Please introduce yourself.
Shirley Ann: I’m Shirley Ann – my other name is Aphrodite – I believe that I am Aphrodite’s envoy to the world at the present time – but we’ll get to that later, and I live in Southern California with my husband and my son Cupid!
And what is your background?
Shirley Ann: I have a very varied background. I studied French, Arabic, Economics and International Relations as my initial Bachelors and Masters, because at the time I was lined-up to become a diplomat, following in the footsteps of my father; however, when I finished my studies, I decided to become a designer instead. I thought to myself, well I do come from a long line of dressmakers on my mother’s side, actually, although my mother made her own clothes and for me, she had no ambition to become a dressmaker, so I guess it just ran in my blood. I taught myself with guidance from my aunties and created a business where I designed clothes and accessories, gowns, wedding gowns, weddings, fabulous parties and events, also interiors and so much more.
How did your father feel about your choice of career?
Shirley Ann: At first, he was livid!!! But once I became successful, he was very proud of me.
And how did you become an artist?
Shirley Ann: I’ve been an artist all my life, I just never focused on painting, it was more of design. After marrying, moving to California, and having becoming a mother, I wanted to do something I could do without leaving my son in someone else’s care, something I could do at home by myself, this is how I came to art.
Which media do you prefer to work in, and why?
Shirley Ann: I started with Watercolours, and in the last year I’ve moved on to Oils, but I love the texture of Acrylics. Every medium has its purpose, but Watercolours are my ‘go-to’ – I even have a set in my bedroom in case I’m inspired to paint in the middle of the night!
What does your work aim to say?
Shirley Ann: My work is all about Beauty, Femininity, Romance – my love letter to life. I want a woman to dream of being the most beautiful woman in the room when she sees my Fashion Illustrations! Every time I paint roses, for example, I hope my love for them will be transferred to whoever is viewing the painting. When I look back at when I was running my company, designing and arranging weddings, it was all about beauty and romance too, but it felt fleeting. I think of all the effort for that went into a six- or eight-hour event!!! Over a year of planning just for a few hours!!! Now with art I hope I’m creating something beautiful that will last forever, and I try to convey that feeling and intention.
Who are your greatest influencers in your art?
Shirley Ann: Definitely Georgia O’Keefe because of the scale and intention of her flowers, in her words, she painted flowers the way she did because “Nobody sees a flower – really – it is so small it takes time – we haven’t time – and to see takes time, like to have a friend takes time.” This inspires me because I LOVE flowers and I feel the same way! But I have to be honest, I’m more influenced by Fashion and Haute Couture; the opulence of it all! Which I love! At the end of the day I’m still a dressmaker at heart. I see all designers as artists, my favorite being Christian Dior, because of his love for women..
How do you navigate the art world? I suppose it’s through fashion?
Shirley Ann: I think so, although I don’t think I’ve figured out how do it. Although I consider myself an artist now and not a designer, I still don’t think I’m part of the art world yet and that’s the paradox.
How do you seek out opportunities?
Shirley Ann: I don’t seek out opportunities enough and that probably explains why I don’t feel like I’m a part of the art world yet. I plan to participate in Saatchi’s Other Art Fair in Los Angeles in September. I do show my work, my processes, my studio, but to small audiences. Recently I was invited to teach art classes at Michael’s.
So have you cultivated collectors?
Shirley Ann: Surprisingly I have – through Social Media. I have one particular collector in Norway – I came across her and loved her home, and she responded by following me and loved and bought my art over and over again. That has been the typical process.
How do you price your work?
Shirley Ann: Simply by size. ‘Basic’ work I calculate the area and multiply by a factor of two, ‘special’ pieces that have taken more effort by a factor of three or four.
Which current art trends are you following?
Shirley Ann: None! I don’t follow trends.
Where career-wise are you heading?
Shirley Ann: I intend to get into more galleries, I intend to teach more, and to go commercial – for example with one of my collections, Fleur La Belle, I plan to produce tea sets, vases, stationery etc. Not mass-market but high-end. Each category of my art has its own pathway.
You’ve previously told me that you want to run retreats; tell me more.
Shirley Ann: I want to invite people into my world – I get the most reactions on Social Media when I’m showing my process in my studio; the music, the candles, the roses and rose petals when I’m painting. People seem to be fascinated by that and so and on my retreats I want to share that experience, teach and inspire others to create beautiful art in beautiful and romantic destinations too!
What tips do you have to encourage young artists?
Shirley Ann: Simply to paint non-stop and not settle on any style too early; that will suppress their creativity. The more you paint, you’ll start to see common threads developing and you’ll find your style. But to paint and paint and paint and paint!!! And enjoy the process.
Where can we see your work?
Shirley Ann: At this time my work is mostly on Instagram. (Links below)
What else would you like to convey to your audience?
Shirley Ann: To find something to fall in love with everyday! To be surrounded by beauty, always. And to continuously “court” life and ourselves! In the words of Oscar Wilde, “To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance.”