By Alyssa Marks
Photos by Olivia Reed Photography
According to local artist Pamela Shepard, it is never too late to begin painting. Shepard has always considered herself a high-energy, creative individual who loves jumping into new interests, so it was natural when she felt inspired to begin painting at 46 years old by her late husband’s grandmother’s legacy.
“She [Mrs. Ivo Sparkman, wife of Senator John Sparkman] started painting at 65 years old and painted until the week she passed away at 100,” Shepard says. “When I started packing up her house, I looked at all her work and thought, no one will remember my great Coca-Cola pound cake when I’m gone, but art is a tangible way to keep someone’s memory alive.”
From that moment forward, Shepard knew she wanted to pursue painting, and she began using her grandmother-in-law’s brushes and supplies.
“I took some classes, I would get really frustrated and stop for a while, and then I would pick it up again,” she remembers. “Then, about seven years ago, I got serious and decided I was going to try to paint every day.”
Now, that is exactly what Shepard does, even packing her paints when she travels. She prefers using oil as her medium because she loves the smooth and buttery texture, which she describes as reminiscent of cake frosting. However, when it comes to subjects, Shepard feels less preferential.
“I get bored easily, so I never wanted to paint just one thing,” she admits.
And painting everything has given her a renewed view of the world.
“I have always loved color, and all my life I thought I was really seeing it in the world — in trees and flowers and people — but once I started painting, I really started looking, and I realized I hadn’t actually been seeing at all,” she says. “We are truly surrounded by so much beauty, but we are so busy we don’t often stop to really notice it.”
Shepard now finds beauty in places she barely noticed before, and she believes the ugliest subjects sometimes contain the most beauty, in part because they often have a story to impart.
“Art gives us history and stories — it takes us on a journey,” she says, emphasizing that for her, the story is the most important part of art. She strives to tell a story with every painting she creates, but at times, she admits her paintings pour out of a deep, spiritual place.
“I have a studio now, and I love to come in, paint, make a mess, and be able to just leave it behind,” she says. “I do a lot of praying when I paint, especially when I put on my Christian music — it’s comforting, therapeutic, and relieves a lot of emotions. Sometimes, you don’t realize what it is you’re painting until someone else sees the story in it.”
Shepard encourages anyone interested in painting to “just go for it” no matter how old or young they are. Through art, she says she has met wonderful people who showed her how welcoming the art community in Huntsville is. She adamantly declares that anyone can paint, and for someone who wants to begin, she suggests starting small, choosing a medium you enjoy, and looking for artists whose work inspires you. From there, “Look for free classes or videos online, and take classes at the art museum,” Shepard suggests. “And remember, don’t give up — if you don’t like it, you can always throw it away and start another one.”
While Shepard is always honored to have her work placed in North Alabama galleries and purchased by folks around the country, ultimately, she paints because she loves it.
“I want to keep growing, learning, exploring, and creating,” she says. “And I want my faith and love of Christ to show through in my art.”
Learn more about Pamela Shepard and her artwork by visiting