The artistic talent of Shirley Higgs was first displayed about three years ago in a community art and craft show sponsored by the Marsh Harbour Gospel Chapel in the Grace Gym. This was the first time Mrs. Higgs had shown her artwork, and this very modest and unassuming lady was very nervous.
However, she had no need to feel any nervousness because her work showed a lot of talent. The eye was immediately drawn to the beautiful horticultural paintings she had on display. It’s amazing that she had no training apart from art lessons in school many years ago and that she had only recently taken up a paintbrush again.
While attending Queens College in Nassau in her youth, Mrs. Higgs said that she always enjoyed art lessons and received good marks, but upon leaving school never followed this any further. However, one day a very talented artist friend who lives close by invited Mrs. Higgs to join her in painting designs on T-shirts. This reignited Mrs. Higgs’ artistic spark.
During a visit to her nephew’s shop in Hope Town a short time later, while admiring all the artwork, Mrs. Higgs became even more enthused. As luck would have it, there was a beginner’s acrylic kit in the shop for sale along with some canvases which she bought, took home and thus began painting again.
She first began with flowers from her garden, which is most fitting for her as she is a well-known horticulturalist both in Nassau and on Abaco.
“In the summer I was not able to work in my garden due to the heat, so what better thing to do than to paint the flowers from my garden?” she said. Her first painting was of a lily and this was followed by colourful orchids, bromeliads and daylilies. At school, the only medium she had worked in apart from pencil shading was watercolours but now she works with acrylic since she feels that this is an easier medium to manage and is more forgiving than watercolour. After a while she moved away from flowers and turned her attention to birds, particularly the parrot of which she is especially fond.
Fish, seahorses and mermaids are Mrs. Higgs latest favoured subjects. She has just completed a large, colourful painting of a lionfish as a commission and is presently working on a clownfish. In addition to her paintings on canvas, Mrs. Higgs uses her paints in many other creative ways.
She produces a very attractive line of small paper gift bags using varied designs such as seahorses, mermaids, hibiscus and the very popular curly tail lizard and these designs she also uses to embellish Christmas ornaments. In addition to being a great lover of flowers, Mrs. Higgs is also a great enthusiast for sea shells of which she has a vast and amazing collection. She enjoys using these shells to create striking craft pieces.
Throughout the years, when Mrs. Higgs was not utilizing her painting skills she was always very creative and made very good use of her various crafting skills such as embroidery, quilting and sewing her own and her daughter’s dresses.
Nowadays, she is enjoying her new hobby of painting and looks forward to painting early in the morning when the sun shines from the beautiful harbour into her makeshift studio in her living room. “I wish I could do it every morning,” says this busy lady, who is always involved in some kind of community work, such as hosting Horticultural Society meetings or raising funds for repairs to the Epworth Methodist Chapel at Cherokee.
“I would also like to have a proper studio where I could leave my art supplies out all the time and not have to put them away every time somebody comes to dinner,” she quipped.
Mrs. Higgs’ art and craft work can be viewed and purchased from Monkey’s Uncle in Marsh Harbour and Ebb Tide in Hope Town.