Artist Shirley Campbell - AIC Interview

Born in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan in 1928, Shirley Campbell presently lives on a ranch in Southern Alberta with her daughter and son in law Greg and Lynda Baxter. In the mid 1940's Shirley took drawing classes with Ernest Lindner who suggested she should be an art teacher. She has done projects for western shows, cartooning, and oil painting for many years. Her favourite subjects are portraits, animals, seascapes and landscapes.

Question:
When did you realize you had the need to create and develop your skills?
Answer:
I have always had a creative side. In high school I would help the drama department with painting the set designs and I did the art for their programs. In our year book they put "Shirley Graham, artist renowned, best we've ever had around." That made me feel good!

Question:
How do you know when your art is complete?
Answer:
I get a feeling of satisfaction, and when I get that feeling, I sign my name and call it done. I try not to over paint, but sometimes I do.

Question:
Where do you gather your inspiration from?
Answer:
I have many reference photographs that I've collected throughout my life. I'm always amazed at the beauty in this world and can be inspired to paint at any moment by my surroundings. I love painting wildlife and can see deer from my window. The thing I like best is to be able to capture a feeling on a human portrait or wildlife painting.

Question:
Where do you typically create art?
Answer:
I have an art studio in my home. Though my favourite place to paint over the years is at the same dining room table I've had for the last 52 years. It's comfortable for me to be able to spread my oil paints out and come and go as I please.

Question:
Right now, what is your medium of choice and what is your favourite subject matter?
Answer:
I love to paint in oils. I have also done chalk pastels.

Question:
All artists at all stages of their career want to try something new, what other medium or subject matter do you see yourself experimenting with?
Answer:
I really like working with pastels and would like to experiment some more with them. I love the soft effect I can achieve.

Question:
Continuing education, do you partake and if so what did you learn?
Answer:
I took lessons in Saskatoon in drawing with Ernest Lindner in the mid 1940's. He encouraged me and felt I should consider becoming an art teacher because I had a distinct style. I like to paint on my own and have learned how to paint in oils by trial and error.

Question:
Have you ever taught a class or done an artist talk? If so, what did you talk about or teach? Can people sign up for your workshops and how?
Answer:
N/A

Question:
Have you ever painted en plein air? What was the biggest hurdle for you? Environmental challenges, wildlife, people, weather?
Answer:
I have never painted outside. I never had the desire to. I suppose after living in some very cold places in Canada, such as Saskatoon, Regina, Winnipeg and Toronto, environmental challenges would have been the worst for me.

Question:
Do you do commissions? If so, what is your process?
Answer:
Over the years, I have painted many gifts for friends. I like to know that I've left some of my art with friends in the many places we've lived over the years.

Question:
What is your favourite art related quote?
Answer:
"If God gives you a talent you should do something with it". Those words were said to me many years ago by a good friend, and inspired me to start painting again.

Question:
Do you have a favourite artist and what do you like about their art? Have you ever met them?
Answer:
I admire Andrew Kiss's art. I first saw his work in Calgary in the late 80's and completely fell in love with his wildlife artwork. I bought some of his art for gifts, and had the opportunity many years later to meet him in person. I also admire Robert Bateman. I've collected his books and have had them all signed by him.

Question:
Did they inspire you to pursue a career as a professional artist?
Answer:
I'm not a professional artist, but certainly was inspired by both Andrew Kiss and Robert Bateman. Their attention to detail is what is so captivating to me in the wildlife art they do.

Question:
What is most challenging to you when starting a new project?
Answer:
Mixing colours is my biggest challenge. I love to draw and find drawing easy for me.

Question:
What advice would you give to an artist starting out?
Answer:
My advice to any artist, who wants to start painting, would be to take some art classes to learn the fundamentals. There are so many great workshops put on now by many professional artists. That would be my first suggestion. My second would be once you start... Stick with it!

Question:
What keeps you going forward with your art in this very competitive industry?
Answer:
Because I paint for my own enjoyment, and not for my lively hood, I can relax and find pleasure in painting, knowing I don’t have to compete in the art industry.

Question:
In your studio, right now, what is your most important tool that you would be lost without?
Answer:
In my studio right now, I would be lost without good paint brushes!

Question:
What is your favourite piece of work you have created, thus far?
Answer:
To date, the ocean scene I painted in 1971 is still among my favourites. I've painted that same scene for friends in four different colours. I also like the old Woodman which I did when I was 86 for my daughter!

Question:
What is the most well received piece of art you have created?
Answer:
The most well received art to date that I have created is my ocean scene, and my wildlife art.

Question:
Do you have a favourite gallery or museum that you visit?
Answer:
I like visiting Avenida Galleries in Calgary. I like their selection of artists and the overall atmosphere is very nice. I’ve been to the Louve in Paris and to many art galleries across Europe, all of which were very exciting for me to be in, viewing art by the great masters.