Over here at Huff Harrington Fine Art, our walls are bursting with gorgeous new works that have us ooohing and aaahing all day long. We love the infusion of fresh ideas and techniques and the way new paintings bring currents of energy to the gallery. Adding to the excitement: Sheryl Daane Chesnut.
We’re delighted to introduce this graphic-and-product-designer-turned-artist who calls the gorgeous California coast home. Maybe it’s that foggy, atmospheric environment that influences her soft and enigmatic figures. We love her soft, impressionistic paintings that are full of movement, shape and plenty of personality – and we couldn’t resist hitting her up with a few Q & As:
HHFA: Tell us about your art influences and how they affect your artistic perspective.
SDC: As an art major you take a lot of art history classes; I studied contemporary art from pre-impressionism to the mid-twentieth century, and I am still drawn to much of that work. I love Japanese woodcuts from the early 1800s where the intention was to capture a moment in time, the poster art of Toulouse Lautrec and Mucha, the color fields of Rothko, the freedom of Jasper Johns and Helen Frankenthaler and the Bay Area figurative movement. Another of my favorites is Nathan Oliviera. They all continue to influence my work in my color choices and layering abstract representationalism and my minimalism of detail. Of course I also enjoy the work of other contemporary artists as well. (HHFA: we love that term, “abstract representationalism“.)
HHFA: Lucky you calling the California coast home. How does your environment, scenery and weather play into your inspiration and output?
SDC: I am lucky! There are so many beautiful areas in this country though, and I love traveling and seeing the differences from place to place. The colors that surround me definitely influence my work. I live in a pretty rural environment with a lot of vineyards, and agricultural fields. I am close to the ocean too. I often lean towards blues and yellows which I know comes from the light yellow sand, golden hills and blue water and skies. Even though I am more of a figurative and abstract artist, the nature and landscapes around me greatly influence my work; I often take pictures out the car window just to capture the color and mood of a place.
HHFA: We love how you juxtapose figures onto abstract backgrounds. Can you share a little bit about your technique?
SDC: Thank you. It is important to me to straddle the line between abstract and representational. I start with color fields on the canvas-just large swaths of color. I continue to add layers on top of each other using different media: acrylic paints, metallic powders, spray paint, water to loosen and encourage drips, etc. Once I feel like I have created a complete and balanced abstract painting I add the figure in (though occasionally I feel like they are complete as an abstract). I love drawing; I love the use of irregular line, the smudge of the pastel and the marks of hesitation. My figures are added loosely and spontaneously; I don’t try to create perfection or focus on detail. I encourage the work to guide me. After the figure is added I go back in to define areas and to obscure others. I will often add oil sticks at this point because they are so luscious and juicy. Occasionally I use poetry in my paintings. I’m lucky to have a daughter who is an exceptional poet, and she lets me borrow words that inspire and add clarity to the feelings of my work. (HHFA: sounds like creativity runs deep in this family.)
HHFA: Do you have a dedicated studio/where do you paint?
SDC: I have a wonderful studio behind our house. I think it must have been an extra garage at one point, but I know the guy before us used it as a surfboard shaping workshop and the person before him used it as a pottery studio.
HHFA: What’s your painting schedule like?
SDC: I wish I sounded organized and said I wake up every morning and paint for exactly four hours…..but I don’t. I usually hike in the mornings, take care of emails and marketing etc., get things organized and then go paint. I will often paint in the evenings too and a lot in the weekends. I have never been a super scheduled person, and I do love the freedom of having my own business.
HHFA: Music? Pets? TV shows on in the background?
SDC: Music, yes definitely! I have a very eclectic taste in music, and I have college-aged kids who consistently introduce me to new artists. TV, no. Pets, we have an old and dedicated labradoodle who patiently lays near my studio door and his best friend our cat is always close by as well.
HHFA: You are having dinner with three artists. Who are they and why?
SDC: This is a hard one as there are so many choices! However, I will say da Vinci, because he was genius-not just as a painter but also as an inventor. I would think he would be an amazing conversationalist, and I get the feeling there would be good food and drink too. Then, maybe Michelangelo. His ceilings are unbelievable! I wanted to borrow a ladder to get closer to them, and his statues are incredible as well. Third, Julie Mehretu, because her work is incredible, she seems like a really cool person (and she would probably enjoy meeting da Vinci and Michelangelo too.)
HHFA: Favorite art museum?
SDC: I love the d’Orsay in Paris; it’s a consistent favorite. I loved the Picasso Museum in Barcelona; I love Picasso’s work and the history was so interesting. The Getty in Los Angeles is wonderful too, although I tend to like smaller museums. (HHFA: love all of these, too…)
HHFA: Favorite art city and why?
SDC: My husband worked for a French company for a few years, so I got to go pretty often. It’s a beautiful city, and I’ll go anytime I can! I love the museums and just the art vibe of Paris. I love how beautifully dressed the people on the street are. Basically Paris is eye candy to me. (HHFA: yep…inspiration of all kinds at every turn.)
HHFA: You were also an artist in another life. Who were you?
SDC: This is another tough question. I have to think of it as what would I aspire to be. The first that comes to mind is Georgia OKeefe. She was so strong and independent, has been called the mother of modern art, and strove to create art that was new and different. She worked in commercial art for a while which brings a sense of design to her work (I think my years as a designer brings a balance to mine as well). Her paintings are very lyrical with a sense of fluidity and movement, which I also aspire to create. She had a full and productive life, although she was more of a loner than I could ever be.
If you’re in town, please stop by Huff Harrington Fine Art or Home and feast your eyes on Sheryl’s luminous and evocative work. You’ll be so glad you did.