Finding therapy in art… Shelton finds solace in bringing unique objects to life

Published 6:00 am Friday, July 12, 2019



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What one may see as a useless object, that is not the case for Sheila Shelton who sees through a pair of different eyes taking those same objects and transforming them into pieces of art that brings even a rock to life with colorful images.

Shelton didn’t develop her artistic ability through specialized training as much as turning a boring class into a path that led her into painting.

“I am ashamed to say that I started doodling on my notebooks in eighth-grade history because I hated history and I would sit and doodle and that got me started,” Shelton said. “I then started to do more at home.

“I never really took art classes until I got to high school and I took a couple of classes there. I just fell in love with it.”

Shelton graduated from Gate City (VA) High School in 1989 and moved to Carter County roughly 20 years ago when her husband, Scott Shelton, took on a new job.

“He took a job with Little Debbie and the route was over in here so we ended up moving here to be closer to the job,” Shelton said. “I actually took over my husband’s route that covered all of Erwin, part of Johnson City, and part of Elizabethton.

“That was eight years ago and I worked for Little Debbie for nine years. People still see me and call me ‘Little Debbie.’”

The Sheltons raised three children in the Carter County School System as Levi, Savanah, and Luke attended and graduated from Happy Valley High School.

Shelton doesn’t always go the route of traditional canvas to paint on, but often chooses unique pieces to apply her craft too.

“I am always looking for something to paint on like the river rocks and the gourds,” Shelton said. “My dad started growing gourds and I didn’t even know he was growing them.

“He brought me some because a lot of people made birdhouses out of them and I thought what am I going to do with these gourds.

“So, I thought I could paint on those gourds and my husband saw the long-neck gourd and said that it looked like a giraffe neck because it was so long,” continued Shelton. “I thought I could make it into a giraffe.

“I started to try and come up with a design and it sort of evolved but I took two gourds and put them together to make the giraffe.

“That was my dad’s piece, so when he passed I brought him (the giraffe) back home with me. I wanted to protect him. All the rest I have sold, but I kept him because it was my dad’s.”

Drawing from her love of wildlife and nature, most of Shelton’s paintings and projects come from those resources as many times she will take photos and then transfer the picture into art.

Shelton doesn’t market her work at local events like many other artisans but relies on her Facebook page, Horseshoe Ridge Studio, to sell her work and take orders for specific pieces.

As far as unique request, Shelton said there are several that come to mind but her main projects recently have been her gourd wildlife paintings and specially requested river rock paintings.

“I have done so many of the gourds,” Shelton stated. “I have done roosters and actually put feathers on them.

“I have a lot of people who contact me wanting their pets on the river rocks that have passed. I paint them like they are lying down on the rocks. I had people cry when they got their river rocks because of the pets I had painted.”

While many people relax by reading books, riding bikes, or jogging, Shelton said she has found painting to be the most therapeutic for her.

“It is the biggest therapy anyone can have,” Shelton added. “Whether you can paint or not, just putting it on paper to express yourself and putting it out there is the best therapy you can have, in my opinion.

“If something is bothering me, I can go sit and paint and where I have to concentrate on my painting so much, I can’t think about anything else than my painting.”

Shelton recently returned from a bucket list trip to Maine and said that she had received some new inspiration in viewing and taking many photos of the lighthouses that are found in the Northern state.

Asked if she had any last encouraging words for those that may be looking to paint, Shelton replied, “Don’t judge your art by other people’s art because you are unique. Do your own thing because as long as you enjoy what you are doing is all that matters.”