WILLMAR -- Combining her fascination with glass and her love of animals, Kathleen Sheard hopes to inspire others with her artwork.
Most known for her African-inspired glasswork, Sheard is a nationally recognized wildlife artist and has been chosen as the featured artist for the New London Fine Art Festival Aug. 17 and 18.
Sheard lives outside of Hamilton, Mont., but most of her work is inspired by her travels. Sheard has traveled throughout the continental United States and spent four years living in Alaska doing in-depth studies of wildlife and wilderness. She also traveled to Africa for the Artist African Safari Workshop in 1993.
"Alaska and Africa are two of my favorite places," Sheard said.
Much of her artwork is inspired by the animals she saw in Africa. She has depicted African lions, African elephants, zebras, giraffes, cheetahs and more. Many of the pieces were initially portraits, but have evolved into paintings encompassing the animals in their environments.
Each piece is made up of multiple layers of glass that make it appear three-dimensional.
"I create realistic wildlife vitreous paintings and sculptures by placing tiny glass particles called frit on a glass base plate," she said.
She then works upside down and backwards and fires pieces in the kiln to create one-of-a-kind pieces.
"My artwork style is unique and different from most all other forms of artwork anywhere," she said. "I have a sea otter wax that is estimated to weigh over 150 pounds in glass and will be in the kiln at least two months."
Sheard said she enjoys working with glass because there's always something new to learn.
"Each day holds potential adventure and new lessons to be learned," she said. "The biologist in me is always looking for the next wildlife species along that same path."
Sheard plans to go back to Africa in the future, but for now, she continues to find inspiration in zoos, state parks and wildlife refuges.
She said she hopes to inspire her viewers to learn more about the animals she depicts in her artwork.
"It's all about education," she said.
To learn more about Kathleen Sheard's artwork, visit her website at www.kathleensheard.com.