Driven to Create is a column by E. Connie Munson that profiles local artists. This month, we profile VAB member Sherry Park.
What is a formally trained OCAD artist, one who specializes in figure drawing and portraiture, doing out in the wilds of Cape Breton? The answer is an interesting one as is her artistic practice and journey.
Sherry Park is passionate about portraiture and drawing. She loves to see the faces of her subjects come alive. As we talked about her impressionistic style and how she is focusing on 'doing more with less' or fewer brush strokes, her face lights up with excitement.
She explained some of her approach to portraiture, how she lays out the structure and form, and then fills in and develops areas. However, when it comes to the point in the process where the face of the model or subject starts to emerge and comes to life that becomes a defining moment.
And that is what she means about 'doing more with less'; knowing when you have arrived at the place where the energy and vitality of the subject come through the artistic process and not overworking it.
Sherry does a lot of life drawing and portraiture with different groups of artists on a regular basis. She is a part of the portraiture group of Visual Arts Brampton members who meet four hours every Wednesday with models. She also goes into Toronto for regular practice with live models for life drawing.
The VAB portraiture group take a break in the summer and do plein aire outings around southern Ontario. So, perhaps that focus on landscapes prompted Sherry to notice, then apply for a residency at Cape Breton Highlands National Park, one of Canada's National Parks. She was successful in her application and spent six weeks the fall of 2019 in Ingonish on Nova Scotia’s Cape Breton Island.
"It was so scary! Alone in a three bedroom house ... with a basement!"
Surrounded by the forested parklands, majestic views, rocks, and trees, but all alone.
"I brought a plant from home, a spider plant, then I bought more plants. And I walked, every day I walked, five to ten kilometres. You know what it is like in the city, all the little stores on the street, all together next to each other. Something different in each one, something to discover."
Well, Sherry Park discovered something different when she was in those forests, surrounded by trees. She liked that feeling of being in the middle and with so much to see. That was where she started to really see them, each tree for what it was, and how it nestled into the ground, was hit by shafts of light, and yet still was part of that greater whole, the forest. Therefore, every day she sketched and often painted that was the requirement after all. Every day she had to be practicing her art.
Currently Sherry is completing portraits for three international competitions: the Royal Society of Portrait Painters and the National Portrait Gallery, BP Portrait Award, both based in England, and the Portrait Society of America.
One of her portraits was accepted in the first round of jurying and carefully packaged so Sherry can fly over and personally deliver it to England for the final round of adjudication. We will hope she needs to make that flight again for an award in this competition.
Her studio in the Alton Mill Arts Centre has her works in progress along with completed portraits and her plein air work. A member of several arts organizations, including the Headwaters Arts collective which operates out of their HA Gallery at the Alton Mill Arts Centre, Sherry has a solo show this fall at the Headwaters Gallery.
So is it true, that you cannot see the forest for the trees? You will have to come yourself to see Sherry's work this fall at her solo show at the Headwaters Arts Gallery. Her new subjects will be revealed and we can share the delight she found at Canada’s Cape Breton National Park during her residency there.
By E. Connie Munson