Artist Shelley (known as ShelleyTheArtist) currently resides in LA and hosts Urban Sketch LA, a regular art workshop pop-up and has had her work featured in LA Times. When not working on projects, she loves to teach young and old her practise. Shelley is also a childhood friend of Vicki Tollman, Owner and Director of Red Carnation Hotels.
As part of @LifeAtRedCarnation, Shelley has been teaching our Red Carnation teams and their children to be creative during lockdown, whilst our hotels have been temporarily closed.
Tell us about yourself?
If I had to describe myself, I’d say I’m a passionate artist, hungry for life, with a love of teaching, food and travel. I’ve been fortunate to live between two vibrant and cosmopolitan cities, London and Los Angeles.
Why did you become an artist?
I think Artists are born with an instinct to create art. For me it has been a lifetime calling. Coupled with teaching it feels like the most natural path for me.
How do you work?
My ideal studio has become an urban landscape. Anywhere that retains the pulse of the city, where people gravitate. It’s an instinctual process; I will glance at someone in a restaurant and know I want to tell their story. It usually begins as a sketch which is later finished in my studio.
What’s your background?
I studied with Evans Webb, he was the head scenic at Paramount in the days of the Godfather, long before digital art was even a concept. He taught me how to use oils and most importantly how to see.
What’s integral to the work of an artist?
I believe it’s essential to be constantly stimulated in order to retain a fresh and exciting approach. I am always promoting this concept in my classes. This includes keeping up with the world around us. Which doesn't just include art, but fashion, other cultures, music, etc.
What role does the artist have in society?
The Artist is always called upon to create a visual commentary on the times they live in. It's our moral obligation, and starkly evident in these times we are living in. For me, other than creating art, sharing my knowledge and teaching is my way of contributing to a world that needs art.
How has your practise changed over time?
Artistically I am looser and more confident. I have learned that it isn't necessary to include every detail. I notice the same principles have filtered their way into my teaching.
What art do you most identify with?
Contemporary portrait painters. Thick immediate oils and beautifully crafted drawings.
What work do you most enjoy doing?
Urban sketching and then playing about on my iPad with the image.
What themes do you pursue?
I have a business called The Artists Table, where I create stunning grazing tables as edible works of art. I also include live sketching of the event, this is where my themes match my imagination. I use statues of feet painted like Magritte’s clouds, grapes cascading from hands. Layers of colour.
What’s your favourite artwork?
That is a really hard question for a Gemini. I always loved Dora Carrington’s painting of Lytton Strachey. The hands are exquisite.
What jobs have you done other than being an artist?
I was in the fashion industry, in both manufacturing and sales in my early twenties.
What memorable responses have you had to your work?
A write up in the Los Angeles Times magazine regarding a mural I painted at LAX. A thrilled Melissa McCarthy after I completed a Mural in her home. A delighted Saudi client who commissioned ten paintings from me. I have had a Russian mafia restaurant owner, stop me mid commission whilst he went to jail. I’ve had tears of joy, and a great deal of pride in seeing my work all over my adopted city.
What do you like about your work?
I like the moment when I feel I’ve captured a mood, that tells a story. I think I have a good sense of colour.
What research do you do?
The research varies by project. If I’m teaching, I have to design a class, which is challenging as no matter the age, it has to be interesting and informative. For the murals the research can be quite in depth.
Name something you love and why?
Cooking and entertaining the people I love the most around a long table. Heaven!
Name something you don’t love and why?
Bullying in any form. For me, any situation where one person feels a sense of unreasonable entitlement over another is hard for me to watch. For example through racism, the school yard or financial advantage.
What is your dream project?
Great question. I have three; I would love to go to India and teach and paint with a group of kids, I have written and illustrated a children’s book called ‘Alfie the Prince of London’ which I would love to have published and I would like to create a cover for The New Yorker magazine.
Name two artists you’d like to be compared to?
David Hockney, Toulouse Lautrec.
Favourite or most inspirational place?
Most inspirational advice?
Draw every day no matter how you feel and find a group of people that discuss ideas, not people!
Professionally, what’s your goal?
To create exciting, fresh art classes that teach the students not the lesson. To marry my art, food tables and classes into a cohesive stream that builds events both virtually and in person. Combining ideas and talent under the umbrella of my ShelleyTheArtist brand.
What couldn’t you live without?
My family, friends, human touch and connection and the love and beauty that exists in nature.