Meet the Artist Series: Shana Grugan

"Currently, my work is centered around landscapes.  I find the vastness of the horizon between sky and water inspiring.  Living on the east coast, there are limited vistas of open horizon. Instead, the daily view is contained to trees in the peripheral.  There is something that makes my heart skip a beat when I walk over the dunes and see the horizon. It stretches as far as I can see and that is the feeling I am working toward conveying in these works.

Exploring this subject matter is leading me into playing with abstraction with color and form.  Sometimes, a large brushstroke is all that indicates the water or clouds while other times linear details make the waves or sky more representational.  I like pursuing this push and pull between the two approaches and I am eager to see how the two work together. Regardless of the series, I feel that my color palette unifies my work."

Shana Grugan is known for paintings that focus on color and continuity of movement.  Her most recent work blends abstraction with indications of the physical world. Working in acrylics, she explores the theme of spirituality on both canvas and paper.  This theme has been present in her work since college, though changing in style. Born in Greenville, SC, Shana spent most of her childhood in Morrow, GA. She received a BFA in Drawing and Painting from the University of Georgia.  Graduate school took her back to her home state where she received an MAT in Art Education from the University of South Carolina. She spent several years teaching art in grades K-12, in both North and South Carolina public schools, as well as instructing students through a private studio.  Her career in Art Education meant taking a break from painting, while creatively engaging in teaching studio art and concepts to mainly low-income students in schools in the Carolinas. Currently, Shana paints in a studio full time and is grateful for the opportunity to get back to her passion of painting.  She lives with her husband, daughter, and son in Pawleys Island, SC.



TSS:  How would you describe your distinct artistic style?

SG:  I love to use organic shapes in my pieces.  As I play with shapes in a composition, I begin to see continuity in the design through lines that are created.  In creating this way, negative spaces can be formed and pulled forward to be highlighted in the composition. Though it can be challenging at times, it’s fun to see the piece take shape this way because it’s so unexpected.  I use organic shapes to create movement in my paintings, too. This is true of my style whether it’s an abstract or a representational piece.

TSS:  How has your style changed over time?

SG:  Over time my style has evolved to become more spirited.  This is evident through my use of color. Years ago, I would limit my palette with the objective of containing color.  I concentrated on using subtle color contrasted next to variations of neutral greys. Now, I do not restrain my use of color, and the pieces are more playful compared with prior series of works.  Another notable change is that I have not used collage on my canvas/paper. I still love texture and layering but I have enjoyed simplifying my surfaces lately.

TSS:  How did you come to create Field Notes:  A Journey of the Heart?

SG:  I increasingly find the challenge of interpreting abstract thoughts into visual representations fascinating. Sometimes, I find that the concepts I wish to express are already present in the environment around me. Still, I often find the need to create and simplify these ideas using the basic elements of art. For example, treating shape as a language allows me to create narratives of complex emotions. My current series, Field Notes: A Journey of Heart, is created from the perspective of Heart. Heart longs to make more room for its Maker to enter and reside. Each composition is a result of how the relationship between God and Heart changes with every interaction, be it push/pull, open/close, surrender/hold, etc...Line, shape, and color are the focal point of the compositions. Often, Heart is represented as a flat stone shape and Maker as fluid movement.

TSS:  How long does the average piece take you to create?

SG:  I plan and prepare for a composition in my sketchbook before I begin any painting.  This reduces the amount of time I spend painting, most of the time. If the composition is small, it may take 5-6 hours.  A larger piece would take a few days or weeks to complete, depending on the elements.   

TSS:  What inspired you to become an artist?

SG:  The desire to be an artist (or to create) has been with me as long as I can remember.  I have always felt the need to put something in the world that communicated what I either was unable to find in the world or unable to say in words.  My favorite toy in my room was a Crayola Caddy that spun around on my desk. It held a variety of “media” for making whatever I could conceive.

TSS:  What was it like teaching art to K-12 grade kids?

SG:  I found each grade level to have its rewards and challenges.  Not every student wants to be in art class, so I was always coming up with ways to try to at least get every student to learn to appreciate art by the time they left my class.  It was a challenging job, depending on the school and the resources available, but I found it to be energizing. I loved getting to use my creativity in planning units of study.  Plus, there was nothing like putting on an end of the year art show and getting to see the students’ faces as they took their families around to see their work matted and hung ‘professionally’ with tags.

TSS:  What is your creative process for your more abstract pieces?

SG:  Of course, there is planning of the concept and composition at the start.  Some of that would include journaling or reading, as well as sketching and planning visually.  I am mostly inspired by thoughts and experiences, which are internal happenings, so I translate those things into shapes, lines, and color.  Sometimes the plan changes as I work it out on the canvas or paper. This is true for color, especially.

TSS:  How do you choose your color palettes?

SG:  I certainly have an emotional tie to color, and that is true for how I approach it in my art.  I find all kinds of things can affect my use of color, from the environment I am in, the year’s season, or even the theme of the composition.  I like to amplify color, too.

TSS:  What inspires the titles for your pieces?

SG:  The titles of my work are often decided upon in the early planning stages of the compositions.  They are based on something I have encountered within my relationships, both spiritual and physical.  

TSS:  What is your favorite medium?

SG:  I worked in oil during college and just after, but as I began to incorporate layering in my pieces I started to use acrylic.  Now, I embrace acrylics. I love layering transparent color to build up intensity and acrylic mediums are perfect for that. They are both forgiving and fast-drying.  

TSS:  Do you create other kind of art besides paintings?

SG:  I envy people who can visualize three-dimensionally.  It is not my strength but I have enjoyed handbuilding with clay in the past.  I admire the work of photographers as well, but I do not have a photographer’s eye.  So, I create on canvas and paper, both drawing and painting. However, my creative inclination spills over into other aspects of my life.  For example, our house is the ultimate work in progress. We bought it almost 10 years ago and we have renovated it completely, both the exterior and interior, with the exception of one bathroom which is last on the list.  I had a vision for the house when I saw it and we have chipped away at making it happen a little at a time.


Be sure to see all of Shana's abstract artwork in her Collection.