Shirley Fachilla: Figures with a Story

NOAPS Fachilla Reflections of the Way Life Used to Be   “Reflections of the Way Life Used to Be”, 18×14, Oil, Winner of an Award of Excellence from the 2017 NOAPS Spring Online International.  Private collection.

This freshly painted portrait captures a fleeting moment of reflection as the title would suggest.  It is atmospheric, with neutral tones surrounding the warmth of the face.  The reds, blues and greys contrast the dark intense color of the face, with glints of light bouncing all around the composition.  The artist has employed the technique of selective focus; much of the painting has been created with soft, undefined edges, leaving the detail for the face, the focal area.  And though the viewer can’t see the figure’s eyes, the facial expression tells us the sitter is deep in thought.

NOAPS Fachilla Stroll Beside the Louvre   “Stroll Beside the Louvre”, 16×20, Oil, Private collection.

Shirley Fachilla is an artist of her own making.  She grew up in an area that offered no art classes in public schools, and was only able to take a few private lessons as a teen.  Nor did her adult jobs involve art; it was after an illness that Shirley returned to her love for art.  It served to help divert her focus at the time, and since then her art has blossomed.  She has taken workshops to advance her skills from artists such as Dawn Whitelaw, Kenn Backhaus, Anne Blair Brown, Gayle Levee, Max Ginsburg, Carolyn Anderson, and others.  Last year she participated in the Cecilia Beaux Mentoring Program offered by the Portrait Society of America.  Her mentor, Susan Smith, has helped Shirley to think about her process in new ways.

NOAPS Fachilla The Resiliency of Age   “The Resiliency of Age”, 24×12, Oil, Collection of the Artist

Many Old Master artists have inspired Shirley; Degas for his compositions, Sorolla for his sense of light and mastery of edges, and contemporary artist Carolyn Anderson for her brushwork.

NOAPS Fachilla Queen Anne's Lace   “Queen Anne’s Lace”, 24×12, Oil, Private Collection

Shirley’s main topic for her paintings is the figure, and finds that the light inspires her best paintings.  Her figure work is often from life done in the alla prima style.  Whether she is working plein air, or from reference photos, she finds that doing a preliminary thumbnail sketch helps to establish her composition and keep her on track throughout the painting.  When working from photos, she focuses on the value structure of the composition and disregards the color.   She then does her drawing first, creating an underpainting.  Initially Shirley painted with a limited palette, which helped her to see the colors in the neutrals, and taught her to effectively mix color.   Currently her palette consists of permanent yellow light, permanent yellow medium, alizarin red, permanent red light, ultramarine blue, cerulean blue hue, yellow ochre and radiant white (Gamblin), and occasionally transparent red oxide, transparent yellow oxide and black.  Her favorite brushes are the Princeton Catalyst synthetics as they keep a good edge.

NOAPS Fachilla Band of Brothers

“Band of Brothers”, 12×24, Oil, Donnegan Gallery of Art.

Sometimes an artist has a favorite painting based on what we have learned from the painting.  In “Band of Brothers”, Shirley states of this Civil War Battle in Franklin, Tennessee, “The battlefield is just a few miles from my house.  I had steeped myself in the dismal history of it, the incredible loss of life on both sides and the total futility of that particular fight.  I wanted to make a painting not about the blood and futility but about the remarkable bravery of the soldiers…..It is perhaps my best painting ever”.  The painting was accepted into the 2012 NOAPS Best of America Exhibit and won an Award of Merit.

Shirley’s closing words for us are to “be serious about what you do, but paint with joy”.  Good advice for any vocation.

To see more work by Shirley Fachilla, visit her website at

To see more of the National Oil & Acrylic Painters Society Spring Online International, visit or see us on Facebook or Instagram (natoilandacrylicsociety).

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