CSA co-founders AnneTrabue Nelson and Ann Simmons recently enjoyed a Q+A session with Fall share artist Lisa Shimko. Read on to learn about how she to came to live in Charleston, how her surroundings and her formal education affect her work, her favorite places to experience art, and more!
CSA: You grew up in York County, PA, and then studied at the University of Arts in Philadelphia before moving to South Carolina in 2000. What brought you here? Did the change in your surroundings significantly impact your work?
LS: I moved from Philadelphia to Hilton Head Island, SC with a guy I was dating, ultimately with or without him, I was looking for a change after spending my life, up until then, in the Mid-Atlantic/Northeast. Almost a decade before my move to the South, before there was internet and google, the university library had a photo reference section where I was a bit obsessed to find scenes of live oak trees with Spanish moss of the south, which aided in sprouting my still ongoing series of “tree canopies”.
CSA: Part of your formal education is in Art Therapy. How does that play into your work and studio practice?
LS:This is a tough question to answer. Art Therapy is the study of Psychology with the emphasis of using art as a tool in therapy; ironically self-analyzing the impact on myself is a bit difficult. What I will say comfortably is while studying/practicing Art Therapy, participating in teaching and various art outreach programs over the years, I see how important art is, not only therapeutically, but also in the possibility for learning/teaching. Perhaps this is evident in my attempts to create aesthetically pleasing paintings with underlying environmental/wildlife conservation messages.
CSA: Your work is heavily inspired by the natural world and you do a great deal of research and explore many references to create your paintings. Can you discuss how your work plays a role in your environmental activism?
LS: I feel I still have a long long way to go, both educating myself and better communicating via my art. Part of my art process is stream of consciousness so I have to trust all my research/experience will filter out into my paintings organically on some level. Its a fine line because I don’t consider myself an illustrator, forcing a specific piece of information in a linear way. The stream of consciousness process imbues my paintings with the surreal aspects that I feel get closer to a sensation, something other than an intellectualized rendition of a factoid. With all of that said, I have been wanting to create a visual book and the struggle is finding a way to keep a bit of the stream of consciousness but still have ideas understandable.
CSA: Do you remember the first piece you ever made?
LS: I don’t remember the first piece per se, but when I read this question thought of horses. Common for little girls to be obsessed with horses. I learned the anatomy and drew horses around me all the time. In 5th grade much to every one’s dismay I built a life size paper machè horse.
CSA: How did you find your style and how has it changed over time?
LS: When I was in college there seemed to be two schools of thought among my professors; pick a “style” and stick to it, the other, which I adhere to, is keep searching honestly and see what comes out. I am earnest, honest, and sincere in creating art so feel over the years certain attributes that can be seen as my “style” have emerged, but really feel like its a hindrance to put the walls of a box around my creative process by subscribing to a self-imposed style.
CSA: Where will your artwork be one day? Who are you creating for?
LS: Really would love to have my art be more international. Would be great to be in galleries in many countries of the world. Perhaps if I do figure out my book that’ll be a ticket to international eyes.
CSA: What do you hope viewers take away from your art?
LS: This is a tough question to answer mainly because just like avoiding a self-imposed style hasten to comment on how I hope people will respond. Of course I can say I hope there is a positive response, that perhaps the art can provoke thoughts of nature around them….but everyone is so different with their aesthetic inclinations. If I think too much about what I hope other people will or will not see/feel in my work it will take away from my art-making process.
CSA: Did you always know you were going to be a working artist? Did you come from a home where that was encouraged?
LS: It’s always been a dream to live a life with art in it somehow. Not being cheeky, but honestly still continually learning how to be a working artist! Come from a hard-working middle class family, don’t think making a living as an artist was a clear vision anyone could see, guess its less blurry as the years pass.
CSA: Are there artists in your family? If yes, have they directly influenced you as an artist?
LS: My mom was artistic but never pursued a career in art, though she was a nurse, and like any practice/career it takes its own creativity. She did teach me a lot of art basics; an early memory is her ditching my crayons, breaking out nice oil pastels and teaching me how to create skin tones using layers of colors in one of my coloring books. My grandfather (mom’s dad) was a musician and draftsman, unfortunately did not see much of him in my life, so may be proof of art genes?
CSA: What is the most indispensable item(s) in your studio?
LA: A good paintbrush, as in with a good tip for exact lines and detail work.
CSA: Where is your favorite place to experience art?
LS: Philadelphia Museum of Art. I’ve grown up roaming the rooms of the PMA. Still find solace, inspiration and wonder in this museum, never tire of it.
CSA: Outside of creating art, what do you love to do?
LS: Really love to be out on a boat here in the Low Country, the light, smells, textures. Also love to hike in the mountains. Guess its the needed polar opposites for balance.
CSA: What are some of your favorite places to go in Charleston for inspiration?
LS: Again I mention the waterways. Anywhere by the water is my favorite.