Meet the Artist: Shanna Koltz

What Mediums do you work with?

Photography ink, acrylic, pastels, clay and digital editing.

When were you first interested in Art and at what time did you know it would be a part of your life.

I was first interested in art as a little girl. I spent a long time in hospitals and found art to be a much-needed escape. I don't remember a time when art was not a part of my life. My mediums change from time to time but the love of art has always been there. To answer that about photography… I was around 10 when my dad would develop film in our basement. I would sit on the counter and watch the images appear in the chemicals. I loved watching him develop film.

From where do you draw your inspiration?

I draw inspiration from my dreams, fears, life experiences and things that I find myself obsessing over. Sometimes it is something that I find ironic, other times it may be something as simple as a color or a phrase that inspires me. I am inspired by many things; I love the works of Norman Rockwell, Gustav Klimt, Salvador Dali and Peter Paul Rueben's (each one for different reasons).

Your conceptual work is so striking, can you speak a little about how some of the ideas for those shoots came together and as you also do traditional client work, is there a balancing act at play between these two forms of photography?

There is definitely a balancing act and it is like I wear two different hats. I photograph clients for a living (photographing what they want and their stories) and I photograph my own personal art work (conceptual work), which is photographing what I want to say. I shoot my conceptual work for myself, I shoot it for my soul. If people like it, awesome; if they don't, I am ok with that. Client work (although I enjoy it) it is work to me and I am shooting for my clients. That is how I pay my bills.

For my conceptual work I start with stories, feelings and by asking myself what is it that I want to say? Then I make a visual plan on how to visually say what I am wanting to get across to the viewer.

Planning is key. I will plan for as long as I need to before actually photographing the conceptual work. I take a lot of notes. I have notebooks everywhere. The model selection, wardrobe, collecting props, set making, hair and makeup are all details that I pay extra attention to when planning a shoot. I normally bring in stylists to help with hair and makeup.

For shooting for clients I take the same approach to my client work. However, it is on a smaller scale.

Is there a message that you would like people to walk away with or something that you would like to say through your photography?

I want my art to provoke thought. If there is a main message that I would like people to walk away with it is that everyone has struggles. Don't be judgmental. Learn to love and respect yourself, those around you and the world. Look at things from a different perspective. I think wisdom and character are created through difficult experiences. So learn from yours and embrace your individuality. Each series that I create has a different message.

How much of a role has living in North East Wisconsin played in your work and where can your work be viewed?

Living in Northeast Wisconsin has helped shape me into who I am. It has been a great place to grow up and raise my child. I love it here, although I wish we had more of an art culture. We have an art community, however, it needs to be sought out. It is a personal mission of mine to help the artists in our area be able to find opportunities to show and sell their art. There are not as many opportunities as in a big city. I own Studio Rouge, 407 Main Ave., De Pere. This is my photography studio. Several times a year I open my doors for an exhibit. I am also open for De Pere's art walk events. Besides my photography business, I am also one of the partners at the Artless Bastard. I currently have work at the Neville Museum and in Appleton at the Trout Museum of art. In July, Naomi Moes-Jenkens and I will be installing our conceptual art pieces in an Alley in De Pere. This will be a unique installation that will run the length of the alley that connects Nicolet Square to Main Ave in West De Pere. You can check out my website ( for upcoming shows and events.

If you have a favorite quote, words of advice for the aspiring photographer or something you'd like to add, please do so here:

"I would rather die from passion than from boredom" – Vincent Van Gogh

“It is no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then." – Lewis Carroll

“Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist." – Pablo Picasso

My words of advice would be to create for yourself without the opinions of others getting in the way. Most people say, “think outside of the box," I like to believe that the box doesn't even exist. Whatever your medium is just keep playing with it, try new things and find your style. If you are a photographer, keep shooting, learn your craft and take a little extra time to plan and enjoy the process.

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