Shirley Isola: Creating A Masterpiece By Focusing On The Details


 Take a look at the image to left. It looks like a photograph, right? Yes. However, this is just one example of Shirley Isola’s color pencil and Scratchboard works of art.  With the shimmering mane, to the perfectly defined muscling, this self taught artist captures the sheer physical beauty of horses by focusing on every little detail. In fact, art is similar to success and discipline. When you break it down, success and habits is just small tasks that have been repeated over and over, until perfected. The same with could be said with Shirley’s art. Thousands of seemly simple pencil lines and scratches are laid on paper, quietly creating a masterpiece.

Chestnut 005

Shirley Isola

Location: El Dorado, California 

Mediums: Color Pencil & Scratchboard 

Contact: 530-344-7333 or email at:

Audacious Up Close

A California Native all her life, Shirley Isola’s passion for horses continued from the days of dreaming about horses and doodling them when she was a child, to the hours that she currently spends drawing her favorite animals. For the last 17 years, Shirley has made art her new career after spending most of her time raising a family, working in a different career and training/showing her dogs. After deciding she would return to art, she moved to her new home in El Dorado, California, where she has her art studio.  At that point, she worked mostly in graphite and wanted to try new mediums. After exploring, she honed her skills in color pencils, oils and pastels, her favorite of which is color pencils. A while later, when she saw a demonstration of scratchboard, Shirley decided to try-and fell in love with it! With her meticulous attention to detail, scratchboard soon became one of her favorite mediums.


Shirley also created portraits and scenes of other animals, landscapes and humans as well as entering her art into competitions and exhibiting her art across the United States shows. Her record of juried shows include the American Academy of Equine Art, the prestigious  International Society of Scratchboard Artists, and exhibits at horse events such as the Western States Horse Expo and Draft Horse Classic. She also won he People’s Choice award at the American Academy of Equine Art show in Kentucky as well as having her art featured in the magazine Horses in Art.

Young Curosity

TFS: Were you around horses at a young age?

SI: I’ve loved horses as far back as I can remember. I’m sure I began drawing them around age 5. My parents were rather old fashioned; owning a horse was not practical. They did take me to some horse shows, but I was mostly on my own.


TFS: What’s your process and what inspires you?

SI: I use photos to work from, always my own photos. I believe other’s photos are their creation, not mine. I go to horse shows or any equine event, camera in hand. I don’t limit myself to any certain breed or composition. I love the spirit of the Arabian and the power of the draft horse.

Shire Scratchboard

TFS: Any mediums you would like to try?

SI: I think I’ve just about tried them all! But since I am detail-oriented, colored pencils and scratchboard fit my style.


TFS: Any future exhibits/shows?

SI: I enter various shows, as they come along. Shows I regularly enter are the Draft Horse Classic in Grassvalley, CA; the International Society of Scratchboard Artists, OH; American Academy of Equine Art, KY.


TFS: Are you represented by a gallery?

SI: No. I prefer to sell my artwork. I have a booth twice a year and keep my prices reasonable.

Jullyen El Jamaal

TFS: Do you have any advice for other artists?

SI: Learning to draw is a must. Sketch something every day. I was a graphite artist for years, which is how I learned to draw. Find the medium that you are comfortable with and enjoy. If you are an equine artist, get out to ranches, horse shows, etc., and take your own photos. Get the best camera you can afford, one that can capture a horse’s movement. Enter/attend art shows; they can inspire you. Above all, enjoy doing your artwork!

Thanks for letting me interview you, Shirley!


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