Australian Artist Brings Bird’s Soul to Life on the Canvas

A Lifelong Journey Inspired by Birds

'Peek A BoobookOwl' painted in oils by Nicky Shelton
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Australian artist Nicky Shelton has a gift for capturing feathered subjects’ unique charisma and personality in spectacular oil paintings.

This remarkable artist, hailing from Perth, Western Australia, found her niche painting realistic Australian birds.

“Capturing the beauty, unique personality, and magnificence of Australian birds ignites my passion for painting in oils,” says Shelton.

'The Catch' - White-bellied Sea Eagle painted in oils (76x153cm)
‘The Catch’ – White-bellied Sea Eagle painted in oils (76x153cm)

“I love interpreting each bird’s quirky characteristics. Over weeks of developing layers of oil paint, I capture the charisma and detail of every composition.”

Australian birds come to life with each stroke of Shelton’s brush.

It’s as if they jump off the canvas when you look at them.

And you have to look twice to make sure they’re not real.

‘Fernando - the Australian Blue Wren by Nicky Shelton
‘Fernando – the Australian Blue Wren by Nicky Shelton

Birds Inspire Artist Journey

With the ability to create such lifelike paintings, you might think Shelton has been painting all her life.

She embraced her artistic journey of fine art in 2012 after a successful corporate career.

“After retiring, I reignited my childhood dream to become an artist,” Shelton explains.

Shelton swapped a desk for an easel and attended a series of local TAFE art classes.

Now she dedicates every spare moment to developing her artistic skills.

Shelton is an up-and-coming artistic talent and was named a finalist in three 2017 art awards. The Asia Pacific Cliftons Art Prize, Holmes Art Prize for Excellence in Realistic Australian Birdlife and the Midwest Art Prize.

Nicky Shelton’s painting ’Nelly' was a finalist At the Midwest Art Prize 2017
Nicky Shelton’s painting ’Nelly’ was a finalist At the Midwest Art Prize 2017

Nearly all of Shelton’s work includes birds.

She loves choosing them as her subject because of their freedom, individuality, majesty, and beauty.

Connection Between Birds and Art

Nicky sees the connection between birds and art as a level of awareness.

“I try to capture the uniqueness of my subjects by spending hours focusing on the details and bringing that bird’s soul to life.”

“Each of my subjects has a story to tell, and I try to bring that story to life.”

Birds Provide Inspiration

Birds are quite inspirational to her.

“I love their sense of freedom, their ability to see the world from above, their uniqueness, and different characteristics between the species. I also adore their beauty.”

'Sugar and Spice' -Singing Honeyeaters oil on canvas board by Nicky Shelton
‘Sugar and Spice’ – Singing Honeyeaters oil on canvas board by Nicky Shelton

Why Birds Matter

She regards birds as one of Mother Nature’s treasured jewels.

“I’m quite fortunate to live in Australia and share the continent with a wonderland of diverse birdlife.”

But says birds are like many of Mother Nature’s gifts that are taken for granted and are often mistreated.

Shelton believes all creatures on this planet are here for a reason and should be recognized for their purpose and beauty.

“The biggest issue birds face today is the loss of habitat due to urbanization, and we have a responsibility to look after and cherish the gifts we have been given,” she adds.

Nicky begins work on 'Born to Fish' oil painting
Nicky begins work on ‘Born to Fish’ oil painting

Supporting Australian Bird Advocacy Groups

Besides being a gifted birdlife artist, Shelton is an advocate for conservation.

She’s an active member of Birdlife Australia, Australia’s largest bird conservation organization.

Birdlife Australia is an independent, not-for-profit. Its objective is to create a brighter future for Australia’s birds.

She donates a percentage from each bird painting she sells to organizations protecting the many species which are under threat.

It’s a fair assumption that Shelton is creating a brighter future for Australian birds because of the popularity of her work.

Shelton supports Western Australian Seabird Rescue, a volunteer-based, not-for-profit organization that rescues and rehabilitates over 400 birds last year.

She’s also an exhibiting member of the Wildlife Art Society of Australia.

'Born to Fish' - Fairy Tern oil painting by Nicky Shelton
‘Born to Fish’ – Fairy Tern oil painting by Nicky Shelton

A Bird Advocate is Born

Shelton became an advocate for the protection and conservation of wildlife at an early age.

One of her earliest childhood memories is waking to the dawn call of the Australian Magpie or the Laughing Kookaburra.

She recalling sitting on the front step of the family home and watching the Robin Red Breasts flit in and out of the rose bushes.

“Then one day, the Robin Red Breasts disappeared.”

“My parents later told me these little birds had fallen victim to the local government’s decision to poison overabundant pigeons on the local railway track.”

“I was devastated, and from a young age I quietly vowed to assist with the protection and conservation of birdlife,” she says.

'Fergus' – Australian Tawny Frogmouth painted in oils on canvas board by Nicky Shelton
‘Fergus’ – Australian Tawny Frogmouth painted in oils on canvas board by Nicky Shelton

Now, Shelton paints every day on the front veranda of her family home overlooking Lake Monger, a wildlife preserve in Perth, Western Australia.

She considers the garden to be an extension of this reserve which allows her the opportunity to share her space with various birdlife.

“Birds are very inquisitive and come and say hello, and some are very timid even though they know me.”

“Some of my bird friends are brilliant creatures, some are very funny to watch, and some can be extremely resourceful,” she says.

Favorite Place to See Birds

She goes birdwatching every day.

Her favorite place to see birds is bushwalking, where she can smell the eucalyptus trees, enjoy the natural bush and watch the birds be free.

Nelly – Australian Red-tailed Black Cockatoo

Shelton has created many fabulous paintings of Australian Birdlife, but her favorite piece of art is the painting “Nelly,” an Australian Red-tailed Black Cockatoo.

This piece has been a finalist in two major competitions.

She named the painting after an amazing, beautiful, regal 92-year-old woman who was an Olympic rower and gave up competitive rowing at 89.

'Nelly' - Shelton's oil painting of an Australian Red-tailed Black Cockatoo (61x91cm)
‘Nelly’ – Shelton’s oil painting of an Australian Red-tailed Black Cockatoo (61x91cm)

Shelton’s Art Shows

In May 2018, Shelton held her first solo exhibition called “A Birds Perspective.” The show was a huge success, and Shelton sold many pieces of art.

After obtaining several commissions, she raised hundreds of dollars for Birdlife Australia to help support threatened and endangered birds.

'Lilly' - South African Lilac Breasted Roller oil on canvas board by Nicky Shelton
‘Lilly’ – South African Lilac Breasted Roller oil on canvas board by Nicky Shelton

Shelton’s artwork is just stunning, so be sure to check out her website or Instagram account.

You’ll marvel at the vibrant colors, attention to detail, and realistic beauty she brings to the canvas. And finding yourself taking third and fourth looks in amazement because you’ll swear you’re looking at a photograph.

She’s a fantastic artist inspired by the most beautiful gifts from Mother Nature – the incredible diversity of fascinating birds.

Visit Nicky Shelton’s website at and follow her on Instagram.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


Mockingbirds Become Aggressive After Lead Exposure

Mockingbirds Become More Aggressive After Lead Exposure

How to send a finch extinct - The southern black-throated finch (Photo credit: E. Vanderduys)

How to Send a Finch Extinct