Discovering new artistic expressions

Painter Shelley Penner branches out to try new artistic mediums and finds new passion

Shelley Penner’s paintings and painted stones are for sale at the Gallery @ Qualicum Art Supply.

Shelley Penner’s paintings and painted stones are for sale at the Gallery @ Qualicum Art Supply.



When the cost of framing her watercolour artwork became unmanageable, artist Shelley Penner went hunting for alternatives, and she fell deeply in love with two of them.

Penner has had an interest in arts since she can remember. When she was in kindergarten she remembers taking turns at the different play stations around the room.

“I never wanted to leave the easel because I was never finished when they said, ‘okay, your time’s up’,” she laughed.

Penner was born in Saskatchewan but her father soon joined the army and had the family moving from Ontario to Germany, Winnipeg, Manitoba, and finally Delta, B.C.

In her twenties she had saved up enough money to go to art school, and began attending the Vancouver School of Art, now called Emily Carr University of Art and Design. But it wasn’t as practical as she had hoped, so she switched to photography and then left the school two years later.

Penner moved to her current home, Port Alberni, where her family was living, and worked as a framer as she continued to paint and do photography. Her medium of choice was watercolour but it became too expensive to frame the work, she said. She then began doing acrylic paintings on stones and found it to be fruitful.

“I was looking for a way I could create hangable art work without having to frame it,” she said. “And since I’ve always had an interest in all things natural; rocks, shells, everything, I decided to combine my love of rocks with my love of painting, and my love of animals.”

Penner said stone is easy to work on, with a beautiful smooth surface, and she loves the natural background the pieces possess. She finishes them with a lacquer spray that brings out the colour in the stone. The pieces are affordable, making them popular with buyers. She now shows her work at all the rock and gem shows around the Island.

Some years ago Penner was trying to figure out how to paint a number of canvases she was given, when she came across another artists’s piece that used airbrushing. Being a watercolour artist, she couldn’t imagine having to paint every stroke onto them, she said. So she asked a friend if he had an airbrush she could borrow, which is a small tool that sprays the paint in tiny droplets.

“He leant me an airbrush to try out and after doing four canvasses—just the backgrounds—I was in love,” she said. “I went on eBay and bought my own airbrush and I haven’t looked back.”

Penner said she loves how the tool helps her achieve the softness and spontaneity she felt she got from watercolours, but with acrylic paints.

Penners acrylic paintings and painted stones are currently for sale at the Gallery @ Qualicum Art Supply at 206 W First Ave in Qualicum Beach.

At the gallery, her love for birds, animals and outdoor scenes shine through. Many of her pieces are taken from a combination of her own photos, many taken in the area.

Penner is currently working on a mural for one of the entrances to the Blue Marlin Inn in Port Alberni, where she has already completed a number of canvases for the rooms and a mural for the businesses sign.

Visit the Gallery @ Qualicum Art Supply to see more of Penner’s work or visit her website: