Bio & CV
Limited Editions
Available Originals


Suzanne Schirra - Custom Animal Artwork

Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole
 -- Roger Carras


Happiness is a
warm puppy!
-- Charles Schultz


recent press


Colorado Artist Colors Our World

Suzanne Schirra has been drawn to art since she was a child using crayons. “My work has always been about vivid, bold color. In painting dogs,” she says, “I aim to capture their expressions precisely, then add intensity through my use of color.”

In fact it is her use of bright colors, combined with the realism in her work, that make Schirra’s acrylic-on-canvas paintings unique. While many artists paint animals using bright colors, they usually paint caricatures, or in the abstract. Schirra is one of the few artists who create photorealistic portraits that look exactly like the animal she’s portraying except in bright, electric colors.


Chinese Crested ‘Tallulah.’


She admits that she could have chosen any subject matter using the style in which she paints. However, Schirra felt strongly that an artist who paints any and everything is seldom very accomplished at any of them. The painter who chooses one field, studies it carefully and concentrates on it has a greater chance of success. Because she loves dogs so much, they are her chosen subjects.

As Schirra says, “Dogs don’t live beige lives. They live big, bold, vibrant lives.” She uses color to reflect that, and she concentrates particularly on their facial expressions. Most of her work depicts just the head and shoulders of her subjects, as she feels that the face is where the soul of the dog is expressed.


Golden Retriever ‘Clementine.’


Combining her love of color with her love of dogs creates paintings that positively jump off the canvas. For each painting she works from one photograph. You won’t find many grays or browns in her paintings. Instead Schirra uses rich blues and purples to convey the darkest areas, and then adds complementary colors in orange, reds and yellows, sometimes combined with white, to flesh out each canine.

Each painting takes from 10 days to one month to complete, and the majority of her work is commissioned by individual owners. She paints in many layers, going from dark to light to create depth. She does this over and over again until the dog has come to life, and then uses very small brushes to bring out all the detail and texture of the dog’s coat, as well as its wet nose and sometimes lolling tongue. She then highlights the outline with another vivid color, which makes the image pop.


Westie puppy ‘Wally.’


While she brings to her work a solid background, with degrees in art history and graphic arts, Schirra has continued to learn throughout her career. In addition to studying skeletal and muscular form, and movement in the human, which she capably applies to dogs, she has studied breed standards, as well as different coat types, eye and ear shapes, and noses in dogs. And each new breed that she paints is a lesson in itself, as she learns something new with each commission.


Labrador Retriever ‘Gunnar.’


The Vail, Colo., resident isn’t the only famous person in her family. Suzanne’s late father, Wally Schirra, was one of the original seven astronauts selected for Project Mercury, the first U.S. effort to put humans in space, and the only one to fly in all of America’s first three space programs, Mercury, Gemini and Apollo. But his daughter found her life’s calling with her feet planted firmly on the ground.


Maltese ‘Magnolia.’


Schirra’s work is currently showing at Vail Village Arts in Vail and at the Vickers Collection in both Aspen and Beaver Creek. She is also showing in California and Hawaii and, soon, in New York. To see more of her work, or to commission a painting of your own, visit her website at www.suzanneschirra.com.








RSF artist Suzanne Schirra's world
revolves around canvases of brilliant colors

For this artist, it's all about color.

She doesn't like pale, that's why she doesn't paint people.

Her favorite color is green-apple green, but don't look for it any of her paintings.

And - she always knew she would grow up to be an artist.

"I like to be saturated with and surrounded by color," said acrylic on canvas painter Suzanne Schirra.

"I paint from one photo and it's extremely photo-realistic, but I hate blacks, browns and beiges. It's all about color and vibrancy," said Schirra whose pet portraits are hanging in Leigh Timmons' Rancho Santa Fe galleries.

"That's why I don't paint humans, because they just don't have any good colors," Schirra said with a laugh.

She been painting people's pets for years in Vail, Colorado, until her mother needed care two years ago and Schirra returned to the Ranch.

Instead of orbiting the Earth as did her father, the late astronaut Wally Schirra, this Schirra's world revolves around painting beloved birds, cats and horses in a carousel of color akin to Walt Disney's world.

However, her favorite subjects are dogs of every breed and Schirra is lending her talents to the Helen Woodward Animal Center's annual Spring Fling fundraiser. The artist is donating a 36" x 36" commission valued at $3,575 to the event.

During the month of June, Schirra and Timmons agreed to donate a combined 25 percent from the sale of the artist's paintings hanging in Timmons Galleries and J Gallery to the animal center.

On June 6, Schirra will hold a painting demonstration at J Gallery from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. "It's not a commission, it's just a painting for the gallery," she said. "When I don't paint commissions, sometimes I just like to paint fun things.

"This dog," she said, "is a white fluffy mutt with his nose way up in the air and his mouth wide open and his tongue hanging out."

The artist who abhors the whiter shades of pale said, "My choice of colors may be unconventional, however, I am always true to the eyes. I pay particular attention to the eyes. They show the soul of each animal.

"I start out doing the sketch and then I paint from dark to light," she said. "Unfortunately, I can't do that once. I have to paint from the darks to the lights. I start with the darkest area, go to the lightest area and then I do it all over again. I feel that that builds up a lot more depth and gives it more of a solid feeling."

Schirra, now 50, she became a full-time artist only seven years ago.

She has degrees in art history and graphic arts. She studied in Colorado and Europe "The best training I had was when I went to school in Italy for a while, an hour outside of Florence," she said. "I learned more in the six months I was there than in anything else combined and that was great."

Schirra also worked in an art museum.

"If I couldn't make a living do art, I was going to surround myself with it, that's why I started working in a gallery and then I eventually got to be the director," she said, "and I picked up a lot from that too.

"Ever since I was a little kid in fourth grade, I knew I would be an artist. I always loved it and I've always been into bright colors. I was winning art awards in junior high and high school, then I really knew that was going to be my focus," she said.

Although she never had to face the facts of the starving artist, Schirra noted that there's something to be said for perseverance and all the education someone in the arts can absorb.

"If you have the passion for it, you figure it out," she said, "because nobody told me how to get to where I was. I didn't need to get the graphic art degree because I didn't end up using it, but all the education adds up to something. Sometimes you're not aware of what helped you along the way, but it all does.

"As far as advice," Schirra added, "if you're really into it, stick with it. Don't let anybody push you away from it."

About art, she said, "It's like music or anything else, it's a hard profession to try to make it at. Not everyone who gets out of school knows what they're going to do. What profession you think you're going into doesn't mean you're going to go into it. No matter what you major in doesn't mean you get to do.

"I don't think anyone sets out to be an accountant or an insurance salesman when they're kids," she said with another one of those hardy laughs.

That did not mean either Schirra or her father had any aspirations about Suzanne becoming the first woman astronaut.

"No," she protested lightly. "I'm the only one who didn't fly out of all the relatives.

"My grandmother was a wing walker and my grandfather was shot down in World War II, but he was fine. It runs in the family," she said, but admitted space travel and other feats of flight skipped this Schirra's generation.

Timmons Galleries and J Gallery are next door to one another in Del Rayo Village at 16089 and 16091 San Dieguito Road, respectively.

For information, call Timmons Galleries at (858) 756-8488 and J Gallery at (858) 756-0039.

For information, e-mail the artist at suzanneschirra@aol.com.

To learn more, visit www.suzanneschirra.com and www.timmonsgalleries.com.




click to enlarge "Dog Days" article



Alaskan Malamute
Aust. Shepard
Basset Hound
Bearded Collie
Bernese Mt. Dog
Bichon Frise
Border Collie
Bull Terrier
Cairn Terrier
Cavalier KC Spaniel
Chinese Crested
Cocker Spaniel
Coton de Tulear
English Bulldog
Flat Coat Retriever
French Bulldog
German Shepherd
Golden Retriever
Great Dane
Greater Swiss Mountain Dog
Jack Russell
Labrador Retriever
Mixed Breeds
Multiple Subjects
Pit Bull
Portuguese Water Dog
Shiba Inu
Shih Tzu
Staffordshire Terrier
Tibetan Terrier
Welsh Springer
Wheaten Terrier


Web Design Copyright © 2007-2020
WOWIE Web Design
All Rights Reserved

All artwork and personal photos
Copyright © Suzanne Schirra
Unauthorized use is strictly prohibited

Suzanne Schirra
PO Box 3068, Vail , CO 81658