“I live in one of the most beautiful places in Canada—Vancouver Island,” says Shelley Penner.
Penner is an artist living in Port Alberni, transplanted from the prairies a few decades ago. She calls her Island home paradise. “It has crystal clear rivers and lakes, rugged mountains, long sandy beaches and rocky shorelines, wilderness just minutes away from any urban centre.”
Penner, née Morton, was born in Melfort, Sakatchewan in 1952 and spent her young life on army bases across Canada and two years in Germany.
Her interest in creating art includes painting, photography, creative writing, singing, reading and music. She also enjoys nature walks and volleyball.
“My main medium now is acrylics on stone slabs. I look for the landscape in the natural colours of the stone and I paint birds or animals into that landscape,” she says. Her art pieces have travelled as far away as Scotland, Germany, Holland, Australia and Japan. “I also work on canvases and I try to have a gallery show every five years or so.”
When it comes to writing, she adds: “I have always had a head full of stories.” She began writing them down years ago for her pleasure and peace of mind, because “the characters live in my head and keep me awake at night until I get them down on paper.”
Penner has published four books—three of them novels and one book with images of her best canvases. “It feels very satisfying to see my published stories lined up on my bookshelf.”
Photography is another interest in her artistic life as she enjoys taking photos of birds; she says she has learned a great deal about them over the years.
Before the coronavirus pandemic, Penner began volunteering for Shaw Cable by making slide shows. Three episodes aired before the pandemic brought the program to an end. The display of her photography can still be viewed weekly on Channel 4 under the title “Birds of Vancouver Island,” hosted by Penner.
She hopes to resume with at least four more episodes once things get back to normal.
Although she does not normally enter her artwork in competitions, in 1988 she did it and won an Award of Merit in the Pacific Regional Juried show of Fine Arts for her watercolour painting ‘River Drifting’.
“In a very real way, creating is my religion, my way of connecting with the Divine. When I work on an art project, I can feel an energy flowing through me, as if I am simply a conduit for some higher power to express its nature,” she says.
“It leaves me feeling spiritually empowered and energized. I am a detail painter, so I tend to work on one small section of the canvas at a time. When I’m finished and view the entire image, I am often amazed by the final results, as if viewing something created by someone else. I feel mentally drained, yet replete.”