Caesars Features One of My Paintings

Out of the blue last week, I got a call from the designer/art consultant Helena Ventrella. She needed an oversized painting right away, for a massive wall in Caesars Casino Windsor.

The Grand Opening Launch event for Caesar’s spectacular VIP Banquet room, ‘Augustus-27’ was scheduled for two nights later.

Abstract Painting by Shirley Williams,

‘Forces of Nature’ acrylic on canvas, 60 x 96 inches © Shirley Williams

I sent her some images and she emailed me right away with an approved choice. This was followed by a flurry of purchase orders and forms that the Casino requires.

Usually, any painting 6 x 4 feet or smaller, is simply loaded into my van and delivered to clients if they’re in my area.

But this painting measures 6 x 8 feet ! Way too huge for my van. Fortunately, my trainer and helpful friend, Ben Graham, came to my rescue with his new truck.

 The painting was installed the next day after delivering it. The invitation to the VIP Launch Party was in my Inbox when I got back to the studio. I was pretty pumped.

Augustus-27 Launch

Augustus-27 Launch

  • The Augustus-27 Room is amazing!!
  • 30-foot high floor to ceiling windows
  • 360 degrees of view
  • breathtaking view of Canada (Windsor) & the US (Detroit) as far as the eye can see.
    Ambassador Bridge, Windsor & Detroit

    Ambassador Bridge, Windsor & Detroit


    View of Detroit, Michigan from Canadian side

    View of Detroit, Michigan from Canadian side

    View of Caesars Windsor & Detroit River

    View of Caesars Windsor & Detroit River

The Launch Party was fantastic! There was a definite buzz of electric excitement in the room!img_0744

Unfortunately, the lighting on my painting had a strong blue cast, which really washed out the colors. Oh, well. Things can’t always be perfect.

The Casino didn’t buy the painting, though. Instead, they’re leasing it for three months.  They  thoughtfully urged me to add a label off to the side of the painting so anyone interested could get in touch with me.

It’s a great honor and opportunity to have my work featured so prominently. Maybe someone with a large enough wall with fall in love with ‘Forces of Nature’ and want to take it home.

With Mayor, Drew Dilkens & brother-in-law, Bob Williams

With Mayor, Drew Dilkens & brother-in-law, Bob Williams


Art Gallery of Windsor's 'Sip & Paint'

The ‘Sip & Paint’ evening hosted by the Art Gallery of Windsor on October 27th, 2016 was a smashing success !!

AGW 'Sip & Paint' set up before workshop

AGW ‘Sip & Paint’ set up before workshop

It was the first time the gallery had tried something like this. The more generic “Sip & Paint” evenings popular at restaurants and bars are all the rage right now. These are usually more focused on the drinking and partying, with little true creativity in the painting lesson.

So the AGW asked me to create a totally unique workshop experience. Yes, of course, there was fantastic catered appetizers great wine, and relaxed fun ! But the bonuses were the spectacular view of Detroit across the Detroit River, the ambiance of the AGW museum and a memorable  art workshop experience.

Getting started with wine and first steps

Getting started with wine and first steps

With 22 participants, it was a much larger group than we had anticipated. Thank goodness local artist Jude Quick volunteered to help me. Otherwise, I would have been overwhelmed. Thanks a million Jude !!!!

Most participants had never painted before and it was natural to be a bit hesitant. But everyone loosened up after a glass of wine and began to really enjoy themselves. Their abstract paintings quickly began to take shape as I led them all through a series of simple steps.  Every step allowed room for each person’s individual creative choices.

By the end of the evening, every person took home their own totally amazing painting on canvas measuring 20 x 16 inches. Every painting was different and truly good enough to hang proudly on their walls.

Helping participants and answering questions

Helping participants and answering questions

I had a wonderful time sharing my experience and creating a fun night out for everyone.









Do You Think This is Art?

This past weekend I met up with a group of artist friends after going to Art Toronto at the Convention Centre. Going to Art Fairs is a frequent pilgrimage for me, as I like to see what the top galleries are showing. But seeing what is supposed to be amazing art gets to be more of an empty exercise with each passing year.

With five of my artist friends after Toronto Art Fair

With five of my artist friends after Art Toronto

We all wandered around the show on our own and compared notes after. It was great fun to share drinks and dinner with this group of dynamic contemporary painters and hear their thoughts. The conversation was quite lively.

Most of us had never met in person before. We’ve all gotten to know each other over the internet and really admire each others’ work. I had previously met two of them when I attended Kevin Ghiglione’s   stunning solo exhibition at Muse Gallery last August.

We all agreed that the art being shown at Art Toronto was underwhelming at best. In fact most of us felt, as working artists, there was almost nothing inspiring.

Art Toronto 2016 Jack Bush painting

Art Toronto 2016 Jack Bush painting

This is supposed to be the best of the best!
Art Toronto features  mostly Canadian galleries with a generous mixture of American, South American and European galleries showing their top artists. But it all seemed really hum drum and derivative.

I don’t know if you’ve ever felt this when looking at contemporary art, but some of the art felt like a con job.

I saw two large saggy canvases in the 5 figure price range that were badly stretched and warping. I saw another painting where the paint was literally flaking off onto the floor priced at $27,000!!

Much of it was pretentious, silly and trying too hard.

As a perfect example this painting by Kim Dorland was actually repellent. Yet it had a red dot, meaning sold. I can’t imagine someone paying $10,500. for this! I’d be embarrassed to have painted it and even more so to have bought it.

What do you think? I’d be interested in your comments.

Is this art to you?

Kim Dorland 30 x 24 Equinox Gallery $10,500. SOLD


Tough Choice to Make

One of the advantages of being an artist for over 20 years, is that you get invited to do some really interesting things. It’s always an honor to be involved with the local creative community whenever I can.

Last week I had the pleasure of being one of three judges to select the winning paintings in a local art competition.

The juried theme was “Barnes of Essex County” presented by the Association of Representational Artists. The other two distinguished judges were  Mayor Ken Antaya of LaSalle, and Curator of the Gibson Gallery, Bonnie Deslippe.

Judges Mayor Ken Antaya with Artist Shirley Williams

Judges Mayor Ken Antaya with Artist Shirley Williams

 The ARA is a nonprofit group of artists since 1978, with a focus on representational paintings and sculpture.

This year’s theme “Barns of Essex County” is meant to help preserve the memory of our agricultural heritage through art. We know that some of our older barn structures are falling to time and age and are being replaced by newer architecture.

The paintings in the competition were judged on adherence to the theme, skill in execution of medium, design, composition and overall merit.

Nine paintings had been pre-juried and we three judges were asked to select the winners.

It was a tough choice because each painting was really well done. There were a variety of mediums – watercolor, acrylic, oil, pastel and mixed media, all handled with great technical ability. Plus, each painting displayed a unique style and great sensitivity to their subject.

We had no idea whose paintings we were judging because the artists’ signatures had been taped out.

Even though I’m an abstract artist, (and not a member of ARA) my fundamental training was representational drawing and painting, so I have a great appreciation for this style of art. Lots of talent in this group for sure !

The Gold, Silver and Bronze Medal awards were presented the following evening at the reception. The Gold Medal winner was one of the area’s favorite representational painters, Dennis Smith.   dennis-smithUnfortunately the photo of his winning painting came out very blurry so I can’t show it here.


If you’d like to see his painting, along with about 75 other member’s excellent paintings there’s still time. I encourage you to go see this terrific group show.

Their exhibition and sale runs to Sunday, Nov 13, 2016
Windsor Crossing Premium Outlet Mall
Unit 110
 – 1555 Talbot Rd. LaSalle

Hours:  Thurs. 10am- 9pm, Fri. 10am – 9pm, Sat.10am-6pm & Sun.12noon – 4pm

Closed: Mondays, Tuesday & Wednesday.

Go take a look!!

‘SIP & PAINT’ Social Workshop at AGW

I’ve been invited to be the Featured Artist for a social evening of “Sipping & Painting at the Art Gallery of Windsor on October 27. It’s going to be a super fun experience for one and all. This is for everyone, even people who tell me they can’t even “draw a straight line.”

'Sip & Paint' workshop with artist Shirley Williams

Art Gallery of Windsor

Sip & Paint is a new public art program at the Art Gallery of Windsor that welcomes visitors to the Gallery for an evening of wine and painting. Over the course of two hours, participants will work with an established artist in the 2nd Floor studio.

You’ll be guided through an introduction to acrylic and concepts of abstract art.  Included in your ticket is a complimentary glass of wine, snacks, all necessary materials and admission into the Gallery`s exhibitions.

Absolutely no experience is required. It will also be a lot of fun for those who do have painting experience too.

I hope to see you there. It’s going to be a blast !!!

Tickets are limited, so please rsvp as soon as possible.

The Art Gallery of Windsor will be posting a link online to purchase tickets soon.
Until then please call  AGW Visitor Services at 519-977-0013

‘SIP & PAINT’ – Social Acrylic Painting WORKSHOP

Thursday, October 27, 2016 – Featured Artist Shirley Williams
Art Gallery of Windsor
401 Riverside Drive West, 2nd Floor, Windsor, Ontario
$50 per ticket

I Give Up !!

Of course I’m not giving up painting !!!

I’m giving up painting with brushes.




Last December 2015, I participated in a life-altering painting retreat
totally off-grid in the seaside jungles near Sayulita, Mexico.
Read my Blog Post   HERE    
and   HERE

We were a small group of 15 committed artists, completely cut off from the outside world for 9 days. It was protected and totally safe.

The retreat was led by a fantastic abstract painter, Nicholas Wilton  who is based in San Francisco. He encouraged us to push ourselves and explore new creative directions in our painting.

I’ve been painting, exhibiting and supporting myself as an artist for over 20 years. But I admit, I felt a bit stale the past few years. As a career artist you need to shock your creative system every 10 years or so, in whatever way suits you. Otherwise painting can become a job.

Watching all the other artists painting with brushes inspired me. So I decided to hit the refresh button and learn to paint in a totally different way.

Until then, it had never been my approach to paint with brushes. Instead I always poured, painted with my hands, brayers and palette knives.



These past 9 months I decided to learn to paint with brushes.

And what an incredibly frustrating and humbling experience it’s been !

It’s a bit embarrassing to admit.
I’ve been in the studio every day for 8 – 10 hours.
I’ve worked and re-worked dozens of paintings, and don’t have ONE painting that satisfies me.
In 9 MONTHS  !!!

A brush in my hand continues to feel foreign and restrictive.  And to my eye, the awkwardness I feel shows up in these paintings.


But at some point ENOUGH IS ENOUGH !

Yesterday was the final straw. I got so frustrated with re-painting the same large canvas for weeks with nothing good to show for it, that I threw my brushes in the sink. I grabbed a brayer and began covering everything up with large gestures. Suddenly the painting came alive and I was having a blast.

To be clear, I didn’t feel pressured or obligated these past 9 months, to learn to paint with brushes. And I wasn’t subjecting myself to unnecessary suffering.

Instead it was about opening myself to other ways of thinking and creating art. Working through the physical challenges of painting in an unfamiliar way has made me hyper-aware of how I paint best. It’s given me a heightened sensitivity to my materials and tools.  

In the long run, every frustrating moment taught me something. I even loved every minute in a weird sort of way.

Sometimes as artists, we MUST try new ways of working. It’s only by challenging ourselves that we keep moving forward.
But at the same time,  “we must be in touch with what our souls want to do”.

That’s why I’m declaring here and now. NO MORE BRUSHES for me.

New Small Encaustic Painting Series


encaustic on wood, 12 x 12 inches, float-framed

‘Beneath the Surface #S1605 © Shirley Williams $450.




Over the past year, I’ve been exploring new ideas using mixed media on small canvases and wood. 

What’s Mixed Media you might ask! 

In the arts, “mixed media” basically means anything goes.

However it’s not truly anything goes.  Professional artists always make sure the combinations are compatible and archival. This ensures the artwork doesn’t fall apart later on.

In my case, these little gems are created using a combination of encaustic wax, collaged papers, image transfers and oil sticks. – all archival of course !!

With this series, I just allowed images from my subconscious to bubble up. I called the series “Beneath the Surface”.

All these new pieces are 12 x 12 inches and smaller. 

They are float-framed and ready to hang. 


encaustic on wood, 12 x 12 inches, float-framed

‘Beneath the Surface #S1604 © Shirley Williams $450. 

encaustic on wood, 12 x 12 inches, float-framed $450

‘Beneath the Surface #S1606 © Shirley Williams $450

encaustic on wood, 9 x9  inches, float-framed

‘Beneath the Surface #S1610 © Shirley Williams $275.

encaustic on wood, 9 x9  inches, float-framed

‘Beneath the Surface #S1611 © Shirley Williams $275.

encaustic on wood, 9 x9  inches, float-framed

‘Beneath the Surface #S1605 © Shirley Williams $275

encaustic on wood, 9 x9  inches, float-framed

‘Beneath the Surface #S1609 © Shirley Williams $275.

Advice for a Career Change


Do you ever feel bored by your current life or career and long for a more creative life?

A few days ago I received this email from one of my Newsletter subscribers. It’s a question I get asked a lot and my answer may surprise you.

Dear Shirley,
First, I absolutely love your work (and studio!).

I am wondering if you have a BFA and/or MFA in the visual arts or “only” took classes – I can’t tell from your resume. I ask because I am struggling personally on the need for formal training at a University for one to become a successful artist. I am a successful, tenured professor/scientist, but have realized at the age of 50 that my true passion in life is not science but the visual arts (photography, painting). I want to change careers and am wondering if I need to return to school to earn an MFA to be a successful artist. I already have a MS and PhD in the sciences and am very creative but have had no formal training in the arts to date.
Thank you.

This is the answer I wrote him.  What are your thoughts about my advice?

Hi Joe

Thanks for your wonderful comment.

To answer your question, I never did finish my BFA. After about half way through I realized I wasn’t learning anything that was useful to me personally – The curriculum mostly concentrated on Conceptualism, Critique writing, art-speak, Sculpture, Film Media etc.

I was interested in painting, which a BFA does not cover in depth.

I also noticed how unprepared for an art career graduates seemed to be. Many floundered after working so hard to earn their degrees. Some never created art again. The few who DID succeed were filled with a burning desire that would have brought them success regardless.  So I simply audited the courses I wanted to pursue such as painting, drawing, color theory, printmaking, design, art history, business, marketing  etc. 

Don’t get me wrong. You absolutely must have the knowledge. An artist never should stop learning and growing. Along the way I’ve personally continued to take residency and online workshops. Plus I read and research constantly to push myself in new directions. in addition I’m always looking at lots of other artists’ work.

Not having a BFA/ MFA will never really hold you back if you’re determined and work hard.

Personally If I were in your shoes, I’d rather spend the next 5 years  honing a personal style, creating a body of work, and polishing your business / marketing skills




Not everyone wants an art career. But if you do, here’s  what you need to succeed as a career artist

1.   Art that is uniquely, authentically your voice.

2.   A body of about 20 compelling artworks in a similar style based on exploring a single idea or theme.

3.   Professionalism in every interaction – Website, Social, Photographs, Business Cards, Postcards, 

4    Track Record, even if it’s only the local coffee shop at first 

5    Data Base of Professional & Personal Contacts 

Just begin one step at a time.

  • ·      Make lots and lots of art, and take photos.
  • ·      Keep a sketchbook / journal of ideas, colors etc,
  • ·      Take lots of courses, 
  • ·      Start following other artists online that you like.
  • ·      Go to galleries, network
  • ·      Begin a data base of names of people you know and meet
  • ·      Never do it only for the money :) Always stay true to what you want to create.

Good luck and enjoy the creative journey.

Joe’s reply made my day. It’s always such a wonderful feeling to help someone who appreciates it !!

Thank you so much for replying  & sharing your wisdom with me. I sincerely appreciate that you took time away from your busy day to reply to me with such wonderful advice.  I don’t think my life will ever be the same. Your words of wisdom are worth more to me than an “Ivy league education”!


Painting Fnds a New Home

This painting was just sold  today to a new collector in Ontario.

‘Wish You Were Here”
4 x 6 feet,
acrylic on canvas.

'Wish You Were Here" 48 x 72 inches, © 2015 Shirley Williams SOLD

‘Wish You Were Here” 48 x 72 inches, © 2015 Shirley Williams SOLD



Ronald McDonald House Acquires Original Paintings

Signs of spring are everywhere which is putting a smile on everyone’s faces. The bright yellow of forsythia bushes always shocks me out of the winter doldrums and lightens my spirits.


Spring especially jump-starts my creative juices. At this time of year there’s nothing I love more than to roll up the big garage door in my studio, find a fabulous music playlist and paint all day and evening.

My studio has been a busy beehive the past few months with studio visits and new paintings in the works. I’m thrilled to have some exciting news to share.

This week, Ronald McDonald House  opened a brand new, much anticipated 3700 square foot facility at Metropolitan Hospital. It’s a fully functional, virtual home with seven bedrooms, on the pediatric / neonatal floor, for the families of sick children. Ronald McDonald House Charities provides a valuable service for parents to stay close 24/7 for as long as they need to.

Sarah Beveridge of SB Contemporary Art was the art consultant on this project. They were searching for original artwork that would be both cheerful and calming. Numerous artists from Southwestern Ontario were considered.

To my delight and surprise, they selected me.  Eleven of my original paintings were acquired to be featured in every room.

Ronald McDonald House Charities Permanent Collection

“In the Wind” triptych © Shirley Williams

The triptych above, titled “In the Wind” are on the feature wall of the main family room. Each are matted and framed in white. © Shirley Williams

Ronald McDonald House has a special place in my heart. They were a godsend when our baby grandson spent a month at Sick Children’s Hospital in Toronto. I am deeply honored to be see my paintings grace their walls and hopefully brighten someone’s day.

Ronald McDonald House Charities Permanent Collection

“Hidden Messages” Original Series © Shirley Williams Art

Each of the remaining original paintings are in the “Hidden Messages” series, and are featured in each of the bedrooms and hall. Everything was framed with white mats and white frames for a fresh look.  © Shirley Williams

Windsor Regional Hospital and their Metropolitan Hospital Campus celebrated the Grand Opening of Canada’s 15th Ronald McDonald House on May 6th, 2016. An Open House for the following two days gave eager members of the Windsor community the chance to see this spectacular new facility.

I am exceeding proud to have my paintings play such an integral part. The outpouring of gratitude from families who have had occasion to need Ronald McDonald House in other cities was really touching.

Thank you to everyone who was involved in making it happen !!!