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Spotlight on Sherida Charles: New West artist featured at local gallery

Artist uses wood from burned forests to create medium for her latest exhibition in New Westminster.
Beloved of the Sky, featuring charcoal drawings by Sherida Charles, is now on at the Amelia Douglas Gallery.

A local artist has used scavenged burnt wood from forests has to make charcoal powder for artwork that’s now on display in New West.

Sherida Charles’ charcoal drawing exhibition, Beloved of the Sky, is now showing at the Amelia Douglas Gallery at Douglas College. The exhibition runs until April 15.

In an email interview with the Record, the New Westminster resident discussed her current exhibition and future plans.

Tell us about Beloved of the Sky:

The exhibition showcases 13 recent charcoal drawings and three woodcuts with two paintings that depict local trees both cherished and harmed by natural disasters.

The title is derived from the title of a 1935 work by Emily Carr depicting a lone tree in a clear cut which she described as “scorned as timber, beloved of the sky.” I chose it because today we seem to treat most trees as worthy of harvesting, and we should recognize their beauty and beloved quality instead. 

Are charcoal drawings something new for you?

As a former art teacher I am used to trying many media, and charcoal drawing was one of my favourite topics to teach. So I’m quite comfortable working with charcoal.

What is new for me with some of these drawings is the use of scavenged burnt wood pieces that I collected from burned forest areas and used to make my own charcoal powder to use. I mixed it with gum Arabic and water to create a paste I could dilute into different tones and created the basic compositions which I then worked back into with drawing and darker or lighter charcoal I bought. 

Have you exhibited at the Amelia Douglas Gallery before?

I have not exhibited at Amelia Douglas Gallery before. When I exhibited at Queen’s Park in 2022, the Amelia Douglas gallery coordinator visited my show, and I asked her then about the possibility of exhibiting there in future. She encouraged me to apply to their next call-out, which I did in January 2023. I was offered a show and chose to exhibit early in 2024, giving me time to create and finalize these works. 

What are you currently working on?

These days I am working on some experimental paintings relating to nature’s ability to calm my mind, especially with regards to pervasive “bad news” about the environment. I am trying new collage-related techniques as well.

Because most of my charcoal tools are in the display at the college, I’m not working with charcoal right now, but I may go back to it at some point in the future. 

Where do you find your inspiration?

I find inspiration all around me. Some days I can see new art ideas everywhere: light, shadow, unique juxtapositions, intriguing possible new media choices. Other artists also inspire me continuously to keep experimenting and keep going.

I keep a sketchbook and use it to try new media. New art supplies always inspire me too. 

You were an Artist of the Year nominee in the New Westminster Chamber of Commerce’s 2022 Platinum Awards. What was that experience like?

Being nominated for Artist of the Year in 2022 was very unexpected and heartwarming! I’m still a bit in shock that even happened but I’m very grateful for the recognition, and it was an honour I’ll remember for a long time. 

What are your future plans? 

In the future, I would like to streamline my life to allow me to work more full-time on my art and reduce my commuting time.

I’m still teaching part-time as a teacher on call, which is great. I do look forward to retiring in a few years to devote full-time to sketching, art and some travel for further inspiration. 

Where can you find her?

You can see Beloved of the Sky at the Amelia Douglas Gallery, which is located on the fourth floor (north side) of Douglas College, 700 Royal Ave. The gallery is open Monday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. and on Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

You can see more of Charles’ works on her website and on Instagram (@sheridacharlesart).