Jill Shuford

Artist bio

The visual effects of Light and Dark have always fascinated me. Playing with an interior space with direct sunlight raking across figures and objects allows me to create an environment that is pushing and pulling for attention. There is a beauty in the light and there is a thrill to push the darks to the max. As a Christian I also am drawn to the Gospel of John's writings about Jesus as the Light of the World, "The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it." That is always on my mind as I labor over images literally trying to keep the shadows from overpowering the lightest values. For me as the artist, the lighter scale of values is not as forgiving as the darker but much more enjoyable as a challenge to replicate their drama and beauty -- falling on a page, a stand of hair, a finger, a flower petal. I enjoy working with color in oil paint but my absolute passion is drawing with charcoal or pencil and to punch holes in the dark to let the lights shine. I am a retired Art Educator - 19 years as a Museum Educator and 15 years as a public school Art Teacher in the Charlotte, NC area. I have my Masters in Fine Arts from UNC-Greensboro and earned National Board Certification in Arts Education. I currently teach on-line Art Appreciation classes for a local community college. In 2016, I took early retirement and returned home to care for an aging parent. With my mom's passing 3 years ago, I begin to focus more on my personal artwork. I have remained in my small hometown and built a studio that looks across fields to the distant Blue Ridge Mountains.


Shadow of the Cross



Artist Statement

This work is an oil painting on canvas. I work from photographs that I shoot. I am always photographing light and shadows as that is an interest and on-going theme in my work. For this canvas, I used a photograph (which I have uploaded in the file) that was taken looking out a window inside the Mint Museum of Art (Charlotte, NC) during a spring visit in 2019. Two girls (who were unaware that I had taken the window shot) were photographed in dark silhouette against the bright window. This photo jumped started the creative process of the story that I wanted to tell. I took liberties in recreating two foreground figures in detail. The actual girl sitting on the bench appeared to be on a cell phone but you could not see her face as her hair blocked the view. The girl I painted has her hands on an opened Bible. I painted her in a blue blouse using the traditional Renaissance color of Mary. For the standing girl, I liked the sweater she wore (resembling a shroud) but painted her in a lavender color that represented delicacy and preciousness. Originally, I had planned on painting a church steeple lit in sunlight on the horizon. I opted for creating a shadow of a steeple and cross as if the girls (and viewer) were situated in a church. Enough cannot be said about the prayer and thought that goes into my work. I believe that the Spirit does indeed supernaturally work through my hands and eyes to lead me in decisions that I make in the creation of a work of art.

How it fits into contest

The Spiritual Battle is real but unseen. We have a veiled view; therefore, I painted a curtain screen in front of a window to obscure the bright images outside. The somber scene depicts the afternoon sun creating shadows and light across a cityscape. The light and shadows drew me to this scene and I chose to use the symbolism of light/dark and the forces of good/evil that are found throughout the Bible. The painting focuses on two girls in the foreground that appear immersed in reading and hearing the Word. The scriptures (held by the seated girl) are painted in bright/white colors symbolizing illumination. Two shafts of bright light on either side of the window are the only other pure white represented in the painting and refer to the reality that we are only seeing partially the Light of the outside scene. This vertical light which comes down above the head of the figure on the left and the right side of the window symbolizes the Spirit of God. As I paint, I choose colors for symbolical reasons -- the seated girl is in blue a color often representing the Word of God in Biblical art. The girl standing is in lavender which is symbolic of preciousness (as we are to God). On the right side of the composition, painted in blues and purples (purple is a symbol of royalty) a tall shadow of a steeple and a cross is stretching across several structures. This shadow indicates that the figures are sitting at a church window and the shadow of the steeple is from the church that they are in. It also indicates that the viewer's point of view is from within the church looking out. Even in a refuge as the church the spiritual battle is real. We often feel as if we are on a slippery slope. For this reason, I placed the seated girl not on a completely stable and horizontal bench but on a bench that is tilting downward. It is a reminder that we are always to keep on our toes to stay grounded and balanced in the Word. The bench's slope ends in direct line to the shadow of the cross above. We must fight the battle daily standing firm and taking up the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God.


I used a photograph to create this painting. The photograph is documented in the attached file. The figures in the painting are a composite of a photograph and the creative process.

How to Purchase this Artwork

"Shadow of the Cross" is an original oil painting on canvas - 18" X 24". It is listed at $500 ($600 framed). Contact the artist through

Other Goods & Services Available from this Artist

Preferred commissions include small informal portrait settings (oil on canvas) with light and shadow used for highlight and contrast. For commissions, contact the artist at

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