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Shirley Bales, artist.


My Journey

The Early Years
It was my early 20's, and I had just spent several years at Riverside Community College learning the fundamentals of art in an unusually challenging art program for the time. A program that emphasized first learning the visual language, from life, then encouraged self-expression. This community college was filled with students who aspired to, and had been accepted to Art Center College of Design Pasadena. Art Center provided a great deal of artistic talent to Disney, Hollywood, Fortune 500 companies and Silicon Valley. I spent the next few years painting from life and building my portfolio to apply to Art Center.
The Portfolio Review
I believed at the time, that I needed to go to an art school if I were to make a career in art. After several years of honing my skills, with the encouragement from peers and instructors, I decided to pack up my small family and make the 40 minute drive to Pasadena for a portfolio review. A portfolio review is where Art Center faculty reviews an applicant's artwork and provides feedback. In my portfolio, I had included one of my favorite graphite drawings of an old woman, weathered by time. Beyond technical ability, I felt I had captured emotion in her face, and was sure that my aptitude as an artist would be evident. My portfolio review did not go as planned. There I was standing before a man, I did not know, behind a folding table, as he acknowledged my artistic ability and quickly changed his opinion once I introduced my husband and one-year-old daughter. He stated that the program is rigorous, and not for a women with a young family, especially one that lives 40 minutes away. I responded that I am extremely committed and have a large support system, and could move closer and make it work. He dismissed me and moved on.
My Journey
I let this man's prejudice of me change the trajectory of my life. That was the day that I decided that I needed to pursue a different path. I embarked on a successful career as a real estate agent and even made The Million Dollar Club as a rookie, earning recognition in the local news. Yet, the success that followed felt hallow, for it wasn't my authentic self. Ultimately, the real estate crash and subsequent recession, altered my life path for me.

Even though I let this man at deter me, I never stopped creating art and never gave up on my dream of being a professional artist. I participated in the Plein Air Movement early on, and attended paint outs by The Laguna Plein Air Painters Association (LPAPA) and SOCAL PAPA. I also attended the Virtual Art Academy of Barry John Raybould and exclusively painted outside for over 20 years to develop my unique color sensibility.
Shortly after, our family relocated from California to Arizona for better prospects following the great recession. For a while, I found joy as an artist again painting outside en plein air. In my first years selling my work, I sold several hundred paintings. I also participated in the Little Treasures Exhibit at Tubac Center for the Arts and joined Tucson Plein Air Painters Society. In the early 2000's, I had the unprecedented opportunity to study online from masters, and collaborate with peers, on methods and materials like never before. I attribute most of my technical knowledge to the Cennini Forum, comprised of forerunners of the Classical Realism & Atelier Movement.
New Mexico
By the 2000's, as a self-represented artist, I was making a living (in a recession). My success would be short lived however, when an unexpected corporate restructuring caused our family to relocate once again. The events that followed were a low point in my life, I had claimed ownership of other's problems and internalized them. I lost myself, and precious time.

We abruptly left Arizona for New Mexico, and better job prospects. I joined Plein Air Painters New Mexico, painting with and exhibiting with PAPNM.  I participated in multiple shows, winning multiple awards, including the NM Art League Enchantment Award and Cloud Appreciation Award. I also exhibited at Millicent Rogers Museum.

While I had found my joy again painting outside again, I earned my Liberal Arts Degree at UNM, and was even on the Dean's List. Once again however, when faced with tragedy, and put my dreams on hold to care for loved ones suffering from addiction and cancer. Art helped me through this very dark time, and became my quiet refuge. Ultimately, we decided we needed a fresh start and looked to Colorado to provide it.
Moving so many times, and putting your dreams on hold to take care of people, causes you to lose yourself.

Shortly after moving to Colorado, I joined Plein Air Artists Colorado and life was good for a while. I participated in and exhibited at plein air events including: Victor Celebrates the Arts, Alla Prima Westcliffe, Steamboat Art Museum SAM, Alla Prima Westcliffe, Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument Plein Air, and received Honorable Mention at Littleton Plein Air at the Art Depot Gallery. I also returned to New Mexico and exhibited at the 7th Annual Plein Air Convention and Expo Show and Sale in Santa Fe, NM.

Then we had a house fire . . . life is a series of deaths and rebirths. I was at an all-time low personally, and needed desperately to be around people who understood me. I rented a studio at Cottonwood Center for the Arts hoping to connect with other artists. I had the opportunity to exhibit at: The Reception Gallery at Cottonwood Center for the Arts, First Congregationalist Church, Solace-Women of the Trees at Kreuser Gallery, Bite Me-Works Inspired by Food at Cottonwood Center for the Arts, and Gratitude at Kreuser Gallery.
A Calling
I recently felt a calling to share myself, beyond my family and  connect to a larger community, and share my story. Never give up on your dreams. This is my journey to becoming a more courageous person, to live out loud — to experience more, be more, discover more, and find my tribe.

I am artist discovering, creating and envisioning a brighter future through luminous color. Let the things that surround you be meaningful — a daily reminder of where you have been, are now, and will be.