Rhody Maker: Shirley Bell of Shirley Bell Designs

The Jamestown-based watercolor artist has been painting for thirty-five years and sells her work in gift shops throughout the country.
Shirley Bell painting the landscape of Fort Wetherill

Shirley Bell painting the landscape of Fort Wetherill. (Photo courtesy of Shirley Bell)

Shirley Bell began experimenting with watercolor after graduating from college thirty-five years ago, unbeknownst to where it would lead her. She worked as a social worker and painted in her time off, but her job left her unfulfilled.

As a result, Bell began painting, wholesaling and retailing her artwork. She sold her stationery and jewelry in gift shops across the country, as well as in local shows. However, Bell keeps her business to only New England states now.

In 2006, Bell launched her company Shirley Bell Designs, featuring more than 300 of her pieces on stationery and other gift items. She creates her artwork and prints at her studio in Jamestown, which is one of the many sources of inspiration for her.

Lions Head Copy

Watercolor of Lions Head in Beavertail State Park. (Photo courtesy of Shirley Bell)

“I live in Jamestown so I paint a lot of local things here,” Bell says. “I love painting the rocks, like in Fort Wetherill — my favorite place to paint.”

Bell focuses much of her attention on her natural surroundings, including her flower gardens and the birds that visit. She also enjoys painting landscapes, using different areas of Jamestown as references.

“I did a big one of Windmist Farm that I will be showing in an upcoming art show in Jamestown,” Bell says. “I can’t wait to put it in.”

Bell is an artist member of the Rhode Island Watercolor Society; her watercolor piece, “Hydrangea Still Life,”has been accepted into its 2021 National Watermedia Show.

Watercolor piece Hydrangea Still Life

Watercolor piece, “Hydrangea Still Life.” (Photo courtesy of Shirley Bell)

With August ending soon, Bell is also gearing up for Christmas orders. The months leading up to December are busy for online sales, especially when the pandemic caused stores to close. Bell says she has to finish her Christmas cards early to prepare for the rush.

“I don’t think it’s going to be as bad this year, but people are still going to be ordering online because the virus isn’t going anywhere,” Bell explains. “The people that order early — I love them. I don’t have to worry about the orders not getting there in time.”

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Newport Bridge Christmas card. (Courtesy of Shirley Bell)

Among the Christmas cards she has available, one of her most popular is her Newport Bridge card. She also has a variety of ornaments, most of them depicting winter nights and animals with Christmas decorations.

For more information, visit shirleybelldesigns.com or check out her Etsy shop to preorder Christmas cards.