Meet the Emerging Artists in the Collectors Circle Auction

By: Meghan Richardson

Get to know Maureen McNeil and Samara Marlee Shuter

thank you to Meghan Richardson, Baycrest’s Art Curator, for contributing to this story.

Exhibiting art and connecting with collectors in today’s art market has certainly posed challenges for many emerging artists. How can one get their pieces seen, when most in-person art fairs, gallery openings, events and activities have had to be canceled due to the Pandemic.

We are thrilled to have emerging artists Maureen McNeil and Samara Marlee Shuter included in The Collectors Circle Auction, presented by Baycrest in proud partnership with Waddington’s. This curated online auction allows buyers to connect with up-and-coming talent at affordable prices all while supporting a great cause.

I had the opportunity to interview two rising stars in the Canadian art world, Maureen McNeil and Samara Marlee Shuter, who both address the challenges of being women artists in today’s climate and the inspiration to their work.

Art can impact your daily life. When it comes to buying artwork investors should thoroughly research their potential purchases, and to save them time and effort, enlist the help of a knowledgeable art consultant who knows a client’s taste and can ensure the artist’s legitimacy. Most importantly buyers should purchase pieces of art that they love.

After almost two decades as a Gallery Director in a commercial art gallery setting and now the Art Curator at Baycrest and owner of Richardson Art Projects, the passion and creativity from artists that I am constantly surrounded with is truly remarkable. I hope you enjoy getting a glimpse into the world of these two wildly talented women artists Maureen and Samara. And don’t forget to place your bids!

— Meghan Richardson.

Maureen McNeil, A DIFFERENT KIND OF LIFE, 2019

Interview with Maureen McNeil 

What is it like to be an emerging artist in today’s art climate?

From the very beginning of Covid I told myself and my family that we were going to make the best of it. First off I gave away 12 paintings to frontline workers weekly in draws that friends submitted, that made me feel useful and it brought a lot of joy to doctors, nurses, and first responders

I have been very busy since Covid started, people want artwork in their offices and homes, cancelled trips = a new painting, more time at home = renovations that include art on their bare walls

One of the negatives being in a restricted zone due to the pandemic = no client visits in my studio and I really miss that.You have to look at reaching the public in different ways, I hang my art in dentist offices, wellness centres and boutiques I thought I would reach a different market doing so and it has worked very well for me.

Online auctions have also been a fantastic way of selling my art and getting great exposure.

You have to stay on top of social media to reach your prospective clients through Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, and my website are wonderful platforms to show and interact with collectors.

Does being a Woman artist have its challenges?

Sometimes but I just laugh it off and continue, however once when I was installing a piece at the dentist office and a woman asked “what’s his name?” I replied “I painted it” she smirked at me and said “A Group of Seven Wannabe?” – “Yes I am” I replied.

She fueled me, that’s ok I have always known that someday I would find my audience it would just take that much more work and perseverance.  I have been up for the challenge because I need to paint, like I need to breathe.

Has it been challenging at times – yes, but I think all artists would say If you don’t have a thick skin don’t sign up.

Male or female though you have to put the time in, nothing takes the place of hard work and making it your job.

How did you find your artistic voice?

The Group of Seven have been my main influence, growing up my Mom had beautiful books with all their work which I would look at

It wasn’t until later on that I felt my style started to appear and I was forced to look at my work and pick a lane. I have loved trees forever and landscapes were something I wanted to paint.

Maureen McNeil, A BEAUTIFUL LIFE, 2020

Combing over my Moms books I started to study the Group of Seven, I would talk to them while I was painting and ask what should I do now? I read their biographies immersing myself in their way of thinking. Their work is so important I feel a need to pay homage by keeping landscapes, lakes and trees alive in my own style; I would feel remiss to not give everything up to the digital world.

I feel like I am still finding my artistic voice but I am getting clearer on how I love to paint, what colours I love to use and the process it takes to get there.

Who inspires and influences you in your work?

The Group of Seven, especially Lawren Harris, I love how he has a modern approach with his thick application and heavy lines. Contemporary artist Marie Claude Boucher, I just love her bright colours and bold brush strokes.

What sets you apart from the pack and makes you unique?

My approach is to take what could be a boring subject (trees hills and lakes) and make it modern and exciting with amazing colour, bold lines and texture.

Being an emerging artist I feel my work is well priced for the individual who would like to start collecting.

Samara Shuter, BROTHERHOOD, 2016

interview with Samara Marlee Shuter 

What is it like to be a young artist in today’s art climate?

It depends who you ask! The truth is, I feel extremely fortunate to be working and doing what I love, despite the pandemic.

Social media has (very obviously) played a large part in my success as a working Fine Artist- on top of having creative control over my overall online presence including my website and store (whereas these features used to be monopolized solely by galleries at one point in time).

I will admit, I was extremely concerned a few months ago. Once all of my art fairs had been cancelled, and my galleries started to operate on half-days only… followed by lockdowns, I was pretty nervous – and then I thought: “Now is a time to build”, and just as I started to dip into my savings, so many people began to come out of the woodwork. Collectors and new inquiries about past emails which had fallen off of their radar, or interior designers still working with clients, as people pushed on with their home renovations. Shortly after that, I received an influx of gallery rep inquiries from other countries, looking to see what inventory I have available. It was surreal, but it also made sense to me.

Art is of course a luxury item during these times, and for those who are able to invest in me at this stage of my career, they’ve joked that they’re home “looking at bare walls” or looking to refresh their environment as of late. So, in my case, I have been extremely lucky to have built a network around my artwork who’s keeping tabs and checking in with me and what I have to offer, and again, that at this stage of my career, that there is a demand for what I’m creating. My galleries are still selling, and I have been able to host virtual tours/Facetime appointments from my studio when I can. I count my blessings often, and know that without the platform of social media, my “job” would look very different, and most likely not as enjoyable for me personally, as I love to meet and interact with my buyer and know where my work is going. Simply put, we just have direct access to our collectors and fans like never before, and the direct feedback is a real trip.

Does being a Woman artist have its challenges?

I recognize my privilege when I admit that this is not something I have faced head-on, but I am keenly aware of the obstacles some of my peers see before them, dealing with older institutions as well as some of the biases that exist in group and museum shows.

Samara Shuter, CITY SURFING, 2019

It’s been suggested to me before that I am “better off putting ‘Sam’ on my website header” as it might garner more attention if no one is put off by my being a female (ironically painting men). But it was ok for Picasso to paint women and so on. I don’t know. I think I block a lot of it out. The longer I think about it, little instances come to mind… in fact many, but not about being in the arts. Just a woman. Luckily I come from a strong one, and we’ll see where that gets me.

How did you find your artistic voice?

My parents gave me the freedom to follow my nose when I was younger. My father would doodle with me all of the time, and this trickled into my classes… onto my notebooks, not in them.

I loved just about every artistic assignment I had, until my art teacher herself told the class to paint our dream if we had one from the night before. So I did. Unfortunately it wasn’t well received and I was told that “you can’t break the rules until you know them”. I just recall thinking how excited I was to get out from under her thumb. It’s funny, I couldn’t stand school then, and now at 34, there are so many classes I would take! I am a far better student now, but back then, I am so glad I was accepted in my family for who I was and what interested me. It all evolved so organically.

My background is in film. The short version of this story is that I was working on set and reading scripts most weeks as on/off contract work, and bartending part time to pay off the rest of my school debt. It was during this time that I unearthed some old doodles (suits, ties and my own “fabric patterns” to mimic my Father, Grandfather, Aunt and Uncle’s role in the textile industry at the time) and started to apply these graphic-novel-like drawings onto some abstract paintings I was making for myself on weekends. It wasn’t long until I found my workflow, and proceeded to post my creations online. Word got around, one thing led to another, and after selling (just one) painting, my family encouraged me to enter into my first art exhibit. So as the story goes, I saved up every last tip I could collect, and purchased a booth size I could afford to fill, and BAM! Two days into the show I sold out!

Not only did I sell out, but I was getting emails asking if I sold prints of my work or what I might have “back at my studio”. How funny! You mean at the end of my bed in my parents’ house? That was it for me.

Slowly over time, I transitioned out of the bar and eventually left my film “career” after six years and began to paint full time.

I treated it like a business from the beginning. I never wanted to be in a position where I’d find myself “starving” as far as the expression goes. It’s not just my artistic voice; it’s my entrepreneurial one, too. Being a “maker” for a living is an art, top to bottom! From wet paint to the shipping label, I love the entire experience. It’s so very hard to “make it” is the truth (overhead is a killer), so I am extremely lucky to love what I do and get to share it, now, with people all over the world. I like to tell people that I am pretty much in art school now, every painting feels like an experiment or an “itch to scratch” as I play with new series, palettes and scale. My voice is being tuned!

Who inspires and influences you in your work?

My goodness. So many other artists! Jose Parla, FAILE, POSE (a lot of street art), Bev Fishman, Tim Okamura, Erik Parker…

And there are of course Interior Designers who light me up like Kelly Wearstler and music from the likes of Theevs or Red Hot Chilli Peppers (mixed with a little Motown…). I’m all over the board. It’s colour, it’s scale, it’s mood and it’s motion! I can be out at a restaurant and take a photo of the tile beneath my feet and then add it into my work. I might feel the texture of a wall and let it inspire me to add 4 layers of gel or spray paint until it feels even close to it! The “who” vs the “what” is really just a mix of my family, to do well by them, as well as support my friends (it really does linger into my everyday), and then those who I follow online who are working in the arts (again, mostly my friends) from architects to potters, chefs and entertainers! It all trickles in. We’re all sweating it out, but having a great time!

What sets you apart from the pack and makes you unique?

That’s for you to decide 😉

About the auction

The Collectors Circle Auction in support of Baycrest is offered online by Waddington’s November 28 to December 6 at 5 pm. Find out more.



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