Former UM student creates art business in Maryland while teaching

Madison Edenfield
Oxford Stories

From the age of 4, Paige Shryock was painting like Michelangelo underneath her kitchen table. Now 23, Shryock has graduated from the University of Mississippi as an art major with a concentration in imaging arts.

Her love and art is displayed through her photography, design, and paintings. She works as a long-term, middle school substitute art teacher in her hometown of Maryland. In addition to teaching, Shryock sells personal art through her online business.

Shryock painted one of her earliest pieces with her mother at age 4. “She would have me paint like Michelangelo when he created the Sistine Chapel ceiling by putting paper underneath the kitchen table and having me lay on the floor and draw on the paper,” she said.

Years later, her passion for art grew. “I think the moment that really made me realize this could be something more than a hobby was when my high school teacher, Micheal Bell, allowed me to skip honors photography and go straight to advanced placement,” she said. “It sounds ridiculous now, but that moment of having a working artist who had achieved his own fame and success really helped me believe in myself.”

Shryock got her start in the business world as a freelance photographer and designer. After her first freelance design job for the Ole Miss Grand Prix 5k and 10k Marathon, Shryock decided to start an online business. “I thought this could be relevant to everything I enjoy then just closing myself off to one medium,” she said.

Shryock’s business and artwork stand out from the rest because they are personal. “Just like my fine art, any service or product I’m going to offer is really focused on personal experience,” she said. “When it’s a photography job, I like to have a ‘friend date’ and really get to know the individual or couple, learn what’s important to them, and then start brainstorming ideas and visions for their shoot.”

Even in other mediums, Shryock incorporates environments or other unique aspects that are special to her clients. Last year, she began offering boudoir photography sessions and added oil painting to her list of services. “After a few shoots and selling my first painting, this really made me open to any creative endeavor I was interested in,” she said.

Even though Shryock already has an extensive portfolio of mediums, she wants to pursue another. “The one course I never got to experience in college was ceramics,” she said. “Professionally, it’s not where I’m headed, but it scares me to death, so I think I should try it sooner than later.”

UM senior Abby Matthews had a sculpture class with Shryock a few years ago. “We took beginning sculpture together, and it was a really cool class because we got to learn how to work with a lot of materials and tools that we weren’t familiar with,” she said.

Matthews said they both ventured outside of their comfort zone. “I think Paige and I both kind of struggled with it at first, because we were both more used to doing 2D art, so it was challenging to do 3D stuff,” she said.

As an artist, there are many obstacles Shryock faces daily. Juggling numerous middle school classes and concentrating on creating her own works of art can make life overwhelming.

“The biggest problem I face, especially in the early stages of a business, is balancing it all,” she said. “At one point, I was working as a long-term substitute, working at a part-time retail manager position, and trying to be serious about my business.”

Shryock said one of the most difficult things about balancing being a substitute teacher and an artist is “managing my time, staying out of ruts when you really wish you could just abandon projects, and not comparing yourself constantly to what other artists and businesses are doing.”

Through these challenges she has realized: “I need to zone in on what ideas and things I need in my life rather than trying to do it all.”

In fast-paced world, it is easy to get distracted and lose that creative spark. When inspiration is lacking, Shryock said: “One thing that really inspires me day after day is human possession and experience. Things that people love deeply, hold dearly, and that created the person they are.”

Some may believe creativity belongs only to those in a field of art. Shryock said it can be used in everyone’s life, whether it’s running a business, creating a sculpture, or just trying to get a cute Instagram photo.

To Shryock, being creative means: “Being a problem solver by thinking outside of the box of ideals many have created for us, to make something one of a kind. A characteristic I believe everyone has deep inside of them and may use without even realizing.”

Shryock uses a wide range of mediums for her artwork and said each serves a different purpose in communicating with the viewer. She says: “My commercial photography, design, and painting are more for an everyday appreciation. These are things we enjoy, while fine art photography and mix media are for the feelings we wouldn’t necessarily advertise to the world. Those are things we hold deep inside, but are really the things that have made who we are. In both commercial and fine art, a big focus of mine is perspective and storytelling.”

Shryock confesses that, out of all of her artwork, she does not have a favorite. Each piece of art she has created has its own unique story and emotions tied behind it.

“As strange as it sounds, everything I’ve ever made felt like it was a relationship,” she said, “a child, a bad romantic relationship, a friendship, because of the roller coaster of emotions that went into creating the project.”

She said her art process is similar to a connection with another person. “You start with the excitement of the beginning, to hating its guts for months when it does you wrong or doesn’t want to cooperate,” she said, “to being at an all time high when you finally find a good finishing and unveil it to the world, to nostalgia of missing it.”

Shryock aspires to “keep creating art that resonates with people emotionally and to keep learning everyday.”

She also encourages aspiring artists to “make the art you find there’s a need for, that’s intentional and powerful, and your work will find all the sales and likes you’ll ever need.”

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