With layers of colors, sweeping brushstrokes, and a focus on the eyes of her subject, artist Shelby Willis connects us with the spirit of each animal she paints. Visit her website to see more of her work.
I am a strong believer that everyone should live their life creatively. To me, living a creative life means finding your passion and fearlessly challenging yourself to grow every day.
My passion is painting. I know this because sometimes I find myself unable to sleep at night dreaming up the next thing I’m going to paint, and if too many days go by without picking up a paintbrush, I start to feel antsy.
I come by my creativity naturally as I grew up surrounded by a very creative family. My background is in Ecology and Environmental Sciences which largely complements my love for painting wildlife.
I paint mainly in acrylic medium and I am very inspired by color. I love not knowing how each painting will turn out; it’s a layering process and once I see a juicy color interaction showing through that I like, I build on that and usually end up referring to my color wheel to see what would best complement those colors.
The idea of “spirit animals” has captivated me and inspired me to depict wildlife colorfully and soulfully in my paintings. I found out that a juvenile fox was my spirit animal and ran with it in one of my biggest paintings to date, a 36” x 48”painting of three foxes.
One of my favorite parts about painting wildlife is the eyes. I can hardly wait to paint the eyes and bring life to the creature I am working on. Whoever said that eyes are a window into the soul was right, as there is so much opportunity to use the eyes to paint personality and emotion into the subject.
I grew most as an artist when I let go of the fear of a blank canvas and painting everything perfectly and exactly as I pictured it right from the beginning.
The best part about using acrylic is that the whole painting is completely malleable. When things get challenging, I find a way to smile and think “wow I am really going to appreciate this painting when it’s finally done,” and I just keep experimenting until something fits just right.
My goal as an artist is to keep my passion alive, and continue to grow and evolve with new experiences. I also hope to have the opportunity to encourage others to find their inner creativity and let go of the fear of a blank canvas.