ArtTalk: Watercolor artist inspired by Ozarks, nature

Wednesday, March 12, 2014 | 6:00 a.m. CDT; updated 2:18 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, March 18, 2014
Shannah Arner paints by looking for an image then sketching it in pencil. Then she'll goes over the pencil with ink and add paint. Sometimes, she uses both to get the right amount of detail. For the bluebird, she used paint first then added detail with ink after the paint dried.

The Columbia Missourian is re-launching a project called ArtTalk with the goal of celebrating and discussing local art and artists. To submit one yourself, fill out the form at the bottom of the story.

This story was contributed by Missourian reader Shannah Arner.

Q: What kind of art do you create? Tell us about your medium and style.

A: I've always considered myself a pretty arty person, however, I'd always been horrible at painting. But, about four years ago, I saw the most amazing watercolor exhibit. Part of the paintings were stereotypical ocean scenes but others were hyper-realistic. Before then, I hadn't realized there was so much variety in types of watercolor painting. Around a year later, I decided to try it out for myself. I bought two how-to books about watercolor and dug out some some old paints. As I practiced, I felt like I was progressing really well so I bought better paint and gathered more supplies.

Now, I paint by looking for an image I'd like to paint, then sketching it out freehand in pencil. My next  two steps can switch in order depending on the style I'm going for. For the gnomes, I went over the pencil with ink then added the actual paint. For the tropical birds, I went back and forth between pen and paint to get the level of detail I wanted. For the bluebird, I painted first then, once it had dried completely, I added detail within to give a look a bit more like a scientific sketch from the past.

Q: What is it that inspires you? And why do you create art?

A: Beautiful images are what inspire me most directly. I love nature and I think organic shapes mesh well with my style of watercolor. My less obvious inspiration is the Ozark area of Missouri, which is where I grew up. I spent a lot of time in the woods and I still enjoy hiking. Being in the forest feels so magical, so I try to convey that sense of magic and wonder in my art. As I paint more, I want to try to mix magic and the Ozarks even more. My final inspiration is my mom. She also paints but she does oil paintings. Seeing her work made me want to produce some of my own.

Q: What sets you or your work apart from other artists?

A: I don't really feel that I'm an outstanding  painter, but I do think I've done well since I have only been painting about three years. One thing that I think is a bit different about me than many other painters is that I think of myself as a writer first. I try to convey a similar magical Ozark inspired mood in my prose and poetry, so I would love to do a series of watercolor paintings inspired by my writing. Eventually, I would love to publish books that I have written and illustrated.

Q: Can your work be found around the community (or has it been in the past)? If so, where?

A: I have never displayed my art in the community because I don't really feel that I'm at a high enough level to display yet. Also, most of my paintings are very small. The largest of the three pictures I'm including (and that I have completed) is the bluebird at 5x7 in. The other two are both 2x3 in.: the size of a trading card. Since my paintings are so tiny, they really wouldn't make a very dynamic exhibit.

Please consider sharing your own submission using the form below.

This story is part of a section of the Missourian called From Readers, which is dedicated to your voices and your stories. We hope you'll consider sharing. Here's how. Supervising editor is Joy Mayer.

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