Sunday, July 25, 2021

Inside the Artist’s Studio

Giving Life to Painting: Cheryl McClure

By Derrick White

“Art gives me a personal sense of who I am. Most of the rest of my life has been as a wife and mother. My paintings are for me,” states local artist, Cheryl McClure. I have personally experienced McClure’s work at different art exhibitions, and I am drawn to their energy and life. Like many abstract works so much of the non-representational elements connect on a visceral response to what it is to be human. It is hard to explain but when you experience it you know it, standing in front of a large abstract piece composed of lines, shapes, and colors and then thinking ‘yeah, I’ve felt like that.’

McClure explains, “I hate being pinned down about style. It is always slowly changing. However, abstraction has always been it for me. I seek to compose my work so it will stand out and speak to me first and viewers second. Gesture and mark making are important components in my paintings. Surface quality is also important to me. Although I have never sought to paint landscapes, that is what people sometimes see when they look at my work. I can understand why since I have always lived in small towns and now, I live on a small ranch outside New London, TX. Our home and my studio are perched on a hill in the middle of a lot of pastureland. As far as what I want people to experience, each painting will be different. Hopefully, they suggest something from the viewers’ personal experiences I never intended. Since I am not an angsty person, I do not seek to do work that has some message of dread or political point of view.”

Like a lot of artists, McClure’s interest in art developed early in childhood. She recalls, “When I was eight years old, I begged my dad to let me take an after-school painting class. I was shocked when I got there and found out they were painting with paint by number kits. I did not want to do that. I hate coloring inside the lines. So, the teacher allowed me to look for images to use as inspiration. In my memory, I think the first one must have been a reproduction of a Cezanne landscape. I just did what I did all on my own, but I loved mixing colors. Then my dad died, and we moved from Oklahoma to Texas. Sadly, I never really did anything else until I was in my twenties. I then took up painting again all on my own and trying to learn from other artists demonstrating their painting techniques and taking workshops. I have been painting ever since, more than forty years.” She continues, “For many years I only painted with acrylics or mixed media collage. In 2005, I also started painting with encaustic and have gone back to using oil paint again. I suppose acrylic remains my dominant medium. Mixing it up now and then keeps me on my toes and is a great way to learn. Each medium can teach you certain aspects of painting others do not. Each medium has its strengths and weaknesses depending on what you want to express. You can learn from all. I did not love watercolor because it took too much pre-planning. But I learned a lot about negative shapes and composition. I learned a lot with pastel and charcoal about making marks. By working back and forth with different media, I am growing as a painter.”

McClure has no formal art education through a university or art school. Rather, she planned her own path of seeking out great instructors whose work she liked. She spends her time with books about art, artists’ lives, technique, and color. She describes, “One thing I regret is not knowing, at a young age, I would want the college experience, both for the advantages of an art education and for the other edification and experiences. I spent a lot of time volunteering at a local art museum and spent five years as the adult education coordinator, bringing in artists to teach workshops. Spending so much time in a museum is an education. I highly recommend it.”

Beyond education, the benefits of a creative life can be immeasurable. If you have an interest, get out there and support our local art scene by attending openings, events, and exhibitions or, if you are so inclined, delve into to some creative work yourself. You can meet some unique and thought-provoking people as well as always learn more about yourself. Cheryl states, “When it is going well, it is a real high. It has also brought a lot of interesting people into my life I would have never known them without my interest in art. People from every spectrum of life are interested in art and we all meet through our shared and common interest.” McClure finds inspiration in a long and growing list of artists whose work she admires including Richard Diebenkorn (painter associated with abstract expressionism with geometric, lyrical abstractions with luscious surfaces), Kathryn Frund (contemporary, mixed media artist using space and layering), Janet Jones (contemporary printmaker and collagist using paper and other tactile materials), Krista Harris (contemporary, abstract painter using organic shapes, calligraphy, and space), and Jeri Ledbetter (contemporary, abstract painter who uses a contrast of ground and line within the realm of nature to be observed and felt).

Overcoming frustration is a skill all artists and all creatives need to develop because if one can persevere and work through it there are other times when creating out in the studio is nothing short of magical. Cheryl concurs, “There are those days I would like to throw my canvas over the railing of the porch and then go stomp on it. But then I am saved by the rare times a painting just seems to paint itself. Frustration comes at some point in almost all my work. I finally decided it is just part of the process and now I am suspicious of any piece that does not go through the frustration stage now.” She concludes, “At this time in my life, I am just happy to still be working, having a fairly good size studio and multiple galleries I am able to supply with artwork, …if this COVID will ever let us get out and about freely again.”