Enquiring Minds Want to Know

Excerpt from Interview by Genevieve Parker Hill

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.

My first inspiration to become an artist

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

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


How Internet Shopping Moved Our Cheese in the Arts

Who moved my Cheese?

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. 

2014-08 online_shopping250px



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’.

Change Happens
They keep moving the cheese

Anticipate Change
Get ready for the cheese to move

Monitor Change
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

Enjoy Change!
Savor the adventure and enjoy the taste of new cheese!

Be Ready To Change Quickly And Enjoy It Again
They keep moving the cheese.




Nude Painting Workshop

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

Artist 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 !!

Bob Burridge Workshop

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.

Shirley Williams Nude Sketches, Robert Burridge Workshop

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 :)

New Show at The Bartlett Gallery

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.

Shirley Williams Art

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

Live Painting Video

Take a peek at this short video of me painting and talking about my inspirations and methods. It was produced by my global art  licensing agent in Austin, Texas, New Era Portfolio.

Elizabeth Havelock Award Reception

Federal MP Brian Masse, me, Councillor Joanne Gignac

I was recently honored by being chosen as winner of the prestigious Elizabeth Havelock Art Award. It’s an annual award presented to  one mid-career artist who’s made significant contributions to arts and culture in their community.

My husband Jim, me, Federal MP Brian Masse

There were several other cultural group winners that evening being presented by the Windsor Endowment for the Arts.  We all enjoyed a lovely evening in an enchanting, recently revived, historical building. They served the most tasty and tempting appetizers. We were also treated to an exquisite piano recital of Chopin and Rachmaninoff.

Windsor Endowment for the Arts reception

WEA Awards Reception


Open Studio Starts Today

Open Studio & Sale 2 Weekends Only


  • See what a working art studio looks like
  • Grab some original art bargains while they last
  • Miniatures starting at $ 10

Come Visit & Bring Your Friends
3080 Grand Marais Road East (between Walker & Central)

Contact Me
Phone: (519) 980-4852
Email: shirley@shirleywilliamsart.com
Web: ShirleyWilliamsArt.com


Shrinking Art Chicago - Sign of the Times

I just returned from a wonderful weekend in Chicago for the annual Art Chicago fine art fair. It was at the Merchandise Mart downtown and ran from April 29 – May 2.

It was quite a surprise to see how much leaner and more regional it was this year. All the exhibitors were on one floor instead of four. This year only about 90 established galleries and 60 emerging galleries participated. By comparison,in 2008, when I was last there, about 500 international galleries from every major art city in the world participated.

Attendance was sparse too. Most people  have other things on their minds these days, I suppose. But there was lots of interesting art to see. The lack of crowds made looking much more enjoyable without all the usual jostling.

For me fine art fairs are a wonderful, time-saving way to get a quick overview of what’s new and noticed in the contemporary art world. It’s a visual feast and I always come back to my studio reinvigorated and eager to work.

Contemporary art fairs are also great for networking, meeting new people and talking about ideas and the state of the art world. The economic downturn has definitely had a major impact on the visual arts in terms of fewer buyers. However, this hasn’t stopped fine artists from continuing to create exquisite and relevant work. Nor has it dampened the enthusiasm of the gallerists who represent them.

Spring Cleaning Never Ends

Way back in January, I decided one of my goals before spring would be to totally Clean, Sort and Organize everything in my studio.

My working methods as an artist naturally cause me  to collect lots and lots of materials. Sometimes things I save actually prove useful. While a lot just takes up valuable space and clutters up my thoughts.

So I decided to de-clutter and and only keep tools and material I actually do use. I was feeling pretty good about the results and was just getting back in the groove of painting with everything close at hand.

Then BAM !

Two large shipments of paintings came back to my studio from exhibitions at the same time. First all the art from the Art Gallery of Windsor solo arrived, then an enormous crate came back from Naples, Florida.

Williams Art Studio

Things looked like this for a few days last week until Harmony, my assistant and I were able to sort and put everything away.

Cool Colors ‘Natural Networks’ – AGW Exhibit

'Natural Networks' ID-1038, 36"x36", (c) 2010 Shirley Williams

'Natural Networks' ID-1038, 36"x36", (c) 2010 Shirley Williams

Here are the 4 canvases in the ‘Natural Networks’ series in the Cool Color range. Each painting is acrylic on canvas and measures 36″ x 36″.

'Natural Networks' ID-1038, 36"x36", (c) 2010 Shirley Williams

'Natural Networks' ID-1038, 36"x36", (c) 2010 Shirley Williams

'Natural Networks' ID-1037, 36"x36", (c) 2010 Shirley Williams

'Natural Networks' ID-1037, 36"x36", (c) 2010 Shirley Williams

'Natural Networks' ID-1039, 36"x36", (c) 2010 Shirley Williams

'Natural Networks' ID-1039, 36"x36", (c) 2010 Shirley Williams