One Day in a Studio: Amy Shackleton

Posted by Elizaveta Zhurkovskaya on

Canadian-born artist Amy Shackleton is a skilled urban landscape painter with an inventive technique embracing gravity. Her background includes a Fine Arts Honours Degree from York University, an extensive exhibition history, and paintings displayed in hundreds of public and private collections. Shackleton is an active member on the Board of Directors at the Visual Arts Centre of Clarington and within the larger Ontario and Canadian Arts Community. We interviewed Amy to learn more about her practice, inspirations, and what she is working on today.

1. How does your creative day look and what inspires you to make art? Has your creative day changed due to Covid-19? 

My creative day always starts with a cup of coffee (I’m not a morning person, haha). I’m able to get inspired as soon as I step into my studio. I typically have several paintings on the go (up to six at a time) to enhance productivity and avoid watching paint dry. Having my two young children home 24/7 has definitely been an adjustment. Thankfully, my husband also works from home and we can relieve each other throughout the day! 

2. Tell us more about your art studio?

In search of a larger studio space, I moved from Toronto to Oshawa 6 years ago. I renovated my 600 square foot garage into my dream studio. It is an open, well-lit space with a slanted corrugated steel ceiling reaching 14 feet on one side (perfect for spinning large works). I have two wall easels set up— spanning a total of 32 linear feet. 

3. How did you first get interested in your medium/s?

I started using drips back in 2008 to achieve natural/organic energy in my work. At that time, I used paintbrushes and tape to create more concrete, architectural elements. I began to enjoy working with drips more than brushes and tape. As I became more experienced with using gravity to direct the flow of paint, the paintbrush became an unnecessary touch-up tool. It was then I realized with more planning, calculating, and layering I could eliminate the use of a paintbrush altogether. This became a challenge that took three years to master. In 2011 I created my first brushless painting. 

4. Describe your style in one sentence. 

I’m a drip painter, with a twist — I bring nature back into the city using squeeze bottles and gravity.

5. Has your style changed over time?

My style has evolved over the past 12 years. My early work was more loose and abstract since I was learning how to work with drips. Over the years, my work has become more controlled and representational. Now, I’m trying to loosen up a bit, haha. I want to find the perfect balance between spontaneity and control while combining nature with the city. My work wrestles with these opposing forces, just as my own optimism wrestles with reality.

6. What are your main artistic tools?

I use squeeze bottles filled with liquid acrylic paint to build each painting from the ground up with hundreds of lines and dots. The architectural aspects are highly controlled while the natural elements embody the spontaneous liquid impulse. I rotate my canvas to direct the flow of paint and use a level to help predict where each drip will fall. To create more organic effects, I use a water spritzer. 

7. Do you ever experience creativity blocks and how do you stay positive and inspired?  

I like to travel (or right now, look at my travel photos) for inspiration. I explore natural and urban areas, take photos, and return to my studio to get it all down on canvas. I am in love with tall buildings, trees, and waterfalls. A few trip highlights include a 4-day hike across the Grand Canyon in Arizona, spending a night in a tent in the Sahara Desert in Morocco, and hiking to Machu Picchu in Peru. Once inspired, the act of creating in my studio keeps me positive—I love what I do. 


8. Do you think the art world has changed or will be changing due to the pandemic? If yes, how?

I have seen changes and expect to see more in the future. People are spending more time at home, investing in home-improvement projects and beautifying their spaces. Galleries are improving their websites and new online galleries are popping up. Collectors are purchasing work without the expectation to view it in person. Augmented reality apps are in demand — helping people view images of art on their own walls. Despite all the travel restrictions in place, art can still be shipped and enjoyed all around the world.

9. What project have you worked on recently? 

I’ve recently finished my first public art mural in partnership with the Robert McLaughlin Gallery and I HAD SO MUCH FUN! I’ve wanted to create a mural for years, but I couldn’t wrap my head around how to drip one without spinning the wall. It was time to take a risk and I’m so glad I did! You can check out the finished 14’ x 18’ mural at the Oshawa Centre Mall.

I’ve recently also had a solo art exhibition titled “Futures” at Wall Space Gallery in Ottawa. In this show, I questioned what’s to come. I merged dense city centers with forests and melting sea ice to create alternative visions of the future. Some are more optimistic than others—it’s up to us which future becomes our reality.

I had two solo, public art exhibitions lined in summer 2021 (at the Museum of Dufferin and Art Gallery of Northumberland). Both shows focused on the current effects of climate change in Canada. For years now, I’ve aimed to create paintings that portray an optimistic future where nature and the city coexist in harmony. Despite my intentions, some people would look at my work and see the opposite—an apocalyptic world, void of people and traffic. A place where nature has gone too far. Hearing everyone’s unique interpretations has started to push my work in the other direction. Forests are burning, lands are flooding and glaciers are melting. We need to have these important conversations about our future and understand the urgency of climate change. 

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