Shimmering Light: Sheila Neufeld
The work of acrylic abstract painter, Sheila Neufeld, captures the very essence of her experiences throughout her well-traveled life. She invites her viewer to share in her love of the natural world and entices with her signature use of light, texture, and shimmering effects. Neufeld derives inspiration for her powerful, mystical abstract pieces from her childhood growing up in Saskatchewan with the big skies and what they represent to her. In addition, her travels around the world as well as her spiritual practice have contributed to a deeper connection to her work, allowing for new dimensions and an even greater source of inspiration. Growing up in a small rural town in Saskatchewan, Canada, Neufeld was surrounded by majestic sunsets, fierce thunderstorms and intense blizzards that helped cultivate her later inspirations to create. She and her brother were often outdoors in the warm months. “Being from a small town we could see for miles and walk or bike outside without thinking about watching out for cars. We explored without fear. The winter months however were very cold on the prairies and I spent my time indoors drawing for hours. My brother and I would make up epic stories and draw out the characters. As I grew up,” Neufeld remembers I would sit and paint alongside my father who was a talented artist but a principal/school teacher by profession. My parents were very supportive of my art and kept a folder of drawings I created. ” Neufeld’s love of travel which later influenced her artistic process was also nurtured by her parents “My parents saved up every year so that we could take a one month road trip in the summer. We would get up early in the a.m. when it was still dark under the beautiful skies and we would leave and go explore. I have always been an explorer and being from such a small town I was eager to always see more. We traveled across Canada, throughout all the US and all throughout Mexico. My parents met in Europe and were travelers themselves so they imparted their love of expansion through travel in my psyche.”
Neufeld’s desire to expand her horizons by leaving her Saskatchewan upbringings right after high school and brought her across country eventually to Vancouver. “I loved the city with its diversity and new things to see and do all the time. “ After a hiatus from her art which lasted almost 10 years Neufeld felt that something was missing. “I began to take art classes again to find myself. I took a drawing class at a community center and it sparked my interest all over again. I began drawing for hours at a time as I did as a child.” Neufeld had been working towards a Kinesiology major and she switched completely going into the Fine Arts Diploma Program at Langara College in Vancouver. “Going into the Fine Arts Program in College was a wonderful decision. The program was very hands on and gave me the discipline I needed to pursue art full time.”
Neufeld was inspired in college in her last term by Georgie O’Keeffe’s flower paintings. “She expressed so fully the beauty and natural sensuality of life in those flowers. I knew in the last term at Langara that I was going to pursue painting. Other friends of mine decided to go further in their education but I felt at that time that I had what I needed and it was time to sell some art. I put photos of my artwork on a disc and starting walking around to see where I could show it. ” After selling a piece in her first group show she invested her savings into a wall at a Design Show in Vancouver. “ I still remember that show” she reflects “People were crowded around the art and I sold almost my whole show in 3 days. I decided I was going to jump into art full time.”
Neufeld currently resides in Vancouver, Canada and has been painting full time for over a decade. She has traveled extensively and loves exploring the unknown. This exploration along with her love of nature and inspiration from the vast prairie skies “The big skies, space and traveling to unknown places were a huge influence on me and my current art practice today” It has led to her current theme in her art in her most recent series “The Universe.” “The Universe to me is the great unknown. I love its expansive nature and I hope to experience space travel in my lifetime.” She invites the viewer to experience her joy of this expansive nature by her signature use of light and depth that she has called “The shimmer.” She adds depth to each piece by layering thin translucent layers of color and texture along with adding a few Swarovski crystals in each piece for twinkle. “In certain lighting the crystals twinkle and this reminds me of the stars and all their magic.”
She continues to work intuitively and fully enjoys creating layer by layer until each piece is finished. “I just know when a piece is done. It just feels right. I let the painting come through the way it wants to be, without trying to force the process. It becomes something beautiful. ”
“I love the exploring the mysteries of existence that lie beyond our perceptions. I have always loved big skies and in my previous abstract landscapes the skies were often the focus. As my work as evolved I wanted to go further in my exploration. I love the joy and comfort I feel when I look at the stars.
When I study the sky or look at photos of Nebulas and stars I am always drawn as a starting point to colors, compositions, light and feeling. Since I have not explored space myself these combinations give me a starting point and I follow my intuition and create my pieces from there. While the theme of my work is consistent, each piece is newly discovered as I create layer by layer with acrylic paints, gloss mediums, iridescent pigments and various textures to convey a luminous, multidimensional effect. My process is unique as I inlay my art with Swarovski crystals to create “The Twinkle.” This effect gets picked up with different lighting sources which can remind the viewer of the stars.
The greatest challenge with my work is creating depth on a much smaller scale that my subject matter with acrylic paints as a medium. Acrylic has to be worked in a certain way as it does not have the natural depth of oil paints. I feel the layering process helps overcome these challenge of the paint to create that depth. While the depth of space is incomprehensible I strive to give the viewer a bit of that feeling with some extra creativity. I would say that my technique has definitely evolved over time. While I have used a layering technique for many years I use more elements and am more creative now.
I know the piece is successful when the technical aspects balance with the feeling I want to convey. It brings me joy when I can convey the expansive nature if the universe with others and they feel these mysteries expressed through my paintbrush.”