Interview with surrealist painter Nannette Cherry

Nannette Cherry is a surrealist painter who resides in Oregon.  Her work borrows primarily from 18th and 19th  century portraiture and shows it through a distorted surreal lens calling into question the reliability of our perceptions.  Often using non-traditional color schemes, she evokes the aesthetic of psychedelic art from the late 60s.  Her work has been shown in across the US in Florida, Louisiana, Illinois, and New York, and most recently she has been included in the Low to Pop show at the LX Factory in Lisbon, Portugal.
Hello dear Nannette, please, tell us how did you find the artist inside you? How long have you been doing art? Is art something that you always wanted to do?

It’s something I’ve been doing for as long as I can remember.  I doodled a lot as a child and had a mother who was artistically talented, so that inspired me to try to get better.  I’ve always enjoyed drawing and painting, but didn’t really start pursuing it seriously until later in life. As a young adult I had the impression you couldn’t really make it as an artist unless you were dead. I know that’s not the case now.  Painting all day everyday sounds like a fantastic way to live, and if I can make enough off of that to support myself, then all the better.
What was / is your major influences? Other artists, books, movies, music or any other media....What inspires you to create your artworks?

DalĂ­ was an early influence, and later in my twenties I came across Mark Ryden and Joe Sorren, and really the whole pop surreal movement.  That discovery was incredibly influential. It was right about the time that I started painting, so those surreal and pop surreal works had a big role in pushing me in the direction I’ve gone in. I’ve also got a thing for historical portraiture and figurative work purely from an academic standpoint. Historical portraiture served as a reference point for me when was trying to tighten up my technique. I think there’s a lot to learn from the Masters, so I spend a lot of time looking to art history for inspiration, study and reference material. The series I am working on now typically borrows from 18th/19th century portraiture, but utilizes visual distortions to put it into a surreal and psychedelic interpretation. Oh, and the psychedelic posters from the 60s...those are a big influence, too.  The bright, sometimes jarring color schemes are really attractive to me. It commands your attention and can have a strong influence in setting up the viewer for an emotional response.

How does "a normal day of artist" in your life look like?

It’s pretty uneventful. Just a lot of painting and starting at that painting. Then more painting.
What’s your background? Are you self-taught artist or did you study art? Do you think an art education is important or imperitive for anybody wishing to be an artist? What are some of the advantages and disadvantages that you have encountered throughout your career with/without the formal training of the Art Academy?

I started off just learning by observation and trial and error. I didn’t start getting any art training until college when I had to take Life Drawing courses. I got my Bachelors in Art and went ahead and got an MFA afterwards. I think the most important lessons you’ll learn, you’ll likely learn along the way on your own.  If you have a good work ethic and the requisite social skills to build a strong network of peers in the field, you’ll learn and grow as much as you would in school. School offers a forced structure that compels you to create constantly and face critiques and think about what you’re creating. So if you need that structure to get things done and make connections, school might be a good choice. I will say, I appreciated the mentorship at the graduate level. That was incredibly valuable for me.

What fascinates you the most about surrealism / pop surrealism/ contemporary art / dark art / lowbrow art? How would you describe your style? What themes do you pursue, what surrealism mean to you and what do you hope the viewer will take away from your art?

 I guess it’s the possibilities. Anything goes. And it’s the unnerving feeling that comes with seeing something that isn’t quite right.  It takes you out of your comfy place and makes you start exploring or analyzing.  I’m not sure where my style fits in. Pop surreal, maybe dark art.
What do you love most about creating and being an artist? What does “being creative” mean to you?

Creating gives me a feeling of purpose.  I feel like I’m contributing something to the world as opposed to just existing in it. I love feeling inspired. It’s a great feeling to look at a work you admire and get that feeling like you need to make something right away. It’s an even greater feeling if you can make someone else feel that way through your own work. Inspiration is contagious.  Being creative can mean different things. It can mean being innovative and outside of the box or it can simply mean being inclined to create. I’m definitely inclined to create.
Can you describe your typical workflow when you’re working on your art? What are your tools of trade? What medium do you most often use and why?

My workflow is a lot of painting interspersed with a whole lot of staring at the painting trying to figure out what I need to do next. I probably spend half my day starting at my painting. As far as medium goes, I started off with acrylic paint, but I quickly switched over to oils. Once I tried oils, that was it for me. I really enjoy the viscosity of the medium. It blends well, and it has a longer dry time, so it gives me time to work with what I’ve painted and get it right before it sets up.

Which creative medium would you love to pursue but haven’t yet?

Does music count?  I would love to make electronic music.
Tell us more about your workspace. What was the most funny or weird thing that happened to you in your studio? What is / was the most strange thing hidding in your studio?

I bit into a piece of green clay thinking it was a pickle that had fallen off of the sandwich I was eating.   My studio space is wherever I sit down to paint. Currently that is the kitchen. And right now the strangest thing I see are some dust bunnies. Painting takes priority over dusting.

What toughest challenges have you faced as an artist during your art career? What is the biggest lesson you have learned so far?

Being social, probably. Networking is very important and I’m really introverted, so that’s a challenge for me.
What’s the best and worst advice you ever received in your art career?

Best and worst advice all in one answer: You need to sell yourself as much as your work. Don’t count on your work to sell on its own merits. I’ve seen untalented hacks make a good living simply because they pushed this artist persona and they knew how to work people. And some really talented people get nowhere because they aren’t comforable in social situations.
What do you dislike about the art world? What is the hardest thing on being an artist? Is the artistic life lonely? What do you do to counteract it?

I guess I’m still dismayed that there is still so much conceptualism dominating the scene. I’m all about the craft and skill, and I see so much work that completely circumvents that in favor of an idea. I feel like that’s kind of a con. It’s great that there is this deeper meaning, but where is the artistry? The hardest thing on being an artist?  Probably the neurosis and perpetual insecurity.  Yeah, the artist life can be lonely occasionally, but when everything is working the way it should with a paiting, I’m too absorbed to notice that I’m spending all day alone. And usually I’m pretty content to be alone.

Where do you see yourself in the future? Professionally, what’s your goal?

Ideally I’d like to be in a place where I can live off of my work and show alongside other artists that I admire.  That’s my definition of making it.

Do you have any tips or inspiring words for others? Maybe advice for beginning artists out there?

Of course, always be creating. I think most artists would give that advice.  Look to others for inspiration. Look at history, look at contemporary works – be aware of what is happening all around and take your inspiration from that. Build your own unique signature from what you see around you.
Your favorite art or life quote is ...

“Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind.” - Dr Suess
What are you doing when you’re not creating? What (other) hobbies do you have?

I like to cook, and since I’ve just moved back to the Northwest I’m adding a lot of hiking to my spare time.
Do you have an online portfolio, blog or social medias where we can view your work? is currently under construction, but I hope to get it up and functional very soon.  There is also Facebook and Instagram.
Is there anything else you’d like to say? Is there any project you are working on right now or any ongoing event or exhibition you would like to share with our readers?

I’ve been in hibernation mode lately, but you can anticipate lots of new stuff real soon.  I’ve got many projects in my mind that will be coming to fruition in the near future.  Watch for them on my site!
Thank you dear Nannette, it was a honor to interview you, I wish you only the best for you and your art and already looking forward to see your new art works :)
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