Cheri Blum
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More from Cheri's interview  

Cheri, would you share with us where you were born and spent your formative years?
I was born in the Annapolis, Maryland area, and grew up around the Chesapeake Bay. I spent my later school years and college in Delaware.

When did you discover your interest in art and begin to be creative?
I think I have always created art. I remember even in early grade school having an affinity for drawing. I remember being fascinated by the teacher using a pencil on paper. I gathered a large collection of pens that I would work with. I have always been very tactile and have been drawn to pens, brushes and pencils.

What influences in your life have affected your art?
Both my grandfathers were artists in their own way - one an aerospace draftsman in the Pentagon and the other a jeweler/engraver. When I was in grade school, I worked at a card store whose owner was an artist. She took me to my first gift show. I was like a sponge for stimuli and inspiration. I have always gravitated toward creative and unusual people.

It sounds like you came by your talent naturally. Who encouraged you over the years? And did you have a mentor?
Yes, in school my instructors encouraged me, but my first major mentor was a muralist, Liz, for whom I worked right out of school. She taught me that there were no limits or boundaries as to what I could do with art - a very valuable lesson.

Cheri, did you go on to study art in college, or seek out any art-related jobs?
Yes. I was educated in illustration at the University of Delaware. My first job was as an illustrator for a stationery company.

Can you recall any fun or interesting stories that have to do with your art?
Early in my career, I found myself stuck in a blizzard in Washington over the holidays. To entertain myself, I removed ornaments from the tree and began painting stylized illustrations using the ornaments as inspiration. These images were among those that later launched my career.

In respect to the art you do now, can you describe it for our readers?
I don't think I can easily describe my work. The influences are as varied as Italian frescoes and flowers in nature. Whatever I paint, it has to somehow seem warm, friendly, alive and from nature, but with years of ownership and appreciation. I am drawn to things that are organic, imperfect, subtle and modest.

You mention nature. Do you paint outdoors or do you paint in a studio?
I paint in my studio, which is an historic tenant farmer's home on the banks of the Sassafras River. I try to paint five days a week - sometimes more.

What do you think about as you are painting? In other words, are you concentrating, or are you just letting things happen and evolve onto the canvas?
I mostly think about or concentrate on trying to get what's in my head onto canvas in a way that satisfies me. I try to capture the essence of what I am seeing and how that makes me feel. Sometimes I surprise myself and sometimes I fail. But it is an evolving process always. Each painting is an adventure. I am constantly stretching myself artistically.

Well, Cheri, many, many people think your art is beautiful. Do you enjoy listening to music as you paint or do you prefer solitude?
Thank you. I love listening to music and my choices are even more eclectic than the artists who influence me. My favorites would be jazz, new age, classical guitar, folk, classical, but I particularly like John Fahey and Leo Kottke.

Your Wild Apple images tend to be mostly floral. Will that continue or are you planning any new subjects?
I seem to be influenced by flowers right now. But I plan on making a run at some different subjects in the near future - like shells and coastal scenes - as long as they are nature-oriented and organic forms.

We look forward to seeing those. Do you paint from memory or from a photo?
I paint from references that can be photographic, drawings, books, real life, scraps of paper, textures, antiques, peeling paint - anything that will fit the theme that I am after at the moment.

How do you know when a piece of your artwork is finally "complete?"
I don't think any piece of art is ever finished. Some art ages beautifully, and 200 years later looks better than when it was first conceived. I paint until I am no longer restless and sometimes I put it away for a while and pull it out later.

Do you exhibit your work?
Yes, on a limited basis. I have sold some originals through unconventional sources, as well as through word of mouth.

Does your painting satisfy you?
Yes. It is just something I have to do. I can never go very long without painting. It satisfies me aesthetically and tactilely. It is a form of self-expression and opens my imagination and keeps me grounded.

How did you and Wild Apple become partners?
I submitted eight holiday images to them and they selected a couple right off the bat. We began working collaboratively. I was very lucky.

Cheri, you live in a wonderful section of the country. What do you enjoy doing for recreation?
I bicycle, row, read, travel, visit museums, go antiquing and canoeing.
Let us look to the future.

What do you see next in exploring the world of art?
I like to try new media and I am always looking for new techniques. Most recently, I am trying to break away from oils and move into water-based media. I am always taking classes and sharing ideas with other artists, so anything is possible.

From Cheri's interview  

When Cheri drops and breaks a dish in her kitchen, she doesn't throw it away. She plants it in her garden! When her shoes wear holes through the soles, Cheri fills them with dirt, converts them into planters and hangs them on the wall. And when a piece of driftwood washes up on the shore, she wouldn't think of casting it aside. Instead, she turns it into a coffee table.

"I'm drawn to things that are old, have character and a sense of nostalgia," Cheri says. "To me, the older an object gets, the better it looks. It doesn't wear out, it wears in."

She is fascinated by the wear and tear of time and by the history of an item. "Who owned it, what's the story behind it…it stimulates my imagination and serves as an inspiration for my work."

Walking into Cheri's studio, nestled on the banks of the Sassafras River in Maryland, is like taking a step back in time. The former nineteenth-century tenant farmer's house is filled with items that have seen several generations of owners. The studio, reflecting the simple country life Cheri finds so appealing and inspiring, has been described as a combination of charming timeworn objects, cozy familiarity, and simple practical living. "The result is a sophisticated simplicity," she says. "It's casual, yet elegant."

The walls are covered with unusual objects Cheri found while walking on the beach or scouring antique shops. "There's a certain joy found in discovery. I like the sense that something has evolved. It has a history," she says.

 A worn pair of clogs hangs on the wall and serves as the home to hens-and-chicks cacti. An old loom is used to display Cheri's paintbrushes. A broken lamp accessorizes a bookcase and serves as a candlestick holder. Perhaps most unusual is the sign that hangs on the outside of her studio that was once an old racing sail.

Cheri's style is eclectic, yet selective. Each accessory is carefully chosen for some notable quality and arranged in such a way that it can be easily moved around on a whim. "I need to be able to accommodate each new find I bring home," she says.

 Her quirky style has found its way into her garden, as well. The beds are edged with recycled bits of broken dishes and colored glass. Crab pots, once used to catch a seaman's dinner, now sprout beautiful plants. An old peeling door propped up against the side of the house adds a touch of whimsy to the flowers below. "Gardening is just another form of art for me," Cheri says. "It's like working with a living canvas."

"I've created an environment for myself that promotes a deep sense of connection with nature and with the history of the area," she explains. "My studio has become my sanctuary."

It is not a surprise that Cheri's affinity for the timeless appeal of aging objects is evident in her art. Her pieces pay homage to the beauty of time passing by. She simulates the effects of age and weather that she finds on objects such as cracked linen and driftwood, and incorporates them into her artwork. Cheri also creates her own worn surfaces through a variety of somewhat unorthodox techniques, such as running a finished canvas through the washing machine to create an antique look.

"One of my goals is to take the fine art aspect of the Old Masters and combine it with a worn hand-crafted look that suits today's styles," she explains. "I love to paint on scraps, to find unusual painting surfaces and to create something from nothing…to take something that would otherwise look plain or be thrown away, and transfer it into something special."

"My work represents an appreciation for what is used and well-loved," she continues. "Even when I buy something new, I paint it to make it look old."

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