Selective Focus: Shelley Breitzmann

Shelley Breitzmann is a landscape painter who like many artists in the area, draws inspiration from Lake Superior. From her website: “It’s hard to live near Lake Superior and not be fascinated with its weather and how it impacts the life around it. To try to get that feeling on canvas is pretty compelling.” Her paintings feel huge and vast, and while she works, she pushes and pulls things in and out of the misty, foggy atmosphere of the paintings.

SB: I’ve been working with acrylic on canvas for about 10 years, after working primarily with watercolor since high school. The change really resuscitated my connection with art and the painting process. Since acrylic dries fast, it’s probably not the best medium to achieve the soft, foggy landscapes I’m drawn to, but blending and manipulating it is a challenge I really enjoy. The change in humidity from summer to winter alters the painting process pretty drastically and is something to adjust to throughout the year.

Low Level Instability – Veils of Rain
Acrylic on Canvas
24 x 30
Lake Superior looking out from Duluth in the fog and rain with the rollers coming in. A good place to just stand back and breathe.

I typically lay the canvas out on the floor and work fast to get the under-painting down, using big, wide brush strokes and a lot of paint. Once it’s on the easel I can begin adding in the suggestion of details. Finding that point where the suggestion of a thing leads the viewer to see it, without actually painting it in, is half the draw for me. I love that part. It’s fascinating how the human brain “finishes” the suggestion laid down with paint. It can take weeks of adding/subtracting until I actually get the “essence” of a specific day there on the canvas.

When Dark was Dark
Acrylic on Canvas
24 x 30
I can remember being a kid outside at night in full darkness, just stars and moonlight. Not much of that left anymore.

The fact that I can paint with acrylic in a corner of my living room and have the pieces on the easel right out in the open where I can see them every day has turned out to be a real benefit, and it makes it easy to drop whatever I’m doing (goodbye laundry!) and pick up a brush. It’s also been important to live with each piece for a while before deciding they’re finished. Even though I seem to be constantly painting in my head, if not actually on the canvas, I try to paint every day. Finding the time can be the difficult part but is so worth it.

Acrylic on Canvas
24 x 24
We stood in the evening looking out from Little Sand Bay watching those ragged clouds far out there and talking about what all that water can do, the weather it creates on its own and how it can change the landscape in a heartbeat.

Living in the northern part of rural Wisconsin all my life, and witnessing the effects of Lake Superior on our weather up here, has had a definite impact on subject matter. The fog, the rain, the storms over the big lake are pretty compelling to try to capture on canvas. It still fascinates me, even after all this time.

Beyond Fences
Acrylic on Canvas
12 x 24
I have this love for old houses, always have, and appreciate the constant changes that go on as the abandoned ones are reclaimed by nature, back to the soil.

In the past, painting was one of those things I did only for myself, but sharing it with the public these last few years has been really fulfilling and I’m grateful for the generous support of our local art community and art collectors across the country. When a piece connects with someone, that’s really gratifying.

I’ve been fortunate enough to be included in regional and international shows, and currently have a piece in the Arrowhead Biennial Exhibition at the Duluth Art Institute (through April 2019).

My work is available through Waters of Superior and Lizzards’s Gallery and Framing, both in Duluth. My website and contact information are located at

Acrylic on Canvas
24 x 30
Notes: Heavy weather moving off from the harbor. That dark color the lake gets from cloud reflection and wind action is just incredible. Had to try to paint it.

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