Artist Residencies - Key West Plein Air
Self Portrait Painting N.Side Loggerhead Key

Artist Residencies > Be inspired when you see how Shannon Torrence, who was awarded an artist residency from the National Parks Arts Foundation and the National Parks Service, lived the artist’s dream life in Key West.

Artist Residencies - Key West Plein Air
Studio Tarp setup while painting “Grandpa, Loggerhead Light”
Painting skies and water - Key West
Shannon Torrence, ”Seaplane @ Loggerhead Key”

Artist Residencies and The Art Life: A Wildly Successful, Amazing Adventure


During my artist residency, I painted nearly the whole time on the island of Key West, 8-10 hours daily and came away with 20 beautiful paintings as well as gallery representation. The owner of Gallery On Greene, Nance Frank, took a five-hour journey at sea to visit the island and see my progress and locations first hand – a legendary action, I felt.

Since my return I have posted a few of the images to social media. They have had great responses and I have been fielding DM’s from all over the world. Others have been asking what paints I use, how hot was it, if I made your own fresh water, what did the skies looked like at night etc.

Plein air painting nocturnes
Shannon Torrence, “The Milky Way @ Loggerhead Key.” The Milky Way is visible to the naked eye in Key West.

I applied twice for this incredible adventure. Failure was not an option.

What I ultimately took away from the experience was to play, and to take chances. I began to include structures and figures into my work, whereas before I painted landscapes devoid of these things. I looked deeper at nature since I had so much time. In this I found so much more nuance in my surroundings. I learned cloud color variations; within a cloud, the variations are often very subtle.

Painting clouds en plein air
Shannon Torrence, “Southern Wash / S. Tip of Loggerhead Key”

Being transfixed by the water, I feel by watching it for hours I can now convincingly capture the movement of light through it, as it moves. Painting is now confirmed for me as a spiritual practice.

I don’t feel worthy of giving advice. I feel that what we already know to be true about so many other things applies to painting. Be dedicated, stay humble, play and experiment, listen to constructive criticism, put aside the negative and hateful criticism born out of a resentment of your efforts. Find time to be still, sit down anywhere and watch for a while, your mind will do the rest.

“As I approached the island, speeding towards it in a tiny boat, the lighthouse looked like a ghost in broad daylight. Toothless and threadbare, standing amid the scrub of bay cedar and sand burs. I would ascend it several times during my stay. It’s nonfunctional now. It was built in 1858 and has fallen into disrepair. It is closed to the public so I will tell you what awaits you at the top. Looking out of its old, now cloudy eyes, you take in a crystal oasis, turquoise illuminated so brightly, that you feel like you are standing on some grand cocktail ring. This is but one miraculous vision that awaits.” Loggerhead Key 2020

Artist Residencies - Key West Plein Air
Shannon Torrence, “The Keepers Lights”
Plein air landscape painting Key West
Shannon Torrence, “Stormy Day Loggerhead Key”

Connect with Shannon Torrence:
Tidal Croft Studio on Instagram | The Flying Tortuga Brothers Podcast

Related Article on Artist Residencies:
Painting the Petrified Forest

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