Shelley Wilson



I believe that drawing is a learned skill, just as riding a bike, driving a car, cooking a delicious meal, climbing a mountain, or running in a marathon are learned and, I must add, trained for.  What sets the artist apart from the chef, the athlete, the race car driver is simply the desire to pursue art.  We make choices.  When a person chooses to become an artist, they learn to be an artist.  If they don’t really want it very badly, they may give up when they face difficulty.  If they skip steps in their training, if they take shortcuts, if they don’t have sufficient passion for the task, they will give up and turn to something else.

When I was ten, a fire began to burn in my soul.  I’ve always believed that the fire was lit by God and I’ve taken action because of that.  He gave me the passion to step out and learn how to tell a story with visual representations, whether it be through drawings, paintings, photographs, or videos.  I don’t have a college degree in art, but I have trained with my whole being.  As a child, my mother enrolled me in a short six week art class at a local museum in our area.  When I was fifteen, she introduced me to an art tutor who took me on as an assistant in exchange for art lessons.  That’s where I learned the skills and developed the motivation to stick with it.  Our small group of students learned gestures, contour drawing, sketching, painting, and sculpting.  Our teacher taught us to “see”.  Seeing, above all the other lessons, was the crux of the thing.  It made me aware of how one edge compares to another, how, despite color, one thing was darker or lighter than another.  I learned to see negative space and how to use line to capture movement and feeling.  As the teacher’s assistant, I also learned how to clean brushes and care for other art materials so they would perform their best and last their longest.

Many years later I attended art classes at the Southwestern School of Art in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where I developed my ability further for drawing and painting from live models.  The instructor had been an engineer before starting the school and brought a new perspective to the skill of “seeing” and rendering what we see.  After taking every class offered, the instructor asked me to consider purchasing the small school.  He was ready to retire.  My husband’s Air Force career had no room for such an endeavor and a few months later we were transferred to Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany.

While in Germany, I thought my art career would be put on hold, but our time there brought my work and skills to a place I never would have believed possible.  It was the right place and the right time.  I was offered a large shop at Vogelweh (an Air Force base without fences and guard gates).  I opened up a framing shop and a gallery.  I created the gallery for myself, but discovered an abundance of artists there as spouses of military or as military themselves, who had lost sight of how to channel their art in this faraway land.  It was a pleasure to provide them with a place to share their work, sell it, and to learn.  I offered  classes, workshops, and paint-ins for the artists.  We met on Thursdays and made day trips to local galleries, museums, art supply stores, and to take photographs.  It rained in Germany all but about two months of the year.  Painting outside was difficult, if not impossible.  We relied on photographs taken during the gentler days to provide us with material for the indoor months.

I put paint to canvas or paper.  I have a good sketch beforehand.  Still, I reach a place where I falter.  Things seem to be all wrong and unsavable.  In times past, I might give up there and put the painting aside.  Now I paint on.  I paint with faith that it’ll come around.  And it does.  It always does.

To learn more about this artist, visit Portraits By Shelley.

To learn more about “The Dinner” documentary on Sustainable Farming that Shelley Wilson and Christina Allen are making, visit The Dinner Movie.



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