Meet Shelly Denning of Shelly Denning Creative
I’ve always been an artist. From a very young age, I knew that I loved to create and make things. I was a bit snobby about it and thought I knew everything, so why take classes? I finally took my first art class during my senior year of high school. The teacher allowed me to start in the level three class. Looking back, I realize that I should have started at the beginning. I majored in illustration at the University of Texas at Arlington, but only attended for a year due to financial issues. For a while, I tried my hand at fantasy art, but it just wasn’t the right fit. I then took my art in a different direction and worked in film as a special effects makeup artist. I enjoyed the work, but hated the industry. After 10 years, I called it quits and returned to fine art. However, I ventured away from the illustrative style I had attempted in the past and focused more on portraiture and realism. I finally found something that felt right. The more work I did, the more apparent my shortcomings became. I knew I needed to return to school to complete my education. In 2019, I started taking courses at the University of North Texas. Since I have been there, I have grown very fond of sculpture, particularly metals. I am now pondering the idea of changing to a sculpture major and focusing my energies on large-scale public artwork. I love all aspects of creating, so I’m not sure where I’ll end up. I may just do a little bit of everything.
The biggest struggle has been finances. I had to drop out of school because I could no longer afford it. My ex-husband (we were married for 17 years) had multiple physical ailments that made it difficult for him to hold a job. Supporting him and our two children became my priority for a long time and art was put on the back-burner. Now that my children are grown and mostly supporting themselves, I’ve been able to return to the canvas.
Creatively, finding my niche has also been a struggle. I have dabbled in many styles and media. Part of the reason for my return to school is to face challenges offered by my instructors that (I’m hoping) will help to flesh out my own personal brand.
Currently, the company is just me. From time to time, I’ve hired assistants to help out with larger projects, but that is rare. Up until now, I’ve focused mainly on portraiture. This has helped me to gain experience and build my portfolio. In the future, I plan to create works with a broader message. I have some strong opinions about topics in politics, religion, gender, race, etc. and I hope to spread these messages through my art. At the heart of everything, I am a humanist. I believe in equality for everyone. It is my desire that my work will engage people and give them pause to think about the stories they hold. I wish to entertain, inform, and educate in such a way as to bring people closer together through true understanding and acceptance. My motto is “art that makes people better, happier humans.”
I simply wish to create and be able to survive. Unfortunately, money is necessary. For myself, I want enough to cover the bills plus a little extra to spend on living life. If my art becomes well known and in high demand, I would love to be able to afford to give back. I have a portrait project in the works where I am allowing each subject to pick a non-profit organization. If the painting sells, 50% of the proceeds will go toward their chosen charity. I believe that a life lived in service and gratitude is a life well-lived.