by Cheryl Caro
Wood Elf 15" x 19" - The COLORED PENCIL Magazine Monthly Challenge that was the turning point of my colored pencil art.
I would say that I am your typical artist who started drawing at a very early age. My interest was and always has been drawing animals. I began drawing from newspaper comic strips, and as I became a bit older my parents encouraged my talent by purchasing many Walter Foster How to Draw books. In my teens I was fortunate to take private oil painting lessons from a very talented local artist. Although his lessons were landscapes and not animals, I remained under his guidance for many years learning all there was about mixing techniques and painting with oils.
Excited about going off to college to refine my drawing and painting skills of my beloved subject matter, animals, I soon found out that it was frowned upon to think realism. The closest thing to realism were still life objects, that the professor set up, and live figure drawing and painting, which I enjoyed. There was one realistic assignment I dreaded, and still cringe today when I think about it, and that was a self portrait. I hated doing portraits. In my eyes, all my portraits I had ever attempted looked like cavemen. I did complete the assignment, but I can honestly say I did it with no enjoyment.
Paint It Black 19" x 27"
Four years of abstract, surrealism, and every style except realism, I was so ready to graduate and get back to the style and subject I loved. Back in the 70’s we weren’t blessed with the internet so much of what I learned about other wildlife artist were found in books. Robert Bateman was my idol. I so wanted to be like him, but I needed animals to draw. I was fortunate that my husband had an interest in photography and had saved his summer job money to buy a nice 35 mm Minolta Camera. There were numerous trips we took to the New Orleans Zoo, which in turn gave me a box full of reference photos.
I chose gouache to use on my animal painting journey as It was opaque, wasn’t messy, and had no strong smell like oils. After a couple of years of painting animals my husband encouraged me to try getting them into some galleries in the French Quarters. Without the invention of the internet we had to carry my artwork and walk the streets of the French Quarter hoping that the owner of the gallery was in when you walked into their shop. More often then not, the owner wasn’t there.
I sold two pieces out of one gallery, but my husbands job had us moving to Oklahoma and moving every three years thereafter. With all the moving and raising three boys I put my art on the back burner. There it stood until my boys were in middle school. Once again I took out my gouache and painted a few portraits of friends’ dogs. But we moved again and once again my art went on the back burner until in 2013.
Heart And Soul 25" x 16"
The love of my basset hounds had me wanting to draw again. This time I chose colored pencils. It was a medium I played around with as a teenager. I bought a drawing pad and a set of prisma colored pencils and started drawing basset hounds. When researching colored pencils on the internet I found Peggy Osborne and her beautiful animal portraits. Her drawings had me wanting to improve as a colored pencil artist. I began researching more about colored pencil on the internet and there I found numerous colored pencil animal portrait artists.
Then I found the COLORED PENCIL Magazine and bravely entered the monthly challenges the magazine offers. It was through those challenges that I challenged myself to draw different subject matter besides dogs. I was enjoying the monthly challenges and looked forward to the next month’s photo challenge. Then one month was a portrait challenge, a wood elf. Those old dreaded feelings about portraits resurfaced. I seriously thought about skipping that months challenge, but after all, it was a challenge. So I gritted my teeth and told myself that I was going to make the best wood elf I could possibly draw. And to my surprise I won that monthly challenge. My first win of any art competition. That was the turning point for my art. The dreaded became my passion. I wanted to draw portraits!
I felt I needed a little help with color and technique when doing people so I took a workshop with Wendy Layne, then later with Jesse Lane, and Ann Kullberg. And now my dreaded has become my passion. I am constantly looking at people and snapping photos to find my next portrait drawing. This time I will keep my art on the front burner and see where it will take me.
Cheryl Caro is a self taught colored pencil artist. She graduated from Louisiana State University in 1978 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts. After graduating she followed her husband’s career and raised her family. She did not fully pursue her artistic talents until 2013 when she bought some colored pencils to draw her beloved basset hounds and continues to develop her colored pencil art to this day.
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