and the dog, and, of course, more horses. I copied every picture from The Black Stallion, Smokey, Black Beauty, and every head study drawing of the Triple Crown winners done by a famous artist whose name I have forgotten.

My history next involves one of those special teachers that each of of has had during our lives, and luckily, mine happened in an art class. Mr. Campeau was a force of nature, and a catalyst for all that I would become. I'll say more about him later, but in a nutshell he taught me how to draw, how to see, how to appreciate the world we live in, and how to believe that being an artist was possible as a career; that it was a business, a self-employed business, and that no excuse was acceptable if you really wanted it.

Mr. Campeau, oil painting by Shauna Shane

Mr. Campeau, oil painting by Shauna Shane

Years went by after high school with very little art to remember. After a short stint as an art major at Montana State University (with the idea that I would become, like Mr. Campeau, a high school art teacher), I married at age 19, and began work as a secretary; first in Pensacola, FL, then back in Bozeman, Montana, and then in Chicago for four years while my husband attended Loyola Dental School. I guess I believed that my future would happen later. Looking back, I don't remember thinking about my future at all. All things career and future became one when we were fortunate enough to adopt our 3-day old daughter as my husband finished dental school and  – poof – we were making plans to move to Alberta, Canada to begin a family and dental practice. The adoption didn't finalize for six months during which time I had to stay in Montana with our baby and not leave the USA (another story), but then we reunited in our new home and art was delegated to an occasional card or gift for the family. So much for the often expressed idea that an artist would rather paint than eat, and that a "real" artist must produce every day and could never, never do anything else.

Fast forward to another adopted child, a home in the Alberta countryside with 7 horses, 50 chickens, 4 dogs and 2 cats, even a goat, although that one didn't last long. After 5 years I found myself anxious to resume my art – with no real goal, except to have time to get some painting done and to continue the art idea I somehow had let get away from me. I took some classes, had an amazing week at an art camp, complete with daycare, sponsored by the Province of Alberta, and started getting more focused on my next life as an artist. I remember reading the book, Passages, and reading Gail Sheehee's description of a woman's right to her own fulfillment and career goals, especially after helping to get her husband's career goals taken care of. Okay. Now my future is going to include the once distant idea that art can be my life. And so, after 12 years of marriage I became single. And that, dear reader, was when my art dreams became a reality. I knew right then that the way for me to become a ‘real’ artist was to “Just do It.” No plan B, no backup plan. I fully believed that if I had to, I could. (And with 2 children to support, I really had to.) More than that, if I didn't have to, I wouldn't. I knew I was good at art, I knew I could and would work hard, and I sincerely believed that would be enough, because more than anything else, I am indeed an optimist. Thus my future began in January, 1980. Commitment.

Creativity is a conversation, and do we really want to be “loose”? by Shauna Shane

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Creating is communication, communication is sharing, and the best, most effective message is a brief message. How many times have you, the artist or art student, said or heard this: "I just want to be able to loosen up." It is my belief that "loosen up" is the wrong phrase. If you've heard me in a demo or class you've heard me equate painting with poetry. Poetry is not "loose" writing, poetry is essential, condensed, and efficient; the exact opposite of "loose." As with writing poetry or any other creative discipline, the entire process of painting is a journey, beginning with hours extending into years of skill building — learning how to draw, paint, design, and handle your medium. At the beginning we are tight, careful, and afraid of "doing it wrong." With practice comes expertise – with practice comes confidence. With exposure to the masters' works comes the appreciation of the power that a single, perfect brushstroke has. Poetry.

And there it is. The painter's goal is not to say everything, to render all so perfectly that it reads like a photograph. "That's amazing," they say. In fact, if it's a photographic wonderment, if every tiny detail is rendered with absolute precision, it is the artist turning the painting into a monologue. Only the beginner needs to say everything. The experienced painter has the efficiency, skill and confidence to edit, to condense, to say much, much more with the briefest paint stroke. Poetry.

One only has to look at John Singer Sergeant, Joaquin Sorolla, or Edgar Paine — think of any master. No matter what style, the experienced painter has learned to edit. The goal — communication; interaction.  A give and take conversation with that most important person, the one who views, and perhaps, in your thoughtful, skillful, edited impression of your subject, finds room for the heart to be moved.

That is what completes the circle. That is what a painter lives for, I believe. Not to show off how accurate we are, but to touch the emotion and the heart of the viewer with the idea and the reaction that was the reason for painting what we saw and felt that day. If we can do that, what they call in academia, "to emit a response in the viewer," we are at the heart of what it is to be an artist: To communicate through what we create. Poetry!

First Blog Entry: What to name this blog, anyway... by Shauna Shane

Koi Pond, Pastel

This begins a quiet rant and discussion about the life and times of a "famous artist."  Famous Artist...I started using that description on my name tags, gosh, it was in 1982, just a couple of years after I started this life as an artist, I mean, serious, no plan B or back-up plan, support me and the kids on only this – Artist. My studio landlord and neighbor, Dean Miller, referred to me always as "famous artist," so I decided it should stay with me. (Thanks, Dean.)

Mission: To inform and instruct about how to improve the quality of what we create artistically. To describe the creative crazy brain activity and the daily life of a single, more than mature, working artist. And to explore "this American life" from  the point of view of a single woman, mother, grandmother, businesswoman and friend.