Shirley Shelton – Striking Out

By in Interviews


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Shirley Shelton exudes colour.

Looking at her strikingly unique work, it is not difficult to imagine that she was never one to sit back and allow adversity to floor the creative process (which she has now managed to turn into a successful career!). Like many artists, her experiences from as early as her childhood (influenced by many moves due to her father’s career) have helped to shape the depth and tone of her work, as art was an early release for a very trans-continental child.The experiences of travel and warm sunsets at dusk in her later years come through in the vivid shades and shadows of nature that she has mastered, and influence even the designs for new paintings, which Shirley has developed such a strong following for.

Attractive and carefree in nature, it has definitely been her strength of characther that has gotten Shirley to the position she is in now, where her art has become as easily recognisable as her bright and cheerful glow. Sitting in her Norfolk studio for this interview, we asked Shirley more about her opinions on modern artists, African inspiration and why she thinks the hard times in life will actually help to shape your success…

1) Thankyou for joining us at Spotlight, Shirley. Tell us first, what initially drew you to becoming an artist?

I’ve always been naturally creative. During my childhood we didn’t live in one place for any length of time because my father was in the Royal Air Force, this often left me feeling quite isolated with difficulties forming long term friendships so I would spend a lot of timepainting and drawing.

2) When did you know that it was meant to be your chosen career? And did you have any trouble grappling with the decision?
Art was my favourite subject at school and the only thing at which I really excelled, but I never seriously considered it as a career. I was employed in a variety of unfulfilling jobs until about ten years ago then I suffered a series of personal traumas and became quite ill with depression, having to give up my job I decided to spend more time painting and started to have increasing offers from people to buy my work, eventually as my confidence grew there was no question in my mind that I wanted to make it my full time occupation.

3) Your work definitely has a distinct flair. What inspires you most in your work?
Colour, atmosphere and mood. I absolutely love the drama of stormy skies and sunsets and I’m fascinated by the heat and colour of the African landscape, apart from that I like to store any interesting image I’ve seen in my head so that when I’m faced with a blank canvas my imagination and subconscious work together to come up with something interesting.

4) How do you think success can be defined artistically?
I think success is relative, artists we now consider to be successful often died in poverty and didn’t sell any paintings during their lifetime whereas certain well known artists of today have achieved fame and fortune for producing sensationalist rubbish and happened to be in the right place at the right time, success for me personally is simply that some people appreciate my work enough to want to buy it and display in their homes

5) Why did you choose your current location as a base?
I live and work in a picturesque part of rural Norfolk in the UK, I really appreciate the difference working in such a peaceful environment can make to my motivation, I originally started painting professionally in a fairly noisy and cramped flat in town whereas now the beautiful countryside constantly inspires me.

6) How do people react to your paintings, and what kinds of questions are you regularly asked about your work?
I think people are initially attracted by the warm and bright colours and quite surprised by the variety of subjects and techniques I use, I’m most often asked where my ideas come from.

7) Have you had any significant people help you get where you are now? If so, what role did they play in your success? (Ex: a supportive partner, a mentor etc)
I can honestly say I wouldn’t have achieved any level of success at anything I’ve done during the last decade if it hadn’t been for the care and support I’ve had from my husband.

8) How do you keep yourself motivated?
I’ve had a few people doubt me one way or another in the past so I think I’m largely motivated by a determination to prove myself, like many artists I do suffer from a lack ofself confidence and being a bit of a perfectionist I’m driven by a constant desire to improve.


We thank Shirley Shelton for her interesting and insightful answers and for sharing a little about the inspiration for her amazing work.

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