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A tragic loss in the life of Gilroy artist Shirley Dwyer gave her the nudge to launch an art career that began in 2004 when she joined the Valle del Sur Art Guild. She now says she can’t imagine life without painting. Born in El Paso Texas, Dwyer and her family moved to the Santa Clara Valley when she was ten years old. She always loved the performing arts and played violin in her high school orchestra, becoming an accomplished violinist. She also played with a number of local orchestras including the Nova Vista Symphony, the largest long-standing community orchestra in the valley. After working as a sales professional for ten years, Dwyer became a custom jewelry designer. Her early enjoyment of drawing came in handy in her jewelry making . Along the way she also practiced karate and earned a second degree black belt in shotokan karate. “They are all creative pursuits and require a great deal of concentration,” Dwyer said. Attracted by what she described as the “lure of natural beauty,” she and her husband Pat moved to Gilroy in 2002, one year after the sudden and tragic loss of their 29-year- old daughter, Rebecca, to illness. Having talked with her daughter of painting together someday, Dwyer decided it was time to honor Rebecca’s memory, so she began painting. To this day, she said Rebecca continues to provide inspiration when she’s painting. “I know I’m doing what we both wanted to do.” In 2006, she met Stefan Baumann, a well-known art- ist and creator of the PBS series, “The Grand View,” at a demonstration hosted by the Valle del Sur Art Guild. She joined a Saratoga-based group led by Baumann, and studied with other well-respected artists over the years, evolving into the accomplished artist that she is today. She still considers Bauman her friend and mentor. Working mostly in oils, Dwyer’s unbelievably realistic renderings include still lifes, landscapes, and architecture, particularly missions. Many paintings of the Carmel mission hang in her studio. “The historic missions fascinate me,” Dwyer said. “They are old with sad histories.” Her favorite artists are Renaissance painters Michelangelo and Botticelli. Interestingly, Boticelli also began his art career in jewelry, having been a goldsmith before he began painting. Dwyer’s natural treatment of the way light hits objects and creates shadows is reminiscent of the Renaissance period, evoking the kind of emotional response in the eyes of the beholder that artists of that period strove to achieve. Dwyer’s studio is in an upstairs room in her Gilroy home. It is tidy with completed and in-progress paintings hanging or stacked against the walls. She enjoys plein-air painting and has a painting expedition planned with other artists in the Sierras in October. She sometimes takes months to finish one painting and finds comfort in listening to music while she works; preferring mostly classical, piano and opera. She said her life is driven by family, faith and friends. When asked what drives her art she has a ready response. “What drives me in my art is to create a sense of presence, so that I can share the beauty I see in the world around me.” Her stated mission reads, “My quest as an artist is to stir the senses and awaken the spirit.” Anyone viewing her art today would surely be stirred to utter “mission accomplished.” Dan Craig is a local artist whose early works were in the Realism style. He now enjoys an Impressionistic style. He lives in Morgan Hill with his life partner, Kim. GILROY • MORGAN HILL • SAN MARTIN SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2016 gmhtoday.com 81