Capturing a creature's essence - The Explorer: El Sol

Capturing a creature's essence

Picture Rocks artist tries for more than a beautiful image

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Posted: Tuesday, July 6, 2010 11:00 pm | Updated: 8:11 am, Thu Mar 24, 2011.

Sherry Bryant isn't interested simply in depicting an animal on a painted canvass.

She wants to capture the essence of that animal.

Bryant succeeds in that effort. Some of the wildlife she depicts appear to gaze back at the viewer, while others appear ready to turn and amble away.

The Picture Rocks resident said she attempts to make viewers see more than only the object before them in her work.

"I paint how I feel about that animal and there's a point at which I'm working on the painting that I become a part of it and of the animal," Bryant said.

Bryant also tries to instigate a thought process in a painting's viewer, and elicit various emotions with her work.

"I can touch the emotional element by the look I put in a horse's eye or the way a mane flows or in the turn of a head, the arch of a neck or the flaring or nostrils," she said.

Bryant believes art is very much about mood. She strives to create attractive paintings, and to depict the relationship between the subject and nature.

"Often by distorting the subject a bit, I can make them a bit more real," Bryant said. "I might slightly distort the way the base of the neck is situated between the shoulders, and while it's not a great abstraction, changing certain angles offers a subtlety that might make the viewer ponder the painting more and try to figure it out."

Bryant has been painting animals "pretty much all of my life, even as a child." She began drawing horses on the blank backsides of papers because "horses were very much my language. They embody so many features we admire — courage, beauty, strength and speed. With my paintings, I express those qualities, as well as others such as sorrow, playfulness or happiness."

When she lived in California, she did a series of drawings on endangered species — the brown pelican, Prezwalski's horse, the whooping crane and the North American/Canadian buffalo — that were made into hand-painted greeting cards.

After moving to Patagonia, Bryant developed the Spirit Animals of the Southwest series (www.spiritanimalsofthesouthwest.com) that depict most of the wildlife one might find in Southern Arizona — coyote, bobcat, deer, roadrunners, javelina, black bear, cougars, horses, hawks and owls, among them.

"Because of my fondness for horses and that horses are such a part of the West and used to run wild in Arizona, I plan on starting a separate series and will develop a separate website for horses," Bryant said.

Bryant, who has become well-known for her work in watercolors, was awarded the People's Choice award earlier this year for her painting of Roman, a spotted mustang, at the national equine art competition, Horse HeART, in Lake Tahoe, Nev. In 2009, she was awarded the Best in Show at the Manos Gallery in Tubac, and also had a one-woman show the year previously at Tucson Botanical Gardens.

Bryant's work is on exhibit at the Mesquite Grove Gallery in Patagonia (520-394-2358) and at her studio in Picture Rocks (616-7643). She'll also participate in the Open Studio Tour Nov. 13 and 14, sponsored by the Tucson Pima Arts Council. Examples of her work can be viewed at www.sherrybryant.com.

In addition, Bryant is a volunteer tutor at Outreach Art Tutoring for Seniors, sponsored by the Drawing Studio in Tucson.

Bryant's overall goal in painting is simple.

"My intent is to reach people through the beauty and profound gentleness of wildlife," she said. "I've worked with and been around animals all my life and there's a certain understanding you get from being with them. I want people to feel that beauty and understand it."

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