Today we raise our fists high and put our hands together in celebration of our Feature Girl Warrior, the exquisitely talented painter and fine artist, Cheryl McBride, who has found her purpose through creativity and her deep abiding love of family, friends, nature and animals. Cheryl’s earliest childhood memories are of drawing and coloring at the kitchen table; in particular, she loved copying the pretty “Breck Girl” ads that adorned the back cover of McCall’s magazine. Cheryl used art as a means of expressing her rich imagination and unique vision of the world around her. She fondly recalls her first year of high school in Port Arthur, Ontario and the art teacher who encouraged her creativity, but it was after her family moved to Regina, that Cheryl realized that her favorite time at school was her art classes and being surrounded by creative people. At seventeen she entered the University of Saskatoon to study Fine Art. In 1969 Cheryl moved to Winnipeg and in an interesting twist of fate, instead of getting a job with Eaton’s Display Department, of which she had some familiarity, she found summer employment at Eaton’s Western Division Advertising Department. This was her intro to Graphic Design. She discovered that the University of Manitoba, in Winnipeg, had a Fine Arts school with a Graphic Design Department, and enrolled. For two years she studied both graphics and fine art. Ultimately, driven to support herself, and with a healthy fear of being a starving artist, Cheryl turned to Graphic Design. However, she didn’t land a job in the industry right away and spent almost 6 years with children in treatment centres and juvenile detention. In 1979, with an 8-month-old son, she moved to The Coast with her young family where she enjoyed being a full-time Mom. But Cheryl was also developing a growing desire to paint. She found Helen Rogak, her artist friends, and her studio in 1981. Weekly life drawing. Water color. Mentoring. Encouragement. A dream while it lasted! Cheryl eventually went to work full time in the Graphics Industry. And there she stayed for 20-some years. When she finally landed and had time to herself, she asked, “What do you really want to do?” And she replied, “Paint and spend more time with animals.” Cheryl has since reconnected with Helen Rogak, and many other artists. These days she paints, writes, designs, and builds at will. She surrounds herself with amazing people who inspire her to do her own art and is filled with gratitude. And we are so grateful to Cheryl for sharing her inspiring story!
What makes you a Girl Warrior?
I know that whatever happens, I will be okay.
You started drawing as a child. Tell us about some of those early childhood memories. How did drawing make you feel?
Drawing was natural. I did not question my ability when I was young. I just drew and colored and I was in my own place. My Mom subscribed to McCall’s magazine and on every back cover was an ad for Breck shampoo. The ad featured the Breck Girl, a “pretty lady with shiny long hair.” I copied it. I remember it was praised. At a birthday party I drew a reindeer and won a prize. My girlfriend and I made our own paper dolls and made “outfits” for them. We used strips of Kleenex to create floor plans for their houses. This was amid many other childhood activities that I loved as well – I lived in a small town on a small street and all the kids played together. We were an outdoor crew and I imagine that my drawing took place on days I was forced to be inside.
Why do you like to be around “creative” people?
Ah, Creative People. Viktor Frankl’s “Man’s Search for Meaning” helped me understand me. His belief is that Meaning in Life comes from having a purpose. And he identified three sources of ‘purpose’: devotion and service; sacrifice and suffering; creativity.
Instead of questioning my desire, my urge, my need to create, I accepted it as my path. Creative people inspire me. I am bolder because of their creativity and mutual need. My closest artist buddies are my mentors.
How did the summer of ’69 affect your career path?
I had entered the University of Saskatchewan/Saskatoon to study Fine Art in 1968. My mother had dreams of me becoming an interior designer. I had no idea what I was doing. I was 17. I was not confident in my small output of art to date. I was just there to be somewhere. I liked the art classes, especially life drawing.
The Summer of ’69 I was 18 and I left home on my unwitting journey to be. I was unactualized! I didn’t know how to boil an egg. I didn’t know that I didn’t have to please everybody. But I was free and because of an interesting twist of fate, instead of getting a job with Eaton’s Display Department, of which I had some familiarity, I found summer employment at Eaton’s Western Division Advertising Department. So I moved to Winnipeg with a girlfriend, and there I was on my own.
This summer job was my intro to Graphic Design. I had no idea it existed. I knew nothing, but my immediate boss was forgiving and patient. I was turned on to studio photography, copy writing, illustration. I was a lowly layout artist in a sea of talent.
Then I discovered that U of Manitoba, in Winnipeg, had a Fine Arts school with a Graphic Design Department. There I was for 2 years, with my head around graphics and fine art at the same time. I graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Art – BFA – Bachelor of Fuck All.
I turned to Graphic Design in order to avoid being a starving artist, my biggest fear. Sad but true. I was driven to support myself.
What have you learned about yourself through your art and creative expression?
I am impulsive. I am excessive expressive – ha. I have accepted that I am lazy in terms of preparation and planning – I just jump in and trust I will figure a way out. I trust my instincts.
As a graphic designer, one of my jobs was on the press and the pressman asked me if I had designed it. When I asked him why he thought it was mine, he commented that it looked like my work. Tada! Apparently I did have a style all my own. Another step in acceptance. When I was younger, I wished I could draw like Michelangelo. I felt inferior. As with my design, my breakthrough was when I realized I drew and painted like myself. I was unique.
Where do you get your inspiration?
I am totally visually stimulated. My eyes see, examine, record and my urge is to capture what I see, what I feel. I am driven to design my environment to please my eye. I intentionally place objects. I have a deep need to create something satisfying to my eye. When I am looking, I ask myself, “How would I paint that?” It all comes back to a longing, a desire to create and design.
You love animals, especially dogs. What affect do they have on your art, your life?
Nature. Animals. I am connected. The joy of communicating with a sentient animal is right up there with my deepest love for my family and friends. Love is all there is. Love has driven me to paint animals. Love has driven me to paint nature. Love has driven me to paint abstractly to capture the rhythm and randomness of life. Connectedness – I am not alone.
What’s the most important life lesson your Mom taught you?
My Mom was an enigma. She had a will of iron. However, she had many fears, which haunted her and ultimately me. I learned to be strong and I learned that I didn’t need to accept her fears as mine.
What has been your biggest disappointment/triumph?
Disappointment – Realizing that I lived too much of my life fearing disapproval.
Triumph – Realizing I was good enough.
What would you say to your younger Girl Warrior?
You are perfect just the way you are. You are here for a purpose – discover it and you will find meaning.
What would you say to future Girl Warriors looking for inspiration?
Be not afraid of being yourself. Find your purpose. Make your own art. Whoever you are, be it to the best of your ability. Embrace failure as a step in discovering who you are.
Who is/are your Girl Warrior hero(s) and why?
Georgia O’Keefe and Emily Carr – two women who were unafraid, accepted their creativity, and lived their lives truly and fully as artists.
What do we need to know for sure about creativity?
Creativity is a source of meaning in your life. Make your own art. Please yourself. Tell your story. Validation is junk food. Think of all the unpublished books and poems, the paintings sitting in piles in basements, the house plans rolled up in cupboards, the ideas never fulfilled – all because some other being didn’t validate them. Do not be diminished by others’ judgments.
Today is next. Always today.
Blue Sky it. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I am not a planner. I do not have a five-year plan. I don’t even have a one-year plan. I look forward to Spring and what it might bring. I am an ‘embracer of the day’ Girl Warrior who is prepared for what life may present me. “The Universe is unfolding as it should” and I am part of it.
What makes you laugh uncontrollably? Cry out all the tears?
I laugh at life, the irony. I laugh at silliness. I love humor and wish I were around funny people all the time.
My heart breaks when I witness cruelty and injustice. Tears flow when I think of innocent children and animals being mistreated.
If a song were written, inspired by your life, what would it be called?
Life is a Mystery to Me.
See Cheryl’s whimsical dog paintings here: http://www.dogpainter.ca/
And her other gorgeous artwork here: https://artsea.ca/portfolio/mcbride-cheryl-2/
Follow Cheryl “The Dog Painter” on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/sidneywestco4st/