Cheryl Anne Grace is a self-taught artist who moved to New Orleans in 2009. She’s a delightful person who exudes joy from the first moment you encounter her. Her bright and cheerful personality is also evident in her style of painting, which can best be described as Folk Art mixed with Southern Gothic portraits and scenes of everyday life in the South.
“I feel like I’ve led a hard-knock life, not unlike little orphan Annie. So now I’ve learned to just focus on the joy that I get out of life.
Cheryl is originally from South Carolina, but also spent part of her life in Augusta, Georgia, before relocating to New Orleans.
“I always felt like I stuck out like a sore thumb, but once I moved to New Orleans everything fell into place. I blend right in here! I find so much inspiration in this city, I’ll never run out of ideas.”
Cheryl has been painting full-time for the last five years. Prior to painting she had several other careers. She started to teach herself to paint in her twenties when she would stay up late at night after her children went to sleep. She still has her first artwork displayed in her home. It is a beautiful realistic pastel of two old wooden rowboats in the middle of a South Carolina low country landscape.
“I used to do some commission portrait work and I used to do some craft type painting in my early years. I was a single mother, so I had to raise my kids, keep food on the table, and pay my mortgage. Most of my adult life I had to struggle to find time to paint. Fortunately, I’ve now reached a place where I can devote myself to painting full time.”
Cheryl describes herself as 98% self-taught. She spends a lot of time researching her subject matter, but not techniques. Her only art instruction was a month long class on perspective that was taught by Ed Rice in South Carolina.
“I had a rather strange childhood with a mostly absent single mother. We lived with my grandmother. There was no father in the picture. My mother had to work an awful lot. My grandmother stayed at home, but she had a business making draperies. My grandfather was dead. So those two women were just hustling trying to make ends meet.
As a result, everybody ignored me. My days were spent playing in the scrap boxes under the sewing table. My imagination was my playmate. I learned from an early age to use my imagination, which still effects my subject matter when I paint. ”
“When I travel with my husband, Mark, we stop along the road and take pictures of landscapes that inspire me. ”
Cheryl’s current series, “Gospel According to New Orleans” is focused on painting famous New Orleans musicians and culture-bearers as religious icons. The frames for her icon paintings are gilt in 24 karat gold leaf. The frames themselves are built by a carpenter and come to Cheryl completely bare. From there she paints them, guilds them, and embellishes them with rhinestones.
“My purpose for portraying New Orleans musicians is because music brings people together just like religion does. I often feel that I am telling a story with my paintings. In each portrait, I try to tell the story of the life of the person I’m painting. I have so many tales to tell.”
Cheryl has shown her work at several local galleries, but has had more success selling her paintings on her own, such as at Jazzfest 2019. She sold quite a few small portraits and paintings of New Orleans musicians and many collectors who saw her work at Jazzfest contacted her afterwards seeking to purchase paintings.
Cheryl has no shortage of ideas for her future series of paintings. Most center around Southern life. For instance, she wants to focus on a series of paintings of Southerners posing outside of their Airstreams (camping trailers), as well as a series of portraits of strong women.
“I have a bunch of Airstreams that I want to paint. That is probably the next series that I will focus on. I want to paint seventies dance parties and the circus. I also want to do a series of portraits on female strength and beauty.”
Cheryl has a great imagination and originality is not a problem. She’s always exploring new ideas and not limiting herself to working with one medium. Most notably, she’s lately been experimenting with collage and old China patterns for her upcoming series on strong women..
“I was inspired by my grandmother’s Blue Willow China, so I painted the canvas with the China pattern. For Frida, I used collage. I cut the face off the front of a New York Times magazine years ago just because I thought she was pretty.
The butterfly wings around her neck are collage. Then I glued rhinestones and painted antlers on her head. Then I painted crows on her antlers. I bought some round canvases. Then I covered it in resin to make it look more like a plate. Because china is beautiful and strong. And the women I am going to paint are beautiful and strong.”
Cheryl’s bubbly personality has helped her develop friendships within the New Orleans art scene. She’s currently mentored by renowned artist Jennifer Odem. She also finds inspiration in the work of Douglas Bourgeois, Michael Meads, and Herb Roe.
“I’m always eager to meet other artists. I want to learn about them and find out what inspires them to create.”
You can see more of Cheryl Anne Grace’s work at http://cherylannegrace.com/