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Daily Inspiration: Meet Sherry Strickland Martin

Today we’d like to introduce you to Sherry Strickland Martin.

Hi Sherry, we’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
This is a long story at my age, with many stepping stones! From my first memories as a child, I have always felt in my gut I intended to be an artist. When taken to the store as a child, I would usually choose some craft or paint project kit instead of a toy. Painting, drawing, and creative endeavors have always been a part of me.

Honestly, I can not separate the two. My parents noticed my interest and allowed me private art lessons on and off throughout my adolescent years. I practically lived in the art departments during high school and college, receiving my degree in Art Studio.

After college, marriage, and at that time 2 children, I continued to immerse myself in the study of watercolor, while doing commissioned artwork, juried regional exhibits, and gallery work. I took on a part-time job doing ink illustrations for a clothing company’s catalog, then began designing fabric for a few of their clothing lines, before baby number 3 arrived.

This led to working for a custom furniture company, where I created hand-painted finishes and designs. The furniture designing led to meeting a group from Atlanta Mart who ended up introducing me to the field of Art Licensing, where I acquired an agent out of NY and began building a portfolio for surface designs for product manufacturers internationally for the gift and housewares industries.

During this time now on my own with 3 children, I moved from Georgia to Hilton Head Island, SC, where I continued to build my art licensing portfolio, work as the art director for an Events company and build a local business doing custom work through interior designers for their client’s homes. Art Licensing began to take hold and became a full-time endeavor until the economy went sour after 9/11.

There was work, but not enough trying to raise 3 children. I am a devout believer that nothing is a coincidence, so when I was actually helping a friend find a job teaching locally, I found one for myself teaching art at the high school level. I knew in my gut I needed a change, and I believe the Lord led me to this without doubt for reasons I was to learn later.

The job was a new school and I was required to write a curriculum that would be presented to the district office. I had no experience or degree in art ed, but I knew how I would like to prepare kids for art in college and in a career, so I went for it. In 2003, I got the position and took the courses for the alternative certification. Self-employed prior, I had no health insurance last several years.

It was expensive, so when Breast cancer hit in my 3rd year of teaching, I was thankfully covered… not a coincidence! By this time, my children were leaving the nest, so I left HHI for Myrtle Beach where my family is originally from to be nearer my sister and mom through my recovery. I took a job teaching at the local high school in Murrells Inlet, and within one year I met my future husband and married.

My husband and I bought a home in North Myrtle but unfortunately lost that home, all my artwork, and everything else we had except our lives in the Myrtle Beach wildfire of 2009. I must say it was numbing, my entire body of work, and studio supplies, baby books, etc. were gone.

Honestly, it was like the past no longer existed. I left Art Licensing altogether and immersed myself in my classroom which was all I had left, plus I enjoyed it tremendously. Inevitably with time, I was longing for doing my own work again. It felt like I was missing a limb.

Lost is how I felt. I knew I had to start rebuilding and I did. I started producing the best work of my life while spending every weekend at my watercolor table. In 2017, the local Burroughs and Chaplin Myrtle Beach Art Museum noticed the work I was doing with my students, and my own work and invited me to have a solo exhibition (two others early on in my art career in Anderson SC and Spartanburg SC where I grew up).

It was life-changing for me. Creating the work to showcase made me realize I was on the path to coming full circle, back to my first love, producing work I enjoyed and the sales began again. Soon after, I signed on with a beautiful little gallery on Bay Street in Beaufort, SC, Thibault Gallery, for the first time in over 16 years. At 62 now, I knew leaving teaching was coming.

As a believer, I knew what God was asking of me a few years back. I was getting physically sicker every year and left exhausted daily, too tired to even think of painting. I began preparing for my transition from teaching to full time studio which I would hopefully be able to do in June 2022.

I knew I could not simply jump without my financial/livelihood as a primary focus. I had to have a plan. But… January 5th 2022 happened. My son was in a near fatal accident heading to work that morning after a semi truck ran a red light at 60 mph, hitting him the drivers side. I resigned from my teaching job that day so I could be with my son and his family as long as they needed me.

I jumped that day. By sheer miracle my son lives. I realized then that God did not want me prepared, He wanted me to have faith and simply trust. After all, He created me with this generous gift. I intend to keep growing it and use it for the enjoyment of others.

Since January, my son has truly had a remarkable recovery, barring a few needed surgeries still to come and my studio work has taken off like I could never have imagined. Commissioned artwork, gallery sales, and Giclee prints are keeping me busy daily. I am grateful and loving every minute of life and my full circle career.

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey has been a fairly smooth road?
There have been many struggles along the way. Life is a struggle in itself as I mentioned in my story, but if you look at all of them as teaching moments it’s all good, we learn from them and push forward because we know God has our backs. There’s always a blessing somewhere that follows struggles.

Career wise, I think the biggest struggle is getting into areas of your craft that are unfamiliar and no one with knowledge to help guide you through it. In school, we are taught how to grow our skills in art production but not taught the business side of it or the forms it can take.

Marketing itself is difficult when an artist like me has a hard time promoting ones self due to shyness and has a hard time separating what I produce from who I am. Self-promotion does not come naturally to me. An art career is a very different beast at times.

Along the path though, once in a while, someone usually comes along with good advice which helps lead you to next step in the journey. I tend to rely heavily on my instincts and inner voice much of the time and I read lot in hopes to gain insight.

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?
Primarily I am known for my Watercolor Paintings. The medium appealed to me very early on because of its versatility. Fluidity and luminosity. I can be very detailed to the point people are unaware it’s even watercolor, yet I can combine that with beautiful watery areas of abstractions.

I am quite taken with the lights achieved and the luminous layering of color to achieve depth. I am known to do some of my watercolors quite large for the traditional medium. Too, I enjoy the challenges watercolor brings in all its aspects.

I was primarily trained in oils and gave it up for years due to the fumes causing headaches. In the last few years, after the discovery of water-soluble oils, I have added it back to my offering, spending about half my time pursuing oils and half doing watercolor. Both sell equally well to collectors.

In both mediums, my gallery work tends to focus on subject matter near and dear to me, the coast of South Carolina and the work of those who live by it. I can find beauty in most anything, whether its the subject matter alone, or the intricacies of the way light plays on a subject creating delightful patterns.

I tend to choose things that challenge my skill to keep the process interesting. I believe what sets me apart from others in my artwork is what my collectors tell me: my “work tells a story” and it isn’t always the same story for everyone. I paint what I see, and the feeling comes through I suppose.

It’s nothing I intentionally try to do, but I imagine its simply in my DNA as an artist. As for what I am most proud of? I believe what I am most proud of is not giving up. I’ve given in a few times to other pursuits, but even through all the adversity, struggles and naysayers I continued to grow my skills in what I love doing and the gift given me.

As I titled my last Solo exhibition in 2018, “Roots Run Deep”, that title still holds true. It’s been a journey. I am back doing what I love, at home where my family roots started, back to my artistic roots of studio, gallery, commission work where I am supposed to be.

What are your plans for the future?
My plans for the future are to continue building my body of work in hopes to add another gallery or two to show and sell my work in another region.

I will also continue accepting commission work and offer giclee prints of some pieces. I would love to learn more about online sales and marketing.

At 62 and starting over full time with so many years out of a career in art business, technology, which is big these days for artists, is completely foreign to me. In my days it was gallery representation or nothing. I have a lot to learn in using these new venues for sales and marketing.

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Sherry Strickland Martin and Don Martin

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