“I want to spend more time honing my anatomy skills and understanding the structure and movement of the human form”
American painter Cheryl Handy identifies herself as an artist since she was 12 years old. She has always enjoyed writing and drawing, but when she started her professional career she had to choose a different path to support her family and spent a few years in the military, in school, changing jobs, and raising her family. However, she has never stopped painting and now she can finally paint full-time.
Cheryl has participated in several exhibitions across the United States —such as the Pennsylvania Arts Experience Gallery, the Limner Gallery, and the MarketView Arts Gallery— and was named “Director’s Choice” to represent the state of Maryland at the Tevis Community Gallery in 2003.
In this Q&A, artist Cheryl Handy shares with PoseSpace what are her aspirations as an artist, what life experiences influenced her paintings, about the process of making her work and more:
In your artist’s statement, you mention that you still have a lot to learn. What are your goals or aspirations as an artist?
Because I love creating portraits and figurative work, I want to spend more time honing my anatomy skills and understanding the structure and movement of the human form. Right now I still need a visual reference to create my ideas but hopefully, and no offense, I won’t always need PoseSpace or the like. I am practicing pulling images from my head and rendering them at will. When I can think of a pose and execute it without a reference then I’ll know I’ve arrived.
Last Dance – oil on canvas. Model: Anaiv
What life experiences have influenced your work?
I react to my environment. I enjoy painting family members, landscapes, abstracts and experimenting with different media. My social distancing/quarantine time this year has been spent creating a new series honoring the old masters, replicating some famous paintings – with a twist. I finished 6 of 10 paintings in the planned series before I took on a couple of commissioned portraits, and then recent events became the focus of my last 3 paintings and my current work in progress.
You recently shared an artwork inspired by one of our models, “Lady Justice Weeps”, can you tell us more about this painting and the process of making it?
This painting came to me as a result of viewing all of the tragic actions upending our country these past few weeks. I thought about how Justice is supposed to be blind and all people treated the same under the law and what a complete farce that is. Forced to acknowledge the disparities in the legal system because video evidence is now more widely available, Justice weeps because she inherently knows just how broken is the system. The scales are so unbalanced and broken we can barely hold on.
I had previously taken advantage of ZaZa’s free pose offered by PoseSpace and knew immediately that she would make a great model for my painting. Initially I thought the title to be “The Rape of Lady Justice” as she holds the draped cloth tight to her chest but as the painting developed I later decided to show her weeping as she tries (and fails) to hold the scales balanced.
Do you have a favorite living artist, whether famous or completely unknown?
Me! No, seriously, there are sooo many great artists that I admire. Famous: Kehinde Wiley has an exceptional style with intricate patterns, intense colors, and attention to detail that I can’t even wrap my head around. I love his work.
But my all-time favorite living artist is Marcus Suggs, aka Moe Da Truf. He has vision and skill beyond measure. If you think it, he can create it – 2D, 3D, tattoo, doesn’t matter. The man is a beast!
How has your style changed over the years?
Early on my figurative works were all faceless. I wanted the viewer to see themselves in the paintings instead of whoever else’s face I might paint. I tried to make all expression shown in the gesture rather than the face. Now I am more enamored with actual expressions to tell the story.
What do you think of PoseSpace? Do you have a favorite model?
I used to stop people on the street and hand them a business card and ask them to model for me. I didn’t get many takers (they probably thought I was crazy), and then I found PoseSpace. Thea was a favorite for a while. Currently I’m a fan of ZaZa’s but I actually have several models in my arsenal, some I haven’t gotten to paint yet. Edison was the model for my last painting, “S.O.S.”
S.O.S. Systemic Oppression in our Society (Save Our Souls) by Cheryl Handy – 16”x20” acrylic and oil on canvas. Model: Edison
What’s been your greatest artistic success?
I think my greatest success is yet to come, however, one of many proud moments is being named the “Director’s Choice” – the sole artist chosen to represent an entire county in the state of Maryland to show my work at an inaugural exhibition event in a neighboring county.
Oh yeah, and finishing a full month of Inktober a couple years back. 😊
How do you start a work — do you have any rituals?
Sometimes, well rarely, I start with a sketch, most times I just start painting.
Whenever I am working on a paid commission I have a little prayer I like to say: “Father God I pray that you steady my hand and sharpen my eye that I may create artwork worthy of the skill with which you have blessed me.”
When I am creating off the cuff, I simply let my emotions take over and that dictates what materials I may use, what media I choose, how it evolves. I may start with an idea but ultimately I let the painting tell me what to do.
Even though you identified yourself as an artist since you were 12 years old, throughout your life you were in the military, working in different jobs, raising a family. What advice would you give young girls who feel passionate about art?
I would tell any young person who is passionate about anything to just stick with it. Make a way to carve out some time to do what you love. There will be naysayers and non-believers but keep at it. Also, and I know it’s hard but, do not compare yourself to others. Observe, study, try different techniques until you find THE ONE that suits you best, but your only competitor is yourself. Try each day to do a little better than you did the day before – compare last week’s you to this week’s you, last year to this year and so on. You will definitely see the difference as time goes on.
Cheryl Handy’s website: www.handyconcepts.com
AP store (art prints/products): www.handyconceptsAP.com
Interview by Andrea Miliani