Savannah Canavan is a Senior from Marshfield, WI. She is majoring in Studio Art with a concentration in Painting and minoring in Art History at the University of Wisconsin-Stout. She is 22 years old, and this is her 4th year at Stout. 

What type of art do you make and why?

“I create paintings that are loose and gestural, containing bold marks and color. I often paint from photographs, but I am not simply recreating the photo. I am transforming and abstracting the image as I paint it to make the surface become visually interesting and exciting. I want my paintings to look like paintings, not like photographs. I just really love paint and painting, so my work is really about my experiences while creating it. I am not so concerned about subject matter and meanings because I find all subject matter to be interesting and challenging in its own way. I don’t assign meanings to my work ahead of time, I simply paint and let the meanings show through my work. I love to paint landscapes and portraits because they are so beautiful and diverse.”

What inspires you?

“I am inspired by everyday life. I look on Pinterest and see images that excite me, and I must paint them. I see a beautiful sunset, or the way light hits the snow, and I want to put it on a canvas. Beautiful and interesting people inspire me as well. I am really drawn to painting bodies and faces, something about the intricacies and uniqueness of someone’s face excites me. Even mundane scenes are inspiring to me, I like the thought of capturing just everyday life on a canvas. I am also inspired by other artists such as Hester Berry, who creates plein air landscapes that are loose and gestural, and Leah Gardner, who paints still lives with such bold colors and interesting textures.”

How do you make your art? 

“I mostly work on panels, canvas, or paper. I prefer panels as I like the hard surface under my brush. I also go to thrift stores and find old trays and frames that I can repurpose into a painting surface. As I start, I apply a solid color underpainting to my surface. I tend to use bold colors, such as hot pink or teal because I like to see the pops of color as I paint. Then I’ll do a light sketch of what I am painting. After that it’s time to paint. I paint quickly, mostly ala prima. This allows for the loose marks that I enjoy so much. This also causes the colors to mix organically, which I love as it gives the paint its own agency to do what it does. I paint until I am satisfied with what I’ve done, and if I feel myself getting frustrated or fussing over minor details, I call the painting done and I don’t allow myself to touch it anymore. Usually if I am passionate about a painting/subject, I can finish a small to medium sized painting within a couple hours.”

What is your major like? 

“The Studio Art major is challenging. A lot of people think it would be easy because it’s art, but they don’t realize how much time and effort goes into each class. I have probably spent 70% of my college experience in the Applied Arts building. The classes you take for the Studio Art major challenge you in different ways. Studio art is nice because you know the people in this major really care about art and making art. You don’t go to school for art if you aren’t passionate about it. That’s why I chose this major: I want to go to school and into a career for something that I truly love.”

What does being an artist mean to you? 

“To me, being an artist means creating. It also means being proud of what you have created as well. I feel good about myself as an artist when I paint something, and I stand back and look at it and go ‘Wow, I really love how this turned out.’ Of course, it’s always nice to have others appreciate your work. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t like hearing that my paintings are enjoyed by others. However, I don’t think you have to be liked by everyone or even well known to be successful with your art. Success as an artist means loving what you do and being proud of what you create.”