NAHS: Just Do It!

Posted by on Dec 7, 2016 in Inspirations and Designing | 2 Comments


This blog entry is dedicated to the 2016 inductees, officers and returning members of the Altoona Area High School Chapter of the National Art Honor Society. Congratulations to all of you! Thank you for inviting me to share some of my art with you tonight.

Recently I had the honor of having an art quilt included in the exhibit, “Connected by Stitch”, at Penn College in Williamsport, PA. The juried show was sponsored by the Studio Art Quilt Associates (an international, non-profit organization whose mission is to promote art quilt through education, professional development and publications.)

Each of the 40+ artists present were asked to give a 1 minute gallery talk for the opening reception. (Kind of like an elevator pitch!)



Here I am with my art quilt, “War Horse.” So what is an art quilt? It is an artwork that uses or references the techniques of traditional quilting such as layering fabrics (or other materials); stitching by hand or machine (although not necessarily with thread); designing and creating your own fabrics.

Art quilts are just one aspect of my art. Although most of my work starts on a white piece of fabric, it may just as easily end up laminated to a canvas and developed further with acrylic paints and collage. This is why I call myself a Mixed Media Fiber artist.


After the reception for the exhibition, the artists had the opportunity to gather for a dinner at the impressive culinary school restaurant at Penn College. During the dinner conversation it became apparent that most of the artists present were in non-art related professions or were retired from non-art careers. That fact though had not deterred any of them though from pursuing art throughout their lives.


We represented many different backgrounds and life paths, yet were perfect examples of the fact that you do not have to have art as a profession in order to be a professional artist. This is one of the most important messages I can give to you this evening, art can always be part of your life: all you have to do is stay with it. Like the Nike slogan: “Just do it!” Keep a sketchbook or art journal; find your art form; don’t be too critical of your work; keep trying, keep learning, keep growing with your art. Enjoy the process of art!

blog-studio-set-up    (My studio aka basement)

Growing up, I was lucky to have had supportive parents who encouraged me to pursue my art, except perhaps when it showed up scribbled on walls and on other objects. (Sorry Mom about your reproductions!) My Dad drove me to and from art classes every Saturday morning for 5 years. (Thanks Dad for realizing how important art was to me.)


(Above: silkscreen designs on fabric)

As a young adult, I earned several degrees in art and held various art related jobs: advertising for a small company; retail visual merchandising; developing art educational programming for an art museum. During that time I did a wide variety of art from drawing and painting to printmaking and surface design on fabric. In my thirties though, I found my life’s work as an art teacher at the Altoona Area High School.


(Above: Silkscreen designing on fabric)

As a middle-aged working mom, though, I once confessed to my life-long friend, Diane that I was going to have to “quit making art because I just couldn’t find the time anymore.” (Just because I was an art teacher, did not mean that I always had personal time to make my own art.) Diane looked right at me and said that she would be very disappointed in me if I did that. I vowed at that point to make at least 1 artwork a year.  Some years that was all I could handle, but many more years I found myself making many more than one artwork. My daughter, Colleen, was the inspiration for one artwork a year until she graduated from high school.

It didn’t matter what type of art I made and they may not always have been the greatest artworks, but making them was an important therapy for me.  It refreshed my spirit!

Blog-Beagle-Man  (“Beagle Man” Silkscreen and photo transfer on fabric)

Most importantly, I have to credit my husband, John, for being my greatest supporter and fan. It will be important for you to find a life partner who will be willing to step over the art supplies and projects!

I always have tried to continue my own education in art, and do so today. Because I did not always have time to take classes, I read books and watched DVD’s on various art styles, media and techniques that interested me or I thought would be interesting for my students. Below is just one pile of these!


I also belong our local art club – Art in Common and participate in the Blair County Arts Festival. Both of these are great local opportunities to exhibit your artwork.  The artwork below won first place in the 2016 Juried Art Exhibit of the Arts Festival.

web-calla-constellation  (“Calla Constellation”)

As my daughter grew up and I found I had more time for myself, I began to expand my art network to include membership in the Fiberarts Guild of Pittsburgh. This allowed me to have additional venues to exhibit my work.

Gargoyles-Gone-Wild-for-web  (Left: “Gargoyles Gone Wild”)

Along the way, I also wrote several art education themed articles for SchoolArts magazine that featured my students artworks.


You might find that there are community service projects that would love to have your art contributions. Below is a painting I recently created for the Blair County Humane Society, as part of a community service project with Art In Common.


In the past 10 years, I pushed myself out of my comfort zone and began to enter contests advertised in art publications such as, The Artists’ Magazine, and from online exhibition services such as Juried Art Services or caFE’. After numerous rejections, I began to be accepted into regional and national shows and have work published. The key to pursuing contests and juried art shows is to not take it personally! Each judge or editor has a different aesthetic.

turtles-small-file  (“Full Moon Turtle Waltz” Published in Incite 3)


I also networked with a web architect who helped me to open this website. It began as a digital portfolio and now has a blog and various types of other information and links. (I haven’t posted anything yet on U-Tube.)

Selling my art in various formats is my newest venture. I began selling a small line of scarves based on some of my artworks through a company called VIDA. With VIDA I receive a small royalty on each scarf sold. Also if I decide to pursue this venue more full time, it can lead to my product merchandised by VIDA on HSN. Below is one of my artworks and how it was translated into a scarf.



Since not everyone has space for a 30″ x 40″ artwork, I also recently began working with Fine Art America prints. This provides another venue for customers to purchase prints of my work in a variety of sizes and prices.

What’s next? I wrote an article about my inspiration for the “War Horse” quilt pictured below. Hint: it is nicknamed my retirement quilt! It will be in the February/March edition of Quilting Arts magazine.


The artwork below, “Hibiscus Sunspots”, was selected to be made into a limited edition of fabric by Andover Mills. (Again a contest!) Also a fundraising project for SAQA.


I hope that my journey with art has given you some ideas on ways that you can keep art in your life.

In the words of author Kurt Vonnegut, “To practice any art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow. So do it.”



  1. Diane Brandt
    December 8, 2016

    Sharon – My Life Long Friend
    This was heart warming ! You are so talented and I am proud of you and all your beautiful artwork.. Promise me you will continue as long as the spirit moves you – that will be forever my friend.

    • Sharon Wall
      December 8, 2016

      Heartfelt thanks for being there!


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