Today, as part of our ongoing series of profiles of Cat Lady Artists, I’m interviewing Shelagh Duffet of Halifax, Nova Scotia. It’s hard to find one of Shelagh’s paintings that doesn’t have a cat somewhere within it. Her brilliant colors and primitive style portray a whimsical landscape that can’t help but make the viewer smile… and consider moving to Nova Scotia.
Karen: Shelagh, tell me a bit about the cats in your life and how they influence your work.
Shelagh: The funny thing about my work is that when I first really started painting cats, I only had a big Rhodesian Ridgeback dog named Sequoia. I do love cats and growing up, we had two Siamese cats named Topaz and Gigi. Topaz was the classic round, purry and motherly kind of cat, while Gigi was thin, neurotic and meowly. They both lived to be grand old dames. Our dog Sequoia passed away a few years ago and we now have Monty, a lovely large tabby cat who is my constant companion. Even as I sit here, he is trying to fit into my lap and as big cat, it is not an easy task!
Karen: I can relate! I have a 20-lb. tabby who has no idea how big he is. Have you always been a cat person?
Shelagh: Yes, I have. I do love cats but I love dogs too. Hard to choose between the two because they are so different.
Karen: Do you use Monty very often as a model in your work?
Shelagh: I’ve only painted Monty once. He’s the subject of Twilight Cat (right).
Karen: What inspired you to become an artist and sell your work?
Shelagh: I am self taught as an artist. I used to be a film editor and later a producer/director, so I have always worked with images. Even as a child I sketched a lot. When my daughter was born, I stayed home to look after her and wanted to find something I could do from home to earn money. Ebay was just coming online and I tried it to sell my art, was successful and still use it! I picked painting up ten years ago seriously and have not looked back since.
Karen: Have you always lived in Nova Scotia? Does it influence you?
Shelagh: I have spent most of my life in Nova Scotia. I lived in Toronto for a bit and Bermuda and have traveled extensively, but Nova Scotia is the place I come back to. It is a gorgeous province and Halifax where I live is just the perfect size. There are six Universities here and it is a Naval and shipping centre, so it has a vibrant and ever changing culture. I do lots of landscape pictures of Nova Scotia. It is so colorful and full of life.
Karen: Have you always used the brilliant, saturated “happy” colors in your work, or did that style evolve over time?
Shelagh: I am drawn to bright and happy colors. They lift my spirits and make me feel good. I have always painted with them. Occasionally I have ventured into pastels but always return to the color! Bright colors are like a big smile, you want to smile back!
Karen: Your grandmother, Alice, was part of the inspiration for the name of your shop. How has she influenced you?
Shelagh: I spent many weeks staying with my Grandmother in Scotland when growing up. She was an extraordinary woman. Small and feisty. My grandfather was a sea captain and away a lot. they had a small apartment when starting out in the bottom of a large set of flats across form a school. She decided to start a sweetie shop out of their home and eventually bought the entire building. One candy at a time, much to my Grandfather’s surprise. She was quite the business woman and I am inspired by her.
Karen: Of the work that’s currently for sale in your shop, which is your favorite?
Shelagh: Gosh, I have many favorites and they change constantly. I do like “All is Well”,” Twilight Cat”, “White House Lighthouse” and “Sunset Cottage”
Karen: You appear to be amazingly prolific! How many pieces do you paint per week?
Shelagh: It changes from week to week but I always manage to paint one to three at the very least. It is a matter of discipline. Just like going to work everyday. One doesn’t always feel like it but it has to be done. I find that once I sit, the ideas come to me and it is easy to get going, the more you do, the easier the inspiration:)
Karen: In addition to doing acrylic paintings, you’re also a photographer. Which do you prefer?
Shelagh: I prefer photography because it is so instant. Beauty is all around us and with one flick of the finger it can be captured. I find that when I have a camera in my hands, I look at the world with different eyes.
Karen: You also do corporate graphics, like the labels for Robbie’s Sauces.
Shelagh: Yes, I have done work for clients who have discovered me on the internet and it is always such a nice surprise. The internet has been responsible for the success I have!
Karen: I wish you continued success! Thanks for taking the time to chat with The Cat’s Meow.
Prints of Shelagh’s cat paintings can be found at Alice in Paris. Her prints are very affordable; most are only $20. You’ll also find her delightful Alice in Paris blog and other gallery sites on the web:
Her photography is available at the Love Me Boutique on Birmingham Street in Halifax NS.