Artists of Note | Sheila Cottrell

The West—today and yesterday


Sheila Cottrell, Branding Day, oil, 18 x 24.

This story was featured in the December 2015 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art December 2015 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story

Sheila Cottrell says that although she had been drawing and painting since she was a child, her art education began in earnest in 1984, when she took two workshops from western artist James Reynolds. “I had taken classes at school and at the university, but I was getting failing grades for doing representational work,” she says. And the workshops with Reynolds were just the beginning of a 26-year mentorship with the artist, until he died in 2010.

While Cottrell paints landscapes and the occasional portrait in a style she calls impressionistic realism, it is the western pieces, with both contemporary and historical themes, she loves most—and the artist doesn’t lack for inspiration. Growing up on a ranch in southern Arizona, Cottrell spent months at a time camping with her family in the Chiricahua Mountains, the stomping grounds of Apaches such as Geronimo and Chochise, and she listened to tales of their exploits around the campfire in the evenings. Her own family history adds to the color: Her great-grandparents arrived in Arizona from Texas via wagon train in 1900, and her great-grandfather, Reubin Garrett Wells, was the deputy sheriff of Tombstone, AZ. Their stories, including horse thieves and Mexican banditos, often make their way onto Cottrell’s canvases.

Perhaps most important to Cottrell is that her work add beauty to the world. “People think art should be provocative,” she says. “I want to enthrall. There’s too much ugliness in the world; I want to contribute to the beauty of it.” —Laura Rintala

The artist’s work can be found at Big Horn Galleries, Cody, WY, and Tubac, AZ, and

Featured in the December 2015 issue of Southwest Art magazine–click below to purchase:
Southwest Art December 2015 print issue or digital download Or subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss a story!

Subscribe to Southwest Art magazine
Learn how to paint & how to draw with downloads, books, videos & more from North Light Shop
Sign up for your Southwest Art email newsletter & download a FREE ebook