Painting the landscape - Shelby Keefe -
Shelby Keefe, “Ryland’s Live Oaks,” Texas, 2017, plein air oil on linen, 18 x 24 in. Collection of the artist

Shelby Keefe is an award-winning impressionistic painter, a teacher, and a performance artist. Born in Whitewater, Wisconsin, she graduated in 1981 with a BFA from Cardinal Stritch University in Milwaukee. She was always painting, even while working as a self-employed graphic designer, and it was in 2005 that her success as a fine artist allowed her to become a full-time painter. Her award-winning urban landscape paintings and plein air work have earned her participation in prestigious national juried shows, plein air painting competitions, residencies, and arts festivals, as well as garnering commission work for many corporate clients and private collectors.

Recently she was featured in the Liliedahl Art Notes blog (check out Shelby’s video, “Painting From Photographs” here) with an exclusive Q&A about her painting process. Enjoy the following excerpt, and be inspired.

Painting the landscape - Shelby Keefe -
Shelby Keefe, “These Old Bones”

Art Notes: What is it that the landscape, as a subject, gives you as an artist?

Shelby Keefe: I am passionate about our beautiful planet! I love being outside, smelling the air, feeling the breeze, listening to the sounds, and most importantly, getting lost in nature’s unrelenting beauty. Even if it isn’t a “picture postcard” type of lovely, I am simultaneously grounded and stimulated by complicated, as well as starkly simple, terrain. As human beings, we are connected to the energetic pull that links us to this earth and every living creation — add to that the sensitivity of being an artist, and you get the “perfect storm” of landscape-as-painting-subject, resulting in a willingness to stand for hours to capture a piece of it and take it home! For me, what beckons to be painted are the abstract shapes, colors, textures, and layers, even while the eye sees infinite amounts of detail within the big picture.

Related > PleinAir Podcast: Episode 59 — Shelby Keefe and the State of Plein Air

As much as I am in love with nature and the outdoors, I enjoy painting a complicated man-made landscape such as an urban scene, complete with cars, glowing artificial light, and architecture. Because I love drawing, I am more compelled to capture the personality of a street corner or an old rusty truck rotting in a field than just paint a postcard scene of a pastoral landscape. And I’ve been a fan of depicting old, falling-down barns and buildings for many years. Maybe it’s my way of preserving them forever.

What I didn’t mention that’s extremely important to any subject is how the light hits it. It’s the drama of sunlight on my subject that grabs me by the collar and compels me to set up my easel and paint the thing. Of course, we don’t always get sun on those days we have to paint, like at painting competitions that happen to fall on a bad-weather week. Yuck! But then it’s still about the light — contrast and perhaps some bright color to make a statement even when it’s gray and tonal.

Painting the landscape - Shelby Keefe -
Shelby Keefe, “Ghost House”
Value sketch - Shelby Keefe -
Value sketch for a landscape painting

Continue reading here as Shelby takes us through her painting process…

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