Sometimes it really pays to ignore your teacher's advice. Just ask Shannon, who was told she'd never amount to anything unless she stopped drawing the Beatles. Years later, she is known as The World's Greatest Beatles Artist and has been commissioned to create over 100 pieces for an upcoming Beatles themed hotel opening in Liverpool in 2007.
The owners of The Cavern Club in Liverpool searched around the world to find the artist to decorate their new "Hard Days Night Hotel". They first searched for artists in Liverpool and then the UK. When they didn't find what they wanted they looked at artists from surrounding countries. When they still didn't see what they were looking for they began looking in the United States. Their search finally ended with Shannon, an artist who grew up in Lakewood and now lives in Howell, New Jersey.
Bill Heckle (owner of The Cavern Club in Liverpool), who engineered the idea for a Beatles themed hotel, is credited for finding Shannon. He explained, "After seeing Shannon's artwork portraying the Fab Four, there is no one person that comes close to her talent, her capabilities, and her knowledge of the Beatles for this colossal job. She stands alone."
Shannon will have the task of creating one centerpiece painting for each of the 110 bedrooms, along with many in the common areas outside the rooms. The bedrooms will tell the story of The Beatles important events, from birth to Beatles, from Beatlemania to present day, in sepia tone, black and white, and vivid color.
"Honestly, it's not a dream job because whoever even dreams something like this could happen" said Shannon. "It's not a dream job, but it is the kind of job that you can say fits like a glove. I know what they want. I know what they need."
Shannon's reputation as a Beatles artist started at a Beatlefest show in Secaucus, NJ. At the time she was more interested in playing music than painting. She had been in several bands in the tri-state area and played alongside such musicians as Tommy Price (from Billy Idol's band), Edie Brickell, and Roger Glover. Shannon went to Beatlesfest to compete in a Battle of the Bands. As luck would have it she also brought along her first piece, which was of John Lennon.
"I forgot all about the painting," she recalled. "I went off with my friends and someone came up to me and said you've got to go to the auditorium they've got your painting on stage. It ended up I got first place for it and that was where it all took off."
Shannon was encouraged to come back to Beatlesfest as a vendor and she did. She started selling airbrushed Beatles t-shirts making as many as sixty shirts each day. Once her artwork began taking off she stopped making the t-shirts and concentrated on doing canvases.
Her career really started moving when she headed out to Hollywood. She had done a little work for Sylvester Stallone who suggested she make the move. Stallone thought she would find her niche out there and he was right. About two years later, she was contacted about doing the "Hard Days Night Hotel" project.
Her reputation kept growing to the point where she was invited to meet with the Lord Mayor at the Town Hall in Liverpool about eight years ago. It was there that she entered the history books as The World's Greatest Beatles Artist.
"I lived in LA for ten years," said Shannon. "Everything was happening in Liverpool and New York anyway. It seemed I was always catching a flight over there or to New York. At the time I never really thought anything about it because afterwards I'd go home to LA and I hate to say this about Jersey but there was no way in the world I thought I'd ever move back here. But my sister set it up and we went out looking for homes and I found this place in Howell and just said this is it!
"The cool thing about the New Jersey thing - especially if you're a Beatles fan - is that all of these paintings are being created right here in Howell."
She started working on the pieces in May and has been working on them 16 hours a day since then. There's not a lot of time for anything else.
"September 2007 is when the hotel is supposed to open," said Shannon. "Of course, I'm hoping it's the end of 2007. I'm trying to get every inch of time I can possibly get!"
Shannon's portfolio is full of pieces other than the Beatles, yet you have to think it makes her smile every time she thinks back to that old art teacher while adding another Beatles piece to the portfolio. After all, drawing Beatles wasn't so bad for a career after all. And it's always nice to prove your teachers wrong.
For more information on Shannon and her artwork visit www.theshannongallery.com
Gary Wien has been covering the arts since 2001 and has had work published with Jersey Arts, Elmore Magazine, Princeton Magazine, Backstreets and other publications. He is a three-time winner of the Asbury Music Award for Top Music Journalist and the author of Beyond the Palace (the first book on the history of rock and roll in Asbury Park) and Are You Listening? The Top 100 Albums of 2001-2010 by New Jersey Artists. In addition, he runs New Jersey Stage and the online radio station The Penguin Rocks. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.