By Mikael Krummel

Large canvases, large metaphors: Much of Shanna Trumbly’s art is about powerful emotional connections to personal experiences and the people and places of seminal influence in her life. Like her paintings, Trumbly’s life is represented by a collage of stories and symbols colored by family relationships and childhood adventures born of her affinity for animal spirits and natural surroundings.

An aura of magic and mystery permeates the stories and symbols depicted in Trumbly’s art. For example, a particular ominous and knowing crow dominates one of her more identifiable paintings “The Dahlia Tree.” Trumbly recalls, “Originally, it was about my fear-based decision-making, about my personal growth, about my saying ‘Yes’ more often.”

Personal Iconology

Crows. Poppies. Hummingbirds. Berries. Moths. Carrier pigeons. Cosmos blooms. Crystals…

Trumbly’s paintings are filled with icons. Most of them hold personal meaning for her. The icons are often drawn from daydream-like meditations. But, by intent, those same icons reflect a myriad of meanings for viewers of her paintings. The effect is much like the fluid technique Trumbly often adopts when she executes the backgrounds in her paintings. Stories narrated by Trumbly’s canvases can be both fluid and defined. The artist renders her work with precision, yet the context is up for free-ranging interpretations.

Dreamy landscapes. Flora inflated by imagination. Fauna with anthropomorphized features that project human emotion.

“I have my own individual story in each painting,” says Trumbly, “but the beauty really is that each person is allowed their own interpretation and their own connection—or not having a connection—to the piece.”

Which is not to say that the contemplative Oregon-born artist is rigid about the private meanings she invests in the symbols and stories depicted in her paintings. Meanings can change over time based on Trumbly’s changing personal perceptions and the interpretations offered to her by others. “I paint what I feel, and I’m not necessarily so attached to outcomes.”

Trumbly, it seems, tends to approach much of her work as a serious, introspective exploration of her inner landscape. Passionate curiosity and a quest for self-discovery seem to drive her artistry.

“I spend a lot of time just staring at my canvas,” confesses Trumbly. “It’s a huge part of my process. And a lot of times the stories in my paintings don’t completely unfold until months after the paint has dried. My paintings are a combination of childhood nostalgia, things I’ve learned, things I do that I’m familiar with, and things in the future that I don’t even know yet.”

Pencils. Paint. Purpose.

Trumbly’s approach to painting evolved, in large degree, out of her earlier work as a sketch artist using colored pencils. Her formal art training includes serious study of anatomy. For a time, depiction of the human form was central to her work, and she would often invite groups of friends and artists to life-drawing sessions.

Acrylic paint on canvas has dominated her creative ambitions for the past 9 years. She’s also adopted an interest in ceramics. Much of her art has taken shape in a small studio in the Whiteaker neighborhood. She also works in a converted attic in her home. But neither location offers the kind of workspace that she’s long sought; to that end, she’ll soon be moving into a dream studio and gallery in her back yard. It’s a roomy, open, light-infused environment, built as a personal payoff for the modest success she’s enjoyed over the past few years.

The kind of success that sometimes attaches to an artist who dedicates long hours to both producing art and developing the business side of their artistic pursuits.

Trumbly has been a fixture at the annual Holiday Market for years. Before that, she sold her art at the Saturday Market. She’s designed posters for the Oregon Country Fair. Her work also hangs in a handful of West Coast galleries. And she sells her work at art shows, festivals, fairs, nearby wineries, and other local venues.

She also maintains an online presence on the Etsy website and on social media. More recently, she’s turned her attention to building a personal website designed to eventually become the hub for the majority of her marketing efforts.

Shanna Trumbly’s approach to art reflects both passion and determination. “If you want to be a successful artist,” Trumbly warns, “you have to wear many hats.”

It’s a statement that defines the passion she invests in most of her creative pursuits.

“As I’m painting, as I’m working on a piece, that’s when it’s mine. That’s the intimate part of my artistic process. But at the same time, I have this understanding that I’m creating something for other people. I’m creating my art as a gift.”   

Read more about Shanna Trumbly and her art at