Of Time and Art: For painter Heather Shay, retirement means finally having time for creativity


“Siena Welcome” painting by Heather Shay


By Janelle Faignant | Correspondent.

In between raising four kids and working full-time, there was never really any time for art, but it was always an interest Heather Shay wanted to pursue.

Growing up during a time when women were encouraged solely to become teachers, nurses, housekeepers, mothers and secretaries, Shay chose her own path. She was introduced to art early through her artistic father, but her passion and skill didn’t have the space it needed to grow and develop until she retired, when suddenly the clock slowed down.

“I’m in the middle of making a parmesan cheese summer squash and potato gratin,” she said from the other end of the phone in a recent interview, getting ready for a guest-chef appearance at the community store Friday night supper in Shrewsbury. “I think a lot of people discover their passion when they retire,” she said. “When you’re working full-time and if you have kids, your life is so full you don’t have time. But when you suddenly have the time, which hopefully everyone will have, then suddenly you think I’ve always wanted to do this thing… and there you go.”

She had wanted to study art in college but, strongly dissuaded from it, got an English literature degree instead. After graduation though, she was free to pursue her genuine interests, and promptly joined the Peace Corps. “I became a different person,” she said, and that was the goal; determined to do something different, she wasn’t interested in getting married or taking a traditional route at a young age.

She went to the Phillipines with the Peace Corps, and from there went on to travel throughout Asia and Europe. (A love of travel that stayed with her, and today she and her husband spend half the year traveling the world on a boat.)

After the Peace Corps she spent a long career with Verizon, as part of their first nationwide group of women in management. During that time she also taught skiing for more than 20 years, and was painting when she could, exhibiting art in ski lodges on the side.

At age 50 she retired early and went back to school to study art. She started travel logs with sketches and watercolors in a journal, and painted oils and watercolors steadily. She crossed paths with artist Christine Holzschuh at the Chaffee. They started painting together twice a week and later Holzschuh started EMMA (East Mountain Mentoring Artists) to bring artists together to paint, exchange ideas, and support each other. They continue to meet once a month which Shay says, “has been a real pick-me-up for me.”

Her pieces in the “What EMMA Loves” exhibit, currently at Compass Art Center in Brandon, are landscapes of France and Italy she painted after a two-month trip a couple years ago. One of them, “Siena Welcome,” transports you to a sunny Tuscan balcony, with its open glass doors, clear blue sky and warm tones.

On Sunday, October 4, at 1 p.m. Shay and fellow EMMA artist, fine arts photographer Lowell Snowdon Klock, are presenting a unique class together, discussing the differences in approach and medium of Klock’s photography and Shay’s paintings using the same subject. Shay will demonstrate a painting from scratch and Klock will explain how her photos are taken, and her process of Photoshopping.

“Lowell came to my house in Shrewsbury and we spent the morning taking photos of things that interested us,” Shay said. “Then we each chose the ones we loved and surprisingly we chose a lot of similar subjects. We thought it would be interesting to do a class on the differences on approach and medium and what we do with the same subject,” she said. “It’s going to be fun. EMMA is a wonderful group and it’s fun to be part of such an interesting group of women.”

Janelle Faignant is a freelance writer living in Rutland.
E-MAIL: janellefaignant@gmail.com


EMMA artist talks, demos & classes
The artists of the Rutland-based group, EMMA (East Mountain Mentoring Artists), will conduct a series of artist talks, demos and classes to share their breadth of artistic skills and experience. The series will take place on Sunday afternoons at the Compass Music and Arts Center while their exhibit “What EMMA Loves” is on display. All events are free. See below for dates and details on each event.

October 4, 1 p.m.:
Heather Shay and Lowell Snowdon Klock
Painter Heather Shay and fine-arts photographer Lowell Snowdon Klock will demonstrate and discuss the differences in how they each approach the same subject with their different mediums. Shay will show the whole process of creating a painting, starting with the decisions on composition, the original sketch, blocking in the colors and finishing the work.
Shay is a former student of the Museum of Fine Arts and the Museum School in Boston, a juried member of the Chaffee Art Center and has exhibited at Okemo Mountain in Vermont and throughout Boston, Klock has an associates degree in photography, is a former student of Frank Lavelle and Elizabeth Opalenik, as well as a juried member of the Brandon Artists’ Guild, the Chaffee Art Center and artist member of the Southern Vermont Arts Center.
October 18, 1-2:15 p.m.:
Mary Crowley – Making the Grammy Book
Mary Crowley, the author and illustrator of the children’s book, “I Love to Visit My Grammy,” will explain how she came to write, illustrate and get the book published. In addition, she will talk about her second book, and the one she is working on now.

Compass Music and Arts Center is located at Park Village, 333 Jones Dr. Brandon VT, 05733 (Park Village used to be the Brandon Training School, located 1.5 miles north of downtown Brandon off of Arnold District Rd.).

Janelle Faignant

Janelle Faignant is a freelance writer living in Rutland.

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