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July 2016

Natural Wonder
WRITTEN BY: Amy Mercer
PHOTOGRAPHS BY: Chelsea Warlick

Shannon Brown Wood’s serene paintings reflect the Lowcountry landscapes she’s known all her life

Growing up, Shannon Brown Wood spent countless hours exploring the Lowcountry’s marsh grasses and tidal creeks with her siblings. Today, she strives to recapture that innocent, emotional connection she had with the land in her paintings. Working out of her home studio along the banks of Charleston Harbor in Mount Pleasant’s Old Village (just one house down from her childhood abode), Wood evokes nature’s light and energy with thick brushstrokes, a vivid color palette, and actual remnants of nature, including reeds she sews into her canvases. Her paintings are sold at the Grocery restaurant (where they adorn the walls), through the home and lifestyle retailer Serena and Lily, and online at Charleston Artist Collective and shannonwoodart.com.

Her process: I’m lucky, because where I live, I’m surrounded by inspiration. When I’m ready to paint, I start with the horizon; it makes the landscape feel vast, as if you’re engulfed in it. Sometimes my horizon line will be high as if you’re sitting in a boat, and other times it will be low as if you’re looking out from a dock.

Moving on: I’ll often work on multiple paintings while I’m waiting for different layers to dry. Or I’ll put a painting aside if I’m not quite sure what it needs. Taking a break helps give me a new perspective. In a weird way, I think it keeps me focused and motivated.

Greatest influence: J. M. W. Turner was a master of landscapes and ahead of his time in terms of impressionistic painting. I see emotion and soul in his work.

Elements of surprise: If I weren’t an artist, I’d be an archeologist; I love digging up stuff on the beach. I collect marsh reeds and seaweed and sew them into the canvas. It’s a tedious process, but the result is an unexpected texture that can tap into a viewer’s senses. Onlookers don’t often see the reeds until they take a step closer.

Home life: I have two older sisters and a younger brother, and their families all live nearby. I love that my daughters have so many cousins. My ideal weekend is to hang out at home or go out in the boat and meet up with friends on Dewees or Capers islands. Those places are pretty remote, so I always find cool shells, reeds, and driftwood. I love that there are elements left to be discovered.

Old Charleston: I’m fascinated by the architecture of Drayton Hall, and I continue to be amazed by the way it has been preserved. I went there for the first time on a school field trip, and I brought my girls last summer. When I was a kid, I used to imagine living there in the 18th century. I’ll never forget the old children’s height chart that’s etched into the wall in one of the door casings. These days, it’s hard to find places that have been untouched by time. It’s magical to feel the presence of the past.