Whimsical, vibrant, and energetic, the acrylic and wax paintings of Montana artist Shelle Lindholm feature the wildlife she loves. See more by visiting her website.
Why do I paint animals? Animals are chock full of live-in-the-moment goodness, grit and gumption. They teach me something new every day if I stop, watch and listen.
Art, animals and nature have always been part of my life. I grew up smack dab in the middle of Ohio in a rural neighborhood. Kids free roamed the Olentangy River, creeks and ancient apple orchards where close encounters with fireflies, crawdads and bullfrogs were the treasure we sought.
Art, animals and nature has always been a positive, shared, community experience. Creativity was nurtured in every household. Rock collections, sketch books, art supplies and Brownie cameras cluttered our rooms. So did hamsters and wounded birds in cardboard boxes. Barns and outbuildings were alive with chickens, goats, rabbits, and the best pony ever – Star.
Now, living in rural Montana, my studio is cluttered with collections of rocks, sketch books and frames. A rambunctious array of birds and beasts traipse through my little piece of heaven every day. There is even a resident peacock who hangs with a flock of wild turkeys! They never cease to amaze, inspire and humor me. But that’s not all that influences my art.
Color choices are deeply rooted in a life-long interest in textiles. My mother was an antique dealer. Quilts were a staple in her shop. Now I love, love, love, handmade textiles from around the world. I make lists to remember and record interesting color combinations I see in textiles. I consider the lists as “color stories” and rely on them to create bold and invigorating palettes for painting.
My medium of choice is an unorthodox combo of acrylic paint and wax. I love the variety and versatility of acrylics. Adding wax assures unexpected twists and turns on the creative journey. A piece starts with free, exploratory layers of paint and wax applied to board. Like a bear digging for bugs, wax is scraped away. Layer by layer, paint is whittled. Colors begin to dance and play. Rustic textures emerge, reminiscent of mountain river rocks or heathery woolen tweeds.
A “plop and play” method of making templates is a little trick I use for creating stylized animal forms. Animal parts—tail, snoot, wings, etc. are cut from paper freehand. No drawing allowed! The body parts are plopped on top of the painting and assembled after playing with their arrangement. The goal is to find gestures that create action and reflect personality and gumption! I’m always looking for gumption – the heart and soul of an animal.
The final phases of painting concentrate on finessing the background, mood and atmosphere. The use of wax diminishes. Bold patterns are added to give each animal distinct character and charisma. An animal’s expression is often the last thing to be added. That usually leads to an epiphany for a title. Finding the title is like finding gold and is one of my favorite parts of the job. I strive to create a hint at what my thoughts were in creating the piece, but also leave plenty of room for viewers to interpret the painting in their own way.
Like the seasons, creativity is ever evolving. My artistic journey is no different. Luscious, luminous fluid acrylics have wandered into the mix of this wild thing called “my process.” The transparent, jewel-toned paints have given my work vibrancy and depth of color. Graphic re-imaginings of local flora and fauna are joining deconstructed geometric patterns. I refer to the end results as “Happy Tapestries.”
What remains fast and true is a deep longing to tell stories of the wild kingdom using paint instead of words. Stories need to be shared. And in the sharing, questions are welcome, imagination is encouraged, and the mind is free to explore.
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