‘I paint because I like to paint’

Mission artist M. Shirley Thomas has always loved to paint and has a special passion for the sea

Mission artist M. Shirley Thomas feels that she must have been a painter in a previous life. She really likes water, waves and boats as well as construction and building projects. / Submitted Photo

Mission artist M. Shirley Thomas AFCA, an Associate of the Federation of Canadian Artists has always enjoyed painting and the water.

She began painting as a child.

“When I was very young, my mother went on a trip and asked me ‘What do you want?’ and out of the blue I said paint brushes. Well, that came from someplace. When I was a child I painted with a little paint box, watercolours. I don’t know where those painting are, they’ve likely been thrown away,”

However, she had to put her paints away as a child as she needed to go to school, and later raise a family.

“So I started seriously painting in 1972.”

While she still dabbles with watercolours, she doesn’t do it often because she doesn’t feel the public likes the look when they are framed under glass.

She prefers to work in oils and acrylics.

“Lately I paint more in acrylics because when I do oils it’s a one shot painting. I paint the one picture in the day. But because I’m older I don’t have that many hours to paint. I can’t paint for eight hours,” she said.

Painting in acrylics allows Thomas to stop and start and while she doesn’t paint for long periods of time, she still paints every day.

While she loves to do it, painting is still hard work.

“People say to me, ‘It must be so nice to relax and paint’ I mean give me a break. They have no idea. You have to keep your mind on what you are doing. And when I have a painting partly done, or mostly done, I look at it and then, the next day, I maybe change it, or keep painting on it until I’m satisfied that I have a good painting.”

One subject that frequently appears in her work, is the sea. It just seems to be a natural instinct along with her love of painting.

“I think I was a painter in a previous life. And I really like water, waves, boats and construction things, like building with a hammer. I think I was some kind of sailor or a boat builder in another life.”

Thomas, who moved to Mission in 1980, says she doesn’t paint to please the public, she paints for herself.

“I paint because I like to paint and when I’m happy with the painting I’m happy. And then, the public just seems to like it.”

She said all her works are originals, she doesn’t copy anything.

“A lot of the painting, I just draw. I go on a blank canvas and just draw.”

She does take photos and uses them as subject matter and reference points.

“If you want to paint a duck, you have to know what a duck looks like.”

Her paintings are popular with the public.

She said her works, locally, can be see at the English Tarts in Mission, the Mind and Matter Gallery in White Rock and the Abbotsford Art Gallery. They used to be displayed in about seven other galleries in Calgary, Edmonton, Fort McMurray and Toronto but when the recession hit 10 years ago, she lost those galleries.

Still her works have been purchased and sent all over the world.

“I even have a painting that one of the Swiss guards at the Vatican bought. I have paintings all over – Japan, Australia, the UK, Europe, the Vatican, all over.”

And she has no plans to stop painting. To see more of Thomas’ works, visit her website at www.shirleythomas.ca.

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