Can you imagine your first painting in years started with leftover acrylic paints? The year was 1983 and paint was first used in 1974. The artist is John Shellhart. He used various subject matter: an eagle, fishing a stream, stagecoach with wranglers, bullriders, elk, and deer to name a few. The recipients of these works soon had a suggestion. Why aren’t you selling your artwork? At the same time, John was discovering that he felt limited by the use of acrylics. They dried so quickly he couldn’t get the effect he wanted. A switch was made to oils.
Now to the real beginning. Drawing lessons in Germany at the tender age of nine influenced John’s natural ability. He still adheres to the philosophy you have to be able to draw correctly before you can paint. “Minimal lines but accurate lines are the benchmark of the painting,” was heard frequently from the instructor. “The spirit of the painting comes from the sketch (on canvas) and the life of the picture comes from the brush,” was tirelessly reiterated. To this day John believes paintings are only as good as the (freehand) sketch. He uses the grid method to sketch on the canvas. For example, if he’s painting from a photo he will grid the photo and canvas. These are matched in proportion to size for accuracy. He then sketches one square at a time (the benchmark). Only the grid he is currently sketching is visible on the photo. The rest is kept covered. Upon completion is a sketch with minimal but accurate lines. John then paints over the sketch to retain the benchmarks.
John’s artistic abilities also include other media. In ninth grade, he sold a wood carving of a face in a piece of driftwood to his art teacher for $60. He has also done welded and clay sculptures.
In 1986, John became a full time artist. His first “for sale” painting was accepted at the first art show he entered. Now, the rest of the story. Quail Dobbs (PRCA Clown) was the first rodeo clown John painted. “ He’s the Santa Claus of rodeo.” Quail made the suggestion to John that he paint a series of rodeo clowns/bullfighters. Why paint rodeo clowns? “They are a unique, interesting subject. Rodeo clowns deserve much more credit than they receive for putting their life on the line in every bull ride. I want to give them recognition.” Since then John has painted clowns/bullfighters.
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Broken Arrow Art Works