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Why I Paint Outside


Driving down the newly opened faster toll route to the beach, I sang, sunroof open, at the top of my lungs to Los Lonely Boys Heaven and asked myself "how much farther is heaven?" With my newly purchased easel and paint bag in the back of my jeep, I didn't have a dime to my nameyet I was elated. I was escaping.  You see, we were slowly drowning in debt. The great recession was already being felt in southern California, and it was no surprise to us. I had a front row seat to the fiasco, having spent the last 8 years in the real estate industry. It all actually started to turn in 2006 in California. I had seen the writing on the wall. My career and the career of many I know would change irreparable due to the financial crisis. Yet, on this drive, I had one thing on my mind:  painting outside. Painting had always been my savoir and my refuge; for when painting outside, nothing else matters. It's just you. Not the version of you with all of the thoughts and fears, but the you that lives in the moment and as a result, every moment painting outside is pure joy. It's true, plein air painting is a challenge. It's frustrating, hot, cold, rife with bugs and exhaustionbut pure joy nonetheless.

Being an artist is the only thing I had ever wanted to be. For me, being an artist wasn't a choice, it is who I am and how I see the world. It took me far too many years to have the courage to become a professional artist. It was the great recession that gave me the push I needed. The recession eventually led our family to leave California for Tucson. A move that provided the space that I needed to believe in myself and my art. In fact, those first years in business, I sold a several hundred paintings. The recession did not seem like a blessing in disguise at the time, but in hindsight, it was one of the best times of my life. I hope that sometime in the future, we can all look back on this surreal year and eventually feel that it transformed society for the better.

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Shirley Bales, artist

I am artist discovering, creating and envisioning a brighter future through luminous color. Art that humbles us with splendor, reminds us of the source of it all and our place in this vast world.


Getting Lost in the Process

I paint vibrant, energetic, whimsical, and inherently beautiful forms that flow, merge, and layer, through the manner of their creation. 

Finding beauty in all its forms, translating it as I imagine, into shape and form, and offering it to be part of another’s unique expression.

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Colorado Prints

Archival giclee prints of Colorado by artist Shirley Bales.

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