It's an otherworldly experience …

Shannon Bonatakis

None that I’m aware of, unless you count all of the crazy mispronunciations and variations of my last name that I’ve heard throughout my life.

Birth weight:
I was a big baby that grew into a tiny grown up. That’s all I know.

Preferred shampoo brand:
I have no loyalties.

Next best talent besides art:
I’m a fantastic whistler!

Where can someone find you on a Friday night?
In my studio painting until morning. I’m a nocturnal painter.

How would you describe your artistic style?
I guess I would say that it’s a highly stylized depiction of human emotion and emotionally charged visual storytelling communicated through a female lens.

What is it about the female subject matter that fascinates you so much?
I was raised in a family full of women. I have six sisters and one brother, so nearly all of my upbringing was engulfed in female influence. I try to convey honest emotions in my work and I feel like the best way to do that is to work with what you understand. I have a better understanding of women and know what it feels like emotionally to be a woman, so it lends itself as a pretty natural starting point for my imagery. An added bonus is that the female form is just exceptionally fun to paint. 

There seems to be an almost sadness in your work, why is that?
I’m drawn to the melancholy. I’m almost obsessed with it. I like to feel something deep in my gut when I’m experiencing art – almost all of the art that I enjoy is sad.

Have you ever considered illustrating Disney cartoons?
Sure. Being an animator for Disney was one of the first “art jobs” I found out about as a child. I had my heart set on it for years. Then I got to college and realized that animation wasn’t what I wanted to do and I began to focus on illustration and painting instead. In the last handful of years though I’ve collaborated with Disney to create paintings of some of their characters and I’ve done five pieces with them so far. I also spent a few years working on developing a children's book series with Disney, so I have had a few projects with Disney over the years.

How do you see your art progressing?
I just want to keep getting better and better. I don’t want my painting abilities to stagnate, so I just try to push myself with each new piece that I make. I think it’s interesting to watch how an artist’s work progresses organically, because if you are working all the time it will happen that way. It's so interesting to look back and be able to see the phases that kind of line up with where you were in your life at that time. I try not to be too intentional about it all. I just keep working.

Shameless plug:
My husband and fellow artist, Josh Holland, and I are finally officially combining our 14 years of working together and starting an illustration studio called Love Alchemy. We can be found online — otherwise, I’ll be launching a new version of my own website sometime in the next month at, and can also be found in all of the usual social media spots (@shannonbonatakis), where I post frequently about my work and about my ridiculously adorable dog.