ARTIST: Shannon Nowak

Posted by Ivana Vazquez on

Please join me in welcoming Ghost Flowers’ newest artist, Shannon Nowak, otherwise known as The Sapphire Artist.

Shannon Nowak

I met Shannon at the Raleigh RAW art exhibition in January, where I found her swarmed with people asking about her art. There’s certainly no denying that Shannon is a remarkably talented artist, but her first great love was actually for dance! Shannon started ballet as a young girl, but by age sixteen she was forced to quit due to injury. As we all know well, an artist creates because they have to express something, and what Shannon wasn’t able to create through dance, she did through paint. Fast forward several years and Shannon finds herself graduating from Detroit’s College for Creative Studies, and marrying her classmate not three days later! 

But it wasn’t all smooth sailing from there. Shannon was sure she would never be able to have children, yet miraculously found herself pregnant shortly after her wedding. This came with other complications, however, forcing her into bed rest for most of her pregnancy. These dull days indoors were instead spent painting, imitating her favorite Degas classics and honing her skill. Shannon has a particular talent for painting large flowers because, she says, “There’s so much garbage in the world that people forget to see the beauty still in it. I make [my paintings] large to catch attention so people know there’s still beauty and peace to look at and enjoy.” 

Shannon is very inspired by art of the early 15th century, and gold leafing. The next stage of Shannon’s work will be utilizing gold leafing as well as leather stamping tools. Her process is a bit different from other painters, drawing from the photo references she gathers of wild plants and flowers at places like the JC Raulston Arboretum. Shannon scrolls through the photos over and over again as thoughts and images pop into her mind. Her painting titled “The Kiss” for example, was created using two different flower photos taken years apart, when Shannon suddenly saw an image in her mind of the two coming together. The piece was inspired by the Greek word proskuneo, meaning to kiss or to worship, and took much longer than Shannon had hoped due to layoffs, her husband’s struggle with PTSD, and her son’s struggle with autism. Shannon says this past year has been very enlightening for her, and she’s learned a lot about herself and her strength as a survivor of countless traumas, and as an outstanding artist.

the kiss

Shannon prays over each piece when she starts it, and never has the title until at some point mid-painting when something comes to mind. “I feel peace always, even if I’m angry it never shows in the work.” When asked how she came to discover art as her calling, Shannon shared with me the story of her heart arrhythmia back in 2006 that resulted in a popped artery and uncontrollable bleeding. She remembers clearly standing in the doorway of her hospital room bleeding out without the ability to speak due to shock, when finally someone noticed her and came running to help. 

Shannon blacked out from the blood-loss, but remembers saying “Jesus” repeatedly and hearing doctors saying they “can’t stop the bleeding”, and “we’re losing her”. During this quiet, peaceful moment, Shannon heard gentle words calling to her, telling her that she was “not doing what I created you to do.” She knew instantly that she was created to paint and apologized, promising to create more. At this point, Shannon remembers waking up to a clear blue sky, and whispering a small, “thank you”.

Nowadays, however, things are delightfully less dramatic for Shannon and her family. Her charming son is now a man who appreciates his mother daily, her husband is finally receiving his disability benefits, and Shannon is happily working part-time at Frame and Art Shop in Raleigh when she isn’t painting. “I love to take care of my family, but mentally, art gives me alone time, it fills my cup.”


I asked Shannon why she decided to work with Ghost Flowers, and she replied because she hopes to one day make art her only career, and I’m personally very excited to be of any benefit to such a radiant person as Shannon, who wanted to leave her audience with this bit of wisdom: “If you know that there’s something you’re supposed to be doing with your life, don’t wait to get hit over the head. Just go do it! The worst thing you could be told is no!”


Keep creating,



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