Born in Middlesbrough, Cleveland, Margaret Shields is the daughter of Thomas Edward Shields, a master mariner who ended his career as skipper of Strick Lines passenger cargo ships trading to the Persian Gulf.
Margaret developed her taste for ships and the sea by going to meet her father’s ships in port, and sometimes by taking short voyages with him.
At the same time her interest in painting was stimulated by her mother’s habit of always visiting the art gallery in every port they visited, taking Margaret with her.
She attended Middlesbrough College of Art, where contemporary students included Len Tabner, William Tillyer and Dave Mulholland. She studied music at the Royal Academy of Music in London for a further three years, qualifying as LRAM and GRSM.
In the 1960’s she exhibited in the New Staithes Art Group. From 1968 to1970 Margaret worked as a Display Artist for Newhouses Ltd.
Throughout the early 70’s, Margaret worked as a freelance graphic artist, doing llustration and display work for Teesside Museum Service.
In the mid 80’s she did a lot of Costume Design & Scenery Painting for Middlesbrough Little Theatre, enjoying the challenges and variety of work this offered. Over all this time, Margaret continued to sell paintings steadily, and to develop her career.
Her first solo exhibition at the Billingham Art Gallery was under the aegis of Stockton Borough Council, and she went on to do some murals for public buildings in Stockton and Middlesbrough, and later a painting for civic presentation to Cleveland’s Twin Town in Poland, Stettin.
Margaret accompanied the painting to Poland for the presentation as part of a cultural exchange visit with a group of Teesside artists and performers.
In 1977 Margaret won the 1st Prize in the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Painting Competition, organized by Cleveland Council, and met H M the Queen to whom her winning Painting an oil study of Jordison’s Printing Works (now demolished) was presented.
Throughout the 1980s and 1990s Margaret gradually developed a different style of painting – imaginative, sometimes surrealist or fantastic, but always based on building blocks of visual material. This period of painting came to a natural end in the mid-1990s, and Margaret returned to her observational roots, though an element of fantasy and sometimes strangeness is still often present in her work.
Mid 8o’s saw Margaret move to Saltburn, her work began to include a wider range of sea subjects; near the mouth of the River Tees, varied ships, including North Sea Ferries, tankers, ore ships and bulk carriers, coasters, local fishing craft, and the specially designed and fascinating oil industry vessels.
The North East coast is also a place of recreation, so paintings of ships usually and naturally contain figures, playing, riding, collecting sea coal or seaweed, or struggling along the beach against a storm. Margaret also continues to paint urban subjects.
Her townscapes often examine the clash of old and new in the development of modern conurbations, and more prosaic elements of urban scenes are invariably included and enjoyed with relish. Margaret has now built up a large body of work covering more than a generation of momentous changes in British urban life, seen from a highly individualistic point of view.