Sometimes one word says it all. Stallone. Arnold. Madonna. Shannon.
Shannon? Yep, Shannon is all that need be said to identify another major talent.
I first became aware of Shannon‘s art when I picked up the 20th Anniversary stamp set for the “Rocky” movies. I was impressed by the five stamp series. I would later learn that Sly was also impressed. He even owns a couple of Shannon‘s originals. Sly again worked with Shannon when she was chosen to do the International “Driven” poster.
Shannon has created other successful celebrity stamps including those for James Dean, Elvis, Muhammad Ali, Princess Diana to name just a few. Shannon was crowned the “Greatest Beatle Artist in the World” and with that the job of creating over 120 murals for the “Hard Days Nights” Hotel. You can check out Shannon‘s art at her website, but you may want to check out StalloneZone‘s exclusive interview first!
STALLONEZONE EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH SHANNON
Craig: Could you tell us a bit about yourself, how you got your start as an artist and your artistic influences?
Shannon: I have been drawing since the age of 2 (As mom told it). My start took place when I discovered what a pencil was and what it did. Seemed to come as natural as getting up in the morning for me. In the past 10 years, I have taken my craft and worked it to perfection. I acknowledge my talent as a gift and respect it for what it is. To this day, it still baffles my mind as to what I have accomplished.
Unlike my peers, who are influenced by other painters, my influences come from my childhood heroes, such as John Lennon and The Beatles, Elvis Presley, Sylvester Stallone, Billy Holiday, Muhammad Ali, and Charlie Chaplin. I do greatly respect Norman Rockwell. These are people that beat most of the odds thrown into their path.
Craig: How did you get and prepare for the “Rocky” 20th Anniversary stamp set?
Shannon: I’d just finished the European version, and answer to the US Postage Stamp featuring James Dean, I had created 9 Dean stamps for the project. Although it was my first postage stamp series, it was very successful and earned me some serious clout and leeway on future projects.
So, fortunately I was asked the big question, “What would you like to do on your next project, Shannon? Any ideas?” The first person to jump into my mind was Sylvester Stallone. He was impactful, handsome, sexual, popular, and I had a small Stallone connection. Having been more a fan of Rambo than Rocky, I clearly had no idea where this would go…if indeed it did go.
So, I called my connection and asked they get in touch with Mr. Stallone (who already knew the quality of my work) and see if he was interested. I was told to wait a couple weeks for the answer.
I put the phone down and went into “anticipation mode”. Within 5 minutes I started to think myself into a nervous frenzy, then the phone rang. I picked it up and the voice said, “OK, he’ll do it. Not of Sylvester, the man…but as Rocky, the character.”
I couldn’t believe it happened so quickly. I was told Sly needed this project to coincide with the 20th Anniversary of Rocky, the movie. Good news: I got the project!
Bad news: I had only six weeks to bang out 5 Rocky illustrations for 5 Stamps. One for each movie. The anniversary was that near.
Craig: Did you work closely with Sly during the project’s conception and preparatory phases? Did you show Sylvester sketches as the project developed?
Shannon: I was sent a various array of slides and photos of the “Rocky” movies. Honestly, they were all useless. So I jumped in my shiny red Corvette and missioned my way to book stores, libraries, and memorabilia shops. I had no choice, the project had to make it’s deadline.
Lucky for me, the “Rocky” Anniversary 5 pack had just hit the stores. I found what I needed and went to work. First thing to do: Watch every “Rocky” movie, in order, back to back…as if it was one movie.
Sly saw all paintings as they were finished, via Fed Ex. I hadn’t met the man yet, but during a phone conversation with his PR personnel, I heard his voice in the background, explaining only one change he would like taken care of. It was pretty cool.
Craig: Of all the possibilities, what made you decide on one particular image for something as iconic as a Rocky Balboa stamp? Did the man himself have some say in that decision?
Shannon: I tried to look at it this way: I have to create one finished illustration to represent one major movie. Five times! The impact had to be there. And I had but one shot to do it. Again, timing was everything. As the deadline drew nearer, I watched the movies over and over. Then listened to them while I painted. Their influence was phenomenal.
Sly had no real decisions, except for the one, in the project. I believe it was because of the impact of the Anniversary and a full schedule that needed all of his attention. I would also like to believe he trusted my work. I found, in the future, that was the key element…he trusted me.
Craig: Were you nervous when the time came to reveal the finished work to “Rocky”?
Shannon: Not really. I knew they were all good. Plus, it was a major turning point in the evolution of my work. My passion for this job seemed to trigger a whole new me and I was 80% content with the work I was creating. And that is a lot of percentage for me. I am my toughest critic.
Nervousness came the day Sly and I unveiled the “Rocky” stamps at Planet Hollywood in New York City. Keep in mind, I still had not met him. But to someone’s craziness, it was decided it would be magical if we met on TV. I, myself, could think of a better word other then magical. I remember sitting in my seat waiting to be called up. I watched Sly unveil each of my creations one by one. It seemed as if it would take forever and I could swear my heart was jumping out of my chest and hitting the back of the person’s head sitting in front of me. When I was finally called and was walking up to finally meet “the man”, a warm sensation went from my head to my toes and suddenly…I was fine. No nervousness, no shakes and no heart coming out of my chest. I was even able to be a bit “camp” with Sly in front of the cameras. It was a great ending to a grueling 6 weeks.
Craig: What are your thoughts on creating another Balboa stamp, to compliment the possible theatrical release of Rocky‘s 6th and most likely final chapter ?
Shannon: I would love it! I heard, through the Hollywood grapevine, it will indeed be a Broadway play. But a 6th stamp gives it a nice round number. I am ready for the challenge if it does arrive.
Craig: You also painted the poster used for the “Driven” international release and for the Rocky animated “doll” box. How did those come about?
Shannon: I heard Sly was doing this fast paced, on the edge, racing picture. Being involved with racing myself (I raced Motocross for about 5 years in my youth and my Dad built racing cars in his prime), I found this very appetizing. I still have a beautiful 57 Chevy hard top that I built from the ground up. Nitrous, 400 small block with a destroked 350 crank, fuelly heads, high compression pistons, racing cam, etc. Ummm, you get the picture. It’s in the blood, you know?
So I wanted “on” this project in the worst way. Well, I pushed and pushed until I finally got word to Sly that I wanted a shot at the movie poster. As usual, he received word near the end of the project. Sly contacted me and we talked quite a bit. He asked me up to his place and we discussed the possibility of a European poster. It was too late for the U.S. illustration. Sly sent me over to Warner Brothers in Los Angeles, where I live today, to go through the Driven library of photos. Again, as before, most of the photos were already taken and I got the last of the batch. Some were good, but the car shots were bad.
I was “off” to the libraries and book stores once again. Sly was quite involved with this project and I found myself up at his beautiful home countless times. Sly gave me some great, needed photos he had at his home. His wife and family are wonderful people and treated me and my talents with great respect. I was asked for Thanksgiving dinner, at Sly‘s home, a few months later. Word had gotten back to the Stallones I was going to be alone for the holidays. This shows you what wonderful people they really are.
As for as the Rocky Doll art…It is actually the number 5 Stamp on the box. That simple.
Craig: Are there any other Sly Stallone projects that we haven’t mentioned?
Shannon: At present time, I am working on three coffee table books that represent different aspects of my work. They involve one on The Beatles, another on KISS, and the third is a book on my celebrity art which will involve Sylvester more than any other celeb. I will use Sly for the cover and when the time is right, ask him to write the forward.
Craig: What kind of “personal art” do you do for yourself?
Shannon: My personal work has a lot to do with the people I am influenced by. Being donned “The World’s Greatest Beatles Artist” (in England) has given opportunity for a very nice catalog of Beatles art….which will be in my book. Also, portraits have been painted of Bette Davis, Steven Spielberg and ET, Van Halen, Tom Cruise, Elvis, and Charlie Chaplin, to name just a few. Most recently, I have been involved with painting female erotica….Vargas style. Truly painted much like the old masters, but with today’s twist.
Craig: Where can fans find your work?
Shannon: You can see the wide variety of my work at TheShannonGallery.com. There’s also a listing of tour dates for the future, which are quite helpful.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has my 10 foot tall Fender Stratocaster Guitar, I created, on display for the next year.
I will also be creating 120 giant murals, which will be part of the structure of The Hard Days Night Hotel, in Liverpool, England. This hotel is the world’s first Beatles themed establishment. One mural for each room. Quite the project!
Craig: Wow! You have quite a few projects lined up. We’ll keep an eye out for them. Thanks for taking the time to talk with us!