Artist's Statement: Trish Shirley

Two things you may be wondering about my art:

1)Why do I paint?

2)What do my paintings mean?

Firstly, I paint because I must.

I believe that when God made man in His own image, a part of what He intended was that we be creative beings.

Most people have at least some creative urge; I know of no human society which is totally devoid of this. Creativity , reduced to it's most basic components, is that urge to change our environment, to order things better, to take simple elements and make something more complex or beautiful.

Creativity encompasses such diverse acts as planting a garden, knitting a sweater, and painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

For an artist like myself, it is an undeniable urge and passion, felt from when I first recognised the possibilities of pencils and paper, as a very young child. If I had a dollar for every person who has said to me over the years, "I wish I could paint like you", then I'd be quite a lot richer than I am now. My usual reply to these sorts of comments is, "Well pencils and paper are all you need", but probably I should add to that, "and a few thousand hours practice encompassing grim determination to get it right, allied with total ruthlessness in weeding out anything that doesn't quite work".

Art is a harsh mistress. When I hear people say how relaxing it must be to sit around and paint for the day, I find myself thinking rather scornful and sarcastic thoughts. It is not relaxing, not if you're painting anything really challenging. (And who would want to paint anything less?) It's hard work, requiring intense concentration. So why do I put mysef through all this? Well, because when it goes right, there is a tremendous "high" of satisfaction. If a painting goes "right", whatever that is, it is extremely gratifying to the artist. In my very best paintings, I even get to feel as though I've said something interesting, perhaps made people think about something they wouldn't normally consider. What do my paintings mean? Well, some are just an attempt to focus on a part of life which has caught my eye, (often because of it's beauty, but not necessarily that), and some get done solely because I need the practice, or because someone has commissioned me to do them.

For example, the magnolia series started as one painting, which I did because I liked the plant, and thought it had a very good, strong shape for a watercolour painting. I also wanted to practice getting my watercolours more intense, and this was a good subject for this purpose. Having done one, I felt I could improve on it, and now that I've done six, I'm probably still not through. I just like painting those large, curvaceous white shapes, trying to add colour without losing the "white"look. Well, that's what my more basic paintings mean.

The more complex paintings, such as the ones in the "Lily Series",are somewhat different. These pictures may come out of just one idea, sometimes, or perhaps several ideas with a common thread. I often write poetry with them, and they tend to be full of symbolism. They may tell a story, but it is not usually a "closed plot" type of story---more like one of those futuristic books where you get to choose your own plot, and weave the story for yourself. I don't like giving a closed, set meaning for one of these pictures, as I feel this limits the viewer's imagination, and I like the pictures to be a bit subtle, perhaps a bit enigmatic. When I paint one of these paintings, I break all the rules in the art books. I usually have no idea of a plan. I just take the first idea and paint it, then pray for some inspiration for the next bit, and so on. Usually, I get another idea, sometimes not, as my art cupboard shows (it's full of old inspirations). Anyway, I think I just broke my own rule, and told you way too much about what these things mean, so I'll say no more.

Figure them out yourself.



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