Shelly Penko: She dreams in color

Once upon a time guest series

Shelly Penko

She dreams in color


You guys I am SO excited about this! Ever since I started blogging, a little over a year ago, I've wanted this to be about sharing. I was a bit shy at the beginning, didn't always feel comfortable showing my art, not to mention talking about myself, the "artist". At the beginning it was hard for me to dare call myself that. But thanks to YOUR wonderful support and encouragement, I have been walking this creative path towards my dream day after day with more confidence.

A year ago exactly, I was doing my very first art show, making it real for the very first time. And one of the things I have realized this past year, is that the art and the artist are one. That when you paint, sculpt, dance, write or sing from your heart and soul, from a place of authenticity, then you are part of the art that is created, and it is part of who you are. So today I want to take it all one step further, not just sharing my art, my journey, but those of other creative souls. That's why I am starting a new "artist profile" series here on the blog!

But we're not going to do this in the regular interview style. Instead, we are going to focus on one art piece, one that has a particular significance to an artist, a special story, and let the voice of the artist be heard through the tale. The series is called "Once upon a time", and I am truly honored to have a wonderful artist and friend open it today: meet Shelly Penko!

Enjoy the story and we will both be delighted to read your comments!

Once upon a time, there was a dreamer.

Shelly Penko, she dreams in color
Shelly Penko, she dreams in color

When I began this piece, I didn’t feel like painting.  Life was feeling bleak and dark and scary.  Sometimes big endings feel that way.   I was afraid there was only sadness within me, so I decided it would be okay to paint the sadness, or whatever came up.  I gave myself permission.

This painting was intuitive, begun without a plan, no final product in mind, no idea what the subject would be.  I painted colors and marks with detached abandon, just making marks and enjoying the colors and movement of the paint.  I was squirting water, watching the paint drip, making marks.  The colored ovals drew me in, so I made more of them, painting directly with fingers rather than a brush.  The swallow appeared next, swooping in as swallows do.


Swallows nested on my front porch a few summers ago and impressed me with their teamwork and ingenuity.  When the young hatched, several adults worked tirelessly to feed the brood. The babies grew until it was a marvel that they all fit in the nest…becoming sleek and beautiful.  For several days, the juveniles fearlessly practiced acrobatic flying under the watchful eyes of the adults lined up on the edge of my roof. Then one day they left the nest for good to make their way in the world.  The swallows made an impression on me with their dedication, community, grace, and courage.  When they showed up in this painting, I realized they had become a sort of talisman for me.


 The face of the woman appeared next.  It was a dark face, which was unusual for me.  I’m usually all about contrast and light.  This face seemed shrouded.  I let her be.  More flowers, more color and glowing shapes followed.  As the painting evolved, I realized she was dreaming…and her dreams were bright and colorful and happy.


It reminded me that when darkness is all we see, a light still burns inside of us. For me, that light is creating.  From the time I was a little girl, I always wanted to paint or draw or decorate anything I could get my hands on.  It’s a part of me.  A part I had shoved aside all too often to take care of “more important” things.  This painting reminded me to dream big and to dream in color.  It also reminded me that I don’t have to do it all alone.  I can have a community.  I’ve done a lot of paintings since I completed this one, but this one marks the beginning of my journey back to myself;  the woman who is part of a community of like-minded souls, the woman who is a dreamer and a creator.  Now that I’ve found her, I’ll never shush her again.  “She Dreams in Color” wasn’t about endings after all, it was about beginnings.

Shelly  little girl
Shelly little girl

Shelly Penko isa contemporary artist, living and working in Austin, Texas.  Shelly likes to use beautiful colors and soulful imagery to reflect her joy in the simple beauty of life, family and friendship.

More Guest Artists:

Fragile 2

Fragile 2

Fragile 2 - Mixed media painting on canvas © 2012  Laly Mille
Fragile 2 - Mixed media painting on canvas © 2012 Laly Mille

Fragility and strength of the little things, of life worth protecting, of dreams worth daring...