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Shelle Lindholm Nature Emerging in Art

November 22, 2021

I first encountered Shelle’s paintings on Instagram a couple of years ago. Through following her, I would often see new updates or pieces of work and would always like or comment upon them. I think my love for her work came through two connections. My own love of nature and animals and a link (I feel, but don’t necessarily see) in her work to textile design and repeat pattern. I got in touch to find out more.

What do you recall about growing up with art materials and being encouraged to develop your skills from a young age ?

The encouragement was strong. The materials, inexpensive and easily available. Growing up in a neighborhood where friends and family embraced and practiced creativity in all its forms was the best! My mom was an antique dealer. I watched her repurpose and refinish all kinds of “junk” into unique, functional items for the home. I think that is where I discovered the beauty in something worn out, scarred up and bent out of shape!  The shop was chock full of textiles – quilts, blankets, tablecloths, lace doilies, old clothes and more. Having a creative Mom and all that cool stuff around. made a lasting mark on my imagination! Dad was supportive too, making frames for our art and hanging it in his doctor’s office.

Can you tell us a little about the obvious connection to your subject matter and your sheer delight of nature.

Love for all things furred, finned and feathered has never waned or gone away so it must be something I was born with???

Being around animals has always been part of my life, as well.  My grandparents were farmers who raised corn and livestock. My Dad would take me and my siblings on nature walks, field guides in hand, learning to identify birds, wild flowers, bark and leaves.  Our house was loud and lively with dogs, cats, hamsters, rabbits and turtles. Now I live on 6 acres at the edge of the woods in rural Montana. Every day brings surprise visits from a wonderful array of wildlife including deer, elk, fox, coyote, bear, wild turkeys, cranes, owls, hawks, eagles and all sorts of birds large and small.

I see a couple of themes that occur in your paintings. Firstly a representation of an animal as we know it. Secondly an animal that has been dramatised and made into a slight charactature of itself and lastly a style that looks a little more like a textile design and has elements of repeats within the frame. Is there a style or way of working you prefer to work in and if so why ?

Good question!
While the themes may vary, the thinking behind creating the work is the same. What ties the works together is story and intent. The intent is to paint the heart and soul of an animal, not necessarily every hair on its body. The story – the who, what, when and where, is the thinking behind the work. What is this animal doing? Where is it? Why is it jumping, leaping, dancing? Why does it have that look in its eye?

There is also the practical matter of working in 2 different art worlds – the fine art world and the commercial world of licensing. My customers on the commercial side, prefer a little more realism but enjoy the play with color and pattern to reflect the personality of an animal. The discipline it takes to paint for someone else. challenges me to keep up my drawing skills and has made me a better team player.  The fine art world allows for more freedom to explore creative ways to portray wildlife. The experimenting and learning keeps my imagination revved up and excited to paint.

You have a great array of decorative finishes and flourishes. How much of your past career of being a fine artist and furniture painter do you feel influences how you work today, and how do you create your layered paintings ?

I started 21 years ago, as a furniture painter with an idea and a what if. The idea was to combine the paint process I used on furniture, with my lifelong love of wildlife. What if – this paint process can be used to create something more complex than several layers painted on a coffee table? The thought of being a fine artist never entered my mind! I had a fire in my belly and it wouldn’t go away unless I painted, and painted, and painted some more. This process and I now have many years together. We’ve (I’ve) made lots and lots of mistakes. That is where I learned the thrill of its unpredictability’s and the limitations of the materials and myself. Finding the place where this work would thrive and have purpose lead me to the fine art community. It was scary! It still is scary!  I started small, stayed local, and worked on creating good relationships with people in my town, which lead to people in my state, which lead to people in my region. The business has grown beyond my wildest imagination and dreams. With the help of a lot of good people, hard work and a never give up attitude, the furniture painter has grown into a fine artist.

The process? Simply put, wax on, wax off! Paint and scrape. It’s a messy business. Wax is sandwiched between layers of acrylic paint. Scraping (with a dull razor blade) removes the wax and reveals layers of paint underneath. Animal forms are created by using hand cut templates. It’s a messy taped up business too. Someone once asked me , “Why do you use so many parts to make the template?” Because that is where I find ”the different”, I say!  Lastly, the background is developed into a lively environment for the main characters to live in. Sometimes it’s floating geometric shapes. Sometimes it’s a fantasy world of flora and fauna. A lot of negative painting is involved which I find relaxing and meditative.

Where would you like to see your work going in the next 5 years ?

This job/journey has always had a mind of its own. I set tentative goals for the year and make “wish

lists” aka, future projects, opportunities I’d like to experience or learn from.  

“Projects with a purpose” is what I am currently most interested in and on the lookout for.

Have you ever considered creating cards or textiles out of your wildlife ?

Yes. I make cards for special occasions like open studios, commissions or a way to say thank you.
Making textile designs is on my “wish list”.

Do you have a favourite animal or bird that you love to paint ?

I love them all, but seem to never tire of painting the fox, otter, owls, sandhill cranes or the horse.
The bear is the most requested animal I paint.

How do you know when a painting is finished ?

That is THE hardest thing to know, isn’t it?

When I feel I am close to being done, I’ll put the painting in “time out”. It gets stored out of sight. In due time, I’ll pull it out, see it with fresh eyes and know how to finish it up.

If you hadn’t have chosen a career in art, what do you think you might have done differently ?

Hmmm….it would involve working with my hands, be different every day, and would not require math to do the job!

Thanks Shelle for your detailed and informative relies to my questions and for answering, even in the midst of a crazy tornado-type storm when your electricity went down ! Now that’s dedication to your Art ! : ) I think your work would make beautiful greeting cards and textiles too. What do you think readers ?

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Deirdre O'Sullivan from Australia permalink
    November 22, 2021 2:35 pm

    Brill work! Reminds me a bit of Brian Wildsmith – especially the horses at the beginning, and the beautiful white rabbit. She also would make a great illustrator for children’s picture books. As far as knowing when a painting is finished, I’ve always agreed with this amusing quote by the Spanish artist, Miro:
    ‘A work is finished when there is nothing left that annoys me.’

  2. November 22, 2021 10:24 pm

    Hi Deirdre, I’m putting that quote in the studio! Love it! Thanks for your kind response to my work.

  3. November 23, 2021 2:49 pm

    Thanks Connie

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