This past summer, an advisory group of staff, faculty, and parent representatives reviewed the school's health and safety protocols as we developed new practices to meet current needs to address the wellness of students and staff.
As a result of this review and recommendation process, several spaces in the educational building were repurposed in order to allow for a separate space where students who became ill during the school day could be isolated until a parent was able to pick them up.
As this new clinic space was designated and outfitted with the sick cot, soft lighting, and a monitor connected to the front desk, Mrs. Robbins began to consider the importance of providing a sense of peace and compassion to the ill person who may be using the clinic area. From this consideration sprang the idea of a painting or wall mural that would depict Jesus and a lamb, a picture of Jesus as our Good Shepherd.
Rachel Shannon's skilled artwork is well known within Cornerstone's visual arts community, so it was natural that Mrs. Robbins would commission this special art piece from Rachel.
Her impressive 36 x 72-inch mural, which shows Jesus carrying a lamb, was revealed in December after months of work.
When did you realize you had an interest in art and painting in particular?
I first realized I liked painting (particularly acrylic) in Mrs. Barrett's art class in 10th grade. Mrs. Barrett’s art class was one of my favorite Cornerstone experiences, as it introduced me to a wide array of artistic mediums that I would have never tried otherwise, including painting. Mrs. Barrett’s push was the best guidance I have received for painting. I also have found YouTube videos on color theory and mixing very helpful. After completing a Christmas painting and being swept into the world you can create on your canvas, I was inspired to paint different seasons, and it has progressed from there!
How many hours a week are you able to paint?
I usually paint on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays after school and at least once during the weekend. If I get swept into an artwork, I get very excited about finishing it and tend to paint more- if I’m working on something I love I might spend a few hours on a Saturday trying to cover the canvas. I tend to be sporadic with it-I like to leave my paints out and sit down for twenty minutes here and there when I feel inspired.
This looks like an oil painting that you completed, or is it an acrylic painting?
This is an oil painting! However, I did do a little bit of the background’s underpainting in acrylic paint. I like to paint in both oil and acrylic. I have only been painting in oil since January 2020 but it is by far my preferred medium! While I have done some (largely unsuccessful) watercolor paintings, I love oil and acrylic so much more. The color is more vibrant and easy to control. Oil and acrylics both have a boldness and brilliancy that watercolors cannot achieve. Also, I’m just better at acrylic and oils- haha. Above all, I love that oil paint takes days to weeks to dry, as I can work on an area of the painting as long as necessary.
Are all your paintings this realistic or do you experiment with other styles?
Almost all of my paintings have this same level of realism, though I would really love to ascend the summit of photorealism. While some critics say this is not creative, I find it absolutely captivating. I sometimes start out with intentions to make my work more painterly, yet I generally wind up blending the paint to this level of realism.
What were your thoughts on the subject matter of this painting?
Once Mrs. Robbins asked me to either paint a lion and a lamb or Jesus holding a lamb, I immediately gravitated towards the latter option, as I have very little experience painting animals and I love painting portraits. I really loved the purpose of this subject matter: to bring peace and hope to students viewing the painting. I looked through many images of shepherds holding lambs and some Etsy mass-produced artwork of Jesus holding a lamb. I also made a Pinterest board of murals that inspire me.
I really loved the purpose of this subject matter: to bring peace and hope to students viewing the painting.
Did you do a lot of understudies to develop the final layout of this painting?
Much to Mrs. Barrett’s chagrin, I am not the biggest fan of a lot of prep work before beginning a painting- I always want to dive right in and get started. However, I do understand the value of prep work and understudies, especially for a work on such a large canvas. Therefore, I did paint a very loose gouache painting of my desired composition and color scheme and completed a pencil drawing of the face.
How many hours did this painting take you to complete?
I actually do not know how many hours this painting took-- a lot. I am a much faster painter than I used to be, but with a canvas at a scale that I had never even come close to before (my largest painting up to this point had been 16x20 inches), for comparison, this Jesus painting was on a 36x72 inch canvas- a very intimidating jump. I much prefer a smaller, simple canvas.
I learned it takes quite a while to simply cover the canvas in paint, much less harp on detail. I started the painting on August 3rd and finished it on November 2nd.
Do you have a favorite subject matter that you prefer to paint?
Absolutely!! I LOVE painting faces, specifically eyes. Faces are the fastest, easiest subject matter for me to paint at this point. The face of the Jesus painting only took me two days to complete- it’s everything else that was an uphill climb.
Where would you like to take your artistic skills in the future, art school?
While I think it sounds absolutely dreamy to go major in painting and spend the next four years of my life exploring the skill, I have other passions I want to pursue towards a career. However, I am determined to not lock up my paints in a closet for the rest of my life and I want to be intentional about devoting a portion of my time to continue painting as a creative release. I really hope I get to take (at least a few) art classes in college! Actually, I have been accepted into the Savannah College of Art and Design. Who knows? Maybe I will go to an art school after all!
We would like to recognize Rachel for this excellent work and allow the school community the opportunity to view the completed piece prior to installation in the clinic area. The painting will hang in the main school foyer through Friday, February 12.