Story by Piper Whelan
Sheila Schaetzle is wild about nature. It’s evident in her art: in how she paints radiant autumn leaves in a distant valley, in the way she creates light on a snowy path. This Calgary-based artist uses her Maritime roots and Alberta home for artistic inspiration, both of which will be seen in the six paintings she’ll have on display at the 2015 Calgary Stampede’s Western Art Showcase.
Schaetzle grew up in the Restigouche region of New Brunswick, the subject of many of her paintings. “A lot of my work is inspired by the colours in the fall and just nature in general,” she says. “My dad was a hunter and a fisherman, so we were always outdoors, whether we were on the beaches or we were camping out somewhere. As far back as I can remember, I have really loved being out in nature, amongst the trees.”
Schaetzle admired many artists featured at the Western Showcase in the past, but never imagined that she would be among them today. “Going to the art show was always a big part of attending the Stampede,” she says. She’s exhibited in the Western Art Gallery for three years; prior to that she volunteered by giving demonstrations in the Artists’ Window booth. She is proud “to be part of that now and have my work on exhibition next to some of these great Calgary artists.”
Her love for art began at a young age, filling sketchbooks as a child and studying art throughout school. She decided to pursue art more seriously in 1998 with night classes, as well as learning from books and experimentation. Schaetzle works with oils, acrylics and mixed media, and loves exploring different techniques. Her goal is to create a “painterly” view, “something that’s not necessarily what you’re going to see in a photograph, but something that’s more original and on the creative side,” she explains.
“I’m thinking more in terms of big shapes and concepts that aren’t necessarily based on realism [when beginning a piece]. I’m not thinking about painting a tree, or painting a house; I’m more interested in creating content and creating a structure that is more about shape and value.”
She describes her process as “freeing,” and often works from sketches rather than photos. “Even in the sketching stage I’m working out a lot of what needs to happen, eventually, when I get the paint on the paint brush. So I journal about the thoughts and ideas that I have about what I want to achieve,” she explains. These are broad ideas on the feeling she wants to convey. “Often it’s based on something that I’ve seen or experienced, or a memory that I’m working from … I believe in painting what you know.” This way, each painting tells a story connected to the place or experience it depicts.
When creating artwork to submit to the Western Art Gallery, Schaetzle focuses on what will suit the venue, and also considers the Stampede’s international audience. “It’s an opportunity for artists to share all of the wonderful things that we have in the west — our mountains and our foothills. Our scenery is just full of beautiful landscapes, from our rolling hills to our green pastures, so there’s a ton of content that artists can use.”
When she’s not at work in her studio, Schaetzle gives weekly art classes at the Calgary School of Art, and volunteers in her local arts community. Her work is on exhibit at Calgary’s Leighton Art Centre. Visit her website to check out more of her artwork and her blog on an artist’s life.