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Shannon Mello: Art All Around

Struck by Simplicity. Oil on canvas. Shannon Mello

You can always tell an artist whose first love was watercolor. A sense of the ethereal blending of atmosphere, color, and subtle emotion is the hallmark of that first love. It is said that the great British painter, J.M.W. Turner used watercolor techniques in his oil paintings to create the abstract beauty of the clouds, mists, and steam he was so famous for painting. It upset the established taste of his day that his addition of just one bit of brilliant bright red could diminish completely the painstaking attempts at beautiful color of his great rival John Constable. (For more on that confrontation see .) Not unlike Turner, Shannon Mello took the idea of those "ethereal lands" and their beautiful array of colors created in her first watercolors and translated that into both her encaustic works and the ones she does in oils and cold wax. Nature is her guide, and the works are spectacular evidence of her keen eye for the beauty and subtle colors of the sky.

Under Pressure Oil on canvas by Shannon Mello

"No matter the media, an atmospheric landscape emphasizing a glint of light and contrasting textures, seems to be what inspires me most," Shannon Mello.

Mello says that growing up she was always involved in making art. She loved nature and took from her observations of it the delicate subtlety of light filtered through cloud.

Art like nature was all around her and became a guiding influence in her life. She translated this love of nature and art into a public school teaching career, which kept her investigating new developments in art and techniques. Being ahead of the curve moved her in the direction of encaustic (made from beeswax and resin) in order to create "a layered atmosphere of color and texture."

These Mountains Encaustic Shannon Mello

A Steady Habit Encaustic by Shannon Mello

The materials allow for interesting mixes of texture which permit the combination of word and image shown in A Steady Habit. The torn pages of Thoreau's copy of Former Inhabitants and Winter Visitors seem to provide intellectual fire in Mello's encaustic portrait of the writer's thoughts on the blessings of solitude.

The complexities of working with encaustic has caused Mello to think of ways to outfox the medium. "If things are going well, then something will surely happen to send things off course. So, you have to not let it know what your intentions are," says Mello with a wink. Perhaps she has become an encaustics whisperer. Whatever her strategy, the results are eye catching and well worth pondering.

Mello's devotion to teaching and a sense of community moved her into new areas of her career. During the Pandemic she decided to leave the public school system and engage her talents not just as a teacher but as a professional artist. Her movement toward a shift in her profession actually began in 2017 when she exhibited her watercolors and oil paintings. In 2018, she emphasized works in encaustic and in 2019/2020, works in cold wax and oil. When she moved permanently into her new career, she did it with a keen awareness of the business of art. It is not just enough to make art and show it. One has to show it functioning in the world. Mello developed a business curating weddings and events in which she provides paintings to enliven the given celebration. Certainly a work like the one below would indeed "lift" any event to another level.

Lift Encaustic (detail image) by Shannon Mello

Mello's mind always turns to community and developing ways for connections to be made. She mentions a time in Colorado Springs when the art scene was a friendly but rather club-like set of affilations. Mello was often reminded about how her young art students grouped themselves into tightly knit units, and how she always worked to open these groups up to each other and to wider possibilities. As time passed, she saw the Colorado Springs arts community diversify and develop its own possiblities with art organizations like Cottonwood Center for the Arts (see ) and the array of new galleries in downtown's NODO art distict (see ).

Having been surrounded by art her whole life and being keenly aware of the role of community through her career as a teacher, Mello has turned her creative mind to gaining more attention for the arts community here in Colorado Springs. Her feeling that art is all around and should be both all around and for all was the inspiration for the artists' studio tours that now happened twice a year. Called quite appropriately Art All Around, it is next scheduled for the beginning of October's Arts Month 2023, on the weekend of October 7th and 8th.

Started in 2022 by Shannon Mello to both create more connections among artists in the local arts community and to engage the public in experiencing the variety and great quality offered by the artists in the Colorado Springs area, Art All Around currently has some 60 artists who participate in the two-day art studio event. For a small fee, used to promote the event, artists may set up their works (a minimum of 15 accomplished pieces is required) in their own studio or in a shared space. (See the group show poster from May, 2023.)

Artists may participate for either or both of the days of the weekend event. Their locations are marked on a map by numbers, which when clicked on open to full information on the location of the artist's studio. Artists and art lovers are able to visit the studios to see, appreciate, and purchase work from the artists displaying in each studio. Mello mentioned that there are artists from surrounding communities as far north as Castle Rock and west to Woodland Park who wish to participate, this an indication of the draw that Colorado Springs is developing as an arts center. Mello's desire now is to expand her efforts to engage the area's art lovers to visit the studios, come to know the artists, and realize that they need not go to Boulder, Denver, or even Santa Fe to find accomplished, sophisticated work.

As Mello's creative ideas are always flowing, she is finding artists to take over the details of the Art All Around program in order to develop yet another grand project. So far that project is "under wraps." All I can say is to watch this space and watch Shannon Mello.

See Shannon Mello's work on her website, , and sign up for the newsletter.

Be sure to look at the section on classes, where you can find out about the classes in encaustic that she offers with the participation of Kreuser Gallery.

If you have an event coming up and want some beautiful art to create the mood, then see Wedding/Event Curating area of her website.

Contact Shannon Mello using the following:


Should you be interested in articles on art history combined with a discussion of wines, go to my other art blog, Also see my author page at

© Marjorie Vernelle 2023

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