Little Rock’s Pleasant Ridge Shopping Center is home to a unique local treasure: Art Group Gallery. Founded and operated by area artists, it is a true working gallery where area artists have a studio to paint and can display their works to sell in the front of the shop. Follow along as we feature different artists each month who will each share the inspiration and stories behind a few of his or her pieces.
At Home: Your portfolio includes abstract compositions as well as realistic subjects. Tell us why that appeals to you.
SG: I refer to my studio as the “studio of dueling easels” because I often have an abstract painting in the works across from a realistic one. I tend to alternate between painting one or the other; they appeal to different aspects of my creativity. For instance, in “Accidents Happen,“ I loved the challenge of recreating the goblet’s crystal facets using a dramatic color palette. Portraying the beauty in its brokenness appealed to me. I usually have an inspiration for each realistic painting that goes beyond the subject itself. It sold as soon as the paint dried, so I think the subject must have resonated with others as well!
In the case of “Free to Be,” I was in the studio one evening and Brandi Carlile’s song The Joke came on my Pandora station. It spoke to me in a way that could only be expressed by grabbing a canvas (previously prepped, thank goodness!) and beginning to paint what I was feeling. The freedom of painting without a reference—just being led by emotion—has tremendous appeal and offsets the analytical challenge that paintings like “Accidents Happen” pose.
AH: Do you prefer one style over the other?
SG: Honestly, I can’t imagine abandoning either style of painting and thankfully, I don’t have to! The freedom to craft a practice that fits my artistic aspirations is an amazing blessing and one I don’t take for granted.
At Home: You are often commissioned to paint pet commissions. How does that fit into your schedule?
SG: As an animal lover, I am drawn to painting all species of animals, but my animal paintings have evolved into focusing mostly on pet commissions. It’s the eyes that draw me in, so I’m not particular about what type of eyes I paint! I also love hearing about the special place these animals hold in my clients’ families. With two dogs of my own (and dear cats and dogs in my family’s past), I definitely understand!
I squeeze in other animal paintings as best I can, and “Staying Afloat” is a current example in the gallery. I took this photo a couple of years ago in the San Francisco Zoo. I saw this penguin paddling around the pool, keeping its head above water, and I thought 2020 was the perfect time to paint it, as we all attempted to “stay afloat” in the midst of the Covid pandemic. It is another example of the painting’s meaning extending beyond the literal subject matter!
Learn more about Shelley and how you can shop Art Group Gallery at artgrouparkansas.com.