Personal Harvest (2016)
Oil painting by Shelby McQuilkin


  • Oil painting, Panel / Board / MDF
  • One of a kind artwork
  • Size: 30 × 40 × 1 in (unframed) / 30 × 40 in (actual image size)
  • This artwork is sold unframed
  • Signed on the front

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Shelby McQuilkin

United States

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Artist's description:

Ten years ago, I was approaching my 40th birthday and experiencing a major mid-life crisis. We were living in Tulsa, and we were, in some sense, dying. It was so bad that I couldn’t walk across the room without getting out of breath. I was lethargic, depressed, overweight, my blood pressure was high and I was miserable in a million ways.

It was then that the question came to me, “Shelby, when are you going to start living?” At first, I didn’t know how to answer that question. I began to imagine what my life would look like if I were doing the things that made me happy. I wanted to live my life, not just breathe in and out and go through the motions.

I started with something to bring my creativity back to life–a camera. I bought a small DSLR and began taking photographs. Within a few months I was walking all over Tulsa taking pictures and posting my work on Flickr. It was a struggle in the beginning. I was frustrated as I tried to learn how to work my camera and my first pictures looked awful. Physically, I was a wreck! I would bend over to get a shot and My son, Joshua, would have to pull me back up on my feet. I was blessed to have him, and he encouraged me through that difficult time. Eventually, I could walk across the city, bend down and even lay on the ground to get the shot. Photography was breathing life into me.

Through my camera I began to see the world in a whole new light. I saw beauty in the “every day” that had just been passing me by. I watched many sunrises and the sunsets and discovered the “golden hour”. I observed the beautiful intricacies of a flower, the craftsmanship of an architect, the wonder of the world around me. I was thrilled!

I started learning what it meant to live in the moment, to be present, to actually experience my life. My family came along on this ride with me, and we started making better choices together.

We needed a new beginning, so we asked ourselves another question. “If we could live somewhere else, where would that be?” We landed in Denver, Colorado with no job, no savings, nothing. It was a big leap of faith that paid off.

It was in Denver that I met a beautiful group of artists who adopted me into their group. It was from them that I learned how to paint and to live as an artist. My husband, Jeff, began to do freelance writing and discovered how to run his own business. Joshua made movies and worked with other film makers in the area.

We hiked and continued to feel better physically. We bought a townhouse. We prospered and continued to grow.

Then, the time came when we knew if we were going to keep growing, we needed to move. Jeff and Joshua needed to live either in L.A. or New York to make their careers happen. We chose New York- another leap of faith. Because of the amazing housing market in Denver, we were able to sell our townhouse and make the move to NYC.

All this to say, one simple decision to “live life” catapulted us on an amazing journey. It’s been 10 years since that mid-life crisis, and I can’t help but see what an amazing 10 years it’s been. We’re reaping a harvest from that life choice. Honestly, I don’t even want to know what would have happened if I hadn’t bought that camera, hadn’t started moving, hadn’t gotten healthy or started living creatively. I really don’t know if I would even be alive today. I do know that I wouldn’t be writing a blog, sharing my artwork, living in NYC, walking miles and miles all over the city. I do know I wouldn’t have gone to Paris, attended a Broadway show, or hiked a mountain.

That’s what this painting is about. In itself, it’s the fruit borne of a life choice. The 10 trees represent the ten years that have passed, and the flowers represent the harvest of that decision.

I’ll be turning 50 in October, and I’m thinking about the choices that I’m making now and what kind of harvest they will bring a decade from now. My hope is that my life will be even more exciting at 60!

Materials used:

oil, paper, cold wax, on wood

  • Ready to Hang