My artistic journey began, like many artists, in grammar school and continued through high school. I seemed to be happiest and closest to my spirit with pen and brush in my hand. After graduating high school, I found myself enrolled in Chouinard Art Institute in downtown Los Angeles, which is now California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, CA. In Art College, I bloomed as an artist learning techniques and then learning to break all the rules, eventually beginning to develop my own style.

I graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Art (BFA) degree. I was a fashion designer in the garment district in downtown LA for a short while. I even owned and operated a small boutique in North Hollywood. I soon realized this was not the career for me. I returned to college and went to California State University, Los Angeles and earned my Teaching Credential. I taught art in public high school in Santa Ana for over 10 years. I had found my calling. My teaching specialty was drawing and painting. Students enjoyed my art classes and frequently won local art contests. During this time, I was a free-lance artist exhibiting and selling my artwork locally along the Southern California coast.

Figure 1: A photo of me and Gabe

You never really know what life has in store for you. Several years ago, I encountered an event that would change my life forever. I experienced a massive left hemisphere brain-stem stroke four days after my 36th birthday. In an instant, I was paralyzed. I could not breathe, speak, walk, and I lost the use of my dominant right hand. Needless to explain, this was very devastating and the prognosis for my recovery was bleak. I worked very hard in rehabilitation (years actually) and slowly learned to talk again and walk as well, eventually obtaining added assistance with my licensed service dog, Gabe.

Figure 2: Cliff Moon 2

However, I did not recover the use of my dominant right arm and hand. So, I taught myself to draw with my left hand and used this activity and my drawings as an integral part of my stroke recovery. As soon as I could sit up in a wheel chair, I began drawing with a vengeance. I just intuitively knew art would save my life. There is something about the creative process that is absolute healing. I knew this deep inside myself and worked toward recovery with art as healing.

I eventually recovered enough to head back to college attending California State University, Long Beach. I earned a Master of Science (MS) in Counseling and shortly after graduation moved to Santa Cruz, CA., where I began teaching and counseling at Cabrillo College in Aptos. Twenty-one years later, I am still teaching at Cabrillo College and loving every minute of it. However, I no longer live in Santa Cruz. I have moved to the beautiful and majestic Carmel Valley.

Figure 3: Journey into Spirit (award winner at 2012 ICCPS China Exhibit) Award – Sumi Art Cultural Award

Carmel Valley is a magical place and is very inspiring to the artist’s eye. I have been so at peace here nestled under the Oak Trees. I enjoy watching the many Carmel Valley critters and birds in their daily activities. There is a time of day, just at dusk, when the valley mountains, turn shades of purple colors that are unbelievably spectacular. Carmel Valley is a perfect spot for any artist to live and create. Hence, the creation and development of Casey Shannon Studio.

It took several years after my stroke for me to begin painting again. I began by simple drawing. Drawing actually saved my life. I drew with my non-dominant left hand and I was using my drawings as a means to enhance my self-esteem and sense of well-being. At this time, I combined my drawing with inspirational sayings that I liked and that meant something to me, providing me with what I call ‘Aha Moments’. This activity also provided a way for me to practice writing and printing. I eventually gained enough confidence to engage in sumi-e again. (you will find examples of this healing drawing on my website in healing with art)

Figure 4: Journey into Flowers

Currently, I am a contemporary sumi-e painter reaching beyond the limits of traditional ink painting and creating the sound of one hand. My paintings one would not generally call traditional sumi-e. However, I adhere to the traditional sumi-e principles and philosophies, as well as, the traditional ink and mind preparation before beginning a sumi-e painting. For me, ink painting is a meditation and a creative process. I try to capture spirit as the brilliance of ink is transferred to the paper with the stroke of a brush as it is pushed across the surface. The object in your picture seems to ‘breathe and take on life’, and this breath begins to fill the page with spirit just as it does in all of nature which surrounds us. The inner power of the painted form shines through the ink and the white page. The white space surrounding the painted form becomes as important as the object itself. The ink painting represents soul, spirit, and beauty all at the same time in concert. It is ‘The Sound of my One Hand’.

Figure 5: Palm of Kindness

The Sumi-e art form is steeped in Zen Buddhism. In Sumi-e or ink painting, you have to ‘become one’ with the object in the painting. When you understand and/or experience how the simple and bold lines of the brush strokes and various shades of the ink are transformed to create a powerful spirit and energy, then you will have a sense of what these philosophies and paintings are all about.

Brush painting or ink painting called Sumi-e in Japan is done quickly without over thinking your subject matter. Once the brush is laid to the white paper and you have a mark, that’s it. There is no erasing, doing over, or changing. The painting ‘just exists’. This is why one who creates Sumi-e paints from a quiet centered place and has the intention of capturing the object’s spirit and essence with just a few simple and graceful brush strokes. Sumi-e exemplifies the concept of ‘Less is More.’

‘Kokoro tadashikereba sunawachi fude tadashi’.
If your mind is correct, the brush will be correct.

Figure 6: Orchid Tea

Presently, I am the Director of the North American Branch of ICCPS – International Chinese Calligraphy and Ink Painting Society, as well as, a Director in China Seal Caving Gyoku-seki Society.