The people we envy says a lot about ourselves. Obvious candidates are wealthy people, powerful people, incredibly good-looking people.
These three factors, however, aren’t what attract the attention of Cheryll Root, a watercolor artist from Troy, ID. The people she envies are . . . zookeepers. Not because they’re rich, influential, or handsome, but because they work with exotic animals.
“I have a passion for painting animals — I LOVE them!” Root says. “If I lived near a zoo now, I’d love to volunteer there.
“One of my favorite shows is ‘The Secret Life of the Zoo,’ where they take you behind the scenes with the zookeepers and the animals they care for.”
The animals don’t have to be exotic, incidentally. Furry, cute, winsome, noble, adventurous, cuddly will do; just not a snake, though. If there were a position, paid or unpaid, for a “puppy and kitten petter,” Root would gladly apply, but as it is, she finds satisfaction in painting animals, as well as landscapes, floral scenes, and still lifes ranging from tea cups to cowboy boots.
A Doodler from Childhood
An active member of the Palouse Watercolor Socius, where she has served as secretary for numerous years, Root describes herself as a doodler from childhood, when she drew on all the margins of her mother’s piano music books. (Family legend reports that she also drew on white walls with crayon, but Root has no conscious memory of this.) She enjoys the painting challenge of keeping the whites white without using masking fluid. She also tackles the darkest of values, which have a tendency, in watercolor, to dry lighter than one thinks they will. Her goal is to create a work that stops the viewer, attracts their attention, and invites them to step closer and take a long, reflective look.
“I hope my artwork treats the eyes to color,” Root says. “I also like to paint work that has some mystery, or some whimsy, to it.”
Dramatic lighting, vibrant color, intriguing shadows — these elements call out to Root, and in taking reference photos for her paintings, she looks for this triad. While she does paint plein air, she prefers studio work, even if the space where she works is not what most artists would desire. But it works well for her.
“I use my office, and the space I work in is rather cramped. But I do have good lighting and a nice view out the window (we live in the country on Moscow Mountain on 50 acres).”
Small Space, Big Output
When she and her husband first moved to the area from Seattle, Root envisioned using a shop located in a large outbuilding. It has a wonderful view, lots of space, and great lighting. But what it doesn’t have is running water or heat. And as a less than positive bonus to what it does have: there are mice. And while it’s true that mice are animals — furry, cute, winsome, and potentially cuddly, they’re not on Root’s list of studio companions.
“Being a city girl at heart for all those years, I took the comfort of the house, even with its lesser studio space.”
Because ultimately, what matters is what comes out of that studio space: the finished paintings. Root has shown her work at galleries throughout the Pacific Northwest, as well as at juried shows by the Idaho Watercolor Society and the Palouse Watercolor Show, the latter a five-state juried exhibition. In 2016, her painting “Pears” graced the cover of Good Fruit Grower Magazine, reaching subscribers in all 50 states and 50 countries. The space where she works may be small, but the work that she gets done there is big with potential.
“I am always looking to learn more, improve technique, and create work that elicits emotion from the viewer, as well as reflecting my passion for color, and the vibrant world in which we live.”
Contact the gallery, located at 219 East Main Street, Dayton, WA, by phone at 509.382.2124 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Monday through Friday, and by appointment. Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at www.wenaha.com.