Artist Sheila Warren is inspired by the natural world

Artist Sheila Warren is inspired by the natural world

Nanoose Bay painter lets passion be her guide

  • Mar. 13, 2020 7:30 a.m.

– Words by Laura Langston Photographs by Don Denton

When she first started to paint, Sheila Warren received an important piece of advice. “Pick something you really care about because if you don’t love your subject, it will show.”

The Nanoose Bay artist took the suggestion to heart, letting passion be her guide and embracing what she calls an empathetic relationship with her art.

“I try to pull out the soul and energy of what I see,” she adds. “That’s the reason I do art; I need to have that emotional connection.”

Sheila’s oil paintings feature bold, deeply saturated colours and a strong sense of light and movement. Nature is her muse and the deep affinity she feels for the natural world is apparent in everything she paints, especially trees.

“It physically hurts when I see trees cut,” she says. “They are often my inspiration.”

Nature greets you when you step into Sheila’s Nanoose Bay home. The hilltop house, where she has lived since 2012, offers sweeping views of gardens, trees and the natural world from almost every room. Sheila says the light-filled space gives her the solitude she craves to pursue her art, while the nearby hiking trails and kayaking options provide her with endless changing scenery.

Nanoose is a far cry from the Montreal area where Sheila was born and raised. While her family wasn’t artistic, her father always encouraged her artistic pursuits. Sheila’s first hero was Monet, though she didn’t realize who he was when she insisted on hanging a Monet poster in her room.

“I loved his interpretation of the natural world, his colour choices and compositions, but I certainly had no language to explain that when I insisted my parents buy the poster,” she says. “And while I knew I wanted to do something artistic with my life, I never thought I’d be a painter like that one day.”

Instead, while still in elementary school, Sheila spent so many hours drawing and designing clothes she was sure a career in fashion design was in the future.

However, pragmatism intervened. “I wasn’t brave enough to just paint,” she admits. “I needed and wanted security.”

So, Sheila embraced commercial art as a way to marry the creative with the practical. She attended Dawson College in Montreal for two years, majoring in commercial art, before moving with her family to Alberta where she finished a degree in visual communications from the Alberta College of Art and Design (now called the Alberta University of the Arts).

For decades, Sheila excelled as a graphic designer and illustrator, working as in-house talent for large organizations and design firms, as well as taking on freelance work. She found pockets of time for personal art but the day job demanded most of her focus. However, as the graphic design field evolved and became less hands-on and more digital, Sheila’s desire for a more personal artistic outlet began to grow. And then 9/11 happened. It was the catalyst that would change her life.

“I realized things could end in an instant, that nothing is guaranteed, and that I couldn’t waste any more time,” Sheila says. “I wanted to give something back; leave something of me after I was gone. And with the global energy feeling so dark and out of whack, I wanted to add a little beauty to the ugly world too.”

So in 2001, Sheila began to paint in earnest. “I started off in a more realistic vein, but as I progressed, I naturally became more impressionistic,” she says. “I want my art to be more evocative and leave room for people to interpret it for themselves.”

Along with an impressionistic feel, her art also evokes a Group of Seven influence, which is fitting since Sheila has been deeply inspired by Tom Thomson.

Sheila’s studio is tucked in beside her living room and she’s there just about every night after finishing her day job in the strategic marketing department at Vancouver Island University. “Painting is my reward at the end of the day,” she says.

Sheila begins each image by underpainting or mapping it out with acrylics. She overlays with oils, sometimes allowing the colour underneath to poke through. She loves depth, saying, “It breathes life into the work,” so layering has become a large part of her process too.

She knows the rules well enough to understand how and when to break them. She always mixes paints because she finds the colours in the tube “too raw,” adding that she likes “to contaminate but at the same time refine.” And she uses brushes typically for acrylics to paint with oils because she likes the effect they give. Listening to her instincts is a large part of her process. “Art is my safe place to do what I want and I am always guided by my intuition.”

Some paintings come together easily, but Sheila labours with others for a long time. Once she thinks a piece is done, she’ll take it off the easel, and put it in a different area of the house to see how the light affects it. Sometimes, even as long as six months later, she’ll see it needs tweaking and she’ll take it back to the studio for a little adjusting. That’s all part of her process, she says.

As for the future, Sheila doesn’t like to plan too far down the road, preferring to go with the flow. Her goal is to keep growing, interpreting, sharing and exploring art.

Her biggest wish is that her art helps people look at things a little differently, “because sometimes you need to look at the world through a different lens to appreciate its value.”

Sheila says that unfortunately some of the galleries where she has previously displayed her paintings have closed, but her work is still periodically available at the Village Gallery in Sidney or through her website at sheilawarren.com.

Story courtesy of Boulevard Magazine, a Black Press Media publication

Like Boulevard Magazine on Facebook and follow them on Instagram

ArtartistEntertainment

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Calls for potential overdoses in B.C. spiked in 2020, especially in the Okanagan - Shuswap. Pictured above is a BCEHS re-enactment of paramedics attending an overdose. (BCHES)
Overdose calls spike in 2020 across the Okanagan – Shuswap

Stats show every major community in Okanagan - Shuswap increased in calls for potential overdoses

A cow moose wanders around the Silver Star Elementary School neighbourhood Tuesday, Jan. 19. (Contributed)
Public provoking blamed for moose chasing Vernon residents

‘The problem is people are bugging it’ conservation officer

The City of Enderby is looking into purchasing a new Zamboni to replace the ice resurfacer that is nearing the end of its expected life at the Enderby Memorial Arena in 2021. (Contributed)
City of Enderby to purchase new Zamboni

The ice resurfacer at the Enderby Memorial Arena is reaching the end of its useful life

The Regional District of North Okanagan is cautioning residents to watch for rock slides along the Okanagan Rail Trail during freeze-thaw season. (RDNO photo)
Residents urged to watch for rockfalls on Okanagan Rail Trail

RDNO reminds rail trail travellers to heed rockfall warning signs during freeze-thaw season

A proposed development would see two four-storey apartment buildings erected on Adair Street in Armstrong, next to the Nor-Val Arena. (Google Maps)
‘Affordable’ apartments hot topic in Armstrong

Public hearing to reconvene next Monday to hear out residents’ concerns about rezoning greenspace

Charlotte is one of the resident pigs at Star's Piggly Wiggly's Sanctuary near Kelowna. (Twila Amato - Black Press Media)
Kelowna-area pig sanctuary needs a new home

Star’s Piggly Wiggly’s Sanctuary is looking for properties in Vernon, Coldstream, and Enderby

Inspection of bridge crossing on a B.C. forest service road. (B.C. Forest Practices Board)
B.C. falling behind in maintenance of forest service roads

Auditor finds nearly half of bridges overdue for repair

(Black Press Media files)
Woman steals bottles of wine after brandishing stun baton in New Westminster

Police say the female suspect was wearing a beige trench coat with fur lining

Stand up paddleboarder Christie Jamieson is humbled to her knees as a pod of transient orcas put on a dramatic show on Jan. 19 in the Ucluelet Harbour. (Nora O’Malley photo)
UPDATED WITH VIDEO: Vancouver Island paddle boarder surrounded by pod of orcas

“My whole body is still shaking. I don’t even know what to do with this energy.”

Ladybug Landing Child Care Centre in Salmon Arm remains open as one person who was at the facility tested positive for COVID-19. (Lachlan Labere/Salmon Arm Observer)
Salmon Arm daycare owner upset by rumours related to positive COVID-19 test

Ladybug Landing’s Leigh-Anne Chapman impressed by response from Interior Health

The proposed Skaha Lake Road housing project will be modelled after the Burdock House on Winnipeg St., said BC Housing.
BC Housing panel peppered with questions about Skaha housing project

Virtual meeting involved questions about crime, level of supports, timelines

Toronto’s Mass Vaccination Clinic is shown on Sunday January 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Canadian malls, conference centres, hotels offer up space for COVID vaccination centres

Commercial real estate association REALPAC said that a similar initiative was seeing success in the U.K.

Kamala Harris and Joe Biden are sworn into office on Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021, at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. (Saul Loeb/Pool Photo via AP)
Joe Biden has been sworn in as the 46th president of the United States

About 25,000 National Guard members have been dispatched to Washington

A memorial for the fatal bus crash involving the Humboldt Broncos hockey team at the intersection of Highways 35 and 335 near Tisdale, Tuesday, October 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Liam Richards
‘End of the road:’ Truck driver in Humboldt Broncos crash awaits deportation decision

Sidhu was sentenced almost two years ago to eight years after pleading guilty to dangerous driving

Most Read