Chasing the Light | The Art of Pat Shopbell

For artist Pat “PJ” Shopbell, creating art is like trying to catch a firefly in a jar. Attempting to capture the ”spark” of a fleeting moment can be challenging but also exceptionally fun and gratifying. Through careful composition, her viewers are led into and through her paintings, while light and color impart a sense of mood and atmosphere. Creating paintings that strike an emotional chord with her viewers is Shopbell’s ultimate goal.

Shopbell’s paintings feature prominently the cowboy country of the inland Northwest and the intoxicating beauty of Hawaii – both of which have an emotional connection to her life. In her artwork, she captures the light and magic of these vastly different places in beautiful and dynamic ways.

Shopbell was born and raised in Seattle, Washington, and has always loved making art. Her childhood fascination with horses and the ocean would shape her life and art career. She got her first horse at age 10 and was a certified scuba diver by the time she was 12. Shopbell’s parents took her to Hawaii several times while she was growing up, and she fell in love with the islands. Little did she know she would end up living there 50 years later.

Laupahoehoe Point Triptych | oil on canvas | 36″ x 72″ | $9500

Art has been an integral part of Shopbell’s life. She comes from a long line of talented artists. Her father was an extremely gifted craftsman, and her mother an accomplished painter. Making beautiful things has always been just a part of everyday life for Shopbell.

Shopbell has worked in various mediums over the years, including glass, stone, wood, bronze, watercolor, oils, and leather. Early in her career, she apprenticed at a famous stained glass studio, where she designed and built original pieces and replicated painted panels for damaged cathedral windows. She went on to start her own stained glass company, creating one-of-a-kind art glass installations for high-end homes, businesses, and custom sailboats.

Sisters | oil on canvas | 30″ x 20″ | $2250

During this time, Shopbell was also painting watercolors and making bronze sculptures. At 20, she married her high school sweetheart and bought a farm where they raised hay, cattle, and horses. She also had two children and adopted two more. This demanding lifestyle left little time for painting, but she managed to sneak a few in when she found the time.

Shopbell started making hand-carved Western saddles and fine-braided cowboy horse gear as a natural extension of her love of horses and art. For 30+ years, she made these custom saddles for some of the country’s top riders and horse trainers. Each was a unique work of art, bas-relief sculptures of leather and silver.

Childhood Reflections | oil on panel | 12″ x 9″ | $500

Finally, in retirement, Shopbell and her husband sold their farm and moved to the rural windward side of the Big Island of Hawaii. Today, they live in a bamboo house on the side of a hill overlooking the Pacific, where Shopbell has her studio.

Shopbell’s technique is constantly evolving, and she believes that artists never really “arrive.” Life and art are about learning and experimenting; luckily, you can learn as much from a failed attempt as from success. With much trial and error, Shopbell has studied and tried to emulate the techniques of people whose art she admires. Trying to figure out the “how” and “why” of great works of art is the game, and each painting is a puzzle to be solved, piece by piece.

Rancher’s Gold | oil on canvas | 24″ x 30″ | $2700


Shopbell’s art is unique because of her focus on light and shadow. She often paints multiple layers of glazes to give her paintings depth and richness. Her attention to detail and use of light and shadow creates a unique and dramatic effect in her paintings.

The artist in her studio, Laupahoehoe, Hawaii.

Shopbell recently completed a triptych painting of Laupahoehoe Point. The project was her first large-scale work, measuring 36″x 72″. She found the project to be both fun and challenging and loved the experience of working on a large canvas. She is looking forward to painting more large-scale projects in the future.

“Art is a language that all people speak,” says Shopbell. “It is profoundly human. It transcends the barriers of time and distance, race and culture, education and status.”

Shopbell feels her mission as an artist is to invite people into her art to explore and join in the story. She hopes her art will bring joy and spark the imagination. Shopbell aspires to capture even a tiny glimmer of the infinite wonder of God’s creation in her art.

To view more of Pat Shopbell’s art, visit

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1 Comment

  1. I enjoyed Shopbell’s philosophy and the story of her art life which is a motivation to growing artists.
    Artist never really arrives.

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