Gallup Sun

Sunday, Oct 01st

Last update09:47:38 PM GMT

You are here: Community Arts An artist’s journey

An artist’s journey

E-mail Print PDF

What inspires Shannon Gurley O’Donnell

Shannon Gurley O’Donnell has worn many hats in her life.

She originally thought she wanted to be a doctor, but after a year at Creighton University in Omaha, Neb., she realized that wasn’t the path for her. She went on to be a flight attendant and a manager at a Ronald McDonald House before finally getting a business degree and working as a salesperson.

But it was actually a small moment during her time as a flight attendant that would change O’Donnell’s life. She used to do a lot of writing, and her roommate at the time suggested she use a watercolor wash behind her writing.

Now, over 30 years later, some of O’Donnell’s watercolors are slated to be featured in Gallup’s ART123 Gallery. In an interview with the Sun, she said she had no idea she would be an artist as she grew up in Gallup.

“My brother was the artist in the family, and I was the ‘brains,’ and those were our roles,” ‘O’Donnell said.

She took some classes to improve her skill. She explained that art took a backseat as she raised her kids, but once they were adults, she was able to focus more on her art, and take classes.

“It took me a long time to admit that I was an artist,” O’Donnell said. “It took me many years to own that I was an artist because I was like ‘oh a real artist can do it better than this.’”

She said that it took plenty of time and practice to get to where she is at today.

“Especially early on, I would be trying to capture what I saw or what I was trying to do, and I just couldn’t quite get it; I didn’t have enough tools, I didn’t have enough experience, I didn’t have the right techniques, and it would be just so frustrating,” O’Donnell said while she was reflecting on her journey as an artist. “I think it’s just as the years have gone by, from other classes, and from other artists and from just experimenting, I now have more techniques in my toolbox that I can express whatever I’m trying to express.”

She said when she was first starting out, she only dreamed of being featured in the ART123 Gallery. She remembers a specific time when she was showing her art in a coffee shop.

“I remember being intimidated by ART123, like ‘oh, that’s a real gallery, I’m in a coffee shop,’” O’Donnell said.

But she overcame those lingering doubts and now has a gallery showing to be proud of.

O’Donnell’s show is called “All Over the Board,” because she paints multiple subjects and uses different media. Her artwork ranges from teacups and flowers to abstracts and nudes.

“I like painting all kinds of things, and I paint from reference photographs,” O’Donnell said.

Rose Eason, gallupARTS’ executive director, said she’s excited to see Donnell’s full range as an artist on display.

“Shannon’s an incredible artist and I’m really excited that she’s done this ‘All Over the Board’ show this year because she does see art everywhere she looks and she does such an amazing job of capturing different subjects or themes in different media,” Eason said.

O’Donnell’s show opens on June 11 during ArtsCrawl. She will also be giving a virtual artist talk on June 20 over on gallupARTS’ Facebook page.

ART123 is located at 123 Coal Ave. in downtown Gallup.

By Molly Ann Howell
Sun Correspondent