This is my story
I grew up in Edison, N.J., in the ’50s & ’60s. My mother did a little bit of everything for income, from being the 1st woman school bus driver in N.J. to selling real estate. My dad Kip Sheppard was a freelance commercial artist working in his studio out of our home. During that time, kids were seen and not heard. Dad never showed me how to draw, paint or sketch. I would look over his shoulder to see what he was working on, but never did he explained his technique as to what he was doing or anything else like perspective or concepts.
My dad attended the Art Students League of New York. This is where he met Max Fleisher, also a League student. Max was the creator of the cartoon character “Betty Boop.” This was my dad’s first job as an artist, where he joined other artists in the drawing and animation of Betty Boop. Fleischer devised an improvement in animation through a combined projector and easel for tracing images from a live-action film. This device, known as the rotoscope,[
How I started painting
I’m often asked how I started painting. I wanted to discover if I had any artistic talent, so in 1990 at age 45, I enrolled in an adult evening art class at a local N.J. high school. I first chose to work with watercolor, thinking it would be the easiest to work in; I mean, how hard can it be? Just mix some pigment with water, right? However, I soon discovered it was the most challenging medium to work in.
My first mentor was a friend, Gordon Haas, a professional artist, who authored “No, I’m not staving.” I showed Gordon my first watercolor, and he encouraged me to continue painting. I asked Gordon, “What do I do next?” He replied, “The next time you want to paint something, bring me the reference, and I will show me how to lay it out.”
My second painting
I brought him “Christmas Eve” by Thomas McKnight, which I found on the back of Reader’s Digest. Gordon asked, do you want to put this into perspective, I replied, what’s perspective? That is how little I knew about drawing or painting. He then took me under his wing and gave me instruction when I needed it, which was most of the time.
McShep is how I sign my art. I was so inspired by McKnight’s use of color and light that I decided to pay homage to him by taking the “Mc” from McKnight and inserting it in front of my old U.S. Army nickname of “Shep.” To this day, I sign my art “McShep.”
What started off as curiosity turned into a hobby, and I’m grateful to have it. I’ve painted a little more than 80 watercolor pieces of art in the years from 1990 to 2004.
Sedona, here I come
I retired and moved to Sedona in ’04 to sell my art, and didn’t. To remain in Sedona, I decided to find a job and paint in my spare time. Unfortunately, I lost all interest in painting and gave it up for five years, from 2010 to 2015.
What started me painting again
In 2015 I did a psychic reading in person at the center for New Age here in Sedona with James Milanesa, TV’s Psychic Medium. During that reading, James told me three different times that I needed to start painting again. The first two times James said this, I just blew it off. When he said it the 3rd time, I said, James, why are you so insistent on telling me this? That’s when he told me he had a vision of my spirit guide, a Navajo Indian standing behind me shaking his head yes when he told me to start painting again.
Finding a Studio
At the time, I was the membership chairman of the Sedona Visual Artist Coalition. So, I emailed the membership list looking for a studio to paint in again. Twenty minutes later, I got a reply with an offer for a small space (about the size of a small walk-in closet,) and it had a window; yay! So, the first oil painting I did there was “Sailing Sedona’s Sky,” then “Creekside Cathedral.”
In 2016 I licensed the 1st oil painting I did, “Creekside Cathedral,” to Warner Bros. for their media series “Snatchers.” Then in January 2019, twelve original artworks were selected from Sedona Art Studios for the “American Contemporary Art Show” in Guangzhou, China; this body of work was a sold-out exhibition to private collectors.
A new beginning
Then later, in 2019, what got me going again was an acrylic workshop at the Sedona Art Center taught by Claudia Hartley, and I learned a new technique I’ve coined, Vivid Mystical Landscapes. My latest work has expansive feelings of space and freedom and distinctively unique abstract patterned skies. Anyone who witnesses my art recognizes that it is mine. I now paint exclusively in acrylics.
Sheppard’s work can be found in Sedona at the Village Gallery, Uptown Sedona, and the Sedona Artist Market Gallery. In addition, his Sedona art is held in private and public collections internationally, including the licensing of his painting “Creekside Cathedral” to Warner Bros. for their media series “Snatchers.” In 2019, twelve original artworks were selected from Sedona Art Studios for the “American Contemporary Art Show” in Guangzhou, China; this body of work was a sold-out exhibition to private collectors.
Former President George W. Bush acquired Sheppard’s award-winning “Patriotic Longhorns.” for his private collection. His original watercolor of “Goulding’s Stagecoach” hangs in the “Stagecoach” restaurant at Gouldings Lodge in Monument Valley, UT. His art has been featured in Southwest Art Magazine, Cowboys & Indians, American Cowboy, Texas Monthly, and True West magazines.
It’s amazing how life unfolds when you don’t have an attachment to the outcome of anything. I’m grateful that I decided to hang in there with my art. Because the truth is once you realize that you will not be around forever, it is then that you choose to live life to the fullest… or not; the choice is yours.