Shelby's Biography

Bold Brush Realism

Shelby Keefe is an award-winning, impressionistic painter, teacher and performance artist. Born in Whitewater, WI in 1958, she graduated in 1981 with a BFA from Cardinal Stritch University in Milwaukee, WI. Always painting even while working as a self-employed graphic designer, it was in 2005 when her success as a fine artist allowed her to become a full-time painter. Her award-winning urban landscape paintings and plein air work have earned her participation in prestigious national juried shows, plein air painting competitions, residencies, and arts festivals as well as garnering commission work for many corporate clients and private collectors. She has been written about and featured on the cover of SouthwestArt and PleinAir Magazines and continues to grow her reputation nationally. 

Artist Statement

“I am passionate about drawing and depicting my subjects with honesty as well as expressiveness. My goal is to create a fresh perspective to the recognizable world without being predictable or mundane. Being comfortable at rendering in oil paint, I enjoy tackling complex subjects from cityscapes to the figure in the ala prima method of wet on wet.  Utilizing a vibrant underpainting technique of complimentary colors, my oil paintings are complex, but not overly-worked. As I continue to grow as a representationalist painter, I plan to develop my ability to say more with less.


Juried Exhibitions, Shows, Plein Air Competitions: (Selected)

2017, 2016, Invited Artist, 11th & 12th Annual COWGIRL UP! Desert Caballeros Western Museum, Wickenburg, AZ

2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012  AMERICAN IMPRESSIONIST SOCIETY National Juried Exhibitions

2017, 2015, OIL PAINTERS OF AMERICA National Juried Exhibitions

2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2009, OIL PAINTERS OF AMERICA Eastern Regional Juried Exhibitions 

2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013 AMERICAN WOMEN ARTISTS National Juried Exhibitions

2014, Crested Butte Plein Air Invitational, Crested Butte, CO

2014, 2013 Plein Air Richmond, Richmond VA, (juried competition)

2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013 Florida’s Forgotten Coast Plein Air (invitational competition), Appalachicola, FL

2017, 2016, 2010, Plein Air Easton!, (juried competition) Easton, MD

2015, 2014, 2013, 2012 Sedona Plein Air Festival (invitational competition) Sedona, AZ

2017, 2015–2011, 2009–2007, Door County Plein Air Festival (invitational competition) Fish Creek, WI

2013–2004, 2002, 2000, 1997 Lakefront Festival of Arts, Milwaukee, WI (juried art festival)

2012, Easels in Frederick, (juried competition) Frederick, MD

2012, Wayne Plein Air Festival, (juried competition) Wayne, PA

2011, “30 Paintings/30 Days,” Gunzel Gallery, Peninsula School of Art, Fish Creek, Door County, WI

2011, Featured Artist, July-August, Edgewood Orchard Galleries, Door County, WI

2011, Cedarburg Plein Air, “First Place, Paint the Festival Quick Draw” and “Honorable Mention”

2010, Solo Show; Boerner Botanical Gardens, Milwaukee, WI

2009, Solo Show; Community Arts Center, Whitewater, WI

2009, Featured Artist; Alumni Exhibition; Cardinal Stritch University, Milwaukee, WI

2007, FORWARD: Survey of Wisconsin Art; Charles Allis Art Museum; Milwaukee, WI, “Visitor’s Choice Award”

Awards and Accomplishments of note:

2017, Matisse Award of Excellence, Vanishing Landscape Award and Judges Choice Award, Olmsted Plein Air Invitational awarded for one painting: "Arrested Development"

2017, Second Place Award, Lighthouse Plein Air, Jupiter, FL

2016, Third Place Award, EnPlein Air Texas, San Angelo, TX

2016, Distinctive Merit Award, 18th Annual Laguna Plein Air Invitational, Laguna Beach, CA

2016, First Place Quick Draw Award, Plein Air Easton!, Easton, MD

2016 Second Place, Lighthouse Plein Air, Jupiter FL

2015, Grand Prize Winner, EnPlein Air Texas, San Angelo, TX

2015, Awarded $20,000 Dorothy Dreihaus Melins Fellowship for Midwestern Artists, at OPA National Exhibition

2015, Featured Artist, SouthwestArt magazine, March issue (also on the cover)

2015, 2014, 2013 Faculty and Presenter for the Annual Plein Air Convention, Monterey CA

2015, 2014, 2013, First Place Winner, Shorewood Plein Air Festival, Shorewood, WI

2013, First Place Winner, 2nd Annual Plein Air Salon Competition, (awarded $15,000 and the cover of PleinAir Magazine)

2012, Awarded Best Painting with an Architectural Subject, Easels in Frederick, Frederick, MD

2012, Awarded Best of Show and PleinAir Magazine Award Wayne Plein Air Festival, Wayne PA

2011-2012, Pfister Hotel Artist-In-Residence   (

2010, Poster Artist, Lakefront Festival of Arts, Milwaukee, WI

2010, Featured Artist, “Channel 10 Great TV Auction”, Milwaukee, WI

2006, Commemorative Poster Artist for the Cherry Creek Arts Festival; Denver, CO (poster received national recognition with a Bronze award)

2002, Selected to create 3 paintings for Professional Dimensions’ Sacagawea Award honoring pioneering women, Milwaukee, WI  (commission)

2001, Awarded Best of Show, Cedarburg Plein Air Festival, Cedarburg, WI

Collections/Commissions: (selected)

2012, United Performing Arts Fund, commission to create 16 paintings for 2012 campaign, Milwaukee, WI

2010, Hide House Lofts, Milwaukee, WI, 2 paintings

2010, University School of Milwaukee, WI, 1 large-scale painting

2009, West Bend Mutual, West Bend, WI 

2008, Northwestern Mutual, Franklin, WI, 3 paintings

2006, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Milwaukee, WI, 1 large-scale painting

2006, Milwaukee Art Museum, Milwaukee, WI, painting used for commemorative poster

2005, Foley & Lardner Law Offices, Milwaukee, WI, 6 paintings

2004, Northwestern Mutual, Milwaukee, WI, 4 paintings

2004, Acuity, Sheboygan, WI, 3 paintings

2003, Tripoli Country Club, Milwaukee, WI,  2 paintings 

2003, Ozaukee Country Club on Ozaukee county themes; Mequon, WI, 19 paintings 

2003, Radisson Hotel, Milwaukee, WI, 2 mural-sized paintings

2002, McNally, Maloney & Peterson, Milwaukee, WI, 4 paintings, 

2001, Bradley Foundation, Milwaukee, WI, 3 paintings

1981-2015, numerous patrons; rural and urban landscapes, and portraits (commissions & purchases)



2016, 2015, 2014, Sedona Art Center, 3-day plein air painting workshop, Sedona, AZ

2016, 2014, Easton Studio, 4-day studio workshop, Easton MD

2015, Lafayette Art Association & Gallery, Lafayette LA, 4-day workshop

2015, Carmel Visual Arts, Carmel, CA, 3-day plein air workshop

2015-2006, Oil and Acrylic painting workshops, Peninsula School of Art Faculty, Door County WI

2014, 2013, Madeline Island School of Art, 5-day plein air painting workshop, Madeline Island, WI

2003 to present, Oil and Acrylic painting workshops for adults (in-studio and plein air), Milwaukee, WI

2012, 2011, Oil and Acrylic painting workshop, Cedarburg Cultural Center, Cedarburg, WI

2002-1996, Painting and drawing classes, Studio San Damiano, Milwaukee, WI 

1992, Painting classes, Museum of Wisconsin Art, West Bend, WI


Affiliations/Gallery Representation:

Fine Line Designs, Sister Bay, Door County, WI
Oh-Be-Joyful Galleries, Crested Butte/Telluride, CO

Castle Gallery Fine Art, Fort Wayne, IN
Jack Arnold Fine Art, Rio Rancho, NM (

Oil Painters of America, Associate Member
American Impressionist Society, Signature Member
American Woman Artists, Signature Member

Past Board Member, Charles Allis/Villa Terrace Museums, Milwaukee, WI