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 years, 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 my dad holding a large desert tortoise for me to see.
We often went to Disneyland and I was fascinated by the ‘disney-esque’ paintings that brought the park to life. These fun trips fueled the growing artist in me and influenced my painting style.
When I was 6 years old my dad and I moved back 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 married and had a family, where I enjoyed motherhood and decorating our big, old country home. I took oil painting classes from a well-known local artist for several years and creating still-life paintings that hang in New England Colonial homes today.
I also learned graphic arts skills from my dad, Ernie Shute, who was a sign painter. I apprenticed under him for a few years, and when he moved back to California, I interned at a few other sign companies practice my skills.
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 ‘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 my 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 large retailers.
The Western Trails Fine Art Collection begins…
In 1997 I grew restless of living in the East, and traveled back to my roots in Southern California. There, I settled into Orange County, where I began working in the recruiting field.
In 2001 I felt the call of my inner artist again, I began painting the Western Trails collection, starting with Poppy Oasis. I also completed my Marketing degree and a certificate at the Interior Design Institute of Newport Beach.
I was always at home in the coastal and desert landscapes and took many hikes, mountain bikes with family and friends.
Being a nature lover, I also began to include environmental messages to describe my art.
I continued adding several more paintings to my collection, while I began dreaming of living a life with more freedom.
The 5 Year Road Trip!
In 2010, I took a few years to test out living and working from the road. I did serial renting back East and in Mexico. While I loved the travel, I wanted a home base to work and live from.
In 2012, after soul searching and checking out travel-living options, I bought a 32-foot Winnebago motorhome. This allowed me to live and work in a “home-on-wheels” as while traveling around the U.S. I enjoyed this lifestyle for over 5 years and it was one of the greatest adventures of my life!!
During those years, I also added paintings to my Western Trails Fine Art Collection. Each oil-on-canvas takes about 100 hours to complete, and is a labor of love.
What’s up today?
In 2019 I began a new chapter in my life, when I came across the quaint surf-town of New Smyrna Beach, located on the East Coast of Florida. I fell in love with the town, sold my RV, and and bought a home here.
NSB is a great place to live, with family, friends down the road. I love the artsy community, the festivals, ocean breezes, and nearby natural springs that all provide inspiration to me!
I work from home and am envisioning a new series of paintings. I have one seaside painting so far, and will see what inspires me next!
Stay tuned, and thanks for checking out my website. I hope it inspires you on your own adventures!
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. Thanks, Heather for the collaboration and passion for all things ‘nature.’
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. I value her as a mentor, friend, thought partner, and supporter of my creative pursuits.
Affiliations & Volunteerism
- Member- Save Our Manatees of Volusia County
- Member- ASPCA and Pet Foundation
- 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, organic cooking and family road trips.
- 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.