Shannon Taylor​

We got to know Shannon at Venison’s first session of Art Camp last spring. She was a last minute attendee who filled an open spot just in the nick of time, and we are sure glad she did! ​

Shannon Taylor is a professional watercolorist based out of Oakland, California. With exception to the summer she lived in Italy (amazing), and the pursuit of her terminal degree in the UK (also pretty good), she has lived in Oakland since 2002. Her work has always focused on themes of nature, magic, and beauty, with special attention placed on detail and decorative elements. In addition to her professional practice, Shannon is also the Director of Art and Restoration at Children’s Fairyland, and a Professor at the California College of the Arts. In her free time (ha) Shannon enjoys swimming, soft fabrics, and petting other people’s dogs.

“When I talk about ‘not your grandmother’s watercolors’… The way I use watercolor is, there’s no white of the paper, I put back titanium in, I use the paint more how a lot of people would apply oil paint. I use paint that is very medium heavy. I’m taking this traditional craft medium that people have used for centuries and trying to use it in a different kind of way.”

“ I like that (watercolor) is this manageable medium, you can take it anywhere. I’ve gone on these amazing trips and lived out of the US and I always have the paint with me.”

“There’s a lot of color and life and dynamism that comes from nature. There’s just this huge range of beauty and interest and, just sort of magical qualities that come directly… from nature that’s just strikingly beautiful” ​

“I started doing watercolor with my paternal Italian Grandmother, and it was sort of our way of bonding…the fact that we could bond over this thing that we both really liked to do was really great.”

“I feel like there’s a lot of magic that already exists out in nature, out in the outside world, that for me, as a painter, I don’t have to do very much to capture or put it through my own sense because it’s already amazing”

“As a kid you always hope that unicorns or real or fairies are real, whatever it is- you want this ‘something more’ in your world. I feel that in my work, it’s my opportunity to world build, to take something that’s know and something that’s comfortable and something that’s familiar and reach out for something more than that.”“There’s always beauty in the darkness, which I’ve always found to be very appealing”

“When I have opportunities to make more beautiful more inclusive, more educational pieces I definitely try”

“ My studio consists of a giant wall of frames that are all piled up by size because its very satisfying, and because I have a giant frame collection…”

“I like having unusual framing with my pieces. I like having control of how my piece will look at the end, and I like having something that’s already had some history to it. It’s been touched, it’s been damaged, it’s been repaired… There’s more to it that’s going on than, you know, buying a frame from Aaron Brothers or Ikea. you get a little bit more out of it. It has its own sort of emotive quality”

“I am kind of a beast… I’ve always been kind of prolific. I always feel more anxious not working on projects than when I am regardless of the timeline. I have a very loving, supportive, understanding husband and i will basically come home from work, work for a few hours on whatever project i’m working on, and then I will bring it into the living room and talk with him, and we’ll get to visit…I basically am working nonstop, all the time. That’s how I do it” ​


“I’ve worked on trying to be very decisive and have a clear vision going into each piece I make, which I think sort of helps me manage my time. It’s definitely something that has become easier and easier over the years.”


“It’s like trying to find a balance where you get to do all the things you want but you’re still a human being. It’s been an interesting journey.”

“ I love and still love the sort of puzzle, problem solving quality of painting and drawing. I like that it feels like a puzzle. That’s the part of the work that really drives me. I like putting something together and seeing it develop and come together and that’s where the real joy is. I think the fact that I like that part of it so much is the part that enables me to form a sort of prolific career on top of having a full time job”

“There’s a lot of pressure to sort of get success from some specific magical rate. You know, you’ll see people succeed right out of school, or people you never thought would thrive just do really well. It’s really hard to give yourself the gift of time. I feel like for me I worked a lot of terrible jobs. I’m in a place now where I feel reasonably good about where I am and my career but ya know I had huge doubts about what I was doing for many years. I was very concerned about my future life and what It could be. I think sort of a general advice thing is just keep doing the work and make sure it’s something you enjoy and your success will come at some point. And if this is all the success I have now, I’m kind of okay with that. I don’t have a lot of grand ideas of where i should be I guess, but the fact that I’’m able to make work that makes me happy, and I’ve got a good relationship… these are all kind of enough for me to feel kind of happy with my situation. It’s just allowing yourself to take as much time as you need to sort of figure out your happiness, as cheesy as it sounds. It’s really hard to go against what people think you should be doing or where you personally think you should be at. It’s a really hard sort of constant battle”

“The art, I mean the illustration and animation for children in the 80’s was really strange, like unusually strange. It was like super conceptual and a lot of times had really dark themes. Like the care bears – they live in this rainbow kingdom above the clouds, so you know generally heaven, and then they are pursued by Darkheart which is just this force of darkness. It’s just this good and evil struggle portrayed by these super candy colored, cuddly, lumpy bears- but conceptually very advanced stuff.. Uhh god what a crazy show”“The sort of brandywine school of illustration, like the Arthur Rackham’s and the Howard Pyle, that’s sort of where my heart of hearts is”