Name : Machelle (Shelly) Truby
Where do you live?: Beaverton, Oregon (just outside of Portland)
Tell us a little about yourself (your education, family life, etc.)
I currently live in Beaverton, Oregon, with my sweet husband Michael. We were married once before when we were 20 years old, but it didn’t work out back then, likely due to our immaturity.
I remarried shortly after that, and badly I might say. That marriage lasted far too long for what it was. When that marriage came to an end a few years ago, I looked up Michael just to see what he was up to. Honestly and truly, I had NO thoughts of a relationship starting up. I was just curious what he was up to. He was single at the time, having been in a bad relationship himself for a while. We began talking, daily after a short while, and discovered how much we had in common. I was living in California and he was here in Beaverton, where we left off all those years ago. We got reacquainted over the phone, talking for hours each day until we finally decided to meet again in person.
It was all over but the shouting when we saw each other. Love at second sight! We fell madly in love and were remarried shortly thereafter. We have been married now for about two and a half years. He is the man I always dreamed of spending my life with, a man I was sure did not exist. He loves me, adores me, dotes over me and gives me everything in this relationship that I could ever desire or expect. He truly is my soul mate.
As for my overall life in general… I was born a few miles from here in Portland. My life growing up was nothing spectacular or glamorous. Being the child of a broken marriage, much of my childhood was spent moving to new towns with my mother and her various boyfriends and a couple of husbands and getting used to new schools and kids every few months, so I rarely had any friends outside of my brother, Dennis. We even did a little time in a foster home… about two years I think it was. That drew Dennis and me closer together and made us very protective of each other.
During the summers, Dennis and I would spend a couple of months back up here in Beaverton with our Dad. Dad was quite creative and into every kind of craft you could imagine: woodcarving, silver jewelry making, furniture crafting, gunsmithing… you name it, he dabbled in it. He also did the occasional oil painting of wild animals, such as deer, bears or lions. We spent a lot of time with him in his shop learning how to solder, file, carve and all. His philosophy of life in general was something I just naturally gravitated to from there. Do good works and help people to grow while you grow yourself.
What is your genre?
Lately, for the past few years, I have been into children’s illustrations. I create little animal characters that fit story lines for tales my nephews are helping me to put together.
Do you have a specific artistic style?
Being completely uneducated in art, I don’t even know what to call my style. Maybe some of your readers will be able to name it, as I cannot. I do like detail in my art, so my paintings take a while to finish. They are typically very colorful, full of light and elaborate backgrounds of mountains, trees, veldts, flowering bushes and such. I love creating little animal characters and giving them lives that somewhat mirror ours as humans, but giving them problems that being animals they might encounter, such as a frog being a possible meal for a pack of hungry lion cubs.
When and why did you begin illustrating? (What inspired you to illustrate your first book?)
I only discovered digital media about 8 years ago. Talk about an eye opener! Digital was so easy for me. I could forget about the mess and the smell of oils, which was a stumbling block in my tiny living spaces. I bought myself a Wacom drawing tablet and pen. My software, Corel Painter 6 at the time, could mimic any medium you could imagine: oil, acrylic, watercolor, even Sumi ink. The painting is done in layers and once you get the hang of it, creating your piece is easy and you can readily change things without creating a huge mess in your work.
I don’t even remember what started me in doing a children’s illustrative type of work. I just started doodling in Painter one day, creating a picture of three frogs singing on a lily pad in a pond, and there I went. When I started painting my animal characters, my two nephews got involved and started making up stories to go with them. I created two characters based on my nephews: Garrett the Gator and Steele the lion. Garrett is a little daredevil who is into all sorts of trouble all the time, but manages to make it out of trouble each time by using his wits and his personality. Steele is a lion cub who starts out timid and the victim of bullying by the rest of his lion pride. He is different, being short and stubby with no real lion skills, but he finds out along the way that he is way more than the other lions want him to believe that he is.
What is the hardest part of illustrating?
The hardest thing for me is finding the time these days to get anything done. I have a day job, a husband (whom I adore and love spending time with), a house to keep up and a father who has Alzheimer’s and dementia. I try to spend a couple of evenings a week with him to keep him out of trouble. He also has stage four cancer, so it won’t be long before life takes yet another turn for us.
When did you first consider yourself an artist?
I did not even know I could draw until I was eighteen when Dad sat me down and had me try to draw a picture from a matchbook cover, you know the ones that used to advertise an art school. “Can you draw this? If you can, you might be an artist!” It was a deer head. I sat there and drew it, pencil and paper, with Dad’s direction. He told me how to look at it in perspective, paying attention to negative space and all that. It turned out pretty well, I think.
Dad was excited at the results. So, we spent the next eight hours or so with him doing an oil painting of a lion from start to finish and going through all the steps with me. He explained how to “see” things that you are trying to paint, from far away to near, paying attention to highlights and shadows to give the thing depth. His painting turned out beautifully and for me it was that old light bulb turning on over my head. It was on and was not going out.
From that point, I bought pencils, paper, oil and acrylic paints, canvas, brushes and cans of stinky turpentine. I spent a lot of my time just examining things around me; trees, flowers, animals, buildings… and all the colors in the world! It all looked different then to me, looking for color changes, highlights, shapes, etc. I began painting, mostly animals from pictures in books, and sometimes I would set up my easel outdoors to paint flowers, trees and mountains.
Do you have help with your designs?
No, not really, beyond my nephews giving me ideas for scenes to paint in the story we are working on at the time. I get a mental picture of it and begin. But the painting somewhat “tells me” what it is to become. It’s a strange sort of living thing in my head that drives me to let it out. My mind seems to go deep into the details, behind, under and around the thing I am painting, feeling and seeing the shapes, their effect on each other and the effect of their surroundings. Kind of hard to put into words, but maybe other artists will get it and can verbalize it better.
What have you learned in the process of illustrating that you can share with others?
With digital, I have learned a bit about planning and sorting through layers of a painting, working from front to back with the concepts my father started me with. I have a lot to learn about discipline, though. Maybe it is just that I am not sure what direction to go in. I just like to paint out of my head, going with whatever mood I am in at the time.
What is your current project?
I would really like to finish illustrating a story book about bullying and self-confidence with my little lion cub, Steele, and a little green tree frog named Riley, who Steele rescues from becoming dinner for the mean and hungry pack of lion cubs that torment them.
Would you be kind enough to share a little of your current work with us? Pictures?
Do you see the art of an illustrator as a career?
I don’t see that yet. I am told I am a good artist, but trying to get noticed for me is like trying to climb a mountain with no legs. I know some have done it, but how they manage it is a mystery to me.
What, if anything, are you reading now?
I used to read a lot of science fiction novels, but lately I read short news articles or human interest articles. Occasionally, I will poke around in an Anne Rice book (what is it about vampires that attracts me, I’ll never know). Not much time for books with my crazy life as it is.
Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
I have weird tastes in that area, I guess. I like the Sookie Stackhouse series of stories by Charlaine Harris. The stories are about our world being full of vampires, werewolves, fairies and all. Corny and fun, but spooky and dark all wrapped up into one.
What books and/or authors have influenced your life most?
Frank Herbert, Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle. I love the story lines. Their ability to describe scenes and make you see them in your mind simply amaze me. And some of their science fiction concepts are actually being looked at by scientists as viable and workable for space travel. Why I never became a sci fi artist is beyond me. Sweet little animal characters are a far cry from the gigantic and elaborate space craft and gnarly alien creatures that I could be creating. Go figure.
Name your favorite illustrator and what it is about their work that has won your favoritism?
Patrick Woodroffe’s books with his stories and illustrations will always be a part of my personal library. His fantastical style and his incredibly detailed work always fascinated me. He is not that well known, I guess, but when I discovered him, I could not get enough. I would spend hours with a magnifying glass just looking at all the detail and admiring his style.
Do you have any advice and/or tips for other illustrators?
Do what you love and don’t let others drive your style. If you have a passion, pursue it. Let your mind wander and explore the surroundings in your work. There is detail there that is begging to be seen.
There is value in emulating the style of others, but don’t be a copycat. Take what you learn from others and make it your own.
Lately I am finding out that there is value in networking and just tossing out a painting or two among artists of other crafts will get me farther down the road than just posting my paintings all over in online galleries. I guess that’s how you found me, huh?
Is there anything else you would like to say to your readers?
You never know what you can do until you try. You might do badly at something or you might even fail miserably, but if you never try, you will never know what you can do. Look at me. I could only draw stick people until I was eighteen when my Dad showed me that I could draw and paint. Your mind is just waiting to be lit up!