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.
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.”
Smiles all around!
Everyone had such a fun evening. We can’t wait to do it again!
Keep the Passion Alive! #ArtLife
CHRISTY and SHIRLEY
Over the past two months there have been some exciting changes at Shirley’s studio. One of the most exciting – at least from my perspective – is that I have come on as Shirley’s assistant!
Hello there, my name is Christy Litster. I am an emerging artist and illustrator specializing in, well, I’m just figuring all of that out actually – so stay tuned! One of the many exciting tasks I’ve taken on is to assist Shirley in her art career is the social media aspects of her marketing.
I enjoy capturing little moments of brilliance in every day life, so having the passenger seat in Shirley’s art life is fairly thrilling.
You’re probably wondering who I am? Well, I trained as a Designer earning a degree in Fashion Design from Ryerson University, Toronto, Ontario. I have worn a variety of creative hats in the past few years. My design experience ranges from fashion doll designer to custom uniform designer catering to the gaming and hospitality industry. I have created exciting conceptual lines, and have participated in large scale fashion shows both in Windsor and Toronto, Ontario.
Although, I have always enjoyed design, illustration and painting has been my passion from the time I could raise a pencil. Over the past few years, I have switched hats once again focussing mainly on painting and fashion illustration. I am currently an illustration and design instructor at St. Clair College’s Fashion Design Technician Program.
Working over the past little while with Shirley has ignited my passion for art more than ever, and we’ve definitely enjoyed brainstorming and working on all sorts of fun projects….
… projects that you’ll just have to stay tuned to check out!
Until next time…
Keep the Passion Alive! #ArtLife
A few weeks ago I was contacted by a young Journalist named Matt Recker. He wanted to shoot a Video Profile of me in the studio for a Graduate Project.
Matt Recker setting
My first thought was, ‘What fun! ‘
In the 1980’s, before becoming a full-time artist, I was a Video Producer in Toronto. So I feel quite comfortable around cameras.
But my second thought was a twinge of apprehension. Matt wanted to shoot me while painting a large canvas live.
I’ve done lots of live demonstrations in the past. But for me, being in the flow of a real painting is a deeply personal and private practice. No one had ever filmed me doing it before.
Could I forget the camera was there and truly paint in the flow?
Day One – THE INTERVIEW
Fortunately, Matt turned out to be a very capable and gentle giant who made me feel really comfortable.
He decided to conduct his interview on the first day. You can see him setting up in the photo above.
Once he was ready, we quickly began with his first question.
‘Tell me your name, age and how long you’ve been a professional artist.’
After the interview, Matt and I talked a bit about my painting process. He understood my concern about filming me live while painting. If we did it, it had to be authentic.
Matt graciously didn’t pressure me and offered to let me mull it over. A few days later, I was mentally prepared and called him back.
Day Two – LIVE PAINTING
My studio practice involves working on several canvases at the same time. It also involves multiple layers of paint applied over weeks at a time.
Fortunately, I had a large 72 x 36 inch canvas at the perfect stage to receive it’s first layer of undertone colors.
Before Matt arrived for the shoot:
- I put on my warm painting clothes as the studio is always really cold in December.
- I selected my pigments, media and tools
- and cleared my work space.
- As usual before painting, I set my intention
- reviewed my notes and sketches and
I was ready to go just as Matt arrived.
While concentrating deeply on the act of painting I was surprisingly unaware of Matt and his camera dancing around me.
The painting is still far from finished with several layers still to go.
But you get the idea.
Thanks to Matt Recker for producing such a great video.
See it Now …
Artist Shirley Williams painting live
Wishing you all a happy and prosperous 2015 !!
The truth is, I’m human.
There are times when I just don’t feel creative. The well is dry and the idea bank is overdrawn.
During these dry spells, trying to come up with something doesn’t work. It only leads to paralysis of analysis. If I let it get out of control, it can quickly escalate into total studio avoidance.
Avoiding the studio is the kiss of death for any artist.
So what do I do when this happens?
Nipping this spiral in the bud starts with the obvious ways to kickstart myself.
- Going on inspirational walks in nature with a camera
- Reviewing photos of my old paintings
- Reviewing my sketchbooks
- Looking at other artists’ work online
- Going to galleries and museums
- Doing some creative research, thinking and journaling
Most of the time one of these is enough to stir up the creative juices again. But sometimes, the clock is ticking and I’m still coming up empty. The big white canvas just sits there mocking me –
daring me to approach – daring me to ruin its pristine surface.
The challenge is to get out of my head – to stop thinking and start doing.
Every artist encounters this overwhelming feeling sometimes. To break through, I’ve found a little trick that works nearly every time.
Blasting Through a Creative Block
- I prepare a pile of 4 x 6 inch heavy watercolor paper, by priming and texturing each piece.
- I make a conscious decision to ignore my desire to make something ‘good’.
- I give myself a set of restrictions before beginning . This stops me thinking too much.
- create a specific number of pieces
- stick to one composition
- use only specified materials
- use a limited color palette
- set a time limit to finish
- explore one word or phrase
I roll up my sleeves, crank up the volume on some jazz or samba and start messing around to the music. My goal is to loosen up and let my mind go with the flow.
The pre-set arbitrary restrictions are actually freeing. Limited options force creative thought. It’s a bit counter-intuitive, but true. One piece quickly leads into the next.
Here’s A Recent Example
- 16 pieces
- grid composition
- only use acrylic paint, pastels, black grease pencil & number stamps I made myself
- analogous color scheme – around the color wheel
- finish under one hour each
- the phrase was ‘Count Down & Go’
‘Count Down & Go’ © 2014 Shirley Williams
They were titled ‘Count Down & Go’ because that’s what I was saying to myself as the paint flew.
Sure enough, before long, the larger surfaces beckoned me.
I normally put them away after finishing. Much later I take out my accumulated pile of little warm-ups and decide which ones are worth keeping.
I grouped these 16 miniatures in pairs of colors and mounted them with archival white mats, (not shown here).
The mats have generous 3 inch borders all around.
There are 8 pairs with a finished outside size of 14 x 11 inches each. Just pop them into any standard 14 x 11 inch frame.
Just imagine how they’d look as a grouping in a small space.
$65. each (3 or more $ 50. each)
For larger images or more info contact me at
‘Count Down & Go’ © Shirley William
I will be moderating a FREE Visual Arts Panel this Thursday Oct 16, 2014 at Windsor Business Accelerator. Participating arts organizations include:
- Windsor Endowment for the Arts
- Art Gallery of Windsor
- University of Windsor
- Ontario Trillium Foundation
- Tourism Windsor Essex
- Caesars Casino
- Windsor Business Accelerator
The topic of discussion is ‘The Art of Business & the Business of Art’. FREE - Seating Limited. Reservation required at Windsor Endowment for the Arts
My interview is with Gallery Owner /Artist, Nancy Johns & University Professor/ Filmmaker, Kim Nelson. We will delve into the realities of making a living in the arts.
Other Panels include the Literary and Performing Arts. All sessions are being professionally videotaped and will be made available later on. So stay tuned:)
My studio after a major cleanup
When anyone visits my studio, they often remark that it seems abnormally clean and neat.
But I must confess it’s because I usually know they’re coming in advance. And just like anyone who straightens up the house before company drops by, I always quickly put things away and tidy before a studio visit.
About once or twice a year however, the accumulated paint drips, saved paper scraps and dust bunnies begin to weigh me down. Some artists thrive on clutter. An artist acquaintance of mine has never cleaned her studio and puts everything in piles. She calls herself a ‘Pile-omaniac’ and says it helps her feel inspired. Apparently the late British painter, Francis Bacon was like this too.
Personally, I find it challenging to be creative in the midst of clutter. Usually right after I finish working intensely on a body of work for a period of time, the resulting mess seems overwhelming. That’s when I know the studio needs much more attention than simply tidying up.
My Studio Painting Table Before Cleanup
This is what one of my painting tables looked like last week.
It was actually worse, but I’d already put away the tubes of paint and gotten rid of the dirty rags, paper towels and used palettes.
In fact, I couldn’t even see the table anymore. I forgot to take a picture in all its glory, but you would have been horrified.
So along with everything else on my plate at the moment, this week and last are cleaning weeks.
- every single surface gets swept and washed
- tools and materials get sorted and put away
- work table get new plastic drop cloths
- sketch books get organized
- all my office paperwork gets filed
It’s a lot of work but therapeutic in a strange way.
This is the first time in years I’ve tackled the job myself. Harmony, my studio assistant, is in Argentina on an extended Bio-Art project. Of course I could have hired someone else to help until she returns, but there is a certain sense of satisfaction in making the effort myself.
At least I now know where everything is.
Just like always, the recent incentive to do a clean sweep of my studio came after an intense burst of painting activity.
I’ve just completed a series of twelve mixed media paintings on paper that were submitted to my print publisher in Texas for consideration. New Era Portfolio represents me exclusively for fine art prints and so far they’ve published twenty-three of my paintings.
They informed me last week that they’ve decided to publish four of these new paintings.
Mixed Messages ID#P-1411 © ShirleyWilliamsArt.com
It’s always thrilling to hear they love certain pieces enough to publish them.
These four chosen originals were packed and shipped to Austin for high-resolution scanning.
New Era’s room-size, flatbed scanner is one of the largest in the world and it produces exceptional reproduction quality.
Mixed Messages ID#P-1413 © ShirleyWilliamsArt
The scanning, color correction, proofing and publication process usually takes about four to six weeks altogether.
Be You ID#P-1403 © ShirleyWilliamsArt.co
I’ll let you know when they’re available as Prints on Demand through my website.
Be You ID#P-1404 © ShirleyWilliamsArt.com
And of course the originals will be available for sale once they are returned to me from Texas.
ID# P-1404 all measure 13 ½ x 11 inches
@ $350. each unframed
ID# P-1411 measure 13 ½ x 18 inches
@ $450. unframed
Meanwhile, I now have a fresh, clean studio which feels so uplifting and inspirational.
It’s time to start painting again!!
Please explore my website ShirleyWilliamsArt.com
OR Email me for more information Shirley@ShirleyWilliamsArt.com
Enquiring Minds Want to Know
As an artist, there are certain questions people are always curious to know.
When author Genevieve Parker Hill recently asked to interview me for her upcoming book, I was thrilled.
She’s currently writing about artists and writers who make a living from their creative work. What follows is an excerpt from her interview which will be featured in her book.
Was there a point in your life when you made a decision or commitment to pursue your art as a career?
While I was growing up, my Dad was in the Canadian military. Our family spent a total of six years in Europe with NATO. Living in France and Germany in my teen years gave me a uniquely valuable experience. There was no art in our house, but my parents enjoyed traveling and we visited nearly all the museums in Europe. Art and history were everywhere and I fell madly in love with all of it.
It sounds like a cliché, but at 13 years old I met ‘Mona Lisa’ at the Louvre and was awestruck. This was before line-ups, velvet ropes and bulletproof glass so I was able to get within inches of this amazing painting.
Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci, 1503
The ‘Mona Lisa’ is much smaller that you’d expect, (30 x 21 inches) but alive and full of hypnotic energy. Experiencing it in person was the moment I decided to become an artist. For some strange reason, it filled me with a burning desire to create art that could connect people to their subconscious feelings.
However, my parents encouraged me to be practical. I studied business and marketing instead of fine art, but kept painting and taking university art courses on the side.
By 39 years of age, I had built a very successful career in Toronto as a video and documentary film producer. But I was burnt out and aching to paint full-time. Even though everyone thought I’d lost my mind, I decided to take the plunge.
My business partner took over and I moved to Windsor, Ontario, Canada for its lower cost of living. Also Windsor is on the Michigan border across from Detroit, and I wanted easy access to a US market. I bought a derelict deli and renovated it as a living / studio and gallery space.
With my savings as my only backup, I gave myself 2 years to make at least $12,000 / year from my art. For the first 5 years I worked literally 12 hours every day, 6 days a week. I was determined not to have to go back to a real job. Thankfully, 20 years later, I’m still painting full-time.
Do you have a spiritual practice that keeps your creative life fueled?
I have been meditating and visualizing at least 30 – 60 minutes most days for the past 38 years. It’s amazing how contemplation can empty the garbage that accumulates day to day in our minds.
How have mentorship or having strong models played a role in your artistic and career growth?
Although I always yearned for a mentor, there was never anyone to help me through the crazy maze of the art world n the beginning. Twenty years ago when I began painting full time, my business / marketing approach to an art career was definitely not the norm. There were no books, career workshops or internet coaches to help navigate a career. Today, information is everywhere. You just need to look.
It was so personally vital to make my art career successful that I simply tried things as I went along. It was a “sink or swim” mentality that drove me to succeed. Failure was not an option. There was no safety net financially and I did not want to go back to a job.
In the beginning I read lots of biographies about great artists and the lives of successful people both historical and current. Those who overcame huge obstacles to follow their passions always inspired me the most.
Are there any habits you’ve had to develop to create more space or time to do your art?
I’ve always treated my art career as my job. That means, I get up and go to work. When creative inspiration eludes me, I work on the business and marketing side of things. My usual routine is 10 am to 6 pm at least five days a week.
The other thing that’s always been important to me is having a dedicated studio space, no matter how cramped. When I’m painting in the studio, my computer and cell phone are turned off and the door is shut otherwise it’s too easy to get distracted.
How do you get inspired?
Just about anything beautiful and out of the ordinary grabs my attention. In general the energetic buzz of color and the intricate patterns of nature move me in ways I can’t quite explain.
My interests run wide and deep. Everything from history to quantum physics, interior design to microbiology fascinates me. As a lifelong learner, books and photography are two of my special passions.
Gathering Ideas for Painting
Random sketches, photographs and ideas accumulate. Eventually it all gels together to form a clear direction and it’s time to paint.
What are you currently working on?
Lately I’ve been playing with the idea of ‘Random Access Memories’, juxtaposing the usual meaning of computer RAM with personal memory.
I want to introduce drawings and layered imagery into my abstract paintings for the first time.
The actual process is in the preparation stage as I sort through years of sketchbooks and photographs, journaling memories and scanning drawings.
To find out more about Author, Genevieve Parker Hill Visit www.packinglust.com
Cheese & Olives, Claes Oldenberg, Gr 10 student
You may have heard of the 1998 Bestseller ‘Who Moved My Cheese’ by Spencer Johnson. It’s a cute but cautionary parable about two little mice called ‘Sniff’ & ‘Scurry’. They’re locked in a maze with two little people called ‘Hem’ & ‘Haw’.
‘Hem’ & ‘Haw’ are very complacent, indecisive little fellows. They sit back and happily enjoy the supply of cheese. Assuming it will always be the same, they get quite indignant when things change.
‘Sniff’ & ‘Scurry’ are quite different. They know that something will eventually move their cheese. So they keep moving, always looking for new cheese. Even when it feels scary they risk it all. They understanding that progress is their only true choice.
What’s this got to do with how we appreciate and collect art?
Here’s the surprising truth about the art business.
The Art Establishment (with a capital ‘A’) prides itself on appearing modern and cutting edge.
Yet even contemporary Curators, Art Dealers, Critics, Galleries and Museums are some of the most conservative people on the planet.
They are the art gatekeepers, hoarding their cheese like ‘Hem & Haw’.
The art business has vested interests in maintaining the status quo, mostly concerning money, influence and control over artists and collectors. Naturally, they have resisted the internet’s democratizing influence every inch of the way.
Until the internet came along and moved their cheese, curators, galleries and critics had the upper hand. Artists had nowhere else to exhibit their work. Collectors had nowhere else to see it.
But artists are a brave and adventurous bunch. They’re a bit like ‘Sniff & Scurry’.
Gradually as more artists broke away from the gallery system Artist Portfolio Websites began appearing by the late 90’s. A few brave souls even began posting prices. This drove galleries wild. But no amount of condemnation would stop the eventual addition of Shopping Carts on artist websites.
I just came across these surprising statistics from a recent Hiscox survey conducted for the gallery and museum industries. There’s no doubt the internet has radically changed how we look at and and consume art today.
- 71% of art collectors have bought art online sight unseen.
- Buyers of all ages are making art purchases online.
- Art buyers want to purchase art with little or no contact with the intermediary (the gallery).
- Artists selling directly to their fan base is a major trend.
- Online art sales have grown exponentially and are poised for even more growth.
- Online platforms are major incubators for emerging artists.
The genie is definitely out of the bottle.
I confess to being really slow looking for new cheese. The past twenty years of my art career has been focused on developing gallery relationships and now the world has turned.
So I’ve finally taken the plunge and posted prices for my paintings on my website.
Hopefully you’ll see something you can’t live without.
For your convenience you can contact me direct or purchase through the secure Shopping Cart system.
Check out my Online Portfolio.
By the way, here are the Golden Nuggets in the book ‘Who Moved My Cheese’.
They keep moving the cheese
Get ready for the cheese to move
Smell the cheese often so you know when it’s getting old
Adapt To Change Quickly
The quicker you let go of old cheese, the sooner you can enjoy new cheese
Move with the cheese
Savor the adventure and enjoy the taste of new cheese!
Be Ready To Change Quickly And Enjoy It Again
They keep moving the cheese.
Last week I drove to picturesque Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio with my van loaded to the gills with art materials. I went for a four-day painting workshop, something I haven’t done in five years. But I felt the need to loosen myself up and think outside of my comfort zone. This workshop was just the ticket.
For years I’ve enjoyed looking at the vibrant and energetic work of internationally renowned California painter, Robert Burridge.
Hosted by the Cuyahoga Falls Art Center , this was his first workshop near enough to allow me to drive. The Workshop was called Painting Abstract Nudes. – So totally out of my element – but it promised to loosen me up.
What a wonderful week it turned out to be !!
Notice how Bob Burridge’s fingers are blurred. He paints amazingly quickly and with incredible joy.
There were about 20 people in the workshop. Each artist was there to learn, while having a great time painting. I came home energized from everyone’s uplifting spirit of joy and camaraderie.
We each had out own table and painting area. And we had the best live nude model anyone ever had the privilege of working with. As a dancer, singer and drama major she was able to move into and hold the most interesting positions. Bob timed her with new poses every two to five minutes.
After a while, when the pose is mere minutes long, you stop thinking. You just draw – spontaneously and loosely – searching for the movement; the emotion; the line. It was total free flowing immersion and I reveled in it.
Although I didn’t come home with any drawings anyone would consider finished, the experience has inspired me in ways I didn’t expect. Stay tuned for what’s coming next
If you happen to be visiting the great tourist area north of Toronto over the next month, drop by my latest exhibition called ‘Vibrations’ at the Bartlett Gallery in Alton, Ontario. Also showing are sculptor Mark Puigmarti and Elena Henderson.
I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting either artist, but their work looks amazing.
The show runs from Nov 14 – Dec 9
The Opening Reception
Saturday, November 17th
1 pm – 3 pm with Cellist Isaiah Farahbakhshrah
Why not make it a week-end get-away !
The gallery is located in the historical Alton Mill Art Centrewith lots of things to do in and around the Orangeville area. It’s also right next door to the renowned Millcroft Inn and Spa.
Hope to see you there !!
- ‘Vibrations’ opens at the Bartlett Gallery in Alton Ontario