One to Watch

Sheila Chapman’s paintings ponder the future of man and nature

Sheila Chapman’s paintings explore the connection between people and nature in an increasingly modern world. Inspired by everyday experiences and children like her own, Sheila paints figures in lush, dreamlike settings. Spontaneity is crucial to her compositions, both in practice and in theory. She often uses fluid acrylic paint, first allowing it to freely run and pool over the work’s surface. The final surreal environments allude to an uncertainty about what the future may hold and how the next generation will interact with our natural surroundings.

Sheila studied physics and worked as a patent attorney before dedicating herself to her artistic practice. She received a BA in Combined Studies (Art & Design) at Edinburgh College of Art. Sheila has been shortlisted for the UK-wide 2016 National Open Art Competition and has exhibited her works in Scotland, most recently at Bonhams, the Edinburgh College of Art 2016 Degree Show, Visual Arts Scotland, and the Royal Scottish Academy.

What are the major themes you pursue in your work?

Painting, for me, is a way of distilling experience and thinking about life. I make paintings of children, usually in the landscape and/or being active. My images are based on everyday experiences, but in the process of painting, they often change to become more otherworldly or dreamlike as I concentrate on the figures and what they may be thinking. Sometimes an eerie light or slightly surreal environment emerges, reflecting an uncertainty about what the future may be like for them. I wonder how important the natural environment will become in my children’s future lives, and the lives of their children, and what it may ultimately mean to them.

What was the best advice given to you as an artist?

  1. Make art about your life – paint what you know;
  2. Adopt a “spirit of adventure” in making your work;
  3. Enjoy painting- it will show in your work.

Prefer to work with music or in silence?

I often do listen to music in my studio, mostly the radio, or new country music – I’m a big fan of Casey Musgroves and Maren Morris at the moment, but often listen to Trisha Yearwood or the Dixie Chicks. If I’m working on a tricky area, though, I may turn off the music to concentrate in silence on the detail.

If you could only have one piece of art in your life what would it be?

My grandmother painted a beautiful watercolor of red poppies in a vase when she was young – it’s currently hanging in my aunt’s house, but maybe I will inherit it one day!

Who are your favorite writers?

My all time favorite is Margaret Atwood, especially the books set in dystopian futures: I’ve read the whole Oryx and Craik trilogy and loved it. I also like the British fiction writers Kate Atkinson and Maggie O’Farrell.

About the Author

Jessica McQueen is Associate Curator at Saatchi Art. Need help finding art? Contact her via our free Art Advisory service at