Today we’re featuring the work of Jonathon Lee Shannon, a landscape painter whose vibrant works are inspired by rural and urban settings throughout France, Hong Kong and the U.S. Shannon received a degree in Painting from the Savannah College of Art & Design in 2015. You can see more of his work here: http://www.jonathonleeshannon.com/
SAI: What drew you to landscape painting and how has your approach to it varied over time?
Jonathon Shannon: I have been drawn to the landscape ever since I was born.
I love nature and all of its complexities. Nature brings me a sense of joy, wonder, and exploration. I started out painting like the old masters in the impressionism period, but after learning the methods for a while, I became bored with it and felt I was repeating the past. So I started to study more into expressionism, cubism, and abstraction. Now my work is more of a combination of all the art periods from the past, but only using the techniques that I preferred.
SAI: For a period of about 2-3 years you seem to have focused on experimenting with color and abstraction in your landscapes, even breaking some of them down into what looks like linear fractals. Can you talk about this period of experimentation and its impact on your work?
Shannon: In this period I was just starting art school and really learning all the different forms of art. This resulted in the want to create something new, something that I hadn’t seen before.
In the summer of 2012 I received a scholarship to attend a workshop at Anderson Arts Ranch (Snowmass village, CO) which was taught by Lauren Clay; this class was all about geometric abstraction. I started to think about how I could abstract nature to make it more noticeable in paintings. I wanted the nature to be more than just a tree or plant, I wanted it to stand out on its own. I would alter the plants or organic forms into a geometric form, kind [of] like the opposite of itself. I would also make the colors richer and more vibrant to make them stand out.
After painting in several cities and seeing that the man made forms and the organic forms weren’t really working together, I experimented until it worked. It all came down to making the man made forms organic-like and organic forms geometric-like.
I couldn’t really process this at first but after observing my surroundings a lot, I noticed that the reflection of [a] building in the glass of another building was nonlinear – the forms become more organic. This was a way for me to see how to abstract the buildings into organic forms.
SAI: What attracts you to a particular landscape and how do you choose your subjects?
Shannon: When it comes the landscape or a particular subject, there is no right or wrong. I enjoy the idea of wonder, so I mostly roam around the location that I am in until I see that right color composition. Travel and new locations [are] the most important things to me. I want to paint all over the world and live in these different environments. The funny thing about location is that some of the dirtiest, most boring places to paint [can] create the best paintings.
SAI: What is your favorite thing about making art? What is your least favorite thing?
Shannon: My favorite thing about making art is the release it gives me, the joy it brings to others, and the idea of creating something new. The thing I hate the most is painting from a picture or a computer screen. I feel the need to live within the moments that I paint.
SAI: Who or what inspires you?
Shannon: Van Gogh is number one since I was little, Monet, De Kooning, Picasso, Smithson [and] many more – but my biggest inspiration [is] the exploration of a new place, to live in new environments.