Meet A Creative: Shelby Willis, A Painter of Colorful, Energetic Spirit Animals

Meet A Creative: Shelby Willis, A Painter of Colorful, Energetic Spirit Animals

“When you realize how perfect everything is you will tilt your head back and laugh at the sky”.

This quote reminds me that you can have a vision but you don’t have to have all the how’s figured out to get there. Stay committed and everything will come together when it’s meant to be. That job you hate might just be the perfect thing to prep you for your dream position.


What’s your name and where are you from?

My name is Shelby Willis and I’m from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.


How did you get started?

I have been painting all my life. I have an old photo of me beside my first painting at age 2! My interest has always been in painting wildlife however it was only in the last three years or so that I began working in my current style (with so much color!) and realized how deeply passionate I am about painting as much as possible and sharing my work with the world. I’m a painter of colorful, energetic spirit animals. I work in layers of acrylic paint sometimes watered down with water, or mixed with a bit of gel medium to get a variety of effects. In my heart I am a full time artist but I also currently work a full time job in Environment. My background is in Ecology which has largely inspired the focus of my artwork.

Wildlife has always been my favorite subject matter for my work. Robert Bateman was/is my idol (for those who don’t know he creates beautiful and realistic wildlife portraits); however a new door opened for me when I took an online course on intuitive painting by Flora Bowley. Her course focuses on teaching people to “let go and be bold” as they move through fear and welcome joyful spontaneous expression back into the creative process.

After taking the course I wasn’t so stuck on making my artwork look like photo realism to be considered “good”. I actually find that a little boring now, and I am addicted to color! I find so much joy in experimenting with color combinations and looking for ways to bring soul and energy to wildlife portraits.The first painting I ever created in my current style was inspired after visiting a psychic on a whim. The psychic ended up telling me my spirit animal was a juvenile fox. I was thrilled and felt inspired to bring that to life in a painting. I ended up titling the final piece “Spirit Foxes”. Ever since then I have enjoyed learning more about the deeper meaning of each animal I paint, and being conscious of the reasons why I am inspired to paint them. I like to refer to all my paintings as spirit animals.


Title: Spirit Foxes


Who or What Inspires you?

When I see someone else flourishing while working at their passion I always get inspired. Whether it be arts, crafts, music or business, it is just always encouraging to see other people making it happen and it reminds me that I can too. I have an internal drive to create that I don’t think I will ever be able to escape; however, I’ve happily accepted it because I never want to lose it. Creating brings joy and purpose to my life.

The fact that I can share this joy with others through my paintings is the most motivating of all.

My work is inspired by my passion for nature and wildlife. I studied Ecology because I was fascinated by the way the way the natural world works and I wanted the opportunity to make a difference in preserving it. I hope that my artwork can allow people to see wildlife from a new perspective and develop a greater appreciation for the beauty in nature.



Title: Moose


What are some challenges you have faced and what advise would you give?

There are two main saboteurs that I have struggled with in my life and in my art. The first is “I am not good enough,” and the second is “what will everyone else think”. I have been working at replacing these thoughts with positive ones and it feels good! I create because I love to, and if a few people in the world enjoy it too than that is a bonus; I am the only one who gets final say in whether it’s good enough. I have also accepted that as an artist you have to be willing to put yourself out there and let the world in on your process. If some people think what I am doing is weird, well, oh well, at least I am not boring!



Title: Soul on Fire


How have you grown and developed as an artist or creative person?

Whether it be working on a painting or working towards my vision of success I am learning that the process is the most important thing. In fact the process is everything. We are always trying to get somewhere but we forget that while we are trying to get there THIS IS OUR LIVES. Embrace the moment, relish in the process and celebrate the small things. Having a creative outlet is how I express myself best.

I was lucky to grow up in an extremely creative family who always made sure I had access to a craft room. I always loved creating no matter the medium. When it came time to go to University I was hesitant to commit to an art program so I went into Sciences. Little did I know that, after graduating, art would still conquer as the one thing I am most passionate about. I painted off and on in my free time and started to get a few requests for paintings. In the beginning I wouldn’t charge anything for my artwork; people would offer to buy me a canvas and I would happily paint something for them in return. Looking back on that brings a smile to face as it provides perspective on how far I have come.




What are some of your goals as an artist?

My biggest creative goal at the moment is to give myself the opportunity to see what’s possible; to put my whole self in my art and not regret never giving myself that chance.

I aspire to get my art noticed in unconventional ways whether it be through teaching children, painting for charity or hosting my own wine and cheese galas, I am open to the opportunities that pop up for me!


barn-owl-love just-the-bearnecessities

Title: Barn Owl Love &  Just the Bearnecessities


What is your creative process like?

The creative process for me is about nourishing my soul and responding to the need to create. It’s my recharge time, my time to be alone with my thoughts and my time to learn a little bit more about who I am inside. I love when I hear the comment that my artwork is full of energy because it is! When the need to create builds up I can paint for hours on end and the only reason I stop is because I literally feel like I can’t hold myself up any longer.

I put on some relaxing folk or indie type music, light some candles, brew some tea and dive in. I sometimes like focusing in on fine detail but I would also describe my style as impressionist, with lots of visible brush strokes. My work is meant to be soulful and positive.















To see more of  Shelby’s amazing work Click Here

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