Deep Dive: Urban Treehouse by Amy Shackleton

Posted by Jasen Robillard on

Artist: Amy Shackleton (2019 © Visual Arts - CARCC)
Puzzle Designer: Jasen Robillard
Dimensions: 30.5 cm x 41 cm
Piece Count: 464
Difficulty: 4 out of 5

Amy Shackleton is an award winning painter and muralist from Toronto. Rather than conventional paint brushes, Amy uses squeeze bottles and gravity as her primary tools for creation. Liquid paint is dripped, poured and layered as the canvas is rotated to navigate. The linear, geometric and architectural aspects are highly controlled while the natural, organic elements embody the more spontaneous liquid impulse. Shackleton’s work wrestles with these opposing forces, just as her own optimism wrestles with our shared space in the urban and natural worlds. 

Through an optimistic lens, she creates unique urban landscape paintings that combine multiple locations into a single composition. 'Urban Treehouse' combines the deeply rooted natural landscapes of Kleinburg's cottage country in southern Ontario with the imposing glass, cement and steel skyscrapers found in our modern metropolises.


Lightly watermarked reference image
Note, reference images are watermarked to prevent unauthorized printing of our artist's work, as well as copycat puzzles which have become common since 2020.

Amy Shackleton's Artist Website

Shop: Amy Shackleton - Urban Treehouse

Puzzle Design Notes

StumpCraft Puzzles - Amy Shackleton's Urban Treehouse

I initially set out to explore the various concepts of “home”. Solving a puzzle is very much about finding where pieces belong, or in other words where each piece is at home given its surroundings.

What does it mean to be at home? What other forms of home can be found in nature? How has that evolved over time for humankind? Over millennia, we’ve shifted from nomadic tribal lifestyles, to agricultural and rural settings, and eventually to urban cityscapes.

StumpCraft Puzzles - Amy Shackleton's Urban Treehouse

These questions and veins of exploration were no doubt influenced by my reading of Dr. Iain McGilchrist’s The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World. As an expert in neuroscience, McGilchrist explores our views of left- and right-brain modes of experience. The left hemisphere is detail and parts oriented, prefers mechanisms to living things and is inclined to self-interest. The right hemisphere (often associated with the arts) has greater openness and flexibility to suit the health of the whole. One quick way of summarizing the difference: the left sees the trees, leaves and branches; the right sees the forest as a complex ecosystem. He argues that the modern Western world is overly and increasingly tilted towards the “straight and narrow” myopic perspective of the left-brain. He challenges us to rediscover and adopt right-brain modes of being to develop a more resilient, “both/and” integrated approach to living in the world.

StumpCraft Puzzles - Amy Shackleton's Urban Treehouse

Amy’s Urban Treehouse composition is perfectly aligned with these seemingly paradoxical modes of experiencing the world. Her geometric architectural shapes sprout up from the unpredictable, organic forest floor below. And yet even in the straight lines of skyscrapers, there exists an echo of the arched canopies and cathedral-like ceilings we inhabit when walking in the woods. The puzzle pieces intentionally echo the contrast of rectilinear, geometric shapes against the organic curves and chaos of nature.

Designing a puzzle that captures the inherent duality of Amy’s work was a challenge I felt inspired to tackle. The result is a rainbow gradient puzzle with starkly different puzzle shapes and large thematic multi-piece whimsies (or whimwhams as some fans have taken to calling them). Solving puzzles is also an act of bringing together apparent opposites. I hope you’ll enjoy and savour the challenge of merging together both the straight and predictable, along with the irregular and unexpected. 

Whimsy List


  • Whimwhams (aka multi-piece whimsies)
    • Geodesic dome (inspired by Buckminster Fuller)
    • Toronto City Hall
    • Tower of Babel
    • 4x Modern Houses
    • 2x Cabins in the Woods
    • Treehouse
    • Yggdrasil
    • Maple leaf & tree
    • Oak leaf & tree
    • Birds on a branch
    • 2x Nesting birds & chicks
    • Hammock
    • Single piece
      • 5x Squirrels
      • 3x Snails
      • 3x Birds in flight
      • Rabbit
      • 2x Hammers
      • 2x Wrenches
      • Hand plane
      • Square
      • Saw
      • Skiving tool
      • Wheelbarrow
      • Axe
      • Backhoe
      • Thatched-roof hut
      • Tipi
      • Streetlamp
      • Amy’s Initials

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