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Watercolorist came to painting after retiring

Pat Shough is a well-known regional artist who displays at Gallery North as well as other venues. Pioneer Photo/Patt Rall

While attending high school in California, Pat Shough chose chorus as her elective for four years.

Shough had no interest in art and went on to college to study elementary education. She taught special education for the Bemidji School District and decided to go back to college and study nursing. She worked as a registered nurse here in Bemidji, and after retiring, began to spend winters in Bradenton, Fla.

One day about five years ago, her sister-in-law prompted her to sign up for an art class at the Florida Watercolor Society. Shough's first watercolor captured the imagination of her teacher, who advised her to mat and frame the picture with the hope of selling it at an upcoming show. The instructor also moved her from beginning to intermediate watercolor class.

At the suggestion of that same instructor, Shough changed her artist's signature. Shough signs her work on the back of her canvasses but the name "Sillimandi," which appears on the front, harkens back to her mother's family history in Italy.

That first watercolor did sell, and just when Shough thought she would enjoy being retired, she was busily engaged in the world of art.

A visitor to her studio will find many pieces in progress as the artist relies upon inner inspiration to start a project and work on a picture. Although she started working in watercolor, Shough has found that she likes the whimsy in working with a palette knife and her favorite paints, which "spread like butter." Her well known animal paintings, like "Lovezebras," a 17-inch-square Acrylic, are enjoyed by collectors and the average person who enjoys looking at art work for its own sake.

Shough said she likes to work on large pieces of canvas or watercolor paper because she can bring a story to the piece as her thoughts develop. For example, what might start out as a simple pair of zebra grazing emerges as a fight for life with other wild animals as the final scene. This transition may take weeks or months to complete as Shough returns to her work time and again to view, revise or add elements.

Now Shough is a well-known regional artist who displays at Gallery North as well as other venues. She has a permanent display with other artists at Tutto Bene in downtown Bemidji, and she just finished a show at Dunn Bros. Coffee Shop. She also accepted a few commissions for pieces.

Shough is also a member of the Northern Artists Association and Artists of Minnesota. She was asked to chair the spring judged show and convention of Artists of Minnesota. She and her fellow artists from Gallery North and Northern Artists Association will host the event in May at the Hampton Inn. A project grant was awarded by Region 2 Arts Council last fall to secure the venue for this event.

Natalia Himirska Klyova, professor of fine art at Bemidji State University, whose work is part of many prestigious museum collections in Europe, the Far East and the Library of Congress Prints Collection, is the show judge.

There will be workshops for the participants from watercolor artist Jane Freeman and Maureen O'Brien. The public will be invited to view the work of the place winners and other entrants.

Any artist who wishes to compete may call Shough at 751-8841 or on her cell 760-2308, or download an application and see the rules for participation at