interview: Shannon Rankin

Shannon Rankin is an artist based out of Rangeley, Maine. Her work is composed of collages, drawings, paintings, installations, and even a few experimental videos. I first came across the work of Shannon back in May of this year. Her pieces with vintage maps and anatomical silhouette's all being connected with thread really appealed to me. The simple manner in which she constructs her work is what sets her apart from so many other artist. I am really excited to be able to bring the work of Shannon Rankin to your attention and I hope you all enjoy.

1. First off, I love the simplicity of your work. Can you tell me how you first become interested in art?

Thanks Kyle. I was a creative kid growing up with an artistic mother who always encouraged the creativity in me, but it never really occurred to me that I could be an artist until much later in life. In High School, I took one art class that lasted for a quarter of a semester, which was a lot of fun, but not at all serious. Once I got out into the “real” world, I would repeatedly meet artists and designers who became my friends and would inspire and encourage me. One day, it suddenly dawned on me that I could also do this, be this! So, I’ve had a lot of catching up to do…

I went to art school, and it was an amazing experience for me. Everything seemed to really make sense for me there, and I suddenly realized I was in the right place, at the right time.

2. What is your background in art and design, professional or non-professional, and what made you become an artist/designer?

I attended the Maine College of Art in Portland, Maine. I received my bachelor of fine arts there, but my main focus for my final two years was in graphic design, and new media. After graduating, I spent some time creating interactive art, but that didn’t always pay the bills, so I attempted a life as a graphic designer, I moved out west, and began working for clients, etc. I was okay at it, but it didn’t fulfill me at all, and I felt limited being a graphic designer. So one day, I made the decision to dive wholeheartedly into being an artist.

3. Who or what would you say has the biggest influence on the work you're doing?

I would say probably the two greatest influences on my work are nature, and the books I’ve been reading on and off over the past 10 years, books by Alan Watts, Carl Jung, Henry Miller, Joseph Campbell, Carl Sagan, and now Eckhart Tolle.

4. What tools do you normally use for a project from start to finish?

Well, of course that depends on what I am working on at the time. However, it often begins with a mechanical pencil, vellum, paper, maps, an X-acto knife, a lot of blades, a needle, thread, scissors, an awl, a bone folder, gouache, paintbrushes, and sometimes ends with archival glue.

5. What has been your favorite project you've worked on, and what has been the hardest?

It doesn’t tend to happen too often, but if I am working on a series where I feel that someone may have an expectation of me, or the work, I tend to freeze up a bit. So that can be difficult.

However, when I feel that I have complete freedom and the work surprises me, those are the best times, and my favorite projects to work on!

6. How would you say being an artist influences your life? Do you feel you have a different perspective on things around you?

For me, being an artist is a lifelong commitment. It’s a commitment to what I believe is my purpose in life. It isn’t always easy because there are times when it is a struggle to believe, and trust in yourself and the work. That’s when I just have to keep plugging along. I believe part of the struggle is part of the process, and you just have to move through whatever it is that might block you, or allow yourself time to rest. My grandmother always said, “This too shall pass”.

Art making is a meditative process for me. While I am creating, I allow myself to be totally present in the work. It’s that “white moment” that allows me to feel connected to something greater than myself, and allows me to make work that has an energy or essence about it that I hope people resonate with.

7. How do you spend your spare time?

These days my spare time is taking walks with my squeeze | Justin Richel

and our little kitty | Theodore

8. What are your five favorite sites you visit?

I’m a tad obsessed with Flickr (and the lovely community there), so I have to say I love to keep up with what these (how about) 6 artists are doing these days. I feel that all of them are creating some really fresh work that is always hugely inspiring to me!

Betsy Walton

Maxwell Loren Holyoke-Hirsch

Allyson Mellberg

Robert Hardgrave

Alexis Anne Mackenzie

Hernan Paganini

9. In your artist statement you speak of finding connection, do you think you'll ever find what you're looking for or will there always be more to explore?

I hope there will be many more connections to discover! It’s the seeking that keeps me engaged, and always curious about what might be around the bend!

10. Thanks for taking the time to participate. Do you have any last words of inspiration or a favorite quote?

Thanks Kyle for inviting me! I’d say my all time favorite quote is by Joseph Campbell – “Follow your bliss”. It’s a very simple quote and if you can truly follow, I believe all good things will come.

For more of Shannon's work you can visit her blog or on flickr. And if you're interested in making a purchase please visit her etsy shop.