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Meet Shelly Denning

Today we’d like to introduce you to Shelly Denning.

Every artist has a unique story. Can you briefly walk us through yours?
Art, for me, is a compulsion more than it is a hobby. I hunger for it. It feeds my soul. It is therapeutic. It makes me happy. The wonderful thing about art is that it can be used to make others happy as well.

When I was younger, I could rarely be found without a pencil in my hand. My homework papers contained more doodles than actual work. I dreamed of finding success as an artist and explored the various ways to accomplish this.

​I practiced every medium available. My teachers were Bob Ross and other painters demonstrating their skills on PBS. In middle school, I didn’t have time in my schedule to add art classes, so I would visit with the art teacher at lunch or after school. He would share the assignments that his class was given, and I would turn them in for critique. ​In high school, I opted to take orchestra and theatre over art until my senior year when I finally gave up on theatre. I approached the art teacher and showed her my work. She placed me in the level 3 art class.

​Upon graduation, I attended the University of Texas at Arlington, majoring in illustration. Due to events beyond my control, I had to drop out after one year. Shortly after, I met the father of my children and put down my brush to focus on raising a family.

After twenty-three years of passion-seeking through office work, tending bar, hosting karaoke, acting, and special effects makeup, I found myself yearning to paint again. The canvas was calling. I painted one small watercolor portrait of David Tennant from “Doctor Who,” posted it on Facebook and it had sold within the hour. That was the sign I needed. I put together a small studio and determined to begin my career as a professional artist. I am home.

Please tell us about your art.
Since returning to art, I have focused primarily on portraits of people and animals. I am drawn to the emotions that can be depicted through simple expressions or gestures. Each face tells a story, and I attempt to portray that in my work. Another aspect I have been working on is realism. Whether through quick, gestural sketches or highly-detailed pieces, I constantly strive to bring about a fullness to my art. I want it to leap off the canvas.

I have plans to create more introspective, thought-provoking pieces in the future. These paintings will bring the viewer face-to-face with current issues such as homelessness and sexual identity. Stay tuned!

We often hear from artists that being an artist can be lonely. Any advice for those looking to connect with other artists?
Connecting with other artists these days is easier than ever. Countless meet-up groups and classes exist. I myself am a member of the Greater Denton Arts Council, The Artists’ Enclave of Denton County and Dallas Makerspace. Each of these hold opportunities to engage with other artists. To start getting involved, join Facebook groups and post regularly, visit local art shows, take a class. I’ve met other artists simply by taking a sketchbook to a local coffee shop. Artists are a curious bunch and will usually approach you just to see what you’re doing. If you see such a person, go up and say hi. Artists are usually happy to show off their work.

How or where can people see your work? How can people support your work?
To see my complete portfolio, visit my website at To support my artistic endeavors, visit the store on my site or contact me for a commissioned piece. Social media links may also be found at the top of my website. I share time-lapse videos of my work on YouTube, and I often post works-in-progress on Instagram and Facebook.

Most of my recent work has been comprised of commissions or pieces that I have sold, so I have not yet built up enough paintings and drawings to hold a show. However, I hope to have some work placed in galleries in the future and am open to representation.

After a 23-year hiatus, I am returning to school to complete my art degree, so I expect to have some work up at UNT and other local venues in the near future.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Patrick Schaider, Shelly Denning

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