Born in Ottawa, Shirley attended the Ontario College of Art and worked for several years as a commercial artist. She studied portraiture with Robert Hyndman and further portrait study in New York.
A founding and life member of Aylmer Arts Council in 1955, she taught children’s art, holds an Art Teacher’s certificate in the Adult Division of the Ottawa Board of Education, was a member of the teaching staff of the Ottawa School of Art, 1979-1983, and was a founding member of the Russell Artists’ Co-op in 1985.
Van Dusen has painted extensively in the Ottawa area, the Maritimes, the Eastern Townships, Switzerland, the Caribbean, Mexico, France, Ireland, Greece and England.
She won several awards and participated in many juried shows, including the Visual Arts Survey 1 and the Tom Thompson Gallery, Owen Sound. Her work is in private and corporate collections in Canada and around the world including the National Press Club of Canada and the National Press Club, Washington.
The artist is widely known for her paintings of Parliament Hill. These are included in the collections of many parliamentarians, including the late Right Honourable Pierre Trudeau and the Right Honourable Brian Mulroney. Her work is also featured in the corporate collections of Sony, and the Royal Bank and the Bank of Canada.
She is a fellow and life member of the Ottawa Watercolour Society and for 30 years was a member of Agnes Art Lending – Agnes Etherington Gallery, Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario.
Portrait commissions include:
- The children of former Prime Minister and Mrs. Brian Mulroney.
- Jean-François and Diane Sauvé, son and daughter-in-law of Madame Jeanne Sauvé, which was presented to Her Excellency on her retirement as Governor General of Canada by the Prime Minister.
- The Honourable Janet Zukowsky, former Canadian High Commissioner to Barbados.
- The official portrait of the Honourable John Bosley, former Speaker of the House of Commons.
In 1991, she participated in a three-person exhibition at the Regional Headquarters in Ottawa. This exhibition, “Colours of Travel”, was later presented at the Eptek National Exhibition Centre, Summerside, P.E.I. from November 1992 to January 1993.
In 1998, her painting “Skaters on the Canal” was chosen by the National Capital Commission as the official “Winterlude” painting. In 1996, her painting “Canadian Tulip Festival” was chosen to represent the festival.
She has been featured on CBOT, CJOH – “Women in Art”, “Art Rap” and “Artists on Art”.
In 2010, she was included among the artists invited by the Queen’s Secretary in Canada to present a portfolio, with the opportunity to paint a portrait of Her Majesty the Queen.
In 2011, she wrote and illustrated the book The Mother’s Day Monkey.
For the last ten years, she has concentrated on private commissions.
In 2017, the CUBE Gallery, Ottawa, held an exhibition of the artist’s work entitled “Shirley Van Dusen – A Retrospective”. The exhibition ran from September to October.