How many times have you stared at a blank space on your wall and thought ‘there needs to be something there’? How many times have you wished that you knew of someone to give you a beautiful sketch, painting or photograph to fill that space up with?

Karen O’Shaughnessy is a local artist. She has been living in the Chilterns on and off for 45 years, and, as of three years ago, has started making and selling slate paintings of local wildlife, or even pets. She has found it difficult to start up a business, as well as keeping up with her day job and looking after her family. I interviewed her to find out what made her decide to follow this career path.

What made you want to start painting?

I've always found it very relaxing. I had an operation in 2011, and needed something to do that would relax me and keep me sitting down Why did you choose to paint animals?

I wanted to do something special for my sister for Christmas, and she has 7 dogs so I wanted to paint one of them. I've always enjoyed watching the kites fly, so it seemed like a natural progression to start painting them after.


Why slates?

I did a few on canvas, but I wanted to create something more original and different. Also, as the slates are used a lot in buildings and houses around the Chilterns, so using them made the art on them seem more natural. As each piece of slate is different, it makes each one different, and therefore more special.


What is the best part about it?

When you start off, it doesn’t look like its ever going to be something. But then as the colours and paints build up, it starts to make it look more realistic. And then when you go away for a while and come back, its nice seeing the bird look like its coming out of the slate.


Is it hard to have to keep up with two jobs?

At the moment its difficult to do gardening because of the weather, so my time has turned instead to the paintings. However, I do find that I do burn dinner sometimes because I get so lost in painting, and don’t hear the peas burning!


How difficult is it to get a sale?

Where I've been selling them, they have sold three times as many this Christmas than last Christmas. I have also had another order in for more for mothers day, and an enquirey about whether I would be able to display them at a local art exhibition at a british wildlife art exhibition, at a local animal sanctuary.


Where do you get your insipiration from?

Working as a gardner, and walking my dog in the Chiltern hills, and seeing the kites fly overhead.


When did you first start painting?

When I first left school, I attended art school, but I became disillusioned with it, as they told me that if I drew like that I may as well take a photograph. I then went on to a career in commercial art, and the rest of my life was taken up with career, travelling and children. In some ways, it was nice having the operation because it got me back into drawing and painting. And I got the kids to do everything for me!


Was art something you wanted to do from an early age?

I always enjoyed art from an early age, and was good at it. The ethos at my school was 'if you're good at something, then do that!'. So I went to art college, but I didn't really enjoy it as there wasn't any direction or format. It was too laid back. I didn't feel I was good enough to become an artist, so I went into commercial art, working at a health magazine. I was working as assistant art editor, which I enjoyed a lot more than college.


What advice would you give to other young artists?

Just keep practising, and draw what you enjoy drawing. Its good to draw things that you have to draw to learn to draw, but draw things you enjoy drawing. You have to enjoy the creating of it just as much as the end product.



Karen O'shaughnessy's paintings are available from the Information centre in Princes Risborough, or through a private sale. If interested, you can contact her on