Artist Profile: Sheila Blake


You think it is just a house. An ordinary house with trees. Bushes. Clouds. But wait. There is an undeniable vibration. A quivering. For Sheila Blake, “strangeness permeates the reality.” This is a “different kind of consciousness.” A consciousness that emanates from the flat surface. From the paint itself.

Sheila walks in her Tacoma Park neighborhood and the sights become visions that consort with her memories of growing up—of being alive. Houses change and shake off the ordinary. They grow and turn colors and take different shapes.

Angel. 54” x 40”, Oil on Linen I used to drive by this house and it’s at a really busy intersection; it was terrific but I couldn’t figure where I could stand to draw it and one day at the stop light I took a picture from my car window. It was enough to go on. I changed the proportions of the house and put a truck in the driveway and while I was working on it they cut down the tree, painted the house a gentrified blue and sold it. The angel from its past is hovering behind.

She begins with charcoal drawings, then pastels, and then goes back to the studio for the big paintings and “endless revisions.”  “For years until each painting is a visual poem.  It’s a mysterious process that can unfold over time.”

Take “Bolinas.” It moves. Glowing clouds dance with the grand trees while the golden bush in front does the rumba. The demure house peeks over the fence. “Angel” stretches to new heights behind a truncated tree to look with apprehension at the planted signs…especially the red one. With “Peggy in the Clouds,” the red-trimmed house sits quietly while life explodes around it and spirits reach for the heavens.

Sheila attended Cooper Union Art School in New York and taught art at Duke. She taught painting and drawing at the Corcoran College of Art and Design, where she “developed a curriculum that weaves color theory and composition into the practice of painting.”

Bolinas. 40” x 50”, Oil on Linen. It’s based on an old photo and memories have of living there in Northern California with my husband, his brother and my two little kids.

Sheila Blake has a radio show: Art as Experience on WOWD LP FM. She and her radio partner talk about art and ideas arising from museum exhibits, movies, articles, books and life itself.

Sheila Blake believes in Art. “Give it as much as you can,” she says. And she does. See more of her work at:  She is featured in a one-woman show at the Foundry Gallery in May.

Alys Cornett , Ellen Cornett, carbon pencil and ink, 19×22

Jim Magner’s Thoughts on Art
Sheila Blake’s houses are painted with the precision of imagination. Insignificant matters are charged with meaning and are elevated to “strangeness,” a state of wonderment.

Each work is a creation of color value and composition and the whole range of traditional art elements  to achieve final denotation, the appearance of reality, but it has built-in connotations as well—all sorts of meanings and inferences.

That’s what real art is. There is an art to it. All of the 230 or so artists I have profiled for this column have put their hearts and souls, and skills and dedication, into their work. So do the thousands of other artists in the area.

Sheila Blake’s large neighborhood paintings can take years of exploring. They are not just homes full of people, but the very idea of a home. She sees all the living and non-living things that contribute to the neighborhood. And paints. It is a mysterious, magical process.

If she sells a wonderful painting like “Bolinas” or “Angel,” how much will she get for it? I don’t know but it will not be $69.4 million. That’s how much a “digital collage” by a guy who calls himself Beeple sold for at Christie’s. It is a “digital-only” artwork with a “non-fungible token (NFT) as a guarantee of its authenticity.”

It is proclaimed that we are beginning the next chapter in art history…digital art. Well, it may be something new in the billionaire game called the Art Market, but it has nothing to do with art—this is about AFTs. The CEO of Twitter released a one-line tweet with an NFT and it sold for $2.5 million. So much for art.

Sorry, Sheila and all of you genuine artists. Just create a digital simile of anything with an NFT and you can toss your paints away…along with your heart and soul.

At the Galleries

Ellen Cornet
Hill Center
At the Old Naval Hospital

“The Hill Center Spotlight Series” begins with Ellen Cornett. There is no better artist to begin anything with, especially this “Once Upon a Time” virtual exhibition. Wow. Ellen draws visual questions. They emerge from the familiar—fairy tales, old novels, poems… They are mystical and magical, with a story within a story within a story.

Ellen says, “I build unsettling scenes that gain energy from unresolved endings. In uncanny depictions of humans and animals, absurd possibilities lurk behind everyday moments. People and animals wear masks, discover supernatural powers, and interact in ways that may delight viewers or upend expectations.”

It is only online through April 30, so hurry, Ellen’s work sells out in a flash.

Katherine Blakeslee
Foundry Gallery
2008 – 8th St., N.W.
April 2 — 25

Katherine Blakeslee paints pensive, insightful watercolor landscapes and seascapes. They reflect a “lifelong fascination with the sea and that sometimes invisible, but ever magical line between sky and sea.” She grew up in Maryland and loves how water, land and sky interact, “sometimes playfully and sometimes not.” She lets the transparency and translucence of the watercolor medium capture the moods of the land and sea and explore the interaction of accident and intent.

Multiple Exposures Gallery
Torpedo Factory Art Center
105 N. Union St. #312
Alexandria, VA
Fri-Sun, 11-5
–May 15

This is a big all-member show. Each artist exhibits two signature pieces. All pieces are for sale.

On a personal note: I am launching a new historical fiction novel, The Dead Man on the Corner.  The date is May 2, at the Literary Hill Bookfest, which will be virtual this year. For more information:  See my ad  in this month’s publication.