Thursday, September 29, 2016

Star Collecting: An Interview with Sheila Arora

Me at Sunday’s “What Matters” panel: “[…] I’m an awkward weirdo.”
Paul Klein, moderator/art critic: “You hide it well! You’re not awkward at all. You’re just weird.”

Thank you so much to those who attended, to Paul and Startup Art Fair for inviting me to be a part of it, and to all the amazing artists I met for being you!

Sheila Arora, Flower Healer, acrylic on paper, 18x24 in.

On the subject of amazing artists, I interviewed painter Sheila Arora, whom I represent! Here are her own words, unfiltered and free-flowing like her art:

Jenny Lam: Introduce yourself!

Sheila Arora: Hi Jenny, thanks for talking with me! I’m an artist living in Chicago. I have always been drawing and painting. I used to do traditional work including figure, still life, and portrait. I started the abstract acrylic painting a few years ago, and I found it was a great fit with my style. I love using color and exploring marks. My current work is expressive, free, and a total explosion of joy on the canvas.

Sheila Arora, May I have a piece of cake please,
acrylic on paper, 18x24 in.

JL: Could you describe your work (both your abstract paintings as well as your portraits) and the process that goes into it?

SA: My paintings are bold. I use a lot of color and marks to keep the pieces active. I have a busy mind, and that is reflected in my work. I’m also a risk-taker when I paint, so I’ll go for anything and everything. I’m always pushing my work in new directions.

Sheila Arora, I tried to say thank you in a million ways,
acrylic on paper, 18x24 in.

My process is very intuitive. I lean into the intuition and trust that what I’m feeling is where the painting wants to go. I generally work on a series of pieces that will consist of 15-30 paintings. The overall series is an idea of what I want to capture. For example, I am currently working on a series of paintings called Expressions. These pieces are all about exploring freedom of the line, being looser with the paint, and letting go.

Sheila Arora, My room is messy but you're still invited,
acrylic on paper, 18x24 in.

The portraits are a really fun combination of the abstract and realistic work. I used to do lots of figure drawing from the model, so I have a really good grasp of the face. I start with a reference photo to understand placement of features and lighting, and then I add the abstract component to make the piece totally crazy. I have two portrait series: Crazy Portraits and Princess Warriors. I started adding some writing to the Princess Warrior series to bring the characters to life.

Sheila Arora, Fallen Angel, acrylic on paper, 9x12 in.
[Update: SOLD!]

Sheila Arora, Story Weaver, acrylic on paper, 9x12 in.
[Update: SOLD!]

JL: As someone who’s also both an artist and a writer, I love that some of your paintings are accompanied by your writing. What a wonderful way to combine two art forms. Could you also explain your process for that? Do you come up with the painting or story/poem first? Also, how did you get into creative writing?

SA: I love to write. I have a crazy imagination, so creative writing has always been a natural fit for me. I recently started combining the two art forms. I started writing a set of stories based on my small abstract painting series. I would pick a painting and use that as a starting point for the story. I let the painting give me the ideas, and then I would write a short piece from my imagination. I wrote about everything from a rainbow tornado to a buffalo cave! I wrote 30 of these short stories, and each one was totally different and fun.

[Continue reading more after the jump.]

Thursday, September 22, 2016


I’ve been invited to speak at the next 20x2 Chicago! Thank you, Andrew Huff! Save the date for Saturday, October 22, 6-8pm, at Quenchers.

I’m back from a trip to Greece (photos on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr), just in time for Expo Art Week. But that’s not all that’s happening.


Today is:

  • The autumnal equinox and Chicagohenge (pictured above)! Twice a year, the rising and setting sun lines up perfectly with the city’s east-west street grid. The first day of fall is one of those times.

Quite the day, September 22.

And a reminder: I’ve been invited to speak on a panel at the inaugural Startup Art Fair during Expo Chicago! So honored. The conversation’s this Sunday, 1pm, at MileNorth Hotel. Hope to see you there!

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