wet paint


why I love my collectors

I started painting almost two decades ago because my husband and I were two older people starting a life, with a mostly empty house and completely empty walls. We used to spend an occasional First Friday perusing the galleries in Raleigh and he thought my decades of doodles warranted a small investment in canvas and paint. A couple years later, when I had sold enough paintings to need a public venue, he said he’d bankroll it for a 2 years.

Not everyone gets that kind of leg up and what it allowed me to do was paint full time, all the time. I supported my habit very well, and a habit it is. It is like an addiction without the hangover and remorse. It is something I found I needed to do every day. If there was a long vacation, I’d be enjoying myself, but occasionally experiencing a random sense of mild anxiety. I needed to paint.

I had to paint subjects that pleased me but went home with other people. (I mean, really: even if I had had the discretionary income to afford hundreds of canvases and gallons of paint, where would I have put them?!)

So, early on, I started responding to my collectors’ requests. The algorithm is easy: collectors allowed me to keep painting. I never really thought of my paintings as “children,” as some artists do: they were more like nieces and nephews I could enjoy, dressing up, splurging on toys, giving them make-overs and book lists and paint sets. Then their real “parents” would see them in my tent at a festival, or in a window in a gallery. They went home, were where they belonged all along* and I had the resources to paint another day.

Collectors, though, become a circle of friends. Sometimes you see them once a year. Sometimes you see them once and never see them again, but you still stay in touch. Sometimes their friends become collectors, and you never even meet those people, but you email back and forth about things they like, because you are creating something that is going to live in their home and be part of their daily lives. And they are investing in that creation.

It’s an honor.

As I embarked on the City Series in 2010, I had no idea that I would still be creating these interpretations nearly a decade later, but I am still getting requests, and there are still cities to be painted. I used to joke that I’d never run out of material with this series, and it’s true.

I’ve run into little “blocks.” I’ve had to paint a handful of cities I’ve not visited, which broke my original “rules” for myself — but the client was getting a large series of small paintings and flying off to Asia wasn’t in the budget. And I had so many requests for St. Louis that I had to paint it before I got to go through and take photos for myself (another “rule”). I’ve done that now.

Some cities I have re-worked, some several times, adding collectors’ landmarks and favorite haunts. It’s one of the reasons I started doing the mixed media versions, and that took on a life of its own. Some of my latest favorites started out as mixed media, but they always also include actual original painting. If I could be a digital artist, I would probably love to do that, but this dog learned a different way to hunt and so, the brush therapy is where it is.

I’ve had to ponder some cities longer than others, but some just popped into the most amazing creations. God is the conduit; I am just an instrument, so I can blow that horn. Peoria, for example, is a thoroughly inviting painting. You just want to be there. It was something I wanted to do for Peoria. It’s always been a poor stepsister. “But, will it play in Peoria?” was a way of saying about a Broadway production, “yes, we sophisticates love it, but will the common man even get it?”

Now I’m redesigning how I share my imagination – but I have to give credit where credit is due: my collectors. I paint alone. I will continue to paint in my little room until I die, but if my collectors didn’t reward what I do there, I wouldn’t have that privilege. It IS work, and I treat it as seriously as I would any job, but it is still a privilege and an honor to spend my days creating canvases that will add to other people’s daily lives. Even if all it adds is a subliminal glance of color that brings a little smile. Such a special thing.

So, thank you ALL!

The wonderful duo represented in the pic above are fantastic. Those are prints on canvas. But there is an original in the group, painted just for them.

There are many people in Oklahoma City who have collected prints of my paintings of their proud city every year I’ve gone there. And every year, an original painting of OKC would go home with one or three people (depending on how industrious I had been!) There’s a woman in North Carolina who may have the largest collection of cities, limited editions, beautifully matted and framed. I’m stunned by their enthusiasm.

And there is a corporate group which sent large canvas reproductions to all 27 of their city branches around the country a few years ago.

A handful of the most popular destinations have been licensed for unlimited editions posters.com and other international art wholesalers. If you own one of those originals, by the way, it gets more valuable with every poster that goes up on a wall in London or Krakow.

I may not have realized how popular cities actually would be, but you did!**

And now apparently, so does National Geographic – can’t WAIT to dive into THIS ISSUE!


I post thoughts here now and again. I’m too random to be a real blogger, but some people like to read what I think. 🙂

  • There may be a real metaphysical connection before I even start painting, but only God knows that

** I’ve got a group of my “Top 24 American Cities” available at this link, by the way. Each city has a high quality, heavy bond page of its own, suitable for framing. You can make your own collection! http://www.magcloud.com/browse/issue/1581293

About Carol Joy Shannon

A former sailor of the seven seas, living in my beloved Lowcountry, between the blackwater swamps and the saltmarshes, surrounded by pre-revolutionary history.....thinking about current events....painting dinosaurs and other whimsical animals for children, with the occasional abstract or new cityscape for my delightful collectors. The best thing about being a seasoned old salt is sitting down not running around, so...
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