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Shirley King

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One of the celebrated artists in Wichita Falls, Shirley King, started creating art by melting crayons on the side of an incinerator at the tender age of 6 into “awesome designs.” She was raised in a company town in Phillips, Texas where the Phillips Petroleum Company provided its citizens with jobs and all the comforts of home.
They also provided “exceptional schools, that had the best of everything.” Her first day of school was a big step towards being an artist.

“I had never heard of manila paper, but the piece was gigantic and blank; and I got a sheet of my own the very first day of class in the first grade. What fun, all that space to fill! I still remember that feeling each time I start a new painting,” Shirley said in her artist’s statement.

Now she is an accomplished artist focusing on painting realistic scenes with oil paint. “I love history, tradition and the paintings of the masters. I aspire to paint like them, and that’s my goal. I look at the things they did, and I am amazed at what they were able to accomplish mixing their own colors, making their own brushes. They had to go out and find pigments. My ultimate desire is to paint in the style of the old masters before Impressionism,” she shared.

The Impressionistic movement changed the style of painting from realistic with no visible brush strokes to heavy brush strokes that gave the impression of the subject painted, rather than the actual mirror image. “I tried some Impressionistic painting, but I figured out that what I enjoyed most was trying to paint realistically. I adore Impressionism, and I would buy it, but I just don’t like painting in that style,” she explained.

But the truth is that while she enjoys painting now, her career kept her from it for many years even with a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in art. She also had children and life, and her painting was put on the back burner. However, when she married her husband, Mike Wilson, she quit work and was able to devote herself to her art, she stepped back into the art world with style.

She started by auditing art classes from Midwestern State University and taking classes from Liz Yarosz-Ash. “She was instrumental in helping me get back some of the abilities that I had lost. I got to use the studio at Midwestern, and I took several classes from her. She is an awesome awesome teacher. She has become my friend—I am flattered that she has become my friend,” Shirley said.

Once Shirley came back to her art, she was so glad to be creating again, and she dabbled in many ways to make art. “I did a little bit of everything. In Liz’s classes she really covers a lot of art. I guess I am a little bit of a romanticist. I am attracted to things from another time, a gentler time. I would have enjoyed living then,” she said. Shirley likes to paint marionettes and Santas and figures. For a recent show entitled “Pink” that is a show of 51 women artists that Liz Yarosz-Ash put together, she entered a painting of a lovely woman dressed in the fashion of a man from the 1800’s. She entitled the piece, “Dragons Slain…Every Day” and it “represents every woman committed to conquering her fears, issues problems and frailties.” That show is at the Kemp Center for the Arts and will run to January 13th in the NorthLight Gallery.

She also has had 2 solo shows at the Kemp Center in the past, as well as had her art shown in Taos, New Mexico. Now her art can be viewed downtown at Wilson’s Office Supply at the “Just Inside The Door Gallery” and at the Wichita Falls Art Association Gallery in the Holt Hotel.

“I love to go into homes and look and see their original art. So many people think that they can not afford original art and are afraid that it is too expensive. They can come down to the Wichita Falls Art Association Gallery and buy affordable original art and stop buying prints that often cost more than the original art cost,” she said passionately. And she should know, she has 107 pieces of art in her home that have been created by other artists.

Even with all that she has accomplished, she is her own worst critic. “Even with having brushes and paint already mixed up, I still cannot get the effect that I want. I usually am not happy with my paintings, and I make changes to them a lot. I don’t think I am a perfectionist because I don’t think I ever achieve what I am trying to do. I just can’t get it the way I want it, and I want to get it just like I want it,” she says with a determined look on her face. She paints with a limited pallet of five pigments and paints landscapes and figures. Her primary focus is figurative, whether it happens to be a human figure, Santa Clause or a marionette. Her art is exquisite and enjoyed by many patrons.

However, while she is always trying to improve, she knows, “Time marches on, there is much to learn, and there is still space to fill on the manila paper.”

-Cindy Thomas