combined with the detail she puts into the riders, horses and landscape, make her artwork speak for itself, giving it a sense of time and place, and expressing the simple honesty of the artist and her deeply rooted ranch values.
“Shawn’s passion really comes through in her paintings,” says Maryvonne Leshe, managing partner of Trailside Galleries, which represents Shawn’s work. “There’s a sense of honesty in her paintings that comes from living the life she paints.”
Shawn Dee Wingfield was born March 17, 1950, in Phoenix, Arizona, into a fourth-generation Arizona ranch family. Her great-grandparents traveled the Oregon Trail in covered wagons in the mid-1870s, settling in the Camp Verde and Mogollon Rim areas of Arizona.
Her maternal grandfather, John Osborne, rode from Kansas to Arizona in 1907 with 35 cents in his pocket and began working on ranches. He worked his way up to foreman of the Chiricahua Cattle Company, a vast operation that extended from southern Arizona into the White Mountains, and later owned ranches in northern Arizona that are still owned and operated by family members.
Surrounded by hardscrabble relatives who were creative thinkers and problem solvers—and to whom giving up was never an option—Shawn grew up with similar convictions.
“I had the opportunity to sit at the feet of people who changed the West, literally,” she says. “I thought everyone heard and saw the things I did. It wasn’t until the passing of Grandpa Osborne that I realized what I’d known my entire life was slipping away, and how fortunate I was to hear their stories and observe their ways.”
Shawn was the eldest of two children. She and her brother, Kit, were raised by their parents, Louis and Billie Wingfield, on a farm and feedlot in Arlington, Arizona. Shawn attended grammar school in Arlington, where she was voted homecoming queen of her senior class.
Despite her active role in high school, Shawn wasn’t as sociable as one might think. The shy, straight-laced teenager preferred to spend time on her family’s Horseshoe Ranch near Mayer, Arizona, and draw.
Shawn was interested in art at an early age. Her mother, Billie, had a master’s degree in education with a minor in music, and shared her reverence for classical music and fine art with her daughter, whose earliest art memories are of drawing the Quarter Horses her family raised.
“I once climbed to the top of the water-storage tower, and, without permission, painted a larger-than-life-size horse mural on the side of the tank,” Shawn recalls. “I was proud of myself, but noticed a few days later that someone had replaced the storage tank and hauled the tower with my artwork to a distant place on the ranch.”
After high school, Shawn attended Northern Arizona University but put her education on hold to marry Dean. The couple lived with Shawn’s family on the Horseshoe Ranch, which Dean managed. There, they raised three children, daughters Dee Ann and Kacie, and son Brooks.
“It was one of the most beautiful places to live and the best time of our lives, but there were few luxuries and physical work was never-ending,” she says. “We lived in an old ranch house Dean and I remodeled about three times. Most of our food came off the ranch. We butchered our own beef, milked our own cow, baked our own bread, and raised our own fruits and vegetables.”
Shawn thinks back fondly of their simple yet rich lifestyle, which included preserving hundreds of quarts of fruit each year.
“The kids would pick the fruit and bring it to me in wheelbarrows,” she says. “It was a hot project, but very rewarding to see the brightly colored jars on the shelf.”
Once she’d fed the kids and cowboys, the artist sometimes found a moment to draw at the kitchen table or in the makeshift “studio” she created in her small laundry area. A generator powered the house, so electricity was at a premium and much of her work was done by candle-, lantern- or natural light. Shawn’s eldest daughter, Dee Ann, remembers that her mom didn’t buy coloring books for the kids. Instead, she drew pictures for them to color.
When Shawn’s family decided to sell the ranch in 1993, the Camerons leased the remote SV Ranch in western Arizona, but plummeting cattle prices and the worst drought in 100 years forced them back to square one. The couple went through the cyclical nature of ranch life several times, riding the rollercoaster with their unwavering faith.
At the Horseshoe Ranch, when her children were young, Shawn continued to draw and paint, with the encouragement of her mother and husband. Heeding her mother’s advice to “get off the ranch a little,” Shawn took an art class in Prescott. Her assignment involved turning a black-and-white photo into a color image. Money was tight, so she relied on her creativity and children’s watercolors to complete the project. When all the assignments had been handed in, the instructor critiqued each piece.
“When she came to mine, she paused,” Shawn remembers. “Then she said, ‘We have an artist in the house.’ I was so embarrassed to be recognized in front of the class.”
That was the first of many compliments Cameron would receive for her artwork.
Determined to earn her diploma, Shawn took classes through an adult-education program at Prescott College, where she graduated with bachelor’s degrees in education and creative writing. She went on to work as a substitute teacher, contract illustrator and freelance writer.
Shortly after Shawn earned her degree, Dean convinced her to take her art seriously. Well-known graphite pencil artist Robert “Shoofly” Shufelt was holding an art class at the Scottsdale Artists’ School, and Dean enrolled Shawn.
“Being very frugal and not wanting to spend any money on herself, it was a challenge to get her to Scottsdale,” Dean recalls. “She packed an ice chest to eat out of, and she stayed at Motel 6.”
The experience was one of many that helped Shawn grow as an artist and step beyond her comfort zone.
“I was scared to death and hadn’t been off the ranch much,” she says. “We had very little money,