Episode 8

Published on:

9th Jun 2022

Shari Hulse and Switching Gears Later in Life

In this episode of Cowgirl Artist of America's podcast we interview artist, Shari Hulse. Shari discusses her early career, painting signs and billboards, and her switch to fine art later in life.

Cowgirl Artists of America

Shari Hulse


Shari Hulse


Shari has been a working artist for a number of years. She started her career painting signs and billboards, and then switched to fine art later in life. In fact, she just had her first art show at the age of 71. We talked with Shari about her early career, how it influences her current work and what it's like to get started in a fine art career later in life.

Before we get to the interview. I want to give you an update on CGA. We launched our membership May 1st through 15th and we were so excited to welcome 146 new members and 52 signature members. We're also excited that people are already reaching out to us about joining us for our next enrollment.

So if that's you, our next enrollment will be August 1st through 15th. In the meantime, you can visit our website, cowgirlartistsofamerica.org to sign up for our wait list.


so nice to get to see ----you.


[00:01:10] Megan: So Shari, where did you grow up?


And then, , we moved down to Southern California and I lived in Fullerton, California till I got married.


[00:01:39] Shari: Yes. We live out in the country on four and a half acres. It's not really a big parcel. , but when we moved down here with our kids, they were young and I think my daughter was in junior high and my son was in grade school.

And so we immediately started getting farm animals and horses were one of the things that we brought in. And so we had about the horses for about 10 years around that. , and then towards the end of that, the kids all moved out and then I could no longer really keep up with the horses. So I actually gave them away.

I don't like to sell things. Like I just find somebody who wants them and say, okay,

Sorry, go ahead. I, yes, I was around horses a lot. And that's what encouraged me to start painting this way. I had no idea where I was going with my painting. The reason I started painting was I finished my job after 10 years of painting billboards. And that's a big deal and it's hard work at times.

I would have in one hand, four brushes with different paint in them while I'm painting a billboard with another brush, they were big billboards. Up to 48 feet by 14 feet high.



[00:03:05] Shari: No. I was in college up until being a junior and I was taking printmaking.

, I did take one class in oil, but it wasn't a very successful class. I really didn't learn anything. Most of my, , most of my art comes from hereditary. Family it's all in our family. My brother's was a photography professor up in Washington state university. , and my sister is down in Southern California and she does all sorts of art down there.

So we're all artists and I never had to rely on a professor or a teacher telling me how to do things. I always just knew . So it's just, yeah, it just is a natural thing.


[00:04:00] Shari: When we moved out to the country, I found a job painting signs and I used to paint signs and actually letter giant logging equiptment this, the logging equipment that goes in logs, the trees, and they have big booms and things. I was up on that logging equipment, lettering it and painting it and also doing signage.

And someone said, they're starting a billboard company in town should really go and look into it. And so I did, and I talked to somebody at the company and they came back and offered me a job. And it was when. billboard company was just starting up. So there was only three of us painting billboards at the time.

And the company gradually grew into being huge. And about that time, I'd been there about 10 years and the computers were coming in and starting to do the billboards. And so I left them and I came home and I started painting. But in doing. Billboards. That was what got me into doing color up until that point, I'd been doing black and white pencil drawings, ink.

I had never done color. And so it forced you and basically forced into you. Okay. You're not going to just let her this giant billboard, you're going to start painting the pictures on it. So we would go up in Boone's scissor lifts. It seemed doors in a big, huge building. And we would go up and get on a scissors lift and just go up and down while we painted the billboard on a scissor lift.


were you in charge of designing the billboards as well? Or did someone else

do that?


And then you got up there with a little picture in your hand, which is just a photograph size. And you painted that into say a person being 14 feet high. Instead of on your little photograph was very, I really enjoyed Manning that large. It took me a while to not paint quite that big anymore. Impacto doing my own things.

I was still painting fairly large.


[00:06:46] Shari: Yes, because we had to mix and match our colors. We had a huge Tons of paint enamel. We used enamel and there was tons of that everywhere. And you just grab it and start mixing.

I was really good at matching color. I could just, sometimes I could just pour a couple of colors together and mix it up and it was exactly what I needed, which was really fun to do. It's Hey, I got it. This time. I would have to sit there and fiddle with it anymore. I got it. The first try,

where you doing color when you were painting the logging stuff.

Yes, we would have to match color. Sometimes the logging equipment even had on the doors, the drivers would want a scene painted. They wanted it to be seen it in once in a while. Yeah. We'd have to make color and paint scenes.


[00:07:41] Shari: no, I was with the company doing the logging equipment.

It was assigned company. That was just one of the. Deals that they worked on. I also plastered but wiser big trucks with all the Budweiser images on the side, but you plaster that with a vinyl printed vinyl and you put it on and it sticks on and you have to, it's a long process to stick one of those all the way around a truck and get.

Match your pieces of the end. Anyway, that was another thing I was doing. And that was great.


[00:08:20] Shari: Oh, we, I had a portfolio. That I would bring to the companies and show my work.

So they knew that I could do things. And I was also doing a lot of computer work in design. At one point I was using Photoshop a lot. But my over the years I've gotten away from that to do the process I do here out in my studio. I don't need all that. Computer imaging work. It comes up once in awhile and then I ha I have a problem how to get around it.

Cause sometimes I'll take a photo and I'll separate the photo and put it on another photographs and make my image. And that's how I'll come up with an entire painting. So say I have a photograph of a bowl, And I want to put it in the desert and I have a photograph of the desert. I would combine them and fiddle around and make it just how I wanted it.

And then when I paint here, out in the studio, I usually project my image on the canvas and then I paint.


[00:09:23] Shari: Yes. And that's another thing. For about four years, I would go to the local rodeo and take photos. But as the years went on, it got harder and harder to do because the rodeo would happen around July 4th.

And it's really usually hot about that. The stands don't have any cover. So I would go there before the rodeo started. I would spend five or six hours there in the heat. And the last time I did it, I three days later I wound up with heat stroke and I wound up in the hospital getting into.


[00:10:01] Shari: Oh I can't really do that anymore. There's just not enough shade. Even if I take the umbrella, it's just too hot. So my rodeo days are over, but what I've been doing is checking out the local rodeos all over Oregon and seeing which ones might be a little more convenient for me to go to.

And people telling me to go to the Pendleton rodeo. I don't know if you've ever heard of that one. It's the biggest one here in Oregon. And I've been told over and over. I need to go there, but it's probably a three and a half hour drive from here. And it's so big that if you don't, if I don't like start getting a hotel room now, like I couldn't do it in a day.

I'm there. So it's, that's a big deal for me and I have a service dog and I don't know if I could get him into the rodeo itself. I assume I could, he goes everywhere with me. But that's another thing I have to work into going to rodeos and being able to shoot them. It allows you to talk, refer to, which is also bad.

I'll shoot a thousand photos and get 20, October 20 good ones.


[00:11:19] Shari: Usually they know the weird thing is sometimes when I paint an image, sometimes I can tell it's not working and no matter what I do, it's not going to work.

And I have. So generally I don't paint any image unless I know it's going to be a good image because there's been a few times I've had to just go. It's not going anywhere. It's not right for me. And when I do, sometimes when I do my background's at I'm at the point now, though, where I can just make up backgrounds, because I've had so many Southwest images in my brain.

It just comes to me. My daughter who lives in Santa Fe, she sometimes takes photos of the desert out there for me and sends them. Now I'm just faking a lot of the background.


[00:12:20] Shari: Yeah. There were a couple of times when I was doing billboards, I was asked to do murals. I've done a couple of murals over the years. If I was a lot younger, I'd like to keep doing that, but now I can't do that. I physically couldn't do it. It's hard work. And plus painting that big eats brushes.

I'm not kidding. If you're a muralist, you probably know brushes, just get eaten, trying to do that, especially on the surfaces. Sometimes you wind up doing and I've done a lot of other things I've painted. Furniture. I have a lot of peanuts furniture in my house. So the thing I enjoy about doing that is like making a painting on my furniture of say a spoon and a fork, painting it on there.

And when people come and sit down and for dinner, they'll try to pick them up

because I do photo realistic painting when I do that. And that's the fun part. Perfect pronounces. I've done trompe l'oeil, which is French for fool BI, which means that what you're painting is everything is exact and people should be able to walk up to it and think that they can pull off something, a new painting.

And so I've done that before.


[00:13:39] Shari: Yeah. So it flowed down into the horses because we had them around the house. I knew what the tack was like. So I just knew I knew everything about them. So that became easy for me to do. And more fun.


[00:14:02] Shari: Ooh, it's been about, I've probably been doing it about seven, eight years. Yeah. Probably, maybe even longer than that, right? Yeah. My memory of how far back I go on things is not very good.


[00:14:27] Shari: Everything I do is for fun. All of it's been fun. There's no goals. Don't do commission. I don't like pressure. And I think that comes from doing the billboards. There was a lot of pressure to get a giant billboard done in a couple of days. You didn't have time to slow down when he did them. You had to just go as fast as he could.

So I comes back at me where I don't like any kind of pressure. So I just like doing what I'm doing.


[00:14:59] Shari: right? I have an Instagram site.

I have a website, although both of my kids are very into computers and yeah they helped me out when I need things done over the internet. I think my daughter was hoping getting some of my. I'm just, I'm not good at the computer anymore. I used to be and I can't do it now.


And one of the things we wanted to talk about for the podcast is that you did start the Western art a little later in life, and you just had your first exhibit, right?


Actually have a couple of galleries downstairs, but the main ones upstairs. And I sent them a request asking what would it take for me to put up a couple of paintings down in your galleries? And the director immediately got back to me and said, oh no, you got to do a show for us. You've got to do the show where we're going to give you the whole upstairs, which was 55 feet of wall.

And when I showed up with all my paintings, the director mouth dropped open because he couldn't leave many. I brought, there were 31 paintings and we had paying a lot of them because otherwise it wouldn't have all gone up. You had to do what he had to double hang them. We had to hang above the other in the gallery because it just wasn't enough.

Oh, and it was a big, it was a big deal. The director said that they hadn't had that quality ever at their place of work. So it was good for them. I didn't expect to sell anything. And I didn't because it was such a small town and there aren't, it's not really a Western town, so I just enjoyed showing my paintings to everybody.

Let them see. Yeah, but I knew it'd be an opportunity to sell.


[00:17:16] Shari: 71


Do you have goals to get into more exhibits now? Is that something that hugs a bit you?


My daughter living in Santa Fe does not have the room and you can't put holes in the stucco walls in Santa Fe because they're hard as rocks. So she can't fit any in my son right now can't fit any in and I'm thinking I've got to get rid of some of this stuff. It's just piling up. And yes, I have been trying to figure out where I could get into a gallery somewhere, get some of my work outta here.

But otherwise I don't know what's going to happen to it on download.


sounds like you started out just

doing it for yourself and for your family. And now you're ready to start branching out into more of the career world.


I have sent inquiries out to other galleries, but most of the galleries that came back to me were either co-op or they only wanted local artists.


[00:18:46] Shari: Both. Both am the arts center that's in.

In the town next door. I joined their art center and I can play endings up a few every month if I want. And so I'll probably start doing that. And I'm still running around. I have some galleries over on the coast, although the coast is mostly ocean paintings.




[00:19:31] Megan: Yeah.

Yeah. And have on our membership pages, we have a call for art calendar that has some of the bigger shows and calls for art on it. Finding local things, sometimes just doing Google searches and, talking to other artist or seeing where they're exhibiting, you learn about a lot of things, but I think it makes it harder when you're so rural and you're so far away from things, cause everything is going.



They put it on every year. It's a big deal. They get art from all over. They wanted me to put in a piece, but so just ended right when these pieces had to be put in for this year show. And I was too worn out from all this stuff I was doing. I couldn't get that act together. I can do it again next year and I'm planning on doing it.

I just had too many things happening right then.


Some point I have, there is a show that I've w I've only applied for it once, and I wanted to apply for it multiple years and I can never get hold of anyone in charge about when they put out their call for art and I've signed up for their newsletter. I've made phone calls and inevitably, I finally get a thing saying.

We've got our show together, and I'm like, what in the world? So sometimes it can be a little hard to find them. And that's again, like with our call for art calendar and stuff like that, we're hoping to be able to help artists get ahead of that game. So you can look out a year in advance or you could look at their previous year and see, oh, this is when that was due.

So I should look here, whatever.


And one year I did get a runner up on that, so I almost got in and in fact, the painting behind me is when it was the runner up. Oh, wow. Of course. I don't know if you can see it.

Hey, yeah, it's beautiful. Yeah.

So that was the one that got runner up in Southwest art magazine.


[00:22:07] Shari: The techniques that I picked up at painting billboards, I've brought over to painting here in the small. Sizes. A lot of the blending that I learned to do with billboards, I do now with my work here. So I have a lot of trouble putting thick paint on a canvas. It just doesn't happen with me. It's all blended, really smooth paint. I have to blend everything. It just stuck with me from doing the billboards, all the blending we used to do.

And so I have a technique for blending. That's spilled over from my work days and mixing color. We used to mix color and match color to an image. And so lots of times I'll mix a color and hold it up to my iPad for my image will be, and I'll match the color exactly. If I want to do it that way, I can do it that way.


What it, what do you think it is that keeps you painting? Cause a lot of people, their whole goal is to sell. And it sounds like for a while, that hasn't really been your goal until recently. So what is it that draws you into painting?


As I've gotten older though, I'm starting to get, little aches and pains and it's harder to stay out here that. So sometimes they'll come out and only paint a few hours. But what keeps me going is, when you start painting in your right brain clicks in and you don't notice anything, so I'm out here painting, and I don't notice any pain and that's a good thing.

So as long as I'm painting, I'm, kind of pain-free at my age, you get these aches and pains and, A lot harder to get around and things. And yeah, painting helps that a lot. And so that's what keeps me going on here. Just it's a relief, to come out and do something and it's fun.

I enjoy it. I enjoy it a lot. And it's a challenge. I challenged myself. I try to make some of my paintings hard to do. Yeah. Just certain things. Just the harder it is, the more challenge it is for me.


[00:24:29] Shari: Of course tack the sheen on silver.

. If there's a lot of detail work on the saddles. If the Cowboys have chaps on and the chaps are all fan. That's just fun to do boots with spurs, anything like that, just, complicated as hard as you can make it very difficult to paint. Not I'm enjoying it. It's strange, but that's how it is.


[00:25:03] Shari: correct? That I N I don't know why I just enjoy doing that. That's not pressure. And nobody's demanding that they want this painting done pressure of it.

It's just no time limit for me.


[00:25:22] Shari: No, I don't think so. I'm just going to be sitting down here, painting, and I'm going to just try really hard to get out there and get my stuff's going.

I have no more room in my house. My studio's jammed. It's things have got to start moving.


But it definitely can be a lot of nos before you get two yeses.


[00:26:16] Megan: Yeah. It depends on the gallery. One thing I would recommend though is having it, it sounds like maybe your daughter or your son could help you, but having a website because I think without having a website, a lot of times the initial reaction is that this person's not professional.

And so making sure that you have a website with your images and, in your emails or whatever that you have. Linked. So people can go directly and look at your portfolio. If they're curious.


[00:26:50] Megan: And there are website builders, like Squarespace and we, Billy and all these different options that are pretty. Pretty easy that you can get them up and running.


[00:27:06] Megan: Yeah. You're switching gears, when you're just doing it for yourself, you don't need to do all of that when you're just doing it because you enjoy it. And you're not, you don't have a goal of getting your work out there, but your work is very beautiful and, giving people different ways to see it.

And then also adding that level of professionalism , since you are moving in that direction, it's time to do those things.


[00:27:31] Megan: . It's definitely a process, but , if you do a little bit every day, you get the hang of it pretty quick.


[00:27:38] Megan: Shari, it was so good to talk to you. Thank you for sharing your experience with all of us.


[00:27:47] Megan: That's awesome. That's really



[00:27:57] Megan: It was fun. I'll talk to you later.

Okay. Bye. Bye.

I hope you enjoyed this episode with Shari wholes. Don't forget to follow us on Instagram at Calgary artists of America. Until next time, happy creating.

Show artwork for Cowgirl Artists of America

About the Podcast

Cowgirl Artists of America
To be a successful working artist you have to do more than create art. Join Cowgirl Artists of America to discuss all things art business. If you're an artist who wants to learn about planning, marketing, social media, and more you've come to the right place.

About your host

Profile picture for Megan Wimberley

Megan Wimberley