Sheila Howell is a Saint John artist with a background in real estate. She now works full time in her studio on Germain Street, painting architectural, scenic, and abstract works.
Tell me a bit about your background.
My background is varied. I was going to study fine arts after high school at Mount Allison. I was accepted and everything, but I was under extreme pressure from family to not study art and I caved. Over the years I have drafted and stayed home for a few years with the children. I had my own dried flower business for a number of years and I sold real estate for over 12 years.
How did you find that?
I found it good. I did well in it. I did learn a lot about sales and marketing and it’s only recently that I’ve had the confidence to put that sales and marketing behind my art. It’s much easier to market someone else than yourself. I think that women of my generation were taught to be meek and mild and not to put yourself forward.
So you’ve found that your background in real estate has helped you with the business side of your art?
Yeah I mean I still need help with that, but I think if you’re not learning both the technical and the artistic side and the business side continuously you’re not going to have a chance at success.
What have you been inspired by lately?
Lately, I’ve been inspired a lot by the buildings and I’ve been doing a lot of very small works on ceramic tile..6×6 inches.
Do you find that challenging..the smaller space to work on?
The smaller I work the more detailed I work. I’ve also been doing some 3 inch by 6 inch tiles which are half size again and they are quite detailed, but I keep them at a very affordable price and it motivates me to work efficiently and to take an idea, to do it, and to complete it. It’s almost like a painting a day type thing. You know how artists do that to improve their skills?
Do you think so far the resources that ArtsLink provides will be helpful for you as an artist?
I’m hoping so. I mean they’re only helpful to a person who takes advantage of them.
How have you been most challenged in your growth as an artist?
I think it’s the confidence more than anything and I’m doing better at that because when I get into a rut now I can say I’ve been here before and I’ve come through. Experience is such a wonderful thing to have.
What has been a highlight of your career so far?
Meeting people and interacting with people. I’m representing myself now so all the sales that I make I’m directly involved in and it’s not something I want to do forever, but right now I’m really enjoying that end of the process. I’m learning a lot about what people like and what attracts them to a particular painting; not that it changes what I do too much, but it’s nice to know these things.
What are some of the things you’ve picked up on that you find people are drawn to?
People are drawn to certain colours. They’re drawn to bright and shiny things. I bought a grab bag at Endeavors when I bought my art supplies last week and it had a tube of gold paint in it and I’ve been thinking about using it. I’m working on an abstract right now and I put some on, but I painted over it again. It’s not something I’ve ever used before..sort of like a child with broccoli..I’ve never had it before and I’m not doing it.
What are some things you find yourself gravitating towards in terms of subjects?
I’m a different artist in that I do a lot of representational work and a lot of abstract work. The abstract tends to come from a much deeper place and I don’t think I could do abstract continuously because I work 5 or 6 days a week and if I were to work exclusively on abstracts I think I’d be totally wiped out. I love painting water as well.. being lazy and sitting there staring at the water has paid off.
In your opinion how do you think location and culture influence artists and the art that they produce? Do you find location has a role to play?
Definitely, being in the city (my studio is on Germain St.) there’s a lot of hustle. There’s a lot of things going on and yet it is restful, but I just find that I’m part of the city and I’m part of the movement and it excites me and it makes me create more exciting images. I wouldn’t be painting cityscapes if I wasn’t in the city.
You said you’ve been promoting your artwork so if people wanted to purchase art from you where might they find you?
They might find me at 146 Germain St. and I’m there most days and the doors are open so that people can know that they can just come on in.