Cincy is Creative: Shannon Godby applies working class roots to innovative painting and photography

BATAVIA, Ohio - Cincinnati and the greater Tri-State region are home to people who excel in artistic and other creative disciplines. Each Sunday, we focus on a creative individual who is bringing new perspectives to our lives and enriching our cultural diversity.

Who: Shannon Godby
What: Painter/photographer
Where: Studio in the basement of his home in Batavia
Latest: “Morning Reflections,” acrylic on canvas
Greatest: “Fire in the Sky,” acrylic on canvas

“It’s not uncommon for me to work 10 to 15 hours a day.... Art is an everyday job.”

You don’t have to be a millionaire to own original art. As more people attend art events and meet artists, many have started buying original works that speak to them in a personal way. Why settle for a mass-produced print when you can own something beautiful and unique from an artist from your area?

This trend is enabling Shannon Godby to make a living doing something he loves: painting abstracts inspired by landscapes and nature.

“Painting has always been my first passion, followed closely by photography,” Godby said. He has been creating art in both mediums for nearly 20 years. He combines the two to paint abstracts based on places he photographs:

“They are all about how light falls across a scene and strong interesting shapes.”

His home studio in Batavia is about 20 minutes from East Fork State Park, where he often hikes and shoots photographs.

“A lot of the images I start with come from area parks, such as Red River Gorge in Kentucky and Cincinnati-area parks,” Godby said. 
Godby's work has won awards at art fairs and is included in the corporate collections of:
  • Cincinnati Financial Center
  • Verdin Bell Company
  • First Financial Bank in Cincinnati
  • St. Luke Heart Center in Ft. Thomas
  • Prosource Technologies in Dayton

From factory work to art school

When Godby graduated from Bethel-Tate High School in 1988, he couldn’t imagine working as artist.

“I come from a working class family, and it was just expected that I would get a construction job or factory job,” he said. After five years of factory and construction work, Godby wanted to see if he could earn more money in an art-related field.

So he went back to school and earned an associate’s degree in commercial art from Antonelli Institute in Cincinnati. That led to a full time job as a designer at a local company that prints graphics for wall coverings and high-pressure laminates.

Godby held that job for 14 years, until the company downsized during the depths of the 2008 recession. When he called his wife to tell her he no longer had a job, “She was actually excited.”

Godby had begun selling paintings in 2004 and had been selling more and more each year. So, instead of urging him to find another full-time job, his wife Angela encouraged Godby to pursue an art career.

“It started a little slow, but then I started to win awards at the local level and being invited to much larger festivals all across the country,” he recalled.

Each spring and fall, Godby travels the juried art fair circuit. Going on the road has broadened his perspective of the art world:

“You get to see a lot of art that you normally wouldn’t see in this area.”

The artist's life: "An every day job"

While Godby feels lucky to earning a living from his art, he says being a full-time artist isn’t as glamorous as many people imagine: 

“You can’t just sit around and paint all day.”

He devotes a lot of time applying to shows, getting work framed, advertising his work, and talking to galleries.

When sales are slow, he works part time at Mark Custom Cabinetry in Lockland and Pop Revolution Gallery.

“Both jobs are helpful to me as an artist,” Godby says. “They also give me the back-up income I need to buy material without taking away from the household budget.”

“It’s not uncommon for me to work 10 to 15 hours a day,” says Shannon. “Art is an everyday job.”

At art fairs, Godby's bestsellers are the the ones he feels most enthusiastic about. He loves telling people the stories behind each piece.

The artist also enjoys showing his work at Final Friday events at Pendleton Art Center . His work can be seen in Studio 311, along with the work of fellow artist Paul Wolven.

Godby is also represented by the Greenwich House Gallery in O’Bryonville and Pop Revolution gallery in Mason.

Through his own website, Godby sells prints of his digital compositions of Cincinnati cityscapes. Each piece is made from three to 10 photographs of downtown landmarks. To make the merged photos look more like a painting, he breaks up the images, using some to add layers of texture and backgrounds. 

Commissioned art

Godby also does commissioned paintings for Tri-State residents.

“Commissions pique my interest,” Godby he said. “I have to give clients

something that they see in their own heads but through my eyes.”

He visits the client’s home, listens to their ideas, and takes pictures of the room in which they plan to hang the painting. He uses the colors in the room as a starting point for the colors he will work with in the painting.

Buyers can also call him to request a private showing of his work.

“If a client has a specific space in mind for a painting, I have been known to take several pieces to them,” Godby said. This helps eliminates questions about how a certain painting might look in their home.

Like other artists, he is reluctant to choose a “greatest” work. But, he says “Fire in the Sky,” has been included in several juried competitions and won awards at two art festivals.

Right now, “It has a nice spot in our living room. I will be a little sad to see this one find a new home.”

Find Shannon Godby's work

CONNECT: 513-560-0048 &

Images courtesy of S. Godby: 1) “Morning Relfections,” acrylic on canvas 2) “Foggy Morning Sunrise,” acrylic on canvas. Depicts scene near Paint Creek State Park 3) "Roebling Bridge," digital art 4) “Fire in the Sky," acrylic on canvas. Autumn leaves lit by late-day "golden-hour" sunshine at East Fork State Park.

Follow WCPO contributor Eileen Fritsch on Twitter: @EileenFritsch .

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