Renay Shaffer (formerly Piper) was born in White Rock BC, Canada in 1973. This small beach town was the beginning of her exposure to and love of the ocean, her local coastline becoming a place to escape, think and write throughout life. Being near water is an identifying part of Renay and many of her paintings from early on have featured water in its different forms: waterfalls, surface, the underwater world, beaches and coastlines.
As a child Renay was lucky enough to briefly mentor under Rod Penner, who at the time was an emerging photorealist painter, now a Master Painter and living in Texas USA. Rod introduced her to the influential work of Andrew Wyeth. To this day she remembers Rod re-creating the side of a vine-and-brick-covered apartment building on canvas, every leaf and brick painted meticulously, and her joy in discovering how fabulous it could be to describe the smallest of details in a scene; to really look and take the time to paint it. Her drawings exhibited extreme realism at a young age.
Art took a backseat as Renay entered the work force, married early, and got lost in a decade of young adulthood. Following her brother’s tragic death, chronic illness, divorce and depression, Renay enrolled at Trinity Western University to major in Psychology and took a couple of art classes as electives. Little did she know that this combination of study would catapult her back into creativity and she quit formal studies after only a year, finding herself painting murals and commissions, while developing her own work that expressed emotion through common urban scenes and the occasional waterscape. Her first major juried group show, the Sidney Fine Art Show on Vancouver Island BC, awarded her Honorable Mention for “Searching for Clarity,” her first large scale acrylic waterscape. Despite painting somewhat sporadically, Renay participated in many group shows and had a solo show on Saltspring Island BC in 2009, while working side jobs and cultivating her interests in health and wellness, vegan cooking, running and yoga.
In 2014 Renay moved to Washington USA to marry her long-time love, and they lived inland for a couple of years before deciding to return to the coast. Renay became a certified yoga instructor and gradually resumed painting but hadn’t quite found her stride, experimenting in oils, watercolor and acrylic and painting the odd commission. One day she came across the large scale pastel drawings of water and icebergs by Zaria Forman, and was captivated by the realism Forman achieved and simplicity of process using pigment and paper. Unable to get pastels out of her mind, she finally picked up a half stick starter set of Unison Colour pastel and hasn’t looked back. The simplicity of the process has bloomed into adoration of the medium and exploding inspiration.
Today, Renay vacillates between painting with pastels and oil, depending on the subject matter and the final vision. Some ideas ask for unhurried contemplation in oil with meditative layers, and others ask for near immediate illumination in pastel. Her greatest muse – the ocean – reflects both our collective health and lack of stewardship. To paint it in all its forms has become a preservation instinct; to illustrate its fragility and awesomeness. She has also been exploring the ephemeral quality and gentle life lessons reflected in flowers, striving for non-saccharine but reverent studies.
Renay resides in Bellingham, Washington with her husband and two rescued Siamese cats, acutely aware of the blessing of being able to paint every day.