January 2017 Newsletter

Hello friends -

I recently wrote an article for the amazing Luminary community on the importance of creativity in ALL of our lives. Especially during tumultuous times. 

Here's to creating amidst the chaos!


Creating Amidst the Chaos

 Nude in White by Sheila Dunn

Nude in White by Sheila Dunn

This is not the post I intended to write. The plan was to share lightheartedly & joyfully about the importance of creativity in our lives– to reference Martha Graham’s quote about the vitality and creative life force within each of us and how imperative it is that we honor it.

But the week I sat down to write this, life took an unexpected turn and I was left feeling gutted. Groundless. In despair. You know, that moment when the foundation below suddenly disappears and you are left suspended in space, not knowing how far you will fall or when. Yeah, that.


The Vitality of Creativity


The only thing I knew to do was turn on some music and pick up my paintbrush. And as the multi-hued mosaic of shapes began to take form on canvas, it hit me. THIS is why creativity is so vital. THIS is why I paint and dance and sing and write. THIS is why I haven’t totally lost my mind yet in this crazy-making world. Creative expression helps us to reconcile this tumultuous human experience: one that can shift from joy and lightness one minute to sadness and uncertainty the next. And when it is too soon for clarity or reconciliation – when the wound is still too new and exposed (as it feels in this moment as I type) – creative expression helps create space for future understanding and integration.

Creativity continually urges us to welcome the raw energy of the moment – the good, the bad, the ugly – into our psyches, our hearts, our spirits. It encourages us to lean into experience not only when it feels inviting, but also when it feels flat-out terrifying; those moments when it feels exceedingly tempting to run like hell in the other direction, to ignore, to numb.

I have painted plenty of pretty, pleasant-feeling portraits in my life. And I know they have brought many people pleasure and comfort. But the paintings that have emerged from those darker, groundless, holy-shit-I-don’t-know-how-to-proceed moments….those are inevitably the ones that resonate most deeply with others. Those are the ones that spark the most recognition, the most empathy, the strongest feelings of “Oh I recognize this fire, this crucible. I too have been there. I too faced this moment, trembling with fear of the unknown. And I too made it to the other side transformed; melded into something stronger and purer and truer.”


Leaning In


When I feel tempted to turn away, to avoid the discomfort of the moment by popping open a bottle of wine and binge-watching something mindless on Netflix, I gently remind myself to lean into the brilliant, blazing fire of this human experience. I remind myself that I need it. That others need it. That this beautiful, wounded world needs it. Then I read the timeless words from the Master of Leaning In, Rumi:


Dance, when you’re broken open.
Dance, if you’ve torn the bandage off.
Dance in the middle of the fighting.
Dance in your blood.
Dance, when you’re perfectly free.


And I find comfort in the fact a 13th century poet from Persia wrestled with the very same human struggles and triumphs as I do today. In the fact we were all born to create amidst the chaos, to dance in the middle of both our fighting and breaking of bondages, just as our ancestors did before us. That more will always be revealed and much, much more exists outside our limited view of the here and now.

So in the spirit of Rumi and our ancestors and all those who have walked this winding human path before us, let’s keep creating together. Let’s continue to lean in toward the flame of this beautiful, complicated, awe-inspiring thing called being human. And when we are tempted to shrink back or turn away or wilt, let’s instead move our pens across the page, our voices from our lungs and our freedom-and-blood-soaked paintbrushes across the canvas of this life.


With love Luminaries,


New Work

  Ernesto  Oil on canvas 36 x 36 inches  SOLD

Oil on canvas
36 x 36 inches

  A Matter of Time  Oil on canvas 48 x 48 inches  $2200    

A Matter of Time
Oil on canvas
48 x 48 inches


New Print

   Spirit Horse   Archival ink on fine art paper 8.5 x 11 inches $25  

Spirit Horse
Archival ink on fine art paper
8.5 x 11 inches

November 2016 Newsletter

Hello friends -

This summer Telefilm Inc. - a local production company working to highlight various artists in Central Oregon - approached me to create a short film about my work and the art scene in Bend.

And I'm excited to be working with a couple creative friends for two other upcoming video projects about my work. Stay tuned!

New Work

  A Matter of Time  Oil on canvas 48 x 48 inches  $2200

A Matter of Time
Oil on canvas
48 x 48 inches

New Commission

June 2016 Newsletter

 I Leave You Here

I Leave You Here

For Sheila Dunn, the urge to explore both the external and internal world is realized through the act of painting. Driven by a deep urge to create, Dunn makes use of this artistic platform to pursue a fascination with the continuous dualities of the human experience. Her resulting moody oil paintings speak to this, delving into the contrast between literal and metaphorical combinations of light and dark in a series of feminine portrayals.

Using fractal shapes incorporated into intimate character sketches, Dunn's paintings integrate concepts of form and one's necessary relationship with the surrounding environment. The figurative series focuses on female subjects and self-portraits, with a distinctive dark and moody feel attached to each piece. Dunn’s intriguing canvases represent a journey of self-discovery towards understanding the required balance in life, communicated through careful brushstrokes and varying color combinations.

Prints of Dunn's work and select paintings are available to purchase through her Etsy shop.



 What Remains

What Remains

 The Here and Now

The Here and Now

May 2016 Newsletter

This year's MUSE Conference in March (yes, I'm a bit behind with sharing!) was extra special because my greatest muse - my mom - flew out from Colorado to attend with me!

For this year's MUSE Artwalk, I painted Pema Chodron - a woman who inspires me to be mindful and compassionate with others and myself.

Sincere thanks for your continued interest in my work.



Women's Rights

by Angela Moore

 Photo: The Source Weekly

Photo: The Source Weekly

The World Economic Forum ranks the United States #20 out of 142 countries for gender equality based on disparity in pay, education, health and politics. We fall behind countries such as Nicaragua, Rwanda and South Africa in the study conducted annually by the Swiss nonprofit.

World MUSE is an organization that works to empower women with the mission of sparking positive change. March 4 will mark the beginning of the annual three-day conference held in downtown Bend, now in its fourth year. MUSE founder Amanda Stuermer brings women leaders from around the world to Bend, sharing insight, ideas and experiences to inspire personal growth here at home and in the world beyond.

Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi will be the keynote speaker this year. She is a human rights activist who founded the Defenders of Human Rights Center in Iran, where she was the country's first female judge prior to the 1979 Iranian revolution. She now lives in exile, devoting her life to giving a voice to women, children, and refugees. Ebadi travels the world working with other female Nobel Laureates. "We use all our power to spotlight the situation of women around the world," she told the Source.

Considered to be one of the most influential women of all time, Ebadi wants those who hear her speech to be able to walk away and still retain the knowledge and motivation for change even after they have parted ways. "Human rights is a culture," she says. Her most important takeaway message is "difficulties and challenges should not prevent us from carrying out our activities." She also would like the world to be aware of the struggle women face in Iran. The Muse Conference isn't her first stop nor will it be her last. Her fight for gender equality and democracy is her life purpose. "I have worked hard to amend discriminatory laws and practices in my country and I will continue to fight until we are free," Ebadi says.

The opening day of the conference falls on First Friday and the evening will be very much art-oriented. The Muse Art Show, along with a teen photo exhibit, and an art walk downtown will commence following the day's salon series of workshops. Artist Sheila Dunn is one of the local artists whose work will be featured. Dunn moved to Bend in 2010 and says she wants her art to "express the beauty, strength and depth of the feminine spirit and the unique power found only in vulnerability and openness." Feminism is often a word people shy away from, but this isn't the case for Dunn, not in the least. "The belief that all women, everywhere, deserve the same rights, same pay, same amount of respect and same opportunities as men? Yes, I'm a feminist, and I can't imagine why anyone wouldn't be."

Unfortunately, in the U.S., the gender pay gap persists. In 2015, women earned $.78 on the dollar compared to men, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The gap narrowed by just 1.5 cents in the last five years. Yet, women are the breadwinners in 40 percent of households with children. For Latina women, the difference in pay is even more pronounced, just $.56 on the dollar.

The momentum of women's rights in the last century doesn't have to slow to a halt. MUSE looked for a voice to represent the next generation and found it in Fiona Dolan. It's safe to say that at 16, she will be the youngest presenter at Muse. Dolan, a junior at Summit High School in Bend, is a role model beyond her years. Dolan founded the Social Empowerment Club at Summit and contributed to the book, "You're The Best," by her elders, the Dolan "Satellite Sisters." Although young, Dolan is able to give insight drawing from the everyday experiences of high school. The Social Empowerment Club works with a variety of organizations, including MUSE, with the intention of promoting discussion on issues affecting society today. She makes it a point to include males in the group and would like people to think twice about not just underestimating females, but also teenagers.

In addition to MUSE, there are smaller events happening all over the community and state that share the same goal of empowerment, ranging from formal groups to online chat rooms. The conversation has begun. Women have come a long way, however, it's not nearly enough.

"I want my daughter to grow up to have the same opportunities as my sons," says MUSE founder Stuermer. It's as simple as that. The day when these conferences become more of a recreational affair than a necessity is when women can say that the good fight has been fought and the good fight has been won.




  Sparrow Croissants  Commissioned by Sparrow Bakery 24 x 30 inches Oil on canvas

Sparrow Croissants
Commissioned by Sparrow Bakery
24 x 30 inches
Oil on canvas

March 2016 Newsletter

Greetings from Bend, Oregon!

I have felt an incredible wave of support from my community lately (ie. all of you). Not just through increased press - including a recent feature in the Source Weekly - but through conversation & curiosity about my work and art in general.  And for this I feel truly, genuinely grateful.

Thank you for your support,


 Photo: The Source Weekly

Photo: The Source Weekly

Sheila dunn-artist-bend oregon.jpg

Sheila Dunn's work offers a compelling complexity with color and textures that capture her figures in a way that a photograph never could. She finds a sacred power in the feminine and haunting vulnerability in the masculine with a stunningly gritty geometry to her brushstrokes.


Dunn's paintings are primarily figures, but she captures something inherently different and individual in each piece. "I hope to reflect the complexity of the human experience, one that oscillates between beauty and darkness, loneliness and connection, joy and longing," Dunn says. "And through capturing these interior landscapes on canvas, hopefully spark a sense of recognition from the viewer of our shared humanity."


The figures in Dunn's work convey much through little. All the subjects seem to be keeping a secret or sharing one with those looking, expecting to probe as much as be searched themselves. Her recent works commissioned by the Scott Street Sparrow Bakery show employees of the bakery, but each one is more complex than that sounds. Their faces are searching for something. Sometimes with a look of defiance or with a sly smile, their surface lives only hint at the inner depths.


Dunn precisely chooses the perfect faces and bodies for her work. Linear, suspenseful and playful, her brushstrokes remind one of a massive system of roads. Each stroke feels independent and almost lonely, while looking at the bigger picture allows for the thought behind the duality of stroke and image to coalesce.


"My process for selecting a new body of work isn't very formulaic or linear and tends to vary from painting to painting," says Dunn. "More often than not, it is a reflection of my interior experience at that time, an exploration of where I am in my relationship with myself or others. Yet other times it can be as simple as wanting to try out a new color palette or vantage point with which to represent the human form."


Her work represents the human form in ways both simple and delicate. Stylistically similar brushstrokes don't make for predictable work, as each piece manages to capture something inherent not only in her subjects, but in all of us, together.

February 2016 Newsletter

Happy Leap Day! I realized the other day that I've been working on this whole professional painter thing consistently for 10 years now!!?

And I'm pretty happy (and grateful) to report that it might just work out! Doors continue to open and ideas continue to flow.

Big thanks to everyone who has supported me along the way - including the new publication Bend Magazine for the arts feature in their winter issue (link below).

Warmly, Sheila

Sheila Dunn by Talia Jean Photography 2
Sheila Dunn by Talia Jean Photography 2

Seeing an artist’s workspace is often a reminder of what it takes to make it as an artist. Sheila Dunn used to paint in a friend’s garage where she dressed warmly to combat the chill. These days, her studio is in a second-story bedroom with a futon that sleeps the occasional guest. This studio, perhaps just another stepping stone, is a snapshot of a young painter with a part-time job and a full-time passion for canvas.

The former yoga instructor from Colorado lives and paints in an apartment off a busy Bend residential street. She offers tea and then leads the way up a narrow staircase to her studio. The room is small but the painting in progress is large—six feet by five feet—and occupies the majority of the wall. It’s hard to imagine her getting the canvas up the stairs...

Read rest of article

Talia Jean Photography
Talia Jean Photography
Talia Jean Photography
Talia Jean Photography


Chris & Yoly by Sheila Dunn_Sparrow Bakery
Chris & Yoly by Sheila Dunn_Sparrow Bakery

Yoly & Chris Commissioned by Sparrow Bakery Oil on canvas 30 x 40 inches


Yoly & Chris Commissioned by Sparrow Bakery Oil on canvas 30 x 40 inches

January 2016 Newsletter

Hello friends - I hope 2016 is treating everyone well!

I was recently interviewed by Muse Magazine, a new publication created by World Muse.

This organization is doing incredible things to empower girls and women across the globe and it was an honor to have founder Amanda Stuermer ask me about my creative process, my mindfulness practice (or lack thereof at times) and a few soul-stirring questions that I am still reflecting on - and likely will be for the remainder of my lifetime.

Heartfelt thanks for the continued support and interest in my work,




What makes you leap out of bed? A piping hot cup of (decaf) coffee from Lone Pine. Turns out the leaded stuff makes me a bit crazy – just ask my family or friends about Coffee Sheila.

What did you dream about when you were 8? Building questionably stable flotation vessels to voyage down the creek behind my childhood home in Colorado.

What do you dream about now? Building a slightly more stable vessel of purpose, creativity and love while retaining the childhood ability to trust that, eventually, the water always leads me where I need to be.

What matters most to you? My tribe, my community, my creative work.

What is your most marked characteristic? It’s a close tie between spontaneous and sensitive.

What do you consider your greatest achievement? My perseverance to keep painting throughout the years despite various fears and doubts. Luckily my deep-grained desire/need to create has ultimately been louder than any self­ limiting beliefs. The prevailing power of The Muse!

What do you want to be remembered for? Professionally, I’d love to be remembered for helping give a visual voice to the power, complexity and sacredness of the feminine. Beyond that, I’d simply like to be remembered as being a good daughter, sister, friend, and hopefully one day wife and mother.

What is your motto? A few years back, my parents gave me a birthday card with the quote, “Ever notice that ‘What the hell’ is always the right decision?” On the inside my mom wrote, “This is SO you.” So I suppose ‘What the hell’ has unconsciously been my motto throughout the years. And as it turns out it is not always the right decision! Ha! But it sure has made for one adventurous, interesting ride.


What job/project/goal are you working on now? I’m in the middle of creating a new figure painting series of female subjects and self-portraits.

What is your “why” behind it? This current series is a bit darker/moodier than some of my previous work. There is a lot of darkness in our world right now. It can feel pretty damn heavy and hard to reconcile. Because I can’t change this on a global scale, I’ve instead been moved to explore the dark and light that exist within me; to hold space and curiosity for both. And I’ve found that by examining those darker aspects of being human through paint on canvas, I can often transmute them to some degree. That through this acknowledgment (dare I say acceptance) of the dark I can, in some roundabout way, add to the light.

What should people know about your work? It is the result of...read the rest of the interview



SydneySydney Commissioned by Sparrow Bakery Oil on canvas 30 x 40 inches


The Letting Go by Sheila Dunn

The Letting Go Oil on canvas 60 x 72 inches $3500

November 2015 Newsletter

Hello friends - I recently finished a big project for Visit Bend. Check out the interview here or read below! And big thanks to Nate Wyeth Photography for capturing the beautiful photos.





Interview by Tawna Fenske, photography by Nate Wyeth


You know how your mom used to get mad when you’d draw on the living room wall?

Here at the Bend Visitor Center, we don’t get mad at all. In fact, we pay artists to do it.

Every six months, Visit Bend chooses one local artist to create unique chalk drawings on the cement pillars in the Visitor Center lobby. The artist also has his or her framed work displayed and sold in the Visitor Center for the duration of his or her show. It’s part of the Pillars of Art program, which was created to introduce tourists to Bend’s unique arts and culture scene, and to support emerging local artists.

The newest Pillars of Art creator is Sheila Dunn. For her Pillars of Art installment, Sheila paid homage to the high desert, chalking bright images of raptors, Native American imagery, and Central Oregon scenery. You can see her work at the Bend Visitor Center on the corner of Lava and Oregon Ave. from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and Saturday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. You can also scope it out (and purchase some!) on her website.

Sheila Dunn pillars_Nate Wyeth Photography

We caught up with Sheila recently and asked a few questions about her art, her life, and everything in between. Here’s what she shared with us:

WHERE DID YOU GROW UP, AND HOW DID YOU END UP IN BEND?Sheila Dunn pillars 105_Nate Wyeth Photography

I grew up in Fort Collins, Colorado, a town quite similar to Bend in its love for breweries, bikes and all things outdoorsy. After traveling around for a bit and teaching yoga following college, I decided to relocate to another town for a change of pace. The potential list included all the usual suspects (Missoula, MT, Asheville, NC, Flagstaff, AZ, Bellingham WA, Bend OR, insert other hip mountain town here). So when my college friend serendipitously sent me a job opening at Bend Yoga, I sold most of my belongings and moved here sight unseen. The rest, as they say, is history. I never expected to be here – or anywhere – for six years, but the Bend vortex is strong.


I received a BFA in painting and minor in art history from Colorado State University. I also studied abroad in Castiglion Fiorentino, Italy my junior year of college, where I had the distinct pleasure of learning from an amazing Italian professor, Paolo. He was a true Renaissance man – a painter, sculptor, historian and linguist – and I still carry his passion for art and commitment to learning with me on my creative path. Since then, most of my artistic training has simply consisted of hours upon hours in the studio.

Sheila Dunn pillars 34_Nate Wyeth Photography


I primarily paint figures with a strong emphasis on color, movement, and geometric brushstrokes.


Water-mixable oils.

Sheila Dunn visit bend pillars 42_Nate Wyeth PhotographyWHO ARE YOUR ARTISTIC INFLUENCES?

Oh geez, so many. I am greatly influenced by a wide variety of art forms and some of my biggest inspirations are actually musicians and poets. But to narrow it down to a few contemporary figure painters, I adore Jenny Saville, Alex Kanevsky, and Andrew Salgado.


I love the synthesis of community and wilderness that exists in Bend. As an artist, I crave the connection of being surrounded by other creatives and the comfort found in community. Yet I equally crave the wide open spaces, the time spent in dialogue with the landscape of this deeply beautiful place. The balance of the two is quite extraordinary here, something I hope to never take for granted.

Sheila Dunn 107 visit bend pillars_Nate Wyeth Photography


Yoga, (slow) trail running, climbing occasionally, and drinking obscene amounts of kombucha.


I think the Bend art scene is becoming more and more vibrant and diverse. But what I most appreciate about it is the sense of camaraderie among artists here. In a line of work that is so often laden with comparison, competition, and self-doubt, I feel like fellow artists in this town truly support and celebrate one another.

Sheila Dunn 97 visit bend pillars _ Nate Wyeth Photography

Bend also seems to place great value on the importance public art (YES!!!) and Visit Bend has done so much to spearhead this movement with both Pillars of Art and the Tin Pan Alley Art Collection. In a day and age where the arts are too often undervalued and underfunded, I am oh-so grateful to see businesses and communities that recognize the vitality and depth they bring to a place.



Emergence Oil on canvas 36 x 36 inches $1800


The Here and Now Oil on canvas 30 x 40 inches $1800


What Remains Oil on canvas 36 x 36 inches SOLD

August 2015 Newsletter

Hello friends -

I'm excited to share some photos of my recent art opening, as well as some new work and words below. Thank you so much for your continued interest in my work!

Warmly, Sheila

Sheila Dunn's show at The Workhouse

Lisa Marie Sipe, MaryLea and Sheila Dunn


Declan & Grandma by Sheila Dunn


Red Barn by Sheila Dunn

Red Barn 8.5 x 11 inches - $25 13 x 19 inches - $45

Western Train by Sheila DunnWestern Train 8.5 x 11 inches - $25 13 x 19 inches - $45



in process painting by Sheila Dunn



My amazingly talented friend Katie Thurmes, one of the co-founders of Artifact Uprising, recently spoke at Brene Brown's event Rising Strong (!!!). Before the event, Katie sent out a request to friends to send in their favorite photo and some words about the image...
Suddenly all my ancestors are behind me. Be still, they say. Watch and listen.
You are the result of the love of thousands. -Linda Hogan

Hanging on the wall outside my painting studio are faded black-and-white portraits of my four grandparents. I've only had the honor of knowing one grandparent, my maternal grandmother, in this lifetime. But through these portraits - and the stories passed down through the generations - I still feel the presence of each in my life. I like to think of them as guides and guardians as I journey along my path, encouraging me to 'be still', to 'watch and listen'.

This portrait of my grandma Frances Falkenberg was taken circa 1940, in the small town of Westcliffe, Colorado, where her grandfather homesteaded in the 1860s. He was among the first white settlement in the Wet Mountain Valley, traveling west from Chicago. At the time of this photo, my grandmother, the youngest of 8, was 17 years old. And I'm pretty sure the man snapping the photo was my grandfather George "Shorty" Byrne, a wild, charismatic young Irishman from one town over. Although only one mile apart as the crow flies, Westcliffe and Silver Cliff were divided by a much wider social distance...

Westcliffe was settled by German homesteaders, like my great great grandfather, and eventually became a ranching community, whereas Silver Cliff was a mining boom town of the 1870s whose Irish miners earned a reputation for being wild and unruly. This tension - and physical division - between the Irish miners and German ranchers remained well into my grandparents lifetime. So when Frances and Shorty found love across the proverbial (literal?) train tracks it created quite a stir among both families and communities.

What I adore most about this photo, taken during my grandparents' controversial courtship, is the look on my grandmother's face. There is obviously love reflected in her eyes - a love strong enough to defy familial expectations. But there is also the underlying grace and courage that still make up the substance of her being at age 92. And on some deeper level I recognize and know that the courage and grace reflected in this photo is not hers alone, but the result of the love of thousands that came before her. And the thousands that came before my grandfather. Those who journeyed to unknown places and loved who they wanted to love. And that we - her six children, twenty-some grandchildren and countless great grandchildren - are held in the embrace of that ancestral love everyday. And that it is both our duty and destiny to carry forward her/their love, courage and grace to the thousands that follow.

June 2015 Newsletter

Collins and Sage I always feel incredibly honored when asked to capture a special moment, person or place on canvas. And my newest commission is among the most poignant moments I’ve painted.

Several years ago, my friend Collins was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia. He and his wonderful wife Amy remained positive and strong throughout his treatment, which included two bone marrow transplants.

I can’t begin to imagine all the emotions they must have experienced during his road to recovery: all the pain and fear and hope and love. But mostly I can’t imagine the pure, transcendent joy Collins must have felt earlier this year when he held his newborn son, Sage Fenton Ferris, in his arms for the very first time.

Life is a fragile, precious thing – and beautiful beyond words. Thank you Collins and Sage for reminding me of this. And thank you Amy for trusting me with this sweetest Father’s Day gift.


A Change of Time by Sheila DunnA Change of Time oil on canvas 36 x 48 inches

The Here and Now by Sheila Dunn

The Here and Now oil on canvas 36 x 48 inches


I Leave You Here by Sheila Dunn

I Leave You Here 8.5 x 11 inches - $25 13 x 19 inches - $45

May 2015 Newsletter

Juniper-Tree-drawing-by-Sheila-Dunn Several weeks ago, my friend Jenny hosted a ladies' Art & Wine night. I drew this Juniper Tree to send to my grandma. I wanted to show her a little piece of where I live and tell her how much I love these trees (even though they make me sneeze a lot). And how much I love the high desert that is their home (and mine too for now). And mostly to tell her just how much I love her.

But...it has been sitting on my end table for weeks now because I always seem to be rushing around from task to task: painting, working, cooking, running, yoga-ing, go, go, going.

But today as I hurried in the door from work and headed immediately up the stairs to my studio for an evening of painting, I had a realization: none of this means a damn thing if I can't slow down enough to show the people I love how much I cherish them.

To tell a woman who I carry in my bones and blood and heart and spirit everyday that I think of her far more than I call or write.

Creating may be my life's calling, but expressing this love should be my true life's work.

And so I stopped, took out a pen, and focused on the most important task of all.



April 2015 Newsletter

“All you have to do is to pay attention; lessons always arrive when you are ready, and if you can read the signs, you will learn everything you need to know in order to take the next step” - Paulo Coelho, The Zahir My favorite bend along the Deschutes River

Most times life floats by with beautiful ease and sometimes it's damn hard, especially when you're blessed/cursed with a sensitive artist's heart.

Well this week has been a tough one. But there are three things which seem to help more than anything: 1) family/friends 2) nature 3) a man in Colorado named Scott. And these three things coalesced in such a beautiful way yesterday that I can't but help believe it was a sign.

Here's the story: A year ago Scott told me that my spirit/power animal is the coyote. (I know what many of you may be thinking right now, but I've learned that when Scott says something, it's best to trust it even if you don't fully understand it). He spoke of the coyote's resiliency and ability to adapt to change. The next day on my river run, I was beyond shocked to find (you guessed it) a coyote standing on the trail a few feet in front of me. I stopped in disbelief and we stared at one another for a few moments until he finally bolted back into the desert brush.

Fast forward to two days ago when I was talking to Scott again. He told me the force driving my artwork is the same force behind my relationships and everything else along this rocky, albeit beautiful journey. And that I should trust in it, even/especially when it's difficult; to pay attention to the signs and listen to where my spirit is leading me. So as I was walking along my favorite bend of the Deschutes River with my mom yesterday - eyes on the trail - I heard her say, "Look, there's a coyote."

((((Well hot damn Spirit/Universe/God/Scott!!))))

I couldn't believe it. I hadn't seen a coyote since that previous interaction a year before and yet here he was again, in my favorite meadow, on the exact day when I really needed a sign. Like before, we looked at one another for a bit. Then he would run a few feet. And stop. And stare.

Then run.

Then stop.

Then stare.

And in that moment I felt my heart open a bit; felt that maybe I could trust this crazy spirit path afterall. And most importantly, I was reminded that there are people in our life that love of us so deeply that they can recognize our spirit, even when our eyes are downcast on the trail ahead.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is a beautiful thing.


I Leave You Here, oil on canvas, 36x 48 inches, $1800


Red Rocks, fine art print of original oil painting

Eleanor Roosevelt, fine art print of original oil painting


March 2015 Newsletter

Hello and happy spring! Earlier this month I participated in the MUSE Conference Art Walk. It was a fantastic experience - and I was thrilled when my Eleanor Roosevelt painting sold to one of the attendees.


If you're interested in hearing more about my inspiration behind this piece, check out my interview with Kelsey Rook from The Source Weekly. I have also included the full-length interview below.

And finally, I'm excited to announce that high quality fine art prints of my Eleanor Roosevelt painting are available on my Etsy site. I am offering two sizes: 8.5 x 11 inches for $25 and 13 x 19 inches for $45.

Can you describe the experience of creating art for the MUSE conference?

I've attended the MUSE Conference for the past two years and it has been truly life changing each time. I am equally astounded and grateful that this gathering of remarkable women happens right here in Bend, Oregon and it's a total honor to be a small part of it. One of the best parts of creating art for the MUSE conference was meeting with all the other artists a month ago. It was so inspiring to hear about each artist's muse and be in a room full of dedicated creatives. My work is typically rooted in personal narratives, so this was a great opportunity to broaden my artistic lens and explore painting as a vehicle for activism. 

How did you select Eleanor Roosevelt as your Muse? What inspired you in painting her portrait?

To me, Eleanor Roosevelt embodies the spirit of the MUSE conference - she was a powerhouse woman who dedicated her life to social justice. My painting incorporates one of her many amazing quotes: "You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face...YOU MUST DO THE THING YOU THINK YOU CANNOT DO". What's more inspiring than that?? I want this quote tattooed on my forehead (or at least my memory) so I can shape my life around it. And I get the sense that Eleanor truly lived her life this way: looking fear directly in the face and doing what needed to be done regardless of whether or not it seemed doable at the time. 

Where do the intersections of feminism, gender, art, and expression meet in your work?

I've been interested in feminism for a really long time. I remember my fifth grade teacher telling me, "You know Miss Dunn, I can't say I've ever met an 11-year-old feminist before." And before that, in first grade, I totally caught the priest of my childhood Catholic church off guard by asking him outrightly why women weren't allowed to be priests. I remember feeling a genuine desire to know why this was. And I also remember feeling fairly unsatisfied with the answer, even at age 7.

While that strong desire for gender equality remains rooted at the core of my being, my approach to feminism has softened a bit over the years. What I'm most interested in exploring these days - in both myself and my artwork - is the beauty and complexity of the feminine and a certain strength found only in tenderness and vulnerability. I also recognize the dire need for feminine energy at this point in time - in our politics, our relationship to others and our relationship to the Earth. The Dalai Lama once stated that world will be saved by the Western woman. I would expand upon this idea with the belief and hope that the world will be saved by the power and sensitivity of the feminine spirit in general.

eleanor closeup


February 2015 Newsletter

February 2015 Newsletter

Hello friends!

I hope this email finds you well.

A few quick updates from my world:

For the third year in a row, I will be one of the artists in the MUSE Conference Art Walk. This is such an amazing event and I feel honored to be a small part of it! If you're in Bend, you can check out my painting of Eleanor Roosevelt at Bellatazza this Friday. If not, I will post a photo of the complete painting in next month's newsletter. 

Painting the muse Eleanor Roosevelt

In addition to Bellatazza, I will also have an opening this Friday at Revolvr, the new men's clothing store in downtown Bend. I got a sneak peek of the space yesterday and all I can say is it's like a piece of art in and of itself! Can't wait to share photos next month.


And finally, I was recently interviewed on the blog Culture Seen. Check it out below!


Sheila Dunn has a way of adding geometry and color to the human form while maintaining fluidity and solid realism. Her work is bold like her brush strokes and she captures the complexity and beauty of femininity.

Culture Seen: Tell us a little about yourself.

Sheila Dunn: I was born into a big, wild, tight-knit Irish Catholic family and raised in the foothills of northern Colorado. When I wasn’t tromping through creeks and woods with my siblings and countless cousins I spent many hours creating as a child. Dancing, singing and writing stories eventually gave way to painting, which became my main interest. In 2006 I received a BFA in painting and a minor in art history from Colorado State University. The most pivotal part of my undergrad experience was studying abroad in Castiglion Fiorentino, Italy. It really solidified my love for the creative process (even when it’s maddening!) and illuminated art’s ability to help us make sense of the past and relate to the present. After college I fluttered about for several years, traveling to various countries (despite being more or less broke), teaching yoga and learning a great deal about myself along in the way. Six years ago I moved to Bend, Oregon on a total whim. I’m still more or less broke, but I’m doing what I love in a beautiful place so it’s worth it!

CS: When did you first discover you were an artist?

SD: I’ve been interested in creating for as long as I can remember. I still recall most of my art projects from elementary school and even at six years old something as goofy as creating a Santa Claus ornament out of a crushed soda can would absorb all my attention and felt somehow important. Though I felt a deep investment in my work from the beginning....Continue reading interview 

January 2015 Newsletter

Friends - 

It's been awhile since I've sat down to write a newsletter! Consequently, I have many new commissions to share with you...as well as a Valentine's Day print sale happening now until February 14th!


Now I realize old V-Day is not numero uno on every person's list (and believe me, I get it). For this reason I decided to price not only my "Lovers" print at 20% off, but also "The Retrieval" which was painted at a time in my life when I was learning to love myself again. To be my own valentine. A time when I would read and re-read these stunning words from poet Derek Walcott:

"The time will come  when, with elation  you will greet yourself arriving  at your own door, in your own mirror  and each will smile at the other's welcome, 

and say, sit here. Eat. You will love again the stranger who was your self. Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart to itself, to the stranger who has loved you 

all your life, whom you ignored for another, who knows you by heart. Take down the love letters from the bookshelf, 

the photographs, the desperate notes, peel your own image from the mirror. Sit. Feast on your life."


So this Valentine's Day (and everyday for that matter) I hope to sit and feast on my life. To see beyond just Cupid and recognize love in its infinite forms

In the image of a mother gazing tenderly at her newborn child and the promise of two individuals beginning a life together.

In the beauty of those creatures and places which remain miraculously untamed.

In the ancient wisdom of an old growth juniper tree. And a moon that has borne witness to every season of love in our fleeting human lives, faithfully reflecting this cycle back to us each month through its waxing and waning.


Lisa and Hudson by Sheila Dunn

Jeff and Laura by Sheila Dunn




October 2014 Newsletter

October 2014 Bulbul

Two years ago, I attended the first annual Muse Conference in Bend, Oregon - an inspiring three day event that celebrates women who are catalysts for change across the globe. One of the speakers Jensine Larsen, founder of the incredible organization World Pulse, shared the story of meeting a woman from the Congo who had endured & witnessed more atrocities on a weekly basis than most do in a lifetime. The woman told Jensine that she pictured most Westerners as sitting in a big, imaginary chair of cultural comfort, with our backs turned away from them. And all she and the women in her village asked of us was to simply turn around and face them. To hear their story, even if we remain in our chairs while we listen.

This story of the Congolese woman was on my mind several months ago when Atin and Mae approached me to do a painting for their upcoming documentary Bulbul: Song of the Nightingale. I was already very behind on commissions and wasn't sure I should commit to another...

...Until I watched the trailer.

I listened to the story of 12-year-old Bulbul, born into the Banchara tribe at the bottom of the Indian caste system. In this community young girls are expected to earn money for their family through either a large dowry or the bleaker alternative of becoming a prostitute. The documentary explores Bulbul's story, including her "relationships and encounters with the constellation of women whose lives are close to her own that provide her with conceivable options for becoming a woman, painting a picture of the road that her future will take and why."

After watching the four minute trailer I knew I had to say yes. I knew it was a way - however small - to turn my chair around and face Bulbul. To acknowledge her not only as a fellow woman, but as a fellow human being. To listen to her story and perhaps help others to do the same.

Nineteenth century abolitionist and reformer Theodore Parker once said: "I do not pretend to understand the moral universe; the arc is a long one, my eye reaches but little ways; I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by the experience of sight; I can divine it by conscience. And from what I see I am sure it bends towards justice."

Like Parker, I do not pretend to understand the arc of the moral universe. Nor do I pretend to understand why I was born into such comfort, while so many others have to fight for their most basic human rights.

When I think of the stories of the Congolese women or the reality of a 12-year-old facing a life of prostitution, the arc of morality feels agonizingly long.

But I still believe that with the work of people like Jensine, and Atin, and Mae - and anyone willing to turn their chair and listen - it does indeed bend towards justice.

Painter Sheila Dunn with "Bulbul"

September 2014 Newsletter

September 2014 Friends -

Earlier this summer, my longtime friend Emily flew out to Bend, Oregon to create a short documentary of my painting process.

We spent a few wonderful days together in my scorching hot studio, laughing and reminiscing and creating.

Though it's a bit uncomfortable to watch my awkward self on film (GAH!!!), it's amazing to see Emily's unique vision come to life. She created a truly beautiful piece of art.

But what I most love about this video is how it has come to represent our long journey together as friends and artists.

Hope you enjoy!



August 2014 Newsletter

Friends - It's been awhile since I've sent a newsletter - I have been very busy painting (and traveling) this summer!

I just completed my second commission for Visit Bend's Tin Pan Alley Art Collection. I feel so grateful to be a part of this public art project!

Last week I was interviewed by The Source Weekly about this project and my millworker painting. Check it out here or read on below.

And as always, thanks for your support and interest in my work! It means the world to me.

Warmly, Sheila


History Through Portrait Sheila Dunn adds to the Tin Pan Alley Art Collection

by Brianna Brey

Local painter Sheila Dunn already has one painting hanging as a part of Visit Bend's Tin Pan Alley Art collection, a portrait of Klondike Kate, Bend's famed dancer turned philanthropist in Gasoline Alley between Wall and Bond Streets in downtown. And over the summer months, Dunn has been meticulously dedicated to a new piece, one that will hang on the side of the O'Kane Building in the next few weeks. It's another historical portrait that represents the rich history of Bend's mill culture.

When she was originally asked to paint another historical figure, Dunn began looking for photos of the infamous Hugh O'Kane, a businessman who built the structure on Bond Street that bears his name in downtown in 1916.

"It was so difficult to find a photo of Hugh O'Kane that I opted to paint a different historical figure. I went to the Deschutes County Historical Society and found a really interesting figure from Bend's past—an old millworker known as the 'Pond Monkey' for his ability to effortlessly hop from floating log to floating log," explained Dunn. "He is not your typical glorified historical figure, but I liked the idea of putting a face to the faceless, tireless working class; the folks that probably shape a community more than anyone else, but do so without the riches and notoriety."

Dunn hopes that her newest piece will help newcomers and longtime residents of Bend reflect on the city's colorful past.

"I hope people reflect on the way history forms—and informs—cultural identity. Just as individuals are made up of a series of past experiences, the soul of a community is formed by all the people and events who came before, like thousands of threads coming together to form the essence of a place," said Dunn. "In reality, I imagine the typical takeaway is probably more like, 'Wow—a really, really big person! Cool!'. And that's fine too."

The-Millworker-painting-by-Sheila-Dunn Visit Bend's Tin Pan Alley art collection is made up of over a dozen offerings from local artists adding a cultural tourism attraction to downtown Bend in the parking garage, in Tin Pan Alley, and now on the O'Kane building.

"I'm so grateful to live in a community that recognizes the value of public art," said Dunn. "It adds depth and character to a place. It is so easy to move through this life on auto-pilot, half aware, and art has a lovely way of cutting through the minutia and wordlessly shouting, 'Look! Change your perspective! Pay attention! Wake the hell up!'"



More of Dunn's work is currently showing at Old Mill Brew Werks.



May 2014 Newsletter

Friends - I've spent the last two days in my studio, totally enmeshed in a painting for a really amazing project. I can't wait to share all the details with you soon!

Here is a sneak preview:

Bulbul painting by Sheila Dunn

In the meantime, check out several new fine art prints that I've added to my Etsy site below!

I am also excited to announce that each of my prints are now available in a smaller 8.5 x 11 inch format for only $25 (in case you're looking for a unique gift for a loved one, or for yourself!)

As always, sincere thanks for your continued interest in my work! I hope summer is ushering each of you in with a renewed sense of hope and vitality.

Warmly, Sheila


Emily print


8.5 x 11 inch print

13 x 19 inch print



8.5 x 11 inch print

13 x 19 inch print

Colin print


8.5 x 11 inch print

13 x 19 inch print

Nude in Blue II by Sheila Dunn

Nude in Blue II

8.5 x 11 inch print

13 x 19 inch print


The Retrieval

8.5 x 11 inch print

13 x 19 inch print