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Colleen Cannon

Colleen has recently been working mostly in ink and watercolor, and has started to get back into acrylic painting and charcoal drawing. She has been at RWS for just over six months. Her artwork falls into two categories; one is a reductive process that explores stripping a form down to abstraction to express its essence, and the other is a series of portraits capturing different emotions. The abstract drawings are mostly done in ink, whereas the portraits are watercolor, ink, and charcoal. She likes to work in black and white, both for the contrast and to explore light and shadow. She’s been exploring abstraction for a while now and attempts to capture a subject with as little as possible. Colleen has been drawing and painting portraits for a few years now. The subjects of her portrait drawings are typically not anyone she knows; they’re blank slates so that the face can reflect how Colleen was feeling at the time. Sometimes she takes a face and breaks it down to its most basic, minimal parts to see what it looks like. Some of the portraits are reductive to the point of almost resembling abstract landscape paintings themselves. Drawing and painting helps Colleen feel calm. She doesn’t start with a vision; creating is more of a compulsion to get something out. It’s a way for Colleen to process the world around her in a way that makes sense to her. “This idea that we’re all here on this planet is a little overwhelming sometimes, when you step back and think about it. I find myself thinking about it quite a bit.” Drawing and painting is a way for her to feel more connected to everything, to herself, and to everyone around her. She struggles with calling herself an artist. “I think there’s a theme in our society where, if you’re not monetizing it, it’s hard to call yourself an artist.” But Colleen has had the urge to draw and paint since she was little. Her mother creates beautiful still life paintings in oil and watercolor and doesn’t refer to herself as an artist. “I feel like there’s this tendency to shy away from it.” Her grandmother was an artist by profession, an oil painter, and she taught Colleen how to paint when she was little. That’s how she caught ‘the bug’. Colleen started as a fine art major in college, then moved over to business, and has continued with her art-making since. While talking to a friend recently about calling herself an artist, Colleen expressed that, “It feels as though you don’t have permission to do that until you get to a certain point." Her friend reminded her that the definition of being creative is simply making something that didn’t exist before. "It doesn’t mean that it has to be a masterpiece.” That took the pressure off for Colleen. From nine to five, Colleen works as an eyewear designer. “It’s creative, but for a while the line was blurred. I stopped drawing and painting after I started this job.” She didn’t realize she had stopped, and starting again was the impetus for joining RWS. “I think it’s tough sometimes, having a job that’s creative, to keep that drive. There can be an assumption that you’re getting fulfilled but you’re not creating for yourself as you would be with this kind of studio work. I think, specifically, having this space here is really helpful.” Colleen feels as though she’s able to leave everything at home when she comes to the studios. There isn’t anything she needs to do while she’s here and she doesn’t need to leave with a finished project.

Sometimes she doesn’t feel inspired and will draw her keys on the table. Sometimes the eyewear designs she’s been working on during the day spill over into the creative work she makes for herself, like seeing the acetate materials she works with reflected in the watercolors she chooses. Having a separate space to create is really important to Colleen. “I had an art studio in Brooklyn for about five years, and in New York it was very necessary to have that extra space." She has even more space in Maine. Contact Colleen via email at or on Instagram (@colleenwadecannon).

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