I feel as though I was born an artist…seeing the world in vivid color, and through a surreal perspective. And being an optimist, I view life as a blank canvas that’s ready for me to paint in whatever way my adventurous nature inspires me.
It’s been my passion to create the Western Trails Fine Art Collection. I’ll bring you on an artistic journey, celebrating the explorer in all of us – while sharing the beauty of nature and encouraging its preservation for future generations.
My Artistic Roots
I come from a family of painters, with my dad a landscape artist and my grandfather a portrait artist. The first scent I remember is a mix of turpentine and oil paints, a smell that still feels like ‘home.’ From a young age I watched my dad paint, often painting alongside him.
My interest in the West began in my earlier childhood, when I lived in Southern California. From the time I could walk, my family brought me out to hike in the deserts, where we looked for spring wildflowers and cactus blooms. One of my first memories was of my dad holding a large desert tortoise for me to see, and even at such a young age I wanted to capture those moments.
We also went to Disneyland periodically, and I was fascinated by the ‘disney-esque’ paintings decorating the park. These fun trips fueled the growing artist in me and further influenced my painting style.
When I was 6 years old my dad moved us to New England, where he remarried. Our expanded family was always involved in creative projects, writing, music, travel, and nature trips as I grew up.
As a young adult I had my own family, and enjoyed time decorating our big, old country home with them. I also took painting classes from a well-known local artist for several years, where I refined my style. I created several still-life paintings that hang in New England Colonial homes today.
I also learned graphic arts from my dad, Ernie Shute, who was also a sign painter. I apprenticed under him for a few years, and when he moved back to California, I worked for a few other sign companies to advance my knowledge.
Eventually I started a custom sign company called Sunset Signs. As the business grew I recruited my brother, Steve in as a partner. Together we literally painted the towns with our custom signs — using techniques like carving, sandblasting, and gold leafing. I also wrote a few articles for a national trade publication called Sign Business, and was featured on the cover.
After the unexpected death of our dad, I closed the sign shop and began selling signs for a large company in New Hampshire. Eventually I left the sign industry and co-founded a merchandising display business, where my partner and I designed and sold displays for national companies like Staples and Duracell.
Starting the Western Trails Fine Art Collection
In 1997 I grew restless of living in the East, and traveled back to my roots in Southern California. There, my husband Rich and I settled into Orange County. With an abundance of business options in the ‘OC’ I decided to round out my management skills, and began working in the recruiting field.
In 2001 I began painting the Western Trails collection as a hobby, starting with Poppy Oasis. I completed my Business Marketing degree, and earned a certificate at the Interior Design Institute in Newport Beach CA.
Over the years Rich and I took many hikes, biking, and other adventures in the West. Among them were outings to Catalina Island, located off the coast of Los Angeles. There we visited my daughter Heather, who headed up Programs at the Catalina Environmental Leadership Program (CELP) at the time. I was impressed by the CELP model for teaching and living sustainably, which resonated with my own values.
Since I’d begun to expand my own appreciation for healthy and eco-living, I began to include messages of environmental stewardship into my paintings, with Heather’s assistance.
I continued adding several more paintings to my collection, while dreaming of living a life with more freedom, which would allow us to travel, visit family on the East Coast, and enjoy more of the outdoors.
What’s Up Today?
In 2010, Rich and I took a few years to test out living on the road, by serial renting back East and in Mexico. While we loved the traveling, we still worked, and we realized we wanted a home base to work and live from.
After soul searching and investigating options, in 2012 we bought a 32-foot Winnebago motorhome. Since then we’ve lived and worked in our home-on-wheels as we’ve traveled around the U.S. Rich and I had great fun customizing and decorating our new home — and this lifestyle suits us well.
I work part time as a virtual recruiter in the healthcare field. I also write articles for a few websites we own, including TrekWithUs.com.
Meanwhile I continue adding to the Western Trails Fine Art Collection — one painting at a time. Each oil-on-canvas takes about 100 hours to complete, and is a true labor of love. I also enjoy blogging, and sharing stories about my journeys, and why the subjects in my paintings caught my eye.
Thanks for checking out my website, and I hope it inspires you on your own adventures!
My husband, Rich Kent is my soul mate and fellow trekker. He’s also a web designer, marketer, and a co-writer on our blog, TrekWithUs. Rich took most of the photos on this site, which are often the subjects of my inspiration to paint. He’s also one of my biggest fans, and he customized this website for me. I’m grateful for the countless ways that Rich supports my creative spirit and our mobile lifestyle.
My daughter, Heather Rice is a dedicated sustainability educator, leader, writer, and world traveler. She serves as an environmental consultant to me, providing background information about the habitats and native species I paint. She also writes the descriptions for the Western Trails collection, which enhances my message for environmental stewardship. I truly appreciate Heather’s invaluable support and collaboration.
Nahid Casazza, owner of Aspyrre Professional Coaching. Nahid is a unique life, career, and business coach who believes ‘that it is a great gift to have the freedom to live life on your own terms’. She’s been my coach for years, supporting me as I slowly transitioned out of a corporate role – and into the life I love today. I assist Nahid in her operations and I value her as a mentor, friend, thought partner, and supporter of my art and creativity.
Affiliations & Volunteerism
- Member- Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ocean Futures Society/Ambassadors of the Environment
- Member- ASPCA: The Association for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
- To the late Georgia O’Keefe – famous artist, pioneering woman, and ‘mother of American Modernism’.
- To my daughter Jennifer Rice Collins – who shares my love of interior design, painting, organic cooking and family road trips. Her dedication to family helps keep us close across wherever we are.
- To my brother Steve Shute – a true ‘Cowboy’, sustainable farmer, entrepreneur, and fellow Disney fan. Steve always remains a source of creative inspiration to me.
- To my dad, the late Ernie Shute – was an artist, writer, poet, philosopher, and traveler. His love and legacy continues to be a guiding force for my life today.