Talking art with Herne Bay’s Shelli Birkett

CommunityAd had the pleasure of speaking with Herne Bay based artist Shelli Birkett where we discussed her artistic background, Kent landscapes, and inspirations for her work…


Can you explain to readers your earliest memories of painting and any particular role models/inspiring figures that motivated you to work and embrace your artistic ability?

When I was primary school age I remember showing my mum a drawing I did, she didn’t believe I hadn’t copied it from somewhere so she made me draw it again to prove I did it myself and then kept getting me to do it to show my dad and other adults, it was quite funny because each time the adult would be quite surprised. My secondary school friends would pay me £1 to draw on the cover of their school books.

I didn’t start using paint until I was an adult.

You specialise in Custom Urban Abstract Design, from a personal perspective what would you say have been your favourite designs?

I have lost loved ones to mental health, and my mental health pieces have been very personal to me so it’s been lovely to share those with others who also have a passion in supporting this cause. I also like to donate my art to charities and businesses that have an effect on the community so that I know I have helped in some way.


CommunityAd Exclusive - Talking art with Herne Bay's Shelli BirkettYou recently won the East Kent Plein Air competition for your beautiful Margate painting, where does this win rank alongside your other artistic successes and will you be looking to enter more competitions this year?

I also create custom artwork on furniture and I have previously been sponsored by the Valspar Paint Company to create interiors for their website to promote their products. My work has also been featured in interior design blogs all over the world. Including one with around 100k subscribers in Australia, some in America and even one in Bahrain!

I only recently started painting on canvas, I’ve probably been doing it for around 5 years. But I am already sending pieces internationally.

The Plein Air competition was the first fine art competition I ever entered. It’s definitely given me the confidence to enter more.

Art can speak to us in many different ways and resonate deep with our own experiences. Can you explain how art makes you feel and the personal connection you have with it?

I am autistic, it took me until I was an adult to be told that. I spent a lot of my teens being the weird one, I was very eccentric and struggled with the social aspect of life. I didn’t understand why I was different. I just knew I was.

I spent my younger years trying to be liked and ‘cool’ and failed.

During my free time I would enjoy creating, sometimes I’d make my own clothes or write a book or I’d cook a complicated meal. I’ve always found creating very therapeutic.

My art has helped me express myself in ways I can’t vocalise and is something I turn to when I need time to reflect. My art has also made an impact on many other people who appreciate it and many have supported me since I started my business so now I finally feel understood and I’ve realised it’s absolutely ok to be different. In fact it’s something that should always be celebrated!

I am now also studying a degree so that I can be an art therapist for autistic children.


As an artist, how inspiring is it having a variety of landmarks in Herne Bay, Whitstable and Thanet on your doorstep to work on?

I have very recently started painting local landmarks, they have become extremely popular with the locals who have asked me to paint commissions of some beautiful places I didn’t even know existed!

Kent has so many jaw dropping scenes to appreciate that if anything I feel overwhelmed with the variety I have to choose from! So many places and not enough hands to paint them with!

I am working very hard to create a landmark collection that I’ll be releasing and hopefully exhibiting by Spring/Summer next year.

How can local readers keep up to date with your work? 

My website is being created as we speak, so for now I have two social media platforms that I regularly update for my followers can see what I’m working on. My Facebook is @shellibdesign and Instagram is @shellibartanddesign.

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