Nicky Shelton Artist - PaintingsNicky Shelton is an Australian Artist living in Margaret River. Birdlife is what ignites her passion to paint in oils. Her attention to detail, ability to capture the unique charisma, personality and sensitivity of each bird’s soul is what brings each subject to life. Nicky’s artworks have been jury selected as Best in Show and finalist in international and Australian art awards. Her paintings are collected by bird and fine art enthusiasts worldwide. Nicky is member of the Wildlife Art Society of Australasia and an advocate for Birdlife Australia.
Nicky Shelton Artist StatementFrom as early as I can remember you would find me with a crayon, pencil or paint brush in my hand. Upon graduating from school my initial intent was to pursue a career in Fine Arts but instead I diversified into a corporate career spanning over 30 years. Several years ago I made the decision to retire from the corporate world and reignite my childhood dream to become an artist. I swapped a desk for an easel, attended local TAFE classes and dedicated every spare moment to developing my artistic skills. My passion is to paint realistic Australian birdlife in oils. I have always loved birds. We in Australia are so very fortunate to share our backyards and continent with a wonderland of diverse and unique birdlife. To me birds are one of Mother Nature’s gifts. Through my paintings I endeavour to capture the beauty, unique personality and magnificence of each native bird. I love interpreting each bird’s quirky characteristics, and spending hours developing layers of oil paint to capture the charisma and detail of every subject. I also love placing my subjects in a slightly contemporary backgrounds, stylising my artworks as “Contemporary Realism”. In support of our feathered friends I am an active member of Birdlife Australia, the nation’s largest not-for-profit bird conservation organisation. From every original bird painting sold, I make a donation to this organisation to help protect the many species which are under threat. In 2017 my decision to pursue my artistic passion proved to be life changing. I became the Resident Birdlife Artist at the Village Art Gallery – Whiteman Park, one of Perth, Western Australia’s premiere wildlife tourist destinations. I also held my first solo exhibition raising funds and awareness for Birdlife Australia. The same year my artworks were also picked as finalists in three leading Australian art awards including Asia Pacific Cliftons Art Prize, Holmes Art Prize for excellence in realistic Australian Birdlife and the biennial Midwest Art Prize. In July 2018 my husband retired and we made the decision to travel to the United Kingdom to be closer to our adult children. For 16 months we pet sat across Europe during which time I painted Australian birds and promoted my artworks to a new audience of birdlife art collectors. In late 2019 my husband and I returned to Western Australia to reclaim our much loved dog. We now reside in Margaret River where we live on a mini farm which we share with a plethora of beautiful wildlife. Early this year we converted our old rambling stables into my new art studio, retaining the rustic look of the building, I now have a quirky, dedicated creative space where I pursue my passion to paint Australian birdlife in oils. From my studio I also promote my artworks worldwide, teach oil painting techniques and support birdlife conservation.
- As realistic birdlife artist, I appreciate my work being recognised through competitive jury selection:
- 2022 - Award Of Excellence - Holmes Acquisitive Art Prize for Excellence in Realistic Australian Birdlife. Australia’s pre-eminent competition for realistic birdlife paintings, with only 35 artworks selected for judging
- 2022 - Hon. Mention - Fusion Art USA – 4th Into the Wild Art Exhibition
- 2021 - Featured Artist - Artsy Shark (USA) July 2021
- 2021 - Silver Award - Camelback Art Gallery (USA) Award for Amazing Animals
- 2020 - Winner - Fusion Art's (USA) Artist Spotlight Solo Art Exhibition
- 2019 - Best In Show - Camelback Art Gallery (USA) Award for Animals Painting
- 2017 – Finalist – Cliftons Art Prize.
- 2017 – Finalist – Holmes Art Prize for Excellence in Realistic Australian Birdlife.
- 2017 – Finalist – MidWest Art Prize.
- 2016 – Finalist – Emerging Artist Awards, South Perth (First competition entry)
- Wildlife Art Society of Australasia
- Birdlife Australia
READ - Article published on Bird Buddy Tales :The Art Of Birds: Meet Nicky Shelton June 2022
Article Published on RETIREDNOTES.com
NICKY RETIRED EARLY AND CREATED A NEW LIFE AS AN ARTISTNicky Shelton retired early—at the age of 53—because she wanted to and could. ‘But I hadn’t thought about what I was going to do next,’ she says. ‘I didn’t have a clue’. That was three-and-a-half years ago. In that time, she has been developing as an artist. She’s following her passion, and her enthusiasm comes through as she talks about it—along with a ready laugh.
The journey to becoming an artist.Nicky enjoyed art at school. She was accepted into Fine Arts at university but deferred when she met her husband-to-be. ‘I had a flair for sales and I needed to survive. I knew I was either going to be a poor artist or make it in the sales world. That led into my work with recruitment.’ But, ‘every now and again I’d sort of appear at Claremont Art School in Perth, a local TAFE (Technical and Further Education) for artists’. When she retired, she went back to the art school and studied under D’hange Yammanee, an established Australian artist—originally from Thailand. ‘He was a real life-changer for me,’ says Nicky. She joined a group of 10 to study intensive portraiture with him. He has been her tutor and mentor for the past three years. But she didn’t continue with portraits: ‘I like detail and I could have continued, but having spent 30 years in the recruitment industry I didn’t want to deal with the different aspects of personalities. I love birds and I love nature and that set a natural course. I started painting Australian birds.’ I found her, brush in hand, in her shared studio and gallery at Whiteman Park, next to the Caversham Wildlife Park on the edge of Perth. She was working on a large canvas where her trademark precision and detail was on show in the unfinished painting. ‘I now roost at the gallery,’ she says with a laugh.
Steps to early retirement.Three things were important in leading her to an early retirement:
- A successful career: Nicky had had a ‘very successful career’ of over 30 years. It included running her own recruitment agency. David, her husband, was also involved—both were directors of the business. They recruited accounting and legal staff, and state government staff for temporary and permanent positions. When they sold the business in the early 2000s, she worked as a consultant to other recruiting agencies. She had developed confidence that she could succeed in whatever she chose to do.
- Timing: Even though she had no plan, the passion for her work was gone. She just knew it was time for a change—time for retirement.
- Financial strength: ‘We’d been fortunate enough to sell our business and we had assets that provide us with a passive income. That gave me the freedom to stop. I wouldn’t have been able to do that if we didn’t have financial security.’
Making the dream workNicky is reinventing herself in retirement. ‘I’m an achiever,’ she says. ‘I always need to have a sense of achievement. Painting does that for me because I’m creating something.’ But several things have helped her achieve what she has.
- People in her life: D’hange Yammanee is ‘incredibly encouraging’, she says. ‘He’s a really honest mentor. He doesn’t give people false hope. I love that about him.’ ‘David is my biggest advocate. His support is incredible.’ They’d made a pact with each other ‘way, way back’ that they would let each other live their own lives. There would be give-and-take so there are no regrets. David retired almost a year ago and wants to travel. They plan to spend a year in Europe, but she will continue to paint while there. That’s give-and-take. She has been delighted by the support she has from various individuals and particularly wildlife bird photographers who provide bird photographs for her paintings. The head photographer for Bird Life Australia, Georgina Steytler, ‘graciously gives me her photos to work with. And she encourages me. She’s also introduced me to other photographers who are now friends.’ The birds in these photographs become her models, but she often changes the background.
- Goal setting: Nicky understands that success for her comes in two forms. The first is to ‘make an income from what I do, from my passion.’ Second is gaining recognition as an artist. She has entered four art competitions in the wildlife category in Australia and has been a finalist in each of them. A fifth has been entered in New York: ‘If I become a finalist there, we’ll go to New York.’ Her aim is to achieve international recognition. ‘I’d like to be selling my birds in Europe and America.’ She currently calls herself an ‘emerging artist’. When her art is recognised and supporting her financially she reckons she will have ‘emerged’.
- Her determination: ‘When I was in business, my husband once described me as a Jack Russell taking on a Mack truck and the truck isn’t going to win.’ She laughs and adds that there’s some truth to the description. ‘Usually, once I set my sights on something—unless I get struck down by some terrible disease—it’s going to happen.’
So, watch this space.She’s invited me to check out her career in five years. I’ll let you know what’s happened. In the meantime, her advice for those who want to find their place in whatever field is this: ‘Go for it. Absolutely. If you have the time and if you have a passion, why wouldn’t you? It’s incredible what doors open once you focus on your passion.’
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