An interview with Shannon Elizabeth Gardner

Name: Shannon Elizabeth Gardner                   

Resident of: Stevens Point, Wisconsin, USA

Place of birth: Sauk City, Wisconsin, USA

4 bums on a rugby goalpost

Why do you create art?

There is no question that I was born to be this way. I have and always will be an artist. Horror and the macabre have occupied most of my life as I’ve always found fascination with death and decay. The study of Folklore, Cryptozoology and Mythology will continue to constantly inspire me. I have always had this personality and feel grateful to have been born with a purpose. I wake up every day knowing what I am here to do. I wear the ‘Weird Girl’ Badge with pride.

What do you create?

I create macabre art depicting disturbing and horrifying work with elements of occult symbolism and iconography. My interest in the macabre began while studying nature and the paranormal. I appreciate the spontaneous process of nature and strive to explore Earth’s unearthed beauty while imitating natural imperfections. My use of watercolor and India Ink are intuitive and create beauty within flaws while crafting an earthy grunge appearance. This technique assists the viewer to observe the Asian aesthetic Wabi Sabi; appreciation of imperfections. The ethereal mood of my work reaches the extreme and addresses the taboo.

When do you create?

I believe my processes are unique. I tend to create two different types of work; a piece that is drawn first then painted later and/or a spontaneous piece created in the studio with only water mediums in ‘one’ setting. With the first type; a drawn piece can be worked on for days to months depending on what I want to do. Depending on what kind of day I am having I either want to spend copious amounts of time to complete intricate detail or use the most minimal way of conveying a mood and theme. I do not plan ahead of time what I want to do, I let myself decide in the moment. I feel as if I dicconcent my brain when creating and become conscious after I am done.

I also tend to create drawings in ‘batches’. Sometimes I create multiple inked pieces while working on them during short spurts of spare time. After I have a few in my arsenal I set aside an appropriate block of time to color them all with the same watercolor and ink palette. This is a way to ensure that all pieces share a common color scheme and theme. This is also the time where I create pieces that are entirely painted with a brush using watercolor and India Ink. I enjoy using India Ink to convey a burnt, grunge-like appearance to my work. I often blacken the edges to give the piece a worn, tattered look. I also enjoy working from a dirty palette and reusing dried up wells of color from past works.

Who do you read/ take inspiration from?  –

I grew up and still enjoy reading young adult horror by authors like R.L. Stine and horror anthologies like the Scary Stories to Read in the Dark series. Interest in publishing like these have inspired myself to create work that is illustrative and narrative. I appreciate the description of character and setting in YA books and like the benefit of a concise story.

Another visionary I have deep admiration for is Tim Burton. Being my biggest influence for the duration of my whole life, I grew up admiring his artwork and enjoying his unique way of illustrative storytelling. The haunting quality of his work inspires the evocative and grotesque allure of my work. I enjoy his use of minimalism, my favorite illusion of beauty.

I also study the occult, sacred places, cryptozoology, criminology, mythology, fairytales and folklore.

How do you create? –

I can create work in any setting; attending work, vegging on the couch, attending a seminar, etc. There are no holds that can barricade myself from creating when I feel inspired. I do not find creating work to be a chore and spontaneously create work whenever possible. I have a characteristic to create a great amount of work as a result of the continued support of my peers and clients. Confidence is a direct result of appreciation from my viewers and it humbles me that I am allowed to create work that pleases people while not knowing a clue what I am doing. My belief is; there’s a detachment of command between my brain and hand. I have discovered an innate exchange between the brain’s command and the hand’s action. There is an amount of trust between each other that I must  trust myself to create something aesthetically pleasing.

You’re going to release your first Album, what would it be called?

If I were a musician or even naming an art compilation I would entitle it; Shannon’s Spooky Society. I have actually been thinking of a business name for rebranding, this may be it.

You could be anything other than an artist, what would you be?

I believe I would be interested in mortuary sciences or taxidermy, both I could argue are still arts. I assume I would still like to work with my hands but would be more targeted towards the study of science. From culinary to journalism, any other career I could imagine doing involves the arts in some way. One direction I guarantee would never venture in would be mathematics or politics.

Why are manhole covers round?

My first guess as to why ‘manhole covers’ are round is because circles are better to maneuver and create. It is also, I assume, to fit a tube or cylindrical connector to the sewer. Additionally, I suppose it would be easier for workers and turtles to access the space below.

What would your autobiography be called?

I would enjoy it if my autobiography would be called; Dark Artist: Unearthed Beauty. I would prefer my autobiography to focus on my use of watercolor, line and dot work and my attempt to help people observe the Asian aesthetic Wabi Sabi; appreciation of imperfections.

You can claim one piece of art as your own work, what would it be and why?

This was a very hard question to answer. I take pride in all my work and the authenticity of my technique and subject matter. It actually pains me to think of another artist’s work I would claim as my own. My initial answer would be the 1999 film Sleepy Hollow by Tim Burton. This film inspired my entire way of life and artistic aesthetic. German Expressionism was a driven influence from the score to the costume design. I appreciate the historic movement captured through a modern lense. The use of a charcoal palette, black and white stripes with cardinal red glimmers of life continue to speak to my soul as I grow as an artist and into adulthood.  I would not be the person I am today without viewing this film during my early childhood. 

You’re on death row, what would your last meal be?

My last meal would be a dish called Poutine. Originated in Canada it is a french fry dish normally served with cheese curds and gravy. The best cheese curds are fresh from Wisconsin and squeak in your mouth. I enjoy the addition of pickles and ketchup. If those ingredients are not available a nice med-rare steak with ketchup will do. My drink of choice would be root beer.

What was the last piece of music you listened to?

The band I grew up listening to broke up a few years ago, their name is HIM and originate from Finland. The lead singer,Ville Valo, has just released the first 3 singles of his solo career and they have been my drug of choice for the past few months.

When did you last go to a live sporting event, what was it?

I went to the local speedway with my family a few summers ago. Before that my family and I attended a monster truck rally. The last sport I saw, not involving automobiles, would be a middle school basketball game. I am not interested in sporting events and focus my time doing activities involving nature or art.

If interviewed what would your pet say about you?

I actually do not have a pet. I am a cat person so I believe if I owned a cat they would describe me like I am another cat.

You can invent an App, what would it do?

If I invented an app it would be to measure, record and reproduce aromas. The technology would collect and exampine compounds in the air and register what smell it is. This would be a way to document and reproduce smells from your phone!

Describe yellow to someone who is blind in 50 words

Yellow is the feeling when something is warming up, a touch of a fuzzy blanket or fingertips on a fresh bloomed dandelion. It’s the reassuring taste of citrus, the feel of your face muscles tightening into a smile. Finally, it’s the feeling you get when a child clings to you.

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