Natural Inspiration

My recent painting retreat in the seacoast jungles of Mexico, was truly transformational. Yes, there have been lots of adventurous trips in my past, but nothing quite like this.

Artist Shirley Williams at Haramara, painting workshop in Mexico

“Life is Beautiful in the jungle.”

Working with other artists, sharing ideas and experimenting was so exhilarating. Painting days were long and intense.

Some of us even painted late into the night, wearing headlamps. We looked like weird aliens, but it worked. 



The winding path carved through the mountain-side, offered surprising variety and breathtaking views at every turn.

Maneuvering this path at least five or six times a day, never got boring. Each time, I would notice some new plant, flower, bird or butterfly and the feeling of connectedness to the earth. 


The variety of shapes, colors & textures of the natural surroundings was astounding.

I took hundreds of photos during the week as inspirational reference.


“How exactly did this experience transform my art?”

FIRST   ……  after getting home

I pulled out all my older paintings and studied them with a critical eye. Some still spoke to me, but many others didn’t make the grade. 

Rather than agonize over my old “failures” I simply slapped a coat of gesso over them. Letting go of the old and deciding to begin anew with a fresh perspective is always extremely liberating.


I decided I want to use more collage and mixed media in my paintings. I scoured my sketchbooks for old drawings and sorted through the various specialty papers I have on hand.

Then I began the process of enhancing these papers with drawing and paint to make them more interesting to use.


I prepared brand new canvases in small, medium and large sizes and reorganized all my paint and materials. 

Shirley Williams Art Studio FOURTH 

I dove right into a new series, starting with eight canvases of various sizes.

As you can see above right, the first active layer of collage, paint and imagery was intuitively added to these canvases. 

Of course there will be many more layers to come.

My biggest creative breakthrough has been in my approach. 

Before it was:
“Think first – paint second.”

Now it’s the reverse:  
“Paint first – think second”

Sounds simple. But it makes all the difference in the world.

Until next time, keep your eyes open to the beauty of nature in the world around you.


Incredible Painting Retreat

Before this season slips into the next, I want to express my gratitude for your interest in my art throughout the year. 

A big thanks goes to the galleries & institutions that exhibit and sell my art, and the collectors who purchase it. Your enthusiasm inspires me. Even though we may not see or speak to each other often, you all hold a special place in my heart.



Having just returned from a painting retreat in the coastal jungle of Mexico, north of Sayulita, I’m eager to begin anew after the holidays.



After 10 days with no cell phone, internet or even electricity, my re-entry into the “real world” was a bit of a shock. Everything seemed so loud and busy.





Every moment of the experience was memorable and transformative.



Haramara was built entirely by hand on 12 acres of virgin jungle. Open air casitas are sprinkled on a winding path down the mountain to a spectacular private beach.





The food was unbelievably delicious and filling.  Gourmet vegetarian with fresh fish daily – no wheat, no sugar, no salt, no preservatives.




The combined effect of a clean diet, strenuous hiking, nature’s energy and intense painting had a profound effect on me.



Our workshop leader was renowned California artistNicholas Wilton. His unique approach to accessing intuition combined with creative design principals was incredible. I’ve come back energized and inspired.

We were working on 12 panels at once, 12″ x 12″ each.  I’ll be posting new paintings from the workshop soon, once they’re finished and photographed.

Wishing you all a safe and happy Holiday Season !

Never a Dull Moment in the Studio

Have you ever had one of those times when both happy news and sad arrive at your door in a whole slew of rapid events? It kind of makes your head spin a little.

The past few weeks have been a career roller-coaster for me in just that way. Every day seemed to bring another surprise.  Some good; some bad – but each one transformative in some important way. 

My gallery in Toronto for 7 years

Leonardo Galleries


My first surprise was learning  Leonardo Galleries, my gallery in the prestigious Yorkville area of Toronto, decided to close their doors. Zoya Balija, the owner has represented me in Toronto since 2008 when I won a national painting competition. 

I’d been hoping to have an exhibit with her soon. But high rents and lagging art sales made it just too tough for her to continue as a contemporary art gallery.

Leonardo Galleries was always good to me and 100% professional to work with. Fortunately, Zoya also has a thriving side business as a fine-art appraiser and restorer. She’ll continue to do well and I wish her the very best.

As for me, as one door literally closes, hopefully another will  open.

With most of the galleries who’ve represented me going out of business during the past several years, I definitely sense the passing of an era.

When the writing on the wall became obvious several years ago, I was quite disillusioned. I’d spent 15 years building up my professional resume and carefully nurturing my international relationships. 

From an exhibit in Dallas some time ago

From an exhibit in Dallas some time ago


This photo is from one of my past exhibits in Dallas, Texas. They closed down a year later.






But as an artist colleague of mine pointed out, “Suddenly I have a clean slate”.  For the first time ever in my career, I have no upcoming shows. No pressure, no deadlines and no requirement to color within the line.  After so many years, it’s an odd sensation.

For the first time ever, I can spend time in the studio every day goofing around to see what comes out. I’m excited to be exploring new territory, free of constrictions.  And THAT, my friends, is when the magic happens.

So this bad thing may be a good thing in the long run.

Next came positive news from Oklahoma about a friend and colleague who had a brain aneurism two weeks ago. Pat, my web designer of eight years and I were in the middle of updating my website when it happened. Thankfully, she’s making a steady recovery without any apparent cognitive damage.

Naturally, everything is on hold with my website until she feels up to working again. Thanks for understanding if you notice things don’t look quite right.

The next day, as I was thinking how blessed I feel to have perfect health, the phone rang. Sadly, I heard that my dear friend, a lovely lady and talented artist had died of cancer that morning.

Sue’s creative spirit touched many people during her 71 years. I think of her with great fondness, while I paint. Her memory lives on to inspire me and others.

'Horizon' miniature original

‘Horizon’ miniature original



‘Horizon’     ID # P-0908
original © Shirley Williams
acrylic on paper, mounted on wood
float-framed      9 x 9 inches  $ 125.




Next, out of the blue, another door literally opened. I got a call from a galley in San Francisco. A mutual friend in Windsor had recommended my work to them.

The Director happened to be visiting Windsor and came for a studio visit. We hit it off right away and fortunately, she also really liked my artwork. I’m happy to report that Eunoia Modern is now representing me in the San Francisco area and beyond. I’ll keep you posted on how it develops.

There were several other peaks and valleys  throughout the past few weeks, too numerous to mention. But the one thing that always keeps me balanced is my creative work in the studio. When I’m fully absorbed in the process of painting, all stress disappears.

I’ll sign off by sharing one other GREAT thing that happened last week. 

Read the feature article in Windsor Life Magazine

Windsor Life Magazine


The October issue of Windsor Life Magazine ran this wonderful feature article about my art and career. It’s always a bonus to be given free press and I’m very grateful to the team at Windsor Life.

Thank you to everyone who’ve let me know they enjoyed reading it.


Read it here now  2015-08-Windsor-Life 


Keep your creative passion alive !


My6 Steps to a More Creative Life

A few weeks ago, while visiting my Mom & Dad in Shediac, New Brunswick, I received a disappointing email. My wonderful studio assistant, Christy Litster had been offered a full-time dream job and was regretfully resigning.


I’m actually happy for her. Christy is very talented and has the potential to do great work. In the eight months we’d worked together, I’d learned as much from her as she had from me. I’ll miss her input and wish her much success.

My hope had been to return after my vacation, refreshed and ready to ‘rock ’n roll’. As you read in my last post, Christy and I were working on revamping my color resource website

Progress on the site had not been going well. We’d been tied up of for over a month, with a challenging series of cascading technical hurdles.We were both frustrated and Christy kept saying, “It’s a sign you should be painting.” and we’d laugh. 









This is one of the paintings from the series I’ve just begun.

‘Wish You Were Here’
acrylic on canvas.
48″ x 48″ © 2015





We all get side-tracked sometimes. The trick is to look at a challenge as an opportunity to review the map and find your direction again. 

My approach has always been to ask myself two questions.
“Where am I now?” 
“Where do I want to go?”
I then re-set my course and get going.

Recently, the computer had become my master and was sucking up all my creative juices. The phrase: “Step slowly away from the computer with your hands up.” kept popping into my mind. 

I started reading older entries in my studio journal and instantly came across a list of conclusions I’d written several years ago. Not only did they remind me of my own path, but in retrospect, pretty much apply to anyone who wants to live a more CREATIVE, VITAL LIFE.  

  1.  Observe & listen. Notice what you notice.  
  2.  Clarify what has meaning for you. Decide what you want.   
  3.  Stay authentic and true to your values.
  4.  Keep it simple. Stop trying to do it all. Focus. 
  5.  Spend time in creative flow every day.
  6.  Share and be grateful for the opportunity to create.

This list helped me re-focus with a renewed purpose.  Often, what we see as a huge disappointment serves as an important reminder to stop and look at where we are. Only then can we take the next step in our own personal journey.

If you thought this post was helpful, please share it with others who might like it also.

Wishing you a creative life !

Summer Projects in the Studio

How are you enjoying your summer so far?  Everybody, everywhere seems to be talking about the weather.

Here in Windsor, we’ve had record setting amounts of rain with the wettest June in 75 years.  While the rest of us pray for sunshine to lighten our spirits, the area farmers  are struggling with swampy fields.


This summer, I’m taking a little break from painting every day. Instead I’m ‘filling the creative well’ by reviewing old sketchbooks, some going back 20 years.

It’s a wonderful experience to discover past drawings and ideas I’d totally forgotten about. Relevant drawings are being carefully separated from the sketchbooks and gathered together to inspire my next group of paintings. 


Christy, my studio assistant, and I are also intensely focused on another creative project.
Let me tell you about it.

In 2008, to teach myself web design, I built an educational website about my favorite subject, which is COLOR. I hadn’t really added much to the site during the past seven years. But to my utter surprise has continued to grow steadily all by itself. It now receives about 110,000 unique visitors every month!

Color Wheel Artist
The site is chock full of useful information, fun facts and tips on using color. It’s the perfect resource site for choosing colors that harmonize well, the meanings of color and color theory. There are even Free Printable Downloads of blank color wheels to practice mixing colors with.

I get lots of inquiries from students, teachers, artists, interior decorators and hobbyists asking for more. Schools and colleges all over the world are even using ColorWheelArtist as a curriculum guide.

Since Christy is a computer and graphic design whiz, she was keen to help me update and relaunch.

What I initially thought would be simple design changes has turned into be an incredibly involved endeavor. The internet is now exponentially interwoven and complex at a technical level. I am not naturally inclined to be a computer ‘nerd’ so the learning curve is extremely steep. But Christy and I are tenatious and determined to improve the experience for site visitors. We’re making changes almost every day – trying different things. 

Please go take a look at 

Let us know what you think. We’re eager to hear any comments, ideas or suggestions for content.

Wishing you a colorful day !!



Four days to go! Join us at the studio!

In just four short days we will be hosting our open house and art sale!

The art is mostly hung and ready to go – just all the finishing touches being taken care of around the studio.

A little sneak - still lots to see.

A little sneak – still lots to see.














There is plenty of parking on the side streets around the studio, as well as parking (on the weekend) in the parking lot behind the studio. Parking is free!

The studio is located at 3080 Grand Marais Rd. E, north of the E.C. Row Expressway just between Central Ave. and Walker Rd.

Follow the link below for directions from Google Maps:

Follow the link below for directions from Google Maps:













Map To The Studio

We recently installed a brand new sign that you can’t miss!
















We look forward to seeing you all there!

Be sure to drop by and say, “Hi!”


Friday, May 8th, Noon – 6pm
Saturday, May 9th, Noon – 6pm
Sunday, May 10th, Noon – 5pm


See you there!

Keep the Passion Alive! #ArtLife

Shirley and Christy


The original space.

The original space.

In only 9 short days Shirley will be opening her studio for the first time in three years! In preparation for this and a new series that Shirley has been working towards, there has been a great deal of changes going on around here. She frequently jokes with me, comparing strength as we’ve moved everything around the studio a dozen times. It’s been an interesting and fun process. We’ve been busy bees around here.

All the stuff moved. Ready for a new coat of paint.

All the stuff moved. Ready for a new coat of paint.

Shirley’s studio has always been one to envy. On my second day here, I remember saying, “Shirley your studio is my dream studio!” Shirley’s chipper reply, “Mine too!” I laughed. 

However, I started at the right time apparently, because she was ready for a big overhaul. It was time to refresh the studio. Refresh the environment, refresh the art.

The painter in the initial stages of transformation.

The painter in the initial stages of transformation.

You can't refresh without creating a mess ;)

You can’t refresh without creating a mess ;)

It’s been a running joke that the studio itself has life, because it’s totally changed forms various times in the short 4 months since I began working for Shirley. This last transformation has been the greatest. The walls, which were colour blocked before, were all painted a gorgeous shade of grey which itself seems to change from warm to cool, depending on your vantage point. Silvery accents on the floor, accent walls, furniture, and wall bases give a very cool Warholian feel about the space. 

We're still setting up for the big open house, but so happy so far!

We’re still setting up for the big open house, but so happy so far!

My little nook as I type out this blog post.

My little nook as I type out this blog post.

Bringing out a lot of pieces back at the studio, home from the galleries.

Bringing out a lot of pieces back at the studio, home from the galleries.

New lights have brightened up an already beautifully illuminated space. The best part? It’s spring here, and we’re able to open up the large garage door to let the natural light and fresh air in.

Basking in the sunshine!

Basking in the sunshine!

Whilst preparing for the open studio event May 8th-10th, we’ve pulled out all her inventory, going through each piece. She’s brought new life to some of her work. She carefully laid out dozens of pieces, reflecting on where she has been and on where she will be going next. It’s a very cool experience for me, a fledgling artist, still on the search for my own path.

I’ve had the awesome opportunity to watch Shirley step into a new body of work, very new and different from her current inventory of work. I walked in only  a few days ago, as she grabbed a beautiful large piece right off the wall and begun to almost instantaneously paint RIGHT OVER IT. I have never had the guts to do this. It was invigorating! Obviously, this is all very hush-hush until she’s ready to reveil her new work. I’m really excited!

So the official unveiling of the transformed studio space will be during Shirley’s Open Studio art sale. We hope to see you all there!

Until next time!

Keep the Passion Alive! #ArtLife

Shirley’s Studio Assistant

Mark Your Calendars

Be sure to mark your calendar for this rare event !!

I’ll soon be hosting an Open Studio for the first time in 3 years. 
Many of my paintings have just returned from  a gallery tour. Plus there are lots of new ones to see. 

Invite your friends and come take a look !!!

shirley williams - open studio - savethedate

Exciting Changes

There have been lots of exciting changes at my studio the past few months. These changes will help make it easier to stay in touch.

You won’t want to miss a thing being planned !

My previous Studio Assistant, Harmony Pillon, left for the jungles of Argentina some time ago. She went to participate in a sustainable living, bio-art project with an indigenous community. Harmony is now living in Victoria, B.C.

2014 Harmony in Argentina

Being a mentor to my studio assistants has been my way of giving back. Over the 20 years of my professional career, I’ve been incredibly blessed with encouragement and support.

I know what it’s like to struggle to find your way as an artist. Encouraging my assistants to find their unique creative direction, and watching them grow into their own careers, is always a joy.

The downside is losing them. Not having studio help for a while after Harmony left, was overwhelming. It took awhile because it’s important to me to find the right person to work with. My studio is my creative sanctuary. If the fit isn’t good, my creativity suffers.

Let me introduce you to my newest Studio Assistant, Christy Litster. 

You’ll get to know Christy in my Blog and Newsletter posting about news and events. I’ll be posting more about my inspirations and process.

Christy is also a social media whiz and will help me with some fun public events we have planned. She has nicknamed us ‘Team Awesome’ ! Stay tuned !


Read what Christy wrote about her experience working with me so far
Hi! I’M Christy!

Our first project together, over the past few weeks, was hosting a Client Appreciation Painting Workshop. One of my corporate collectors wanted to host a fun night for his VIP clients in my studio.
Without Christy’s help, I would’ve definitely been overwhelmed !!

SEE Photos & READ all about it …

Client Appreciation Paint Party

Team Awesome!

One of the exciting projects we’ve been working on in the past few weeks was a fun corporate client appreciation paint party. Shirley was contacted by a good client, who also happens to a Senior Vice President of a Financial Institution. He and his firm are passionate about their clients. They wanted to offer their VIP clients a fun and unique experience to show their appreciation for their VIP’s years of business.

After a fun brainstorming session, Shirley had the plan all laid out. Her goal was no small task: provide a memorable artistic experience to those who may have never dabbled in art before.

In preparation for the event, I prepped 20 pieces of paper, gessoed and textured. The prep for this event was fun for us both, as we played, creating demos through Shirley’s step-by-step instruction.

All set up and ready to go!

Another view of our set up in Shirley’s awesome studio.


The event took place on the evening of March 4th. Refreshments were all set up and ready to go, courtesy of her client.

A delicious selection of food and drinks. (I definitely enjoyed my share ;) )


Everyone was all set up and ready to go. Each participant was given a piece of paper. Shirley took all of the decision making out (ie. colour palette, tools, media, layout) so their special clients could focus on the fun part of being an artist: experimentation and creativity.

A group shot of all of the participants going through the steps with Shirley

Our VIPs definitely got into the spirit, painting with different tools and even their hands!


One of my pre-event jobs was to pre-cut mats. As the event came to a close, Shirley and I handed out selection mats and instructed on how to find areas of interest in the pieces they had been working on. They were so shocked to find that they had been creating their very own art all evening, as opposed to just playing with art supplies.


VIP, Deb making the finishing touches on her piece.

Shirley assisting with the selection mats, helping to find the right points of interest.


Once the pieces were found, I snuck out of sight – to the backroom, to start professionally matting and packaging their selections. The special clients were so shocked and excited to see their work archivally matted and ready to frame!

A finished and matted piece.

A finished and matted piece.


The evening was a great success. Shirley’s client, the Senior Vice President, had only wonderful feedback:

” You and Christy were very personal and enthusiastic. The pace and painting process was perfect. My clients were very comfortable with your instructions and how the evening flowed… it was so fun and enjoyable. [We all] loved our professionally matted take home art that we each created.”

Shirley and VIPs at the end of a very fun evening!

Smiles all around!

Everyone had such a fun evening. We can’t wait to do it again!

Keep the Passion Alive!  #ArtLife