Margaret Shelton was born August 15, 1915 on a farm near Bruce, east of Edmonton, Alberta, of English parents. She grew up in the Drumheller Valley in south-central Alberta. From an early age she began to draw, and was encouraged by both parents and teachers. Her talent was already apparent by age 14 (1929) when she had produced some paintings and four very creditable pen-and-ink sketches, which are still in existence. Throughout her high-school years, she sketched her surroundings, roaming the hills and mine works, drawing and painting whatever seemed of interest.
While attending Normal school (a teacher’s college in Calgary) during 1933-34, she also attended evening classes at the Provincial Institute of Technology and Art (PITA) where she felt fortunate to study drawing and painting under the direction of A.C. Leighton, the celebrated English landscape painter. From 1934 to 1943 she attended PITA on scholarships, under the tutelage of Leighton and H.G. Glyde among others. In the summers, she enjoyed sketching old barns and mountain scenes. In 1941 she learned Japanese wood block printmaking techniques from W.J. Phillips.
Shelton taught school periodically for a few years and also worked at an advertising agency in Toronto for six months as a commercial artist before deciding to commit to undertaking a full-time painting and printmaking career.
Unlike earlier Canadian artists including the CPR artists....and the Group of Seven, Shelton chose to interpret nature directly, without any romantic notion that it stood for or represented something else. Hers was a simpler and less spectacular rendering of the world than that of earlier romantic artists. She selected straightforward scenes which she depicted in a well-executed representational style that relied on nature for its impulse.
Margaret Shelton was a prolific artist, best known for her delicate watercolour paintings and her intricate woodcut and linocut prints. With a deep passion for nature and the diversity and beauty of the Alberta landscape, Shelton’s interpretations are distinctively vital and energetic. Her contributions to the development of printmaking in Canada are significant, having created hundreds of prints in her career. Her works form part of the collections at the National Gallery in Ottawa and the Glenbow Museum in Calgary. She exhibited with the Society of Canadian Painter-Etchers and Engravers (CPE), the Canadian Society of Graphic Art (CSGA) and the Calgary Sketch Club.
(Patricia Ainslie, Margaret Shelton: Block Prints 1936-1984, Glenbow Museum, exhibition catalogue, Calgary, Alberta, 1984, p.8)