Growing up, I drew, doodled, painted and sewed just for the sake of creating. It was an everyday necessity and super fun. One of my favorite stories came out years later from my dad. He said that when I was around 4 years old, I started painting birds. Usually kids painted birds that looked like the letter “M” soaring through the sky. But I drew a “W” flying around. I thought it looked the same and couldn’t tell any difference. There were flocks of flying Ws all over my art. My dad definitely noticed my birds were “different” but said he didn’t have the heart to correct me. Today I am so grateful he let me be myself. He didn’t impose a right or wrong way; he just saw a happy kid drawing and painting. This is a valuable lesson that I honor to this day. With any creative endeavor, I find it is vital to be myself and not be influenced by the abundance of already-existent interpretations. I try to find acceptance and happiness within my own vision. Even on “off” days when I’m not thrilled with my work, I try to remember this is part of the journey. I always embrace the ability to see through my own eyes and create art from the heart.
My first art award was in kindergarten. I was awarded a watercolor set from my teacher. My next award came many years later when I was a creative director for a children’s product company in New York. My responsibilities included developing multiple product lines from concept to production for mass- and mid-tier retailers. One year, my team and I won Disney’s Infant Division “Product of the Year” award. This was an exciting moment for all of us. The award came days before the birth of my first child. I was so grateful for this achievement, knowing that soon my world would be changing to take on the role of motherhood.
After two kids and several moves across the country, my creative journey continues. Some days I find it amazing and gratifying; other days it can be quite challenging. But I wouldn’t want it any other way. It is a joy to be able to wake up to a creative life.
“I strive to find a way of expressing art that is uniquely my own.”
— Shannon Newlin
My path to being a professional artist was not a straight one. I majored in advertising with a minor in studio art. I did not have an art portfolio upon graduation. My only goal at the time was to support myself and live in New York City. So, I moved there with $200 in my pocket and my dream. I soon landed my first full-time job with an advertising agency; however, it was not a creative position. I took it upon myself to buy books on computer art programs and taught myself during my free time. I then changed jobs to work a swing shift (4 p.m. to midnight), so that I could attend a portfolio development class from Parsons during the day and continue developing my graphic design skills. Eventually I felt ready to interview for a design position. I landed one with a small firm that enabled me to learn all aspects of design, production and animation. I worked hard for many hours, but I loved learning all aspects of the business. A few years later, my husband and I moved to Los Angeles so he could attend business school. I needed to find a job quickly to support us. I signed up with a temp agency, which had an opening for a production artist at Disney. I was really hoping to find another creative position, but I needed a job. Besides, who says no to Disney? It ended up being one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
“Make it work.”
— Tim Gunn
Today I own my own art business, Shannon Newlin LLC. I license and sell my artwork to various wonderful companies and clients. Watercolor is my go-to medium, but I also love incorporating other elements such as collage, pen-and-ink, acrylic and oil paints. I work out of my home studio, which enables me to multi-task as a mom. I have a work station in my studio dedicated to my kids so they can create alongside me when they are home from school. This environment supports great family time, plus their honest feedback is priceless. By having a home-based business, I quickly came to realize I had to set realistic goals. I would need to choose projects wisely that would enable me to maximize my time and make income while still maintaining a good balance between family and work.
One of my most recent collaborations has been with FreeSpirit Fabrics. I have always loved fabrics, fashion and craft. My work over the past few years organically progressed to painting floral patterns. I have developed quite a collection of this type of work. Through the encouragement of many of my customers at local art and craft shows, I knew this should be my next step. Now, seeing my artwork transposed onto beautifully made fabrics is very exciting. An added benefit is that it goes into the hands of another creative person who creates quilts, garments and accessories. It is wonderful to see what transpires between a fabric designer and sewist.
I look forward to seeing where my business will go in the future. I love creative challenges. They always inspire me and push me forward. If something becomes a “trend” in either art or product, I am ready to move on. I like when things are fresh and unique; that is what motivates me. I feel very blessed to have the opportunity to have a voice in the creative community, along with support from a village of friends and family that have helped me get here.
P.S. I LOVE THIS!
One of my favorite items in my studio is a small cup and saucer made in Denmark by Nymolle Art Faience Hoyrup. I found it at a barn sale in Missouri with my mother-in-law. I was immediately drawn to the beautiful illustration of a quaint seaside village. When I look at these pieces, I feel inspired by a place I have never seen.